Filipino musicians share their wildest and most memorable SaGuijo stories

Filipino musicians share their wildest and most memorable SaGuijo stories

There are a million stories Makati City can tell, but nothing as loud as what goes down at 7612 Guijo St.—where SaGuijo Bar + Cafe has stood over the past 15 years.

More than just as a home base to numerous Filipino musicians, SaGuijo gives birth to shows that summon "walls of humanity" upon its wooden floors through all the heat that takes over every inch of the space. Yes, it gets sweltering hot in there, but that's part of the fun. Countless memories were made there—from first shows, wild antics by the intoxicated, spontaneous sets where the most unlikely people would play (that's right, Gary Valenciano performed in SaGuijo back in 2010), marriage proposals, young acts sharing their music with their heroes, to the good ole album launch.

Here are anecdotes from your favorite Filipino acts who grew up in and slayed the Guijo stage in its 15 years.

Raymund Marasigan, Sandwich, Pedicab, Basement Lung, Assembly Generals, Squid 9


SaGuijo is very dear to me. Angelo, its owner, is a good friend. He is very low key with deep care about the music scene. In the early days, the audience were the other bands too.  It became one of the favorite venues of the local indie scene.

My bands call Guijo "Homebase." When we have new songs, we always test drive it in Guijo before recording and adding it to our regular sets. It’s a good place to gauge and see how the song feels live. 

It’s the venue to check out new acts. You’ll learn to survive the sketchy sound system and get a genuine response from an always warm crowd. You also know when you’re sucking and need to work on your stuff more if they slowly thin out and go outside. 

I’ve played some of my favorite shows in Guijo—we’d have all sorts of activities from costume parties, to ukay sales, and other theme nights.

I’ve watched very special ones—I’ve seen BP [Valenzuela] for the first time, Ruby Ibarra’s epic invasion, and Francis M when he just wanted to rock.

I can’t seem to choose a favorite show I’ve played but last weekend we were talking about the time we set up a TV on stage with Pedicab, and RA would be doing weird “artsy” things on screen, like drinking a few packs of Yakult to getting his head shaved throughout the set. It boggled the audience (this was before bluetooth and video casting) cos he would also lipsynch the words in sync to the live band. 

The secret (only revealed now) was a very very long video cable from a live camera upstairs where he was being filmed in real time connected to the tv downstairs.  The SaGuijo magic.

Steve Badiola, Typecast

I remember our first show with Valley of Chrome sa SaGuijo, yung nagalit si ma'am sa bar, kasi muntikan na namin masira yung chandelier (laughs). Sobrang rowdy namin noon.

Always a riot playing SaGuijo. Nakapag launch kami ng album dunHow Your Influence Betrays You. Jam-packed din. Drummers parati una naghihingalo (laughs). Pero parati enjoy tumugtog dun.

Zild Benitez, IV Of Spades

Three years ago, we went to SaGuijo to watch UDD and we gave them a demo CD of our songs. Badjao [De Castro] was the one who had the guts to approach Carlos [Tanada] and Ean [Mayor].

We also love playing there. Malagkit pero masaya.

Carlos Tanada, UDD

1. I rented the unit beside SaGuijo in my early twenties. The loudest audience I’ve heard SaGuijo have was during the E-heads night, and that night when Francis M played. Everyone sang along to those classic hits.

2. One of our first gigs as UDD—probably our third or fourth gig—was in SaGuijo. It was newly opened, so technically SaGuijo's age is the same as UDD's. Yup, we old. There were less than five people watching and I think three of them were friends. After those times, I [never] felt the aircon of SaGuijo na.

3. Met a girl in SaGuijo who knew everyone [in my band] by face, except for the guitar player (me). I’m married to her now.

4. I remember a group of kids coming up to me and giving me their demo CD after our Terno gig. I usually always listen to demo CDs given to me but this CD didn’t want to play. I think it was corrupt.

A year later I cleaned out the clutter in my car and found the CD. It was IV Of Spades.

Ian Tayao, Queso

Queso reunion. Two sets dapat kami, walang nangyaring second set sa dami at gulo ng tao. Nagpapanic, lumabas yung isang drummer namin hindi na makahinga. Nabutas ko yung bubong. I was so into it, I guess. Nadala ako. “Ito gusto niyo?!” Mixed feelings narin yata noon. Yan yung rough moments namin ng Queso. Wala si Ocho niyan—may sessionist. Partly dahil dun.

Pansinin niyo yung ceiling, may “design” ng kaunti sa sides. Kasi nabutas ko yung isang side.

Reeese Lansangan

I’ve celebrated my birthday there a couple of times. There was one GabbaFest when a couple of Reese Kids surprised me with a cake and lots of chocolate milk for the whole group (they know I’m not fond of drinking haha). Then they called me on stage as a surprise and Gabba [Santiago] and I blew out our candles together.

Another birthday, the Reese Kids saved up to give me my very first in-ear monitors, coupled with letters of wishes in a box.

Luis Azcona, Maude

It’s hard to think of one gig that stands out. I’ve often called SaGuijo our homecourt. It’s not cold inside, but it’s cozy. Maybe it helps that it looks like a house, but it’s cozy maybe because for some reason, people tend to know the words to our songs when we’re playing in SaGuijo. Either that, or because it’s just easier to hear them when inside that little space.

My band [is] a SaGuijo regular, thanks to Terno Recordings. Before Terno, we’ve played a handful of productions at SaGuijo. But it’s only when we got along with Terno and UDD that I witnessed more of what SaGuijo can do. Imagine being in a packed train, except the AC couldn’t handle the amount of body heat anymore. It’s not a train, and they got no destination, but people stay amid the discomfort, because music was in front of them.

I remember sitting just behind the monitor speakers with my sister to watch Radioactive Sago Project. She enjoyed it so much and said that it was good for her health. That was pretty memorable. When remembering SaGuijo, you would remember how the vibrations from the wood planks feel. Whether you watched inside, or by the window.

Okay, maybe the most remarkable one was when Orange Cartel auditioned for Terno Recordings. One cover of a Barbie Almalbis song, one cover of a Michael Franks song, two originals, an egg shaker, and a late vocalist. That’s my band. Later that night, we would get invited to more Terno gigs. A couple more days, we would be renamed to Maude. A couple more months, I would declare SaGuijo my homecourt. I hope it doesn't mind.

Clara Benin

I have way too many fond memories in SaGuijo! But my favorite one is definitely my first gig there. I was so excited that I asked some of my friends from school to perform with me! I'll never forget that night cause It was my first time to play with a  full band and SaGuijo is one of my most iconic bars in Manila, so many artists that I look up to have performed there so it was a big deal for me.

Jermaine Choa Peck, The Ransom Collective

I remember one of the first events we put up as a band for our the music video launch of "Fools", it was one of the most packed I've seen SaGuijo—that classic sauna-like party but a super fun one! 

Everyone was just singing along, dancing, and all our friends and family were there to support. My teammates (UP Women's Football Team) were there as well and while we were playing "Images" one of my teammats just fainted right infront of me and I didn't know what to do! Everyone had to help her out and ever since then we would always bring free water for everyone and remind everyone to hydrate. Classic SaGuijo gig!

Ysa Ferraz, Ysanygo

It was our first time to play in SaGuijo in 2017. The gig was under Revolver.

Ygo and I were trying to guess the lineup and we were wondering if our favorite bands/artists would be in the same lineup that night. When we saw the poster, Earl of Manila and Banna Harbera were there! At the end of the gig, we were able to talk to Earl of Manila despite our shyness.

I love how SaGuijo brings people together.

Sho Hikino, AOUI, Salamin

This guy, Emil, messaged us through Facebook. He said his girlfriend wasn't really a regular gig goer or a music fan or [anything] like that, but then they got to watch a gig of ours, and his girlfriend told him trip niya kami. [Anyway] he messaged our page to ask if he could propose to his girlfriend in the middle of our set. We got surprised, because first of all, we're an instrumental band; we don't really have love songs per se, or any hit songs, but this guy loved our music despite all that. 

The day came, in the middle of our set, he just proposed! and woo! That's one [thing off the] bucketlist down.

Myrene Academia, Sandwich, Imago, Duster

SaGuijo is our home bar. It’s where we play sets that are a little more esoteric than usual because we know the audience can dig it. We also play our new stuff here first.  

My earliest memories of the bar was when the only people watching your band would be the other band performing that night. Guijo is also where we shot the performance for the “Masilungan” video. And recently we played an epic collab with Cheats.

Diego, Mike, and I usually have a birthday gig here! We call it Happy Birthday Mr. President.

Thanks for all the support Guijo fam! Fifteen more years!

Eo Marcos, Kjwan, Salamin

My most memorable and favorite moment in SaGuijo was my first gig ever in SaGuijo​​​​​​​. It was with Salamin. I was only supposed to session for Salamin. Ang saya kasi first time ko tumogtog in SaGuijo and for any band. That was my first taste of it. I will never forget that moment.

Another moment would have to be that time I played with Glassjoy. Glassjoy was a tribute band to Glassjaw with members of other bands like Salamin, December Avenue, Subscapular, Gasulina. Sobrang saya nun!

Rogel Africa, Valley of Chrome

It was this Balian Ng Leeg show at SaGuijo​​​​​​​, where it was so hot and the people were rowdier than usual. We thought our drummer Paul [Eusebio] was gonna die (laughs)! He had to run outside to vomit and grab some air and he looked like a member of Tanya Markova, he was that pale. It was a fun show (laughs)!

Ena Mori

SaGuijo was my first ever gig.

I didn’t have a drummer yet at that time so I asked Sam [Marquez] (from One Click Straight) to play it. It was pretty wild. We only had 10+ [in the] audience, but we were having so much fun during the set (laughs). 

Tim Marquez, timothy Run, One Click Straight

I've been playing at SaGuijo since I was 14 or 15 and I can't really pinpoint my favorite SaGuijo memory; there are just too many.

But, one of them I guess was when my band One Click Straight had a pre-album tour and SaGuijo was the final leg. It was a tour we created just to get the word out that we were gonna release an album. Pretty weird thing to do but we did it anyway. That show was one of the hottest, craziest, and most intimate shows we've ever done in SaGuijo. We were like sardinas in a can and all of the bands were joking after each set that there was just no oxygen left. But, that's what SaGuijo is, it's the sweat, heat, and intimacy that makes the music just resonate to each and everyone on a different level.

Emmie Villegas, Carousel Casualties

My fondest memory would actually be the Carousel Casualties EP launch. There was a wall of humanity and for some time, I couldn’t go in. By the time I got in, the crowd was like half a foot away from us and it was so hot. The air-conditioning was failing. We played the whole EP but because of the heat, we forgot to play one important song (laughs). We ended the show with “Ang Huling El Bimbo.” Kiko [Reyes] didn’t go inside because it was super hot.

Russell Dela Cruz, Skychurch

Well most common siguro I could share is when we performed for a Brgy. Tibay event sa SaGuijo​​​​​​​. Venue was super jam-packed. Air was filled with humidity from body heat and sweat. Floor was all wet and slippery. Aircon was overpowered by the heat and number of people inside. To make it worse, the people inside were all like sardines moshing with all the bands that performed. Umaalon literal ang tao. I think I lost 20lbs of body water that night by just staying there.

It was slimy, sweaty, hot but very exciting to play kasi people were body surfing from wall to wall ng SaGuijo (laughs).

Jeje Santos, Giniling Festival

We played a Nirvana tribute gig way, way, way back. Very early SaGuijo​​​​​​​ days. I don't remember when. We thought we could smash some guitars like Kurt Cobain, but we did not have guitars to trash so we bought styro from National Bookstore and cut it out to form a guitar. We played 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' to close the set, and right in the solo part we started smashing the "styrocaster." People from other bands joined in and by the end of the song it was snowing so much styro.

We also had party poppers, so that added to the mess. We weren't allowed to play again until around a year [later], because of the mess we made that we did not clean up after. Or maybe it was because the organizer asked us to order anything from the menu and we ordered a feast that we did not have money to pay with. We didn't know we were only supposed to order up to a certain amount.

We were young, inexperienced, and hungry. Very hungry. I also remember a goth guy vomiting blood on a Victorian couch. The most gothic thing I have ever seen. I also drank a pitcher of beer after I soaked my socks in it as a dare. I thought it was a very blockbuster artistic thing to do back then. I have plenty of stories I can't share because of explicit details—like people fucking in the parking lot.

Wendy Villanueva, The Republicats

We organized an underground event there last 2015 and everyone thought it was an album launch, jam packed kasi, we didn't expect na ganun kadami yung tao, Renmin [Nadela] (our drummer) almost passed out. Yung crowd grabe ang saya. It was fun and memorable.

Plus, the sub zero beer! Kaya dinadayo pa namin ni Renmin.

Farewell Fair Weather

SaGuijo is one of the many gig venues that is close to the FFW members' hearts. We were able to make new friends and meet like-minded artists. SaGuijo is home. 

The very first gig we played in SaGuijo was for Paul Pajo's Sonic LogoTV gig. We remember our first steps into the venue and feeling very nervous because SaGuijo​​​​​​​ was described to us as one of the holy grounds for live music. We really rehearsed hard for that show. First SaGuijo​​​​​​​ gig and we were playing alongside Julianne Tarroja with Wendel Garcia to session for drums that night. Who wouldn't be nervous? That was one heck of a night. It felt so surreal to finally be able play in a bar that senior musicians respect and talk about. 

Revolver and Cris Ramos. When you hear "Revolver" or "Cris Ramos", you remember SaGuijo​​​​​​​. We were invited to play for a Revolver Night through Japo Anareta and we prepared a cover from The Beatles. Not gonna mention the song cause we felt like we kinda murdered it. We left SaGuijo that night hoping we would be able to play there again.

More than just the venue, another memory that we love the most are the staff. Especially Kuya Pete and Layla (his dog who eventually had puppies). On the nights that we didn't have people to watch us, they were there. Smiling. They have always been very welcoming.

Jason Caballa, Pedicab, Cheats

I still remember the first time I played at SaGuijo. It was Sandwich and my old band Twisted Halo sharing the bill. I was surprised that there was a music venue in the middle of Nowheresville, Makati, and it was a little hard to find, but once you've gone there a few times, you'd never get lost going there again.

The stage was originally at the opposite side of where it was now, and there used to be a wall with a doorway separating the left and right side, so it could get really cramped. But back then it would normally just be bands watching each other and maybe a few friends who lived in the area who were there. But I thought it was nice that there was a venue in Makati that catered to acts who played original music, and whose styles didn't matter.

We moved our Admit One production to SaGuijo in the mid-aughts when things started to pick up, and more and more productions started being held there as well. I remember interviewing Taken by Cars for PULP in their infancy and they told me that their dream was to simply get to play in SaGuijo. It became the place to play. There was a time that whenever someone new to Manila would ask me where to check out good bands, I would always say SaGuijo, because there's always someone interesting to catch on any given night. I still do.

Francis Reyes, The Dawn

My fave memory of SaGuijo (outside the numerous gigs I've played there or watched outside the window if the place is packed, and awakening my tinnitus and sweat glands either way) is while The Dawn was shooting the indie film Tulad Ng Dati. There were a couple scenes inside and we were there like 11 a.m. and the tables were cleared out to make space for lights, cameras, and crew. One of the walls has a mosaic of the Virgin Mary (or who looks like the Virgin Mary) that I never noticed before. Lights were being set up outside and shone through the window and illuminated an area of that wall and it felt kinda gothic; I thought it was beautiful. Then someone exited the toilet and just decimated the moment.

Oh, and there's also Kuya Pete! Bald-headed, sold a few barbecues on his own, had a fluffy dog, asking if I had my beer yet. He looked intimidating sometimes; found out way way later that he's gay. He retired, but I do miss him.

Saguijo Cafe + Bar will be hosting a fundraiser gig for their staff and crew on August 28 (Friday), 6 p.m. onwards. Tune in to their official Facebook page to watch the show.