My Favorite Airbnb: A Brooklyn-Meets-Manila Studio in the Philippines

Enter this cozy but mighty studio apartment in Makati’s beloved drink-and-dance quarter of Poblacion. While I was planning my stay, I searched for availability in areas that I knew had everything within arm’s reach without having to get into a car (at this point, I’m not not traumatized by cars). In this regard, Poblacion delivered. A laundry service spot was right at the foot of the building. There were restaurants aplenty within a five-minute walk: Lampara with its decadent lechon around the corner; Tetsuo with crunchy karaage chicken a block away; Maillard with its rich paella and duck confit right across the street. There was even a nearby gym that offered a flexible membership if I wanted to keep up all my routines while traveling.

I stayed for eight nights, in between a work stay at the Peninsula Manila and returning home to my parents’ place in Quezon City. Though I could stay at my folks’ townhouse for free, an Airbnb lets me experience a delightful slice of independence, especially during the holidays. This studio provided all the same conveniences I treasure back in my apartment in New York.

I made good use of its well-equipped kitchen, which had all the gear I needed to prepare my own meals when I got tired of ordering delivery from Jollibee, as well as enough wine glasses for friends when they came to visit. The bathroom was small but elegant and effective; the shower’s water pressure was perfect with a knob that cranked up the heat to scalding. The dining table was large enough for multiple guests and, more importantly, for me to spread out my multiple notebooks and laptops when I had to work remotely.

The fully equipped kitchen with a pressure cooker, Gorenje Fridge, and a full set of dishes and silverware.

Though Poblacion is best known for its bars (Agimat, Polilya, and Run Rabbit Run are some of the best in the city—all an easy stroll from the Airbnb), coffee lovers will not be disappointed by the neighborhood’s offerings. There’s the community-focused Commune, the aptly-named Good Sh*t Coffee, and—if you must—multiple Starbucks outlets. But if I can give you only one café rec, it has to be Saglit, a coffee and flower shop by Flower Ranch Café located in the back of a residence’s car garage. Inside, the music is soothing, the flowers are stunning, and the coffee is sublime. Pick up a lavender espresso tonic (yes, tonic water mixed with lavender syrup and topped with espresso and lavender blossoms) and you’ll swear off of lattés forever. They also stock local design magazines and hand-made candles with scents inspired by different landscapes in the Philippines.

The studio’s aesthetics perfectly matched the gritty yet stylish neighborhood. Everything was curated as if the design brief read “Brooklynite meets Manileño.” Lots of leather, brick, and concrete screamed DUMBO, but the wood parquet flooring, cane chairs, and marquetry offered a distinct impression that I was in the Philippines, the country where I grew up—but with a grown-up feeling. I’ve always dreamed of spending a couple of months or an entire season in Manila to be near my family. Until that day comes, I’ve got this Airbnb in Poblacion bookmarked, and I’ll stay here again when I need a place where I can freely unwind and stay long-term—that is to say, a home.