BY MANICA C. TIGLAO
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIGUEL NACIANCENO

There are over 2,000 vinyl records at 78-45-33, a clandestine bar located in Salcedo Village.

Amassed over the better part of the last two decades, the assembly belongs to the bar’s co-owner, Tonyboy de Leon, who also happens to be the founder and organizer of the annual November Hi-Fi Show, a fair that showcases vinyl records and audio systems from manufacturers here and abroad. He hasn’t listened to every single record in his sizeable collection—but he’s on his way. Today he plucks from the shelf a record he has never played before, following last week’s playlist of Frank Sinatra and other artists from the ’60s. “Before, it used to be an event when you’d open a new record and listen to everything, but that’s sort of dead now. People just go on Spotify, play one song, then move on to the next artist,” de Leon reflects. “Here at the bar, you’re forced to listen to the whole record.”

Quietly opened last year by de Leon and his cousin, Jay Amante, 78-45-33 is the Makati expansion of the well-loved 78-53-86 bar in White Plains. The latter was Amante’s phone number in the ’70s, while 78 Salcedo takes its name from the different speeds of a turntable.

 

 

In contrast to 78-45-56, de Leon describes 78 Salcedo’s vibe as “more a late ’60s to early ’70s bachelor pad.” Designed like a capacious living room, with leather upholstered seating strategically placed in comfortable distances apart from each other, the bar is elegant without being intimidating. Selected from Amante’s Blanc Gallery, a Tatong Torres painting that de Leon says is often interpreted as “dark” injects gravitas into the space. “I guess because I designed this place, it reflects my age. When we were setting it up, Jay and I told each other that we wanted to move away from what was viewed as hipster. We made a list—incandescent bulbs, the like—and all of that was nixed for this space. So it’s more mature.”

Equally important as the careful creation of the atmosphere, the cocktail selection here doesn’t require a bar menu to distract guests. While custom cocktails are available, mixologist Jonathan Bo’s complete list includes all of the classics, as well as a few signature cocktails such as In a Silent Way (I.W. Harper whisky, Goldschlager, and orange liqueur topped with an apple slice, above), a nod to the Miles Davis record.

 

 

De Leon began to acquire vinyl records around 17 years ago, at a time when “people were throwing away their records, so it was easy for me to collect,” he says. “I was first collecting CDs but looking for a particular record—Dave Grusin and the GRP All-Stars Live in Japan, which was very memorable to me. I told myself if I found that, I’d build my turntable system.” The success of that search is evident in de Leon’s impressive audio system, this bar’s raison d’être: Two modified Hartsfield audio machines—called “the ultimate dream speaker” by Life magazine in 1955—and two Garrard 301 turntables. “Jay and I are both audiophiles, so we’re very particular about the quality of the music and the sound. It’s important that people can conduct conversations instead of competing with the speakers,” he says.

 

 

While the bar welcomes requests for songs or artists, there are a few that might be met with some hesitation. “During our time, if there was a party, you would pay someone to supply the sound system, and there would be a DJ with records. Our group, Social Distortion, primarily played new wave and punk. Imagine—back then, every Friday and Saturday we’d have a party, and I played the same songs over and over again, about 108 times a year,” de Leon says, shaking his head. “So I like certain ’80s songs, but ‘I Melt With You’? I hate that. Too many times back then, we would play that song to start the dancing.”

Open daily from 4 p.m., 78-45-33 is located along San Agustin Street, Salcedo Village, Makati.

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