The Wednesday crowd at Poblacion packs the soul of a Friday night. Smack in the middle of the week, Filipinos clock out at work or school to troop to a common destination: Polilya.
This bar, which has reopened in August 2022, was described by its owners as a space “that feels like your funkiest Tita’s living room.” And that funky Tita must have been a K-pop stan, because Polilya was the only nightlife destination that entertained the idea of a K-pop night theme, called "K-Pob." It started in November 2022 and has never looked back since.
Wednesday’s child is never full of woe at Polilya, which regularly appears in viral TikTok videos of attendees getting down to all their favorite Hallyu hits, from NewJeans’ OMG to BTS’ Fire.
@mrkdld22 Ibandera natin ang mga acla hahahhha #twice #talkthattalk #KPOB @twice_tiktok_official #kpopnight ♬ Talk that Talk - TWICE
A mix of crowd flock to the bar: young and old (at least 18 years), gendered and nongendered, K-pop fan or casual listener, even walk-ins who have no interest in South Korea.
Mostly visitors in their 20s as well as large groups of people in their 30s, it’s a common sight to have a group of Twice-obsessed straight men in their 30-somethings.
Foreigners and tourists would walk by and notice the high energy from outside, coming in just to ask if there’s a dance competition. They would admit in confusion that they don’t know what K-pop is and one exclaimed, “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
A young bunch that always arrives is cover group Nizone, which knows all the choreographies to the discographies of Twice, Itzy, NewJeans, and so forth.
On the opposite end, there are also hardcore K-pop fans that don’t necessarily dance—especially to the skill-demanding steps of Seventeen—but still request their faves to sing along to.
A group of ARMYs one week just sat and watched (and randomly screamed) while watching Jungkook’s V Live.
This type of K-fan culture is overflowing and evident, as seen in people who bring their official light sticks and have all the fan chants memorized. They certainly have good memory as they sing along to everything in full Korean.
Not everyone dances during K-Pob. At least, not at first. Given that it’s a bar complete with its own K-pop-themed drinks and snacks (Love Shots, Borahae Booze, Soju Nice, Pink Venom, Interlude Wings), guests tend to get warmed up initially. But once they drink enough to be a little tipsy, they start to break out in motion.
The dance floor is quite intimate, with people at the center either dancing randomly, with photo-accurate choreography and professional facial expressions, or somewhere in between. Surrounding them are people who are there only to hype them up with fan chants, cheers, and sing-alongs.
K-Pob organizers even award a Main Dancer title every week, based on votes or the crowd is particularly rowdy, upon the choice of Polilya queen herself, Kiara Dario.
A previous winner was a guy who brought his office and “promised myself I wouldn’t dance,” but ended up knowing all the steps and winning the award. Even better, everyone was clapping for him the entire time.
Due to its spike in popularity, the bar now gets “easily over a hundred” guests in and out, according to Teddy Dario of event planner Matador Events, who says the figure is comparable to a weekend club in the party-busy district.
Fans of Wildflour’s Retro Night can attest to the genius of Teddy, who has again brought another seemingly niche concept to the mainstream. This time, however, it was his daughter Kiara’s idea to initiate a local K-pop night.
It might even be safer to describe Teddy—with all of his achievements—instead as “Kiara’s father,” owing to the young adult’s early success. In fact, the multitalented Kiara is a member of P-Pop girl group DAYDREAM.
“I kept telling him, ‘You know what? No one’s doing a K-pop night. Someone should do it,’" she told PhilSTAR L!fe. "Parang people [would] want that. I’m sure that there’s an audience for that."
She added that they never found a club or bar that was open to the concept "because a lot of bar owners are like older or they’re not very familiar with K-pop." Until Polilya.
After a year of pitching the idea, Kiara's concept finally came to life thanks to the coincidence of Polilya's owner asking her dad if he can bring a themed night to their establishment. She also got more than what she bargained for.
"I said, ‘Ayan na! Would you like K-pop?’ My dad said, ‘You host it na lang, it’s not my audience," Kiara reminisced.
As host of her very own K-pop night, Kiara is always killing it. She is responsible for making sure everything is in order at Polilya, but mainly she’s there to ensure that everyone’s having a good time.
She often mingles with regulars, familiar faces who come back weekly or every other week. They follow each other on social media, finding time to talk online and even become real-life friends.
@kiaramiren Every multistan’s dream come true 🥺🥺 #KPOB #kpop #kpopph #fyp #tiktokph #army #once #fypシ #xyzbca #manilanightlife #poblacion #makati ♬ original sound @kiaramiren on IG - Kiara Dario
“That’s why I started this also. ‘Cause I really want people to come and meet friends, gain new friends, gain connections, meet people who are also passionate about K-pop,” Kiara elated.
On top of her recording and hosting work, Kiara is a performer, digital marketing professional, graphic designer, digital artist, and social media content creator.
She’s also game to guide anyone quickly through K-pop steps, including this assertive author, who wanted to learn some Ditto dance basics.
Speaking of NewJeans, Kiara attests to their omnipresence, with their tracks often serving as crowd favorites.
“Number one I think is Hype Boy and then also Antifragile, it’s really big right now. And then no fail every week, meron ring…even the old school ones. Girls’ Generation. Nobody. But it’s really Hype Boy, Antifragile, OMG.”
@ratzielsanjuan Had the lovely @Kiara Dario quickly teach me steps to one of my favorite K-pop songs, "Ditto," before K-Pob night starts in Polilya. Video taken by Josh Avengoza on Feb. 15. #polilya #kpob #poblacion #newjeans ♬ original sound - Ratziel San Juan
In fact, every Wednesday, a Zerg Rush of visitors unfailingly go up to the DJ’s table to request this NewJeans track and that.
Stationary at his station, you wouldn’t expect the unassuming DJ Jazz Zamora to also be a choreographer who can bust a few moves of his own.
Jazz is actually the founder, director, and coach of the internationally performing Filipino dance crew LMN. At Polilya, he steps aside to let the crowd have their own fun.
It was Kiara, also a trained dancer who is part of Jazz’s crew, who approached him with the K-Pob gig at Polilya.
“I’m fairly new at this. I started siguro August. [I] started [to] become a fan of Blackpink first. Wala, natuwa lang ako. I started appropriating them into my sets. And then some friends were like ‘Uy! Dinig mo ‘to, dinig mo ‘to.’ NewJeans and then Twice and all of that. And then it kind of became something na pinapasok ko periodically sa sets ko,” Jazz told L!fe.
When Kiara approached him to ask if he was down to DJ, he didn’t think Twice.
“It’s a very different experience from playing usual gigs in usual places. ‘Cause if you guys see it here in person, sobrang iba ‘yung energy. How people are in terms of doing this whole thing of knowing what to do, what dances to come into, and whatever. Iba ‘yung energy niya. It’s unlike anything that’s here around Manila. Kasi usually it’s people just singing along to songs that they know, mainstream stuff. But then the culture of knowing K-pop dances and actually appreciating K-pop songs is so different from everything you’ve ever seen,” Jazz explained.
He admitted being nervous to come in, but said there’s been no regrets so far: “Fresh na fresh pa siya for me, but then it’s been…crazy. Crazy is a very underrated word.”
@missbernadethg our k-pob experience at polilya #poblacionmakati ♬ _WORLD - SEVENTEEN
His fellow K-Pob DJ, Vapors a.k.a. Nacho of band Tandems ‘91, agrees with this uniquely K-phenomenon.
Vapors has been trying to push K-pop sets since 2016, so he admits that this experience has been great for him. He added that playing at Polilya is unlike any other gig thanks to the Korean wave.
One night had actually forced him to start listing titles down on his phone due to the high volume of song requests. Vapors estimates receiving between an hour or two hours’ worth of requests, of which he was only able to play about 80% in an event that usually lasts as late as 2 a.m.
He said that one night, visitors requested to play NewJeans at least three or four times, “even if it’s been the same song we’ve played before.”
“We noticed like normally kasi sa world of DJing, you shouldn’t replay songs. But in this case, the most songs that have been replayed a lot of times is either NewJeans or Le Sserafim. Those two groups for some reason are the biggest. Lahat ng rules for DJing are thrown out of the window,” Vapors told L!fe.
@kiaramiren Stupid Boy 😭 #KPOB #poblacion #makati #kpop #kpopph #redvelvet #badboy #salbakuta #stupidlove #reveluv #fyp #tiktokph ♬ original sound - Kiara Dario
Jazz concurs, describing Polilya’s work with K-pob as something that feels very “worldly.”
“We don’t usually have that mindset of playing songs more than once per set, but when we come here it’s kind of a given. It’s really kind of feeding into the energy of the crowd," Jazz said.
"It’s a whole different approach to what we do, in a way. If you play outside and you play normal mainstream sets, you don’t expect people to know dances. So the energy here is totally different. You kind of have to cater to that, because if people are gravitating toward this, that’s what’s gonna sustain the night, make it more fun, make people stay longer,” Jazz details.
The pair of DJs—who are usually found playing open-format sets in the likes of Kampai, Oto, Yes Please, Club House, Revel at The Palace, Annex House, The Bowery, and more—singled out NewJeans in particular as the group to watch out for, based on their experience with crowds.
@iamjaymirasol Got out Hype Boy on during #kpob at Polilya in Makati. It was soooo fun! Hehe ❤️ #hypeboy #newjeans ♬ Hype Boy - NewJeans
They described the girl group as the “exception to the rule,” “next carrier of the K-pop flag,” and “they’re breaking the mold.”
Much like NewJeans’ already classic song, OMG, Polilya is just something regulars can never let go ‘cause it’s right for them 24.
And just as certain as it falls on Wednesdays, K-Pob will always have the “Seoul” of a Friday night.