A Strip of the Old Fort…(the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig)

Back In Those Days.

It was in the first few months of the new millenium when I relocated to Manila. Back then, MTV was still playing music, the MRT was still new and was the greatest thing to have ever happened in the country, Nokia was still the hippest communications device manufacturer – ever, and the cellular phone, personal digital assistant (PDA) and camera were still three separate gadgets. Heck, even pagers were still alive back then.

Yet, everything was not bright at that time. It was the time of the asian financial crisis, and a lot of supposedly “grand” projects ground to a halt instead. Manila’s rising skyline got dotted with uncompleted high-rise buildings, and the much vaunted elevated “skyway” was reduced to a highway-above-a-highway that was too short to make sense.

Another of these “grand” projects was an area called the Bonifacio Global City (BGC). The name “Global City” speaks of the grand ambitions for this place, after it was carved out of the Army’s Fort Bonifacio headquarters and marked for extensive development. It was to be the new financial and commercial center of the country…even the stock exchange was supposed to be transplanted there. However, reality overtook ambition and by the time I got to Manila, the only thing that was growing at the BGC was the grass on the vacant lots.

From being “Prime Financial District”, the BGC (or the “Fort” as it is known more fondly) became “Prime Gimmick Spot” instead (“Gimmick” being an old Filipino slang for spending time with friends and having a few drinks…..or more than a few). Most of the activity at that time was concentrated at a small spot in the middle of the property, in an area now more generally known as the Fort Strip, and the rest of the surrounding area was just bare open space. Back then, when you spoke of “The Fort”, everyone knows you’re talking about this small area.

An Old Acquaintance.

One of our old favorites back then on this strip is a restaurant called Zong. They have a sort of “Chinese fusion” theme and menu, and they were a big thing when they first opened. Back then few places offered the sort of food they had, for the same price range. Chinese food was of course no stranger to this country, but most restaurants were either too traditional or too expensive. Zong was among the first ones to serve Chinese in a somewhat “metrosexual” kind of way, while still being “reachable” for the average wage earner. I still remember back then when me and a group of workmates would drive all the way from Ayala Ave. to the middle of the The Fort, during lunch, just to eat at Zong.

As the years went by though, BGC gradually woke up from its slumber, and bigger and better commercial areas soon opened nearby, reducing the old strip to just a footnote in most people’s consciousness…except for the occasional rumble of people with high and mighty surnames at a bar called the Embassy, one of the previous tenants in the area.

I myself have not found myself back at Zong in the strip for God knows how long, as if it got completely wiped out of our gastronomic radar. The gravitational pull of the new establishments at the nearby Bonifacio High Street (BHS) and Serendra were just too much to overcome. Recently however, when my family decided to spend some time walking along the “by now less travelled” areas of the BGC, we met an old acquaintance..Zong.

By now the food scene across Metro Manila has evolved, and the “genre” that Zong made popular is now very much mainstream across the Metropolis. The Zong I found recently was still the Zong I knew from almost a decade ago, but this time around they no longer stood out in particular. You can get food like theirs (or better), with presentation like theirs (or better), with prices like theirs, in many other places. I guess Zong went the way of Nokia too. They led the way at some point, but as time moved on others came up with things that are bigger and better, and both were gradually eased out from the leading pack.

The Fort Strip today
Deep Fried Salt & Pepper Pork Ribs
Wonton Soup
Beef Curry in Clay Pot
Yang Chow Fried Rice
Zong is at the ground floor of this building

The Re-Awakening.

One place that isn’t going out of date anytime soon though is the BGC. Awake from its years long slumber, it’s now like a runner on a sprint. More and more people go to work at the BGC everyday, as many companies – both old timers and new comers – start relocating to what is now fast becoming the country’s most prestigious business address. The skyline here now changes quite rapidly, as it seems like a new floor is getting added to some building being built on the property everyday. It is now practically, the country’s boom town.

The corner of 32nd and 5th streets, two of the main thoroughfares in the BGC.
Building construction runs at a frantic pace in this boom town.
Some sort of light sculptures made of rope lights and plastic tubes at the BGC
The Bonifacio High Street (BHS), a much newer commercial development.
A few of the shops, along the BHS
* Photos taken November and December 2011, with Panasonic Lumix LX5.

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