• Location: 109, Shoppes at Forbeswoods Heights, Rizal Dr, Taguig, Metro Manila
  • Operating Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Price per head: P400 and above
  • Signature drinks: Little Grass Skirt, Lost Twang, Around the Asian Seas, and Woozy Waters Bowl


There are a lot of new speakeasy bars and posh restobars popping up in BGC, but you have to try so many cocktails before you hit a good one. Located across the Mind Museum and beside The Distillery, the quaint “Asian meets Tiki bar” Papa Loa is a gem in the heart of the BGC business district. The dishes and drinks complement each other and everything on the menu is worth coming back for.

Papa Loa is the brainchild of Andrew Garcia (one of the guys behind Don Papa Rum), Borgy Manotoc, Raj Sadwani (owner of The Distillery Group), and Filipino-Australian Chef Iñigo Castillo. “Papa” means priest in Haitian vodou and “Loa” (also spelled lwa) are the spirits. In Haitian Vodou, Papa Legba is the “loa” responsible for opening and closing the doorway to the spirit world. Basically, no one can enter the spirit world without his permission.

The ground floor has a short table strip outside with bar stools. Once you enter you’re greeted by an open kitchen and a couple of tables for dining. You have to enter a narrow staircase with mixed and matched machuca tiles leading to the restaurant’s second floor to find the bar. On the second floor, the walls are filled with Japanese landscapes and photos of people in rasta hats and dreadlocks. Everything is a bit cheeky, staying true to Tiki bar themes but with a sleeker and more modern design.

Mixed and matched machuca tiles leading to the restaurant’s second floor
The restaurant’s second floor


Wall decor

“We wanted to build a place where people can hang out after they clock out from work. You come here, eat what you want, hang out with friends. Basically a place where it is ‘alive’,” shares Chef Iñigo. A hands-on kitchen guy, he can normally be seen preparing dishes from the ground floor open kitchen.

Chef Iñigo
Chef Iñigo

“My partners basically came up to me and they told me they want me to open a Japanese Dance Hall club. Dance Hall is music which comes from reggae, but it’s more hip-hop and there’s a big scene in Japan. They wanted to bring in Japanese DJs and dancers, and they wanted the food to be like street food, izakaya basically. So I put together a tropical sort of Japanese menu.”

Chef Iñigo used a lot of Southeast Asian inspiration—something he picked up from living in Australia for a long time—and made sure that the focus of Papa Loa was “being real about the food and drinks, and keeping it local.

Stella-Battered Eggplant

“We wanted to use ingredients that are everyday things and make them special,” he explains. One of the highlights on the menu is the simple yet surprising Stella-Battered Eggplant. Yes, eggplant! Eggplant haters will surely cringe at the thought but the Stella-Battered Eggplant from the menu is a blockbuster hit even among those who aren’t fans of the vegetable. “The most requested from the menu is the eggplant. No one would order it, but I would send one up and they’d end up ordering three,” says Chef Iñigo.

The bar
The bar

The kitchen and the bar work closely together. The drinks created by mixologist Kathryn “Kath” Eckstein Cornista were delicate to the palate yet bursting with flavors. “In the conceptualization stage, we wanted to make sure that the ingredients used in the kitchen are also used in the bar,” shares Kath. “When you’re eating good food you want to complement each other. Light, fresh, fruity, citrussy. Not too intimidating.”

Kathryn “Kath” Eckstein Cornista

“We had the food tasting first, and then from there I was able to kind of create cocktails that would complement the food,” she adds. Before she created the drink menu, Kath said she played Hawaiian songs on Spotify for inspiration. She ended up naming most of the cocktails on the menu after the songs—Green Island Moon, Little Grass Skirt, Woosah Your Noggin, and Lost Twang.

The cocktails are Tiki-inspired, with an emphasis on rum. “I love rum. It takes me back to college days when you only have so much budget to go and drinks so you buy the long-neck Tanduay and it just brings up a lot of fun memories!” she shares. “I like to put a twist on my cocktails and for it to reflect my personality, so when guests are drinking it, they’d be like ‘Oh this is fun!’ ”

And fun it was. I just kept stuffing myself with different dishes from the menu and I ended up finishing more than two glasses of cocktails and all the food in front of me while chatting with Chef Iñigo and Kath. The bright and clean flavors of the food and drinks work so well together that you don’t feel heavy consuming cocktails while munching away.

Here are some of the food and cocktail pairing suggestions from Papa Loa:
Poke paired with Little Grass Skirt
  • Poke (tuna, sesame dressing, avocado, chili and crispu wontons) paired with Little Grass Skirt (Tito’s gluten-free vodka, apple cider, sesame oil, orange, and cucumber) the most loved drink from the menu.

“It’s a little cheeky calling it the Little Grass Skirt, ’cause I think it’s good for weight watchers,” shares Kath. “It’s fresh, made with apple cider, orange and cucumber… so, if you want to wear your ‘little grass skirt’ you can have two of those in one night!”

Tempura (soft-shell crab and mango salsa) and Langka paired with Long Twang
  • Tempura (soft-shell crab and mango salsa) and DrinkManila’s favorite dish Langka made with young jackfruit, hoisin-garlic glaze, and sesame cucumbers. (It’s so good the entire team bought several orders for takeout after the shoot!) It was paired with Long Twang made with lemongrass-infused Havana, mango purée, fresh lemon juice, and Angostura bitters.
Langka made with young jackfruit, hoisin-garlic glaze, and sesame cucumbers
Lost Twang

“The base is Havana Club. I wanted to use what is authentically local like the mango purée, then the lemon grass, so that it doesn’t taste too sweet. It cuts the sweetness. It complements the mango salsa. The tastes are not fighting with each other; it’s easy to drink while you’re eating,” explains Kath. “I was also inspired by the name, ‘Lost Twang.’ I love the name, because you know how it is in the Philippines, you have your balikbayans with a twang. I always put a lot of humor in my drinks.”

Chicken Skin
Chicken Skin
  • Chicken Skin, Soy-Glazed U.S. Beef Belly with plantain mash and crispy rice, and Kimchi Pineapple Rice (chili paste, kimchi, crispy fish, and Japanese rice). These dishes are on the heavier side, perfect for after work dinner and best paired with the Asian-flavored cocktail Around the Asian Seas.
Soy-Glazed U.S. Beef Belly
Soy-Glazed U.S. Beef Belly
Around The Asian Seas
Around The Asian Seas

“Also a name of a song. Because it’s called Around The Asian Seas’, I used a lot of Asian influences in the cocktail. So we have kaffir (makrut) lime, Don Papa of course, and the Papaya juice, and Togarashi flakes on top of the foam so it gives that nice spicy kick but not very overpowering,” says Kath.


  • For the last number, order the coconut and miso pudding made with saltwater streusel, caramel, and citrus granita paired with the Kooky Coconut Margarita, which is like liquid dessert heaven. The cocktail is a blended margarita with 1800 Tequila, coco jam, coconut milk, and triple sec.
Kooky Coconut Margarita

If you’re coming with friends for a night of good drinks and adventure you might want to start off (or finish) with the popular Woozy Waters Bowl. It is a huge mixed drink inside a fish bowl made with Captain Morgan spiced rum, Havana rum, Jack Daniel’s, fresh lime and Giffard Orgeat. That’s four different liquors for four servings. So, warning: It is meant to be shared with friends! But we won’t judge if you can consume the entire fish bowl. “I know someone who comes here and orders a bowl in the beginning of the night and she just drinks it all night and goes home wrecked!” shares Chef Iñigo.

Woozy Waters Bowl

“The bowls are perfect for workmates who want to come here after work. Share a nice big fun bowl,” adds Kath. “I have a very soft spot for fishbowls, I worked in Turkey for four years, it’s a very touristy city—they have the beach and the nightclubs, and we have a lot of young people who are on a budget and they would order a fishbowl, and it’s fun to make! I use to stand on the bar and have the tetra pack all the way from the other side of the bar and shoot into the bowl! Two or three people would order it, or one person, and she’ll make friends, because, you know, ‘I have a fishbowl, I’m on vacation, wanna have something to drink?’ ”

Papa Loa is almost three months old and has become really popular for after-work customers. Weekdays have been busy for the resto and bar. If you want to catch a Reggae/R&B night, head there on Saturdays for Lovers Rock and dance to the beats of classic reggae with DJ Skratchmark.

Video and photos by Star Sabroso

A publishing industry veteran who is the former creative director of PeopleAsia magazine and former lifestyle editor of The Standard newspaper. She was introduced to the wonderful world of spirits during her stint as executive creative director of digital agency DigitalFCB, where she led a team that created campaigns for some of the biggest liquor brands in the country. A lover of scotch and a curious spirit who is obsessed with the colorful world of mixology, she directs DrinkManila’s overall editorial content.

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