The OARHOUSE is Our House
One of the last strongholds of Old Bohemian Malate, along with Penguin Café and Hobbit House, Oarhouse first opened its doors in 1977 by retired US NAVY man Chuck Monroe. Musicians began coming in during their breaks from other bars for the cheap beer and the bumper pool table. Theater folk began coming in too, through Carrie, who eventually became Chuck’s wife. Susan Calalay, of the Metropolitan Museum also started coming, and soon the CCP artists followed, dividing their time between Penguin and Oarhouse. In the mid 80’s Jun Medina took it over from Chuck, since Chuck and Carrie had decided to move back to the States. Jun was the former manager of Channel 9 and so media people began spending time there. When Jun went back to Channel 9, his son Chino managed the place, bartending later on when bartender Wilson left. Those were the days I first stepped foot in Oarhouse - my uncle took me there as I sipped juice or soda at the bar some late afternoons and early evenings, getting fed Chino’s baked eggplant (versions of which has continued on the menu even after Chino’s time).
In 1998, Chino had to shut the doors of Oarhouse (for reasons known to him only) and everything else that took over the space (including a roast duck place and a version of it called Ore House) in the next few years – all of which failed miserably. Finally, in 2004 Nonoy Tan, who loved Oarhouse decided to bring it back- and with him came a lot of the old crowd, including former bartender Wilson who has also been a Malate fixture, having bartended as well in the old Blue Café on Nakpil Street.
Last December, Oarhouse was about to close again - Nonoy just couldn’t keep it going. The word went out on December 28 that it was Oar’s last night and the old photogs and journalists and bar regulars showed up to at least have one more San Miguel in their haunt.
A couple of the Oarhouse habitués, also concerned for the loss of Oarhouse, stepped in, and as luck would have it - Nonoy passed them the torch. Reg Hernandez and Redgie Cinco are the new managers of Oarhouse - and with them stands Ben Razon, who has been in charge of the Oarhouse Blog, and of course, yours truly and other friends who have been putting their time and even manual labor into a bar that we have loved for decades.
It is essentially the same place, standing in the exact spot where Chuck Monroe served beer. It is a tiny place, and we haven’t changed it much, but bringing new energy yet the old integrity and simple dignity the place had. It’s gonna take a lot of work, love, and patience, but slowly, I think we can do this. We’re retaining old favorites in the menu, and we will slowly be adding new things. Wilson is still the bartender, and we’re eventually going to have acoustic nights. We shall be serving you the cold beer and food ourselves, and we hope to breathe life back into a place which has been a home for many writers, photographers, artists, and thinkers. The walls will still hold exhibits- for all photographers, and visual artists. The eclectic mix of people who have been there and are part of Oarhouse include the late Santi Bose, Miguel Faustmann, Bart Guingona, Dodo Lim, Dong Alegre, Ben Razon, Julie Yap Daza, Butch Aldana, even former Congressman Bebot Alvarez (when he was still studying) and of course Pepito Bosch (to name a tiny few) as well as countless theater people, musicians, journalists, artists, photographers, bankers, students, peace corps volunteers, backpackers, and other Malate bar owners.
The Old Malate is dying, but the Oarhouse is a landmark, and we cannot -- should not -- let that happen. There is history in those walls, and there is a lot of history that has yet to be written.
Be a part of it.
January 9, 2008
(Thanks to Uncle Dave Limsico, who has been part of the Malate scene forever, and has been there since the first day of Oarhouse in ’77 for sharing his memories with me.)
The Oarhouse re-opens on Friday, January 11, 2008 5pm onwards, but we will be operational on Wednesday, January 9 for our dry run. Hope to see you there.
1803 Mabini St., Malate
(63) (2) 450-8301