The sound inside Pukka Bar is starting to be deafening as it shifts from chill reggae to pop. Is this the real El Nido Nightlife? I look at my phone to check what time it is – 10 PM on a Friday. People are starting to line up at the bar for their drinks then flock by the dance floor in the middle of the bar. The whole bar is also starting to be crowded and noisy, that I can’t even hear what my boyfriend is telling me. Good thing, my group has already scored a table near the beach exit an hour ago before everything goes wild. We – my cousins Wil and Ton with their girlfriends Lucille and Jem, me and boyfriend Paul – are all sitting in our area trying to process the transition that happened. Until my balikbayan cousin CJ, and is also the reason why we are in El Nido in the first place, returned to our table with beers on his hands shouting, “It’s party time!!!”
PUKKA BAR AS A Reggae Bar
Early that night, we grabbed some dinner in Bar 147 by Spin Hostel. It was a chill, beautiful bar with a live acoustic band on the stage. After dinner, we asked the waitress if there will be a DJ or a nighlife later, but she told us that they don’t do that.
“If you want a party, you should go to Pukka Bar,” she advised.
So we paid our bill, gathered our things, and walked our way to this Pukka Bar. I’m not into noisy, wild bars anymore. I don’t know how I outgrew it, but I prefer laid-back bars now where you can talk and drink. But since my American-based cousin requested for it, I can unleash the early-20s Bea this night. Bar 147 was a 20-minute walk away from the center of town.
We first stopped by a “perya” that was a few meters away from Pukka Bar. The crowd and noise made us curious and were entertained by the drunk foreigners betting on some local carnival games that we loved playing when we were young.
At around 9 PM, we were all standing in front of Pukka Bar and questioning if it’s the right wild bar the waitress told us. The entrance was small and narrow with its monkey logo behind the reggae colors in the background. It was well-lit though. But there were no crowds flocked outside which is the number one characteristic of a bar. We can’t even hear any sound or music from inside. The place wasn’t drawing any attention compared to the other beach bars around. It established a certain reputation that they just rely on word of mouth marketing.
We formulated a plan on the street. We’ll give this one a try first, but if it didn’t get fun, later on, we’ll hop into another bar. To what bar? We’re still clueless; maybe we can ask other tourists inside.
From the entrance from the street, there was still another door. The whole bar was in color blue lighting with the chill reggae songs playing. A reggae band was playing in the middle. Some people are standing near them swaying along with the song while most are seated in tables drinking San Miguel Beer. Foreigners dominated the bar; there were not many locals and Filipinos in the crowd. It was not the wild that I expected, but maybe it’s because we can’t compare city bars to the bars in the provinces, right? This can be wild for them.
It was not that crowded, so we easily made our way to the bar to look at their cocktails menu when someone called us.
I smiled and answered him yes. There were already six beer bottles on their table, and I teased him of having a stressful day. “Your clients today must be stressful no, kuya?” He laughed and offered us half of their table that can only accommodate another three people.
I accepted and made my sister and my cousin’s girlfriend, Lucille, sit with me while the others were jamming with the other tourists near the band. I just listened to the chill reggae songs that I don’t have any clue on our table because my sister was not much a fan of the dance floor. I ordered a frozen blue margarita for P220 and chatted whoever sits by the table to rest.
“This will be our last song,” the vocalist of the reggae band announced in the mic. I was never a fan of the genre, but it is something easy to vibe and dance to. Kuya driver waved goodbye to me as soon as the last song ended, and my cousins took the other half of the table to rest their feet.
A few minutes in our table, the sounds were slowly becoming louder, and the crowd was starting to double. Two groups of friends were already standing near our table as if waiting for us to leave. We didn’t know what will happen or what will we do next yet, but my married cousins decided to go back to the hotel already, bringing my sister with them.
“The vibe is changing already; I can see call girls as well. We are going back.”
PUKKA BAR AS A WILD BAR
“Hello, everyone! I’m your DJ for tonight. Welcome to Pukka Bar.”
Oh okay, I underestimated this bar. People from the beach are starting to enter and flock by the spacious dance floor a few minutes before. A bouncer that I’ve never seen when I entered comes out of nowhere and positions himself near the beach exit door. Our table is adjacent to the bar, squeezed between the airconditioning and the beach exit door, so we saw how everything changes.
Loud pop music starts to radiate on the whole bar, and everyone, even the people on their tables begin to sing along and dance in their places. It reminds me of my favorite Flotsam and Jetsam in La Union, but with more foreigners instead. The locals around my age are starting to dance with foreigners and making friends. It is indeed a party, and I wonder how wild this can get.
Since we are three couples with our American cousin CJ, we take turns on the dance floor because we don’t want to lose our table as well. Beers keep coming for it is the easiest and fastest order in the crowded bar. I order a mojito, and it takes almost half an hour. I’m more of a cocktail girl than a beer girl.
Ton returns to our table complaining and tipsy and asks us to shift them on the dance floor with CJ. He quickly gets drunk, so this is not something new to us. Paul and I, with my mojito, join CJ on the dance floor, and boy, it is hot. The dance floor has various nationalities, gender, and ages, all just dancing with the beat. A lesbian couple is sexily dancing to each other on our left, while a group of white people is having a dance showdown on our right. Almost all the people inside come from different places in the world.
CJ suddenly disturbs us with his worry looks. He shouts that Ton is missing and that we must return to our table. The boys search for Ton on the beach while I stay in our table, which is now surrounded by various people, with the girls. I finish my mojito quietly while observing the people around since it is hard to communicate with the noise. I can now see the call girls that my cousin said a while ago.
Just a few minutes after, the boys return with Ton who went to the beach to get some fresh air. It is starting to get hot and suffocating inside, so it makes sense. The dance floor is undoubtedly a sauna by now so we just dance on our table since the whole Pukka bar feels like a dance floor already. And oh, you can’t hop on top of your chairs unless you want a warning from the bouncers.
A group of five white girls flocks so closely on our table that they can almost hit our heads with their elbows. One of the girls says sorry and that they just want to stand across the air-conditioner due to the heat. Of course, my ever-friendly boyfriend says hi and asks them where they’re from. They’re from Sweden and currently escaping the winter, but the heat inside Pukka Bar is too much for them.
CJ and my boyfriend instantly become friends with them. I know that they’re just making friends with us because we have one of the good spots in the bar, but still it is the first time for me meeting foreigners on a bar. We talk about travel, and they teach us some dance moves and handshakes. They remain in our spot, and at some point sits with us already. It’s fine though since they buy us some beers.
Not being an oldie in a bar but the humid and crowd is making me look at my watch. It is already 12:30 midnight, and Ton is already asleep beside me. I can already call it a night, but boy, these foreigners can party hard, no?
Fast forward to another 30 minutes; I’m finally breathing some fresh air. Pukka Bar is still very much alive when we left, but you still won’t see any trace of it if you’re in the street. The street is empty and quiet as we walk back to our hostel. CJ is happily dancing on the road and telling us how many people from different countries he met. He surely enjoyed Pukka Bar despite that he’s showering on his sweat.
I did enjoy this El Nido Nightlife too. It was my first time dancing and chatting with some foreign girls. I should’ve added them on Instagram!