A Sense of Culture at Cubao Expo

With new structures like the Gateway Mall, the multi-storey National Bookstore, the LRT Purple Line, restaurants surrounding Araneta Coliseum and soon to dominate the Araneta Center skyline, the Manhattan Garden Suites, the Cubao we knew a few years ago is noticeably evolving.  


However, remnants of the gritty Cubao, the one that shows its age despite an Araneta Center facelift still exist. I’m referring to a small square a short distance away from the swanky establishments called the Cubao Expo.



Formerly known as Marikina Shoe Expo, this place used to be a showroom for Marikina’s booming shoe and leather industry some decades ago.  



Today, the shoe expo has morphed into a pleasing contradiction to its changing urban scenery offering more than just footwear and leather goods but some fascinating assortments of antique shops, thrift stores and cafe-cum-art galleries. 




I agree with Charlene Sawit of Real Living Magazine when she suggested certain qualities one should posses to appreciate the shopping experience on this part of Cubao. These include “an ability to see romance in the run-down, a love for objects that come with stories, a disposition that appreciates the humor in the kitsch, the rare, and the strange, a sense of irony, and of course the willingness to sweat.”



The ambience at Cubao Expo is like taking a few steps back in decades. The square has that mom n’ pop feel, where owners tend their stores themselves and take time to chat up if one expresses interest and the afternoon is lazy enough.


Last December, paparrazo Roberto Bellini, owner of the landmark Italian restaurant named after him, personally welcomed us and took our order. We enjoyed the good food and the romantic ambience of Bellini’s.




The Grand Thrift Shop of James Yangco appeals to those who love objects with an interesting story. This antique store is a source of ephemeral and rare objects that brings nostalgia of the past decades.


Heritage has a branch in SM Megamall (Old Manila) but I frequently end up making purchases in their branch at Cubao Expo. For some reasons: the store is huge and has a feel of an authentic antique shop and very seldom do I find antique stores where the staff is well-verse in their merchandise. 




Heritage is a good source of out-of-print publications, rare ephemera, paintings, and object-de-art.



A good time to drop by Cubao Expo is late in the afternoon where most of the stores are already open for business. 


I think Cubao has reached a certain level of cultural appeal. Thanks to the existence of shops at Cubao Expo, people are given another place to experience a sense of culture.



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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s really nice to know that there is an alternative place besides the motels, beer-gardens, ktv bars, massage and sauna bath parlors, that Cubao was used to be known for, that yuppies, artists, musicians & well-cultured people could hangout and meet up.

    A small, yet cozy place with a bohemian-type of vibe. ^_^

  2. Yes she did the blotter report.
    Anyway its just sad because photography is her passion. And these past few days I saw that the effect on her was different. It was more than a gadget to her. It was like a body part.

    Anyway, we just lost our hope on human race.

  3. its good that you were able to take photos.
    were you commissioned by the owner? i went to cubao expo earlier today and took a picture of a shop i found attractive then a security guard stopped me. their admin said they dont allow people taking pictures there.i reasoned with the owner-thats who he says he is- but he said that they dont allow people to take pictures there because their tenants put an effort to beautify their shops only to be photographed by anyone.HUH??! does that make sense? he said something about a poster made with cubao expo as a background. is this another case of “its all about the money”? do they want to be in on every picture published? okay fine. but dont they realize that people taking pictures that may blog about them would increase its appeal and publicity? i find the no picture taking policy in cubao expo so irrational and to put it bluntly, stupid. these people have got to learn to update their primitive marketing strategies. oh well, its their business.

    • Well irritated, good thing i know more than primitive marketing.

      Anyway, I’m not so found of the place now. especially not after a friend’s cam got stolen there. well she saw the crook took it at here bazaar booth and ran after it. but even if she immediately shouted for help no one responded. they just let the thief pass by in front of them run away with it.

      • Sorry to hear that More than Irritated. As a responsible and proactive citizen, hope you reported the incident to the police.

  4. Cubao expo is such a romantic place. I love it =)

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