Remembering Cafe Indios Bravos of the ’60s (or where General Hans Menzi furtively asked an unsuspecting painter where to get pot, in a place where a waiter could “parry about literature.”)

-Hans Menzi asking for Pot-

(From Caroline Kennedy, a visiting writer then)

After raising a convivial glass or two of his favourite drink, Menzi leaned over towards Alcuaz and whispered, “Do you know where I can get any pot around here?”

The chatter came to an abrupt halt.Some people froze on the spot. Others stampeded towards the loos to flush their own incriminating evidence down the one working toilet.

-A place where a waiter could “parry about literature”-

(From Betsy Francia, who owned the cafe together with husband Henry)

Memorable events at Indios? The night Lorna and Taboy quarrelled at the cafe’s mezzanine gallery and everyone craned their necks to watch their drama, as if it were a Shakespearean balcony scene. Villa or Nick Joaquin would preside at the center table and keep the rest of us in fits of laughter. We had one jam where this Pakistani sufi played his tabla with other musicians and he admonished us how through music we could change our environment.

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Our waiters were wonderful – Mang Ben, Cesar (who was like an elegant English valet), would parry about literature sometimes with our regulars …

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Someone wrote in the late sixties that so many people dominating the high-brow, entertainment and scenes in Manila then were Indios regulars and alumnae that practically comprised a cartel.

Who were they? Virginia Moreno, Nick Joaquin, Hernando Ocampo, Adrian Cristobal, Andres Cristobal Cruz, Abe Aguilar Cruz, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (I love that sequence and confusion of names), Domingo Abella, Pepito Bosch, Erwin Castillo, Ninotchka Roska, Pete Lacaba, Marra Lanot, Gelacio Guillermo, the Rodriguez family of painters, Greg Brillantes, Penny Patañe, Joe Ayala, Larry Francia, Leonie Benesa, Kerima Polotan Tuvera, Johnny Tuvera, Armando Manalo, Manansala, Lee Aguinaldo, Malang, Ang Kiukok, Aviado, Galang, Tiny Nuyda, Mike Parsons, Jaime de Guzman, Johnny and Charlie Altomonte, Gigi Dueñas, Eric Casiño, Lino Legaspi, Cesar Legaspi, Bob Fox, Eddie Elejar, Tony Fabella, Jorge Arago, Nonoy Marcelo, Willie Sanchez, Krip Yuson, Sylvia Mayuga, even Lino Brocka, Bencab, Laida Lim Perez, Peque Gallaga, Delia Javier, David Cortez Medala, Tita Muñoz, Lucrecia Reyes Urtula, Jose Nadal Carreon, or JoeCar, Recah Trinidad, Lolita Rodriguez, Linda Manalo, Offie Gelvezon, Abueva, Dauz, Bibsy Carballo, Romy Vitug, Mario Co, Joe Joya, Bernardo Bernardo, Sol Jose Vanzi, Ben Payumo, Behn Cervantes, Anthony Juan, Tani Morabe who opened Mango Bay in San Francisco and planned to open another restaurant in Amsterdam, Leo Martinez, Noel Añonuevo, Joonee Gamboa, Danny and Julie Dalena, Freddie Salangga, Joey Smith, Agnes Arellano, Sonny Tolentino, Alex Cruz, Pabs Dadivas, Bing Labrador, Kuku Grewal, Ishmael Bernal, Jolico Cuadra, Prof. Jose Maceda, Mang Amado Hernandez, the list just goes on and on …

Caroline Kennedy said that the place where Indios Bravos was once located is now occupied by Hobbit House. I think she was referring to the original location at Mabini St, as Hobbit House has now moved to MH del Pilar (also a branch in Boracay I heard). I’m not sure what stands now in the place formerly occupied by Cafe Indios Bravos. Perhaps a red light club.

-Sylvia Mayuga’s eulogy to Betsy, or Beatriz Romualdez Francia-

As the revolutionary ‘60s rushed into the ‘70s, her next project to bring the world to Manila – and Manila to itself – would be Café Los Indios Bravos on Mabini Street in Malate, named after the Filipino Propaganda Movement in exile eight decades earlier.

6 thoughts on “Remembering Cafe Indios Bravos of the ’60s (or where General Hans Menzi furtively asked an unsuspecting painter where to get pot, in a place where a waiter could “parry about literature.”)

  1. Hey there! I am not sure if this is where I downloaded a photo of Los Indios Bravos from but I’ve printed it out. If I can’t find the file, I’ll ask my mom to scan it then I’ll send it to you if you like!

  2. Uhm, I’m pretty sure it came from this blog but I just don’t know the exact post I’ve extracted it from. Do you want a copy? I found the file! Oh, and I’ve been meaning to start on Franzen’s Strong Motion but couldn’t quite let go of the corrections yet! Bourdain’s there whenever I feel trapped in our Manila!🙂

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