The Cubao Expo as the former Marikina Shoe Expo is known by today is a curious but welcome oddity in the capital's second oldest commercial center (the first being Binondo). Tucked unobtrusively behind the old Rustan's department store, the U-shaped complex used to house stores by all the top shoemakers in the country. My folks used to take me there to buy my shoes for school (that I'd wear out in a month or two) until Shoe Mart (boo!) took away all the fun and gobbled up everything in sight.
But as the Araneta Center struggles to compete with the Serendras, Greenbelt 3's, and Eastwoods that have become the happening spots and hangouts of today's noveau riche, yuppies, and youth, the venerable junction of the metropolis still retains some of that old Manila charm in the vastly changed exposition area.
I would go there in years past to buy indie compact discs of acts like the Brownbeat All-Stars, Bad Burn, Moyg, and other veritable unknowns.
Bellini's Italian Restaurant has been a timeless favorite. A word on Bellini's. If you're a fan of Inter Milan, be sure you go there wearing the team colors. Mr. Roberto Bellini might give you a free treat. And we're both Zlatan Ibrahimovic fans (I'm a fan of Patrick Viera and Esteban Cambiasso too). In our case, it was some great Sicilian red wine. But our faves here are the Parma Ham with Arugula leaves pizza, the Salsiccia patsa, and ye good old favorite Caesar's Salad. Yum!
The new thrift and curio shops and eateries have made this part of town equal parts artists' haven and food lovers delight. They even have a cool coffee shop!
If you check out Grand Thrift House (they've been around since 1989, but moved into the Cubao Expo in 2004), tell the store's proprietors, the Alberto brothers James and Dunhill, that I sent ya! I got that old Iron Man comic reprinted by Goodwill here for A hundred bucks!
Sometimes I get the feeling that I stepped out of a time machine what with the pictures of the Beatles and James Brown hanging from the wall, old Fender Stratocaster guitars on display, and used books that make me miss the Rastro, that old thrift store in the old Shoppesville in Greenhills.
And if you're looking for those old Marvel Comic books that were reprinted once upon a time by Goodwill Bookstore, those old Bananas magazines, vinyl LP's by the Knack, Led Zeppelin, Pat Benatar, and the Who among many others, Coca Cola collectibles, toys, and whathaveyou, then browse around and hobnob. It's counter culture. It's alternative. It reminds me of Greenwich Village or St. Mark's in New York City. It's the old new Cubao Expo.