For years, Maginhawa Street in Teacher’s Village, Quezon City has been a goldmine for foodies looking to dine at unique establishments beside schools and neighboring communities up north. Tucked along this famed stretch of restaurant concepts and hidden gems is a cozy, seemingly unnamed bar called Demokrasya—an easy miss if you’re not careful. One glimpse of an upturned sun with a face, though, and you’ve come to the right place.
The team behind Demokrasya, or DK for short, prides itself in being a place of “taboo conversation and progressive thinking.” Operational since 2018, it took the team as little as three months to put everything together. “Honestly, opening Demokrasya was more gut feel than anything else. It didn’t take us long to conceptualize because the coffee shop that was there was (already) a Filipino themed café. Most of the concepts were thought of on the spot,” co-owner Martti Uy recounts.
Changes made to the furnishings were minimal. Demokrasya’s logo is but an upside down version of that of Kape Tayo, the coffee shop that once stood in its place. The bar area and the KKK-inspired hanging wood structure (which is an exact replica of the one belonging to revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio) beside it were also maintained. Even the coffee shop’s staff was kept.
Perhaps the biggest difference is its large mural of a Philippine Eagle, painted by renowned artist and fellow Demokrasya co-owner Jappy Agoncillo. “We left it to him to decide how we were going to personify our brand,” Martti mentions.
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It was important for the owners to infuse their values into the business—hence the name Demokrasya. The bar was founded by six friends, who with different professional backgrounds and areas of specialization, found common ground in their desire for good governance. “We want things to be morally upright. It’s hard to be optimistic or idealistic about how things ought to be, but at the end of the day, politicians should behave like model citizens that we can look up to and venerate. I think everyone on the team can agree on that no matter what political affiliation,” Martti elaborates.
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Sticking to its nationalistic cause, Demokrasya’s food menu is strictly local. “We only serve Filipino bar chow, like Tokwa’t Baboy or Towkwa’t Tokwa if you’re avoiding meat, and Chicharon Bulaklak,” he remarks. “Tokwa’t Tokwa is a favorite, aside from the Streetfood Platter, which is basically a platter of kikiam, fish balls, and squid balls.”
Alcohol choices comprise of beers, house wine, whiskey blends, and specialty cocktails. “We try to push our cocktails because we like telling stories with them,” says Martti. “The Mi Ultimo Adios is a drink with four kinds of hard liquor plus some chili pepper to top it off. Another favorite is the Moreno Morena, which is a Cacao Martini for those who are proud to have brown skin.”
They also offer coffee. Demokrasya continues to partner with the Kape Tayo franchise found in major shopping malls across the country.
The bar isn’t just another place to eat and drink. They’re big on hosting events that center on music, poetry, and politics—but with a twist. “Instead of the typical open mics, we have songwriting discussions. We want people to be comfortable with their craft here,” Martti explains.
Martti will be the first to tell you that what they offer isn’t far from other Pinoy-themed establishments. What they do focus on is fostering fellowship and freedom of expression, all while serving great grub. “We’re just trying to give people a good time and a space to feel like they can be themselves—to release their hopes and fears, express their artistry, and speak their minds about everything going on in the world today. That’s what Demokrasya has always been about,” he notes.
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Photographs by Vyn Radovan