As much as the big corporate chain of record stores are fun to go to -- considering their stocks and wide-range of titles -- there was something about going to the small independent shops. I feel the ambiance of the scene. There is the atmosphere of counter-culture.
Growing up in the 1980s, I would go to Harrison Plaza to buy the Twisted Red Cross cassettes. I also went to this shop at Farmer's Plaza in Cubao that sold shirts of bands. You could also get cassettes and other underground paraphernalia. It is where I got that shirt of the Specials. That shop was the one that I knew where you could buy those spiked or studded leather bracelets that showed you were into punk.
Living in New York later on, Greenwich and the East Village had a lot of those shops that I loved. Many of them are now gone -- Kim's had that underground vibe that I absolutely loved. It is where I bumped into members of Zwan, Foo Fighters, and even at one point, Curt Smith of Tears For Fears. Kim's carried a lot of those DVDs of underground films that were so hard to find. Plus, they had a wide array of CDs and records too.
Now back in Manila, Recto used to be the hotbed for these counter-culture shops -- Cartimar in particular. There used to be Nizzle Dazzle that sold all these CDs of metal and hardcore bands that you wouldn't find at Tower Records and these other shops. No one else carried Mushroomhead, HedPE, Soulfly, Sepultura, and Puya to name a very few.
All that is left of those cool shops at Cartimar is Middle Finger/Nocturnal that still has great stuff. On another note, there are other distros although they have no physical shop. They do meet ups or send your stuff via courier.
However, there is another shop located in Metro Manila to satisfy your underground tastes. That is Mutilated Noise Records (look them up on Facebook). The shop owner, Noel Francia, not only distributes foreign records (punk, metal, and the occasional second hand New Wave LP) but he also carries a lot of local releases. He has loads of demos and self-produced albums. He has also helped put out vinyl releases such as the 7-inch records of Feud and Biofeedback as well as the Ex-Senadors (exclusively via his record label). From what Noel tells me, coming out very soon is a 7-inch record of Choke Cocoi and another from a band based in Hong Kong.
When you enter Mutilated Noise, be prepared to gawk for a while -- and you will -- because it's got a lot of those punk concert posters plastered on the wall, there are rows of vinyl records, there are stacks of 7-inch records from bands you didn't even know existed. It isn't Generation Records in New York but this isn't so bad. It's pretty good, in fact. There are also quite a few Japanese punk and ska records as well. So you'll spend a bit of time just digging. Also ask Noel about the underground releases that come in cassettes and CD-Rs. There are a few that have proper pressed CDs.
Ask for the releases of Throw, the Go-Signals, the Sensitives, Isidro Project, and Omnipotent to name a very few. Personally, I like the Go-Signals, Isidro Project, and Omnipotent.
And Mutilated Noise also carries that great fanzine, Maximum RockNRoll. That's another reason to drop by.
The clientele isn't only local but also foreign. Noel also gets his share of foreigners who heard of the shop and look to pick up stuff.
My advice? Spend some time digging. And Noel doesn't mind you testing some of the records (that are open and not sealed). He has a couple of turntables inside the shop. Ask questions too. Ask for his recommendations. He'll offer some good stuff you never thought of getting. But it's all worth it.