I’m pretty excited about exploring the city of Manila, my new full-time home starting in December of this year. Moving there from the quiet (read: boring) and sleepy (read: nothing much to do) coastal community of Dumaguete, it feels like I went from a little town in Kansas to the heart of the Big Apple. Actually, Manila is far bigger than New York, with an estimated 25 million or more people within the metropolitan area, including eight sub-cities.
And while Dumaguete did have some great natural excursions such as reefs, islands, waterfalls, and sandbars close by, I’m finding that Manila has arts, culture, nightlife, events, and countless quality restaurants (read: the food in Dumaguete was unpalatable).
A good friend of mine there, a local Filipina named Laarni, has been acting as my de facto guide, turning me on to different cool venues in the Fort Bonifacio area, where I’ll be staying. Within Bonifacio is the surprisingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated Bonifacio Global City, and that’s where I visited the appropriately-named The Refined.
So, what is The Refined?
Essentially, it’s a gentleman’s club. But, while that term brings bad associations of cheesy Florida strip clubs, the Refined is just that in its highest and best form – a club for the gentlemen of Manila.
Located in a strangely shaped and laid out retail plaza called “The Fort Bonifacio Strip,” you’ll find The Refined on the second floor, up a gloomy set of stairs and down a hallway that makes you think construction is still underway.
The first glimpse of what’s inside is when you see it’s front door, a black leather padded portal with no signage or window.
Walking in (I messaged ahead for a haircut), I was greeted by an open warehouse space with floor to ceiling windows on one whole side, expertly fitted as a high-end men-only membership club. The attractive and well-spoken young woman working the front desk greeted me and gave me the tour, which started with their signature line of clothing and grooming products, like custom-tailored suits, fine handmade leather bags and shoes, and plenty of shaving and bar kits.
In the adjoining room, there’s a full bar, plus a setup of leather coaches and chairs.
From there, she took me into the styling area, which included one old-fashioned barber chair for beard trimming only but six sturdy and sturdy leather chairs for haircuts.
In back, she showed me the “Man Cave,” with massage areas partitioned off by curtains and a big screen TV with Netflix and video games.
All of this is accessible to members for the price of 2,750 Pesos per month, or around $52.
While it still may sound like frivolous luxuries, consider that, as a member, you get unlimited haircuts every month (and they do a bang-up job), as well as one treatment for free every month like a massage, spa session, beard trimming, etc. Furthermore, you can come and hang out and use the main sitting area any time they are open, which includes free coffee and excellent Wi-Fi. You also get discounts on drinks from the bar (they make great Dark & Stormies, but their Highball is the crowd pleaser, as they actually smoke it first before serving!).
The Refined is also an optimal place to network and host events or meetings, as their clientele includes mostly foreign businessmen living in Manila.
I definitely look forward to joining The Refined in December when I move there full-time, and they might even help class-up my act a little bit!