A lot of businesses in nightlife staple Poblacion in Makati were forced to shut down at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. That included the district's favorite Polilya, the tropical-themed, neon light-filled bar which boasts of a solid number of patrons since it opened in 2018.
Polilya tried to hold on since the very first lockdown on March 15, 2020, but it had to make the "extremely hard and sad" decision four months later before its ever-mounting losses got worse.
"Polilya is closing its doors," its July 16 post that year read. Acknowledging that the "near future" is "uncertain" at the time, Polilya expressed hope in seeing its beloved patrons "again somewhere down the road."
Fast forward to two years later, Polilya is staging a comeback with a strong statement: "It's about time we turn back on those neon lights."
Once located at the heart of Poblacion on 5658 Don Pedro Street, which is just beside yet-another district favorite Z Hostel, Polilya 2.0 found a new home at 5767 Ebro Street, just a few steps away from its original location.
Its comeback, however, is not a mere return to business.
From the previous tropical theme which utilized trees, leaves, and other woody elements, as well as verdant and earthy hues, Polilya now has steampunk and gritty vibes with its interior's mechanical and metallic elements.
The paint job is mostly silver, complemented by shades of yellow reminiscent of the Pantone 2021 Color of the Year, Ultimate Gray+Illuminating.
Yet remnants of the old Polilya are still present, like the couches and chairs, except that they've been retouched and repainted.
"We didn't buy a single piece of furniture," Ian Paradies, co-founder of Polilya's parent company Dark Wing, told the media during the exclusive press dinner last Aug. 23.
The framed photos of moths (as the bar's name is the Filipino term) are also still there, as well as the iconic “Have you figured out what you want yet?” neon light text by the bar, which has now been turned to a mural.
The neon lights that made Polilya the beloved hang-out spot had to stay, of course. As homage, Polilya also put up a new "?" neon light sign by the disc jockey's booth.
In undergoing a revamp, Paradies said their company's mantra is to fit into the neighborhoods they choose, noting they're "very careful" in their selection.
"We never want to force them to adapt to us," he said. "(Poblacion is) our original home, so we felt that Polilya’s new location had to be there as well... We wanted to fit in on this side of Poblacion."
Polilya's menu also got an update to suit its new theme. It only kept three items, and has five new offerings.
Luis de Terry, Dark Wing's Head of Operations and Culinary Development, said he wants their menu to be "kanto cool," elevating the Pinoy street food and giving it a gastronomic spin.
"We are in the kanto, and this is where things started," De Terry said, while also stressing out that they're sourcing local ingredients for their dishes.
For instance, Polilya's sisig, which uses pork jowls, also has chorizo from Dumaguete. Its chicken wings, meanwhile, has a glaze of patis and calamansi.
Their vanilla ice cream is infused with honey ale, which has ingredients from Bukidnon and Baguio.
Polilya's cocktail menu also had a face-lift, with about half of the items all brand new. Aside from it, they're also offering Paradies's local craft beer brand Engkanto.
Be that as it may, Dark Wing's Bar Head Jeric “Esse” Magsino said everything's proudly Filipino, with local ingredients and catchy names.
Its vodka-based "Boozy Barney" uses ube cream, pandan syrup, and lemon juice. The gin-based "Pre Malone," meanwhile, uses pomegranate hong cho, melon-flavor liqueur midori, and lemon juice. It's an homage to Magsino receiving comments on how he supposedly looks like the rapper Post Malone.
"It is our reincarnation, our second coming," Paradies said about their reopening.
In Native American mythology, moths symbolize rebirth, transformation, and regeneration because of how they emerge from being a crawling caterpillar and a motionless cocoon to an elegant insect with wings that have intricate patterns. Moreso, moths are always drawn to light.
Polilya the bar, like the insect that inspired its name, is more than ready to fly after being in a cocoon for quite some time. Amid the darkness that is the pandemic, Polilya is also more than ready to look on the bright side.
Polilya is reopening its doors starting Aug. 26. It will be open from Mondays to Saturdays, at 5:30 p.m. onwards.