Music

An Oral History of Mayric’s: “Where All Great Bands Are Born”

“Lahat magkakaibigan lang.”
IMAGE Eddie Boy Escudero / Sazi Cosino
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When there’s talk of the greatest rock music venues ever in Manila, all the usual suspects are mentioned: Club Dredd, which burned bright for a few years before disappearing like a comet in the night sky; Kalye, where the crowds were a bit more uppity but no less sweaty and loud; and 70s Bistro, which is still chugging along, although it’s probably hurting just like all the other restaurants and bars because of a little thing called COVID-19. 

Also read: Here's the Story of Silahis/Grand Boulevard Hotel and Why It Hasn't Been Torn Down

And then of course, there’s the granddaddy of them all. Mayric’s was around way before any of the other live music venues and certainly was one of the most beloved and well-known. Tucked in a nondescript building along España Boulevard, Mayric’s was home to Filipino rock and alternative music’s finest. For most of its nearly 30-year run, the bar kept its cozy and simple ambiance, and that was part of its charm.

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“Pag labas mo dun you smelled like cigarettes and sisig,” laughs Sazi Cosino. “Magkakaibigan lang lahat.”

Photo by Eddie Boy Escudero.
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Cosino started out as a patron, then performer, then manager, then owner of the iconic bar and live music venue. She was there since its early days right until the amps fell silent and the doors were closed for the last time, so there was no better person to ask about its history.

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In this freewheeling interview conducted online, Cosino talks about the evolution of Mayric’s, all the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes, how she snuck bands she liked behind her partner’s back so they could perform onstage, and the legacy left behind by a true institution in Philippine music.

ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: What were you doing before becoming involved with Mayric’s?

SAZI COSINO: I was a student and activist. I studied BS Architecture at National University. Mayric’s was our tambayan then. Tambayan ng mga aktibista at the time.

Actually, Mayric’s started out as an arcade where students played video games. Pero pinagbawal yung video games sa vicinity ng University Belt. So the owner turned it into a live music bar. 

ESQ: Who were the owners?

SZ: Medy and Eddie So. Very nice couple. Nung umpisa it was a folk house, puro folk music lang pinapatugtog. Solo performers lang. 

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Mayric’s pala—the name came from the owner’s children: Eric and May.

Like I said, at the time, puro folk singers lang tumutugtog dun. Solo artists. Yun nga sina Jess Bartolome. And Burt Chavez, pioneer folk singer siya at unang manager dun.

Kami naman, dun kami tumatambay. After going to rallies, derecho na kami dun. Naging tambayan din siya nung mid-1980s ng mga writers and journalists from progressive (publications), like Malaya, Times. May mga events din duon mga progressive cultural groups, like Tambisan, Musicians for Peace, Bugkos, at iba pa.

Malimit nun, during the time of Marcos, yung Operasyon Bakal. Yung mga pulis, they’ll stop the show, as in they’ll turn on all the lights and frisk everyone. Kakapkapan. May ganung eksena.

During the 80s, Mayric’s was the meeting place of different progressive groups, students, middle forces, NGOs, journalists, cultural groups.

ESQ: And the owners tolerated it?

SZ: Yes. Well, they are for the business, and they supported the artists that played there. They were very open. And there wasn’t anything else that happened there. Tuloy lang ang musika.

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ESQ: When did you start performing there?

SZ: I was a regular jammer of Glenn, He was a regular folk singer then. Naging singer ako dun 1984, with (a band called) Sinaglahi. What happened was, Mayric’s transitioned, from just folk singers, there were duos, and then trios, and then full bands. Ganun yung evolution niya.

Different bands different genres. Cocojam was a folk, rock, country group then shifted to reggae. They popularized reggae music and the pioneer reggae band in Mayric’s. Rock n roll, blues, progressive (activists), punk, new wave, country bands and folk singers shared the stage during the '80s, like The Jerks, Wuds, The Dawn, Buklod, Grace Nono, Salatin, Jesse Bartolome, Grupong Pendong, Advent Call and many more.

So that’s how the music at Mayric’s evolved. Eventually andun na yung punk. Mga The Jerks, The Wuds. 

ESQ: How did you become involved with Mayric’s? Like besides being a performer?

SZ: The owners lived right above the bar, sa second floor. That's why they were close with the artists. They even had a billiards table upstairs where the artists played sometimes during their breaktime. In 1990 (or was it 1991?), they moved out and transferred to their house somewhere else. Medy asked me to manage the bar, and that’s how I started as manager.

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Photo by Eddie Boy Escudero.

ESQ: Who else managed it with you?

SZ: Burt Chavez was the pioneer manager, handling operations. He was also a pioneer folk singer there. Bong Torres, who was the wife of our band's vocalist/guitarist, also managed the bar during the 80s.

We used to audition bands before they could play sa Mayric’s stage. We required them to prepare three to five original songs. 

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ESQ: What was your criteria?

SZ: Syempre depende dun sa trip ko na tugtog. Trip means criteria nga. When they played, I focused on their originals. Artists back then, sa umpisa, they were very raw. They had something. That X Factor. Or “it” factor. Kahit hindi masyadong polished. Hindi naka-base sa mga contest-contest, na puro biritan lang. Ang titignan ko yung soul ng banda. Yung kabuuan ng banda. And the band's chemistry.

Maraming nag audition noon. I supported them. Hinahayaan ko sila, basta may originals.

ESQ: Who were the bands you remember the most?

SZ: Marami. Most bands that I had good times there with for a long time, they're not just friends but family. Cocojam, the folk singers, the Jerks, Tropical Depression, my bands, Put3ska at marami pang iba. The Youth, Eraserheads, Yano, Color it Red, POT, Siakol, Parokya ni Edgar, Kamikazee, Tribal Fish. Just too many to mention

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Then eventually, may mga manager na yung mga bands. People like Dodong Viray, Jing Garcia, Richard Tan, Ann Angala, Patrick Pulumbarit, and others. Tapos pumasok na itong mga coño bands, like Wolfgang and Razorback. Wala nang audition ibang bands kasi ang kausap na dyan managers. They all had originals. Like Rivermaya. Humihingi na lang sila ng schedule to play at Mayric’s.

Like, for example, yung unang banda ni Richard Tan was The Youth. Tapos sunod-sunod na mga bands nya, Tribal Fish, The Teeth, Feet like Fins, Parokya ni Edgar, Kamikazee at iba pa.

Kami ni Richard, mahilig kami niyan, pag tumatambay kami, kapag magye-yearend, we’d sit down and ask each other, “Ano sa tingin mo ang trend next year?” I used to say, artists will be the ones who will set the trend. During the 90s, iba talaga. You had bands like Color It Red, Tropical Depression, Eraserheads. Iba-ibang genre ng mga bands but they were all friends.

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Tapos nauso na rin yung mga “kupaw” bands. Yung mga Greyhoundz. People asked me, bakit pinapatugtog sa Mayric’s yan? Sabi ko, bawat generation, may kanya-kanyang music and culture yan. Lahat may pagbabago sa bawat panahon kahit sa musika. But music once shared it is already there and they have their own life of existence ...eternal din. May evolution. Old and new will meet somehow. Sa Mayric's may dugtungan ng luma at bagong banda, para hindi mawala yung respect and camaraderie ng mga artists sa kapwa artists.

ESQ: You don’t think that’s present in today’s music scene?

SZ: Honestly, I don't know. Iba rin kasi dynamics ng millenials ngayon, yung format and how they create music. Ibang panahon na tayo ngayon. Nasa technological and mechanical, digital world na. But I do believe artist-musicians are always sensitive and critical. They are the ones who will create great music of awakening for this generation. Most of them are old souls. 

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Photo by Eddie Boy Escudero.

ESQ: Tell me about a typical day at Mayric’s.

SZ: Pag may audition, I would go there earlier. Mga 5 p.m. andun na ko. The place kasi would be open even around 3 p.m. para sa mga students na nagkakape, tambayan lang. 

You know what, dati kasi diyan, fixed ang budget ng artists. We pay them. Tapos, yung Cocojam, nag-request sila ng entrance sa gate. Like P5. Tapos sumunod na week, naging P10. Dun nagsimula yung entrance fee sa mga gigs. Nung malaki na yung kinikita sa gate, wala nang bayad sa artists. It was a partnership with the artists na. Artists will get all the entrance fees.

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I think it was a fun time. Nakaka-utang yung mga artists. Yung “signed chit.” Kahit hindi nila gig, pwede sila pumunta dun just to eat. Parang bahay nga siya ng mga artists. Ang relasyon dun parang family. During rainy days or pag may bagyo, may mga bandang inaabot ng baha at dun na sila nag o-overnight. May inuman, jamming, kwentuhan. Dun nabubuo ang masasaya at magandang relasyon. Alaala ng mga banda sa Mayric's.

ESQ: Like who spent the night there?

SZ: Sina Papa Dom of Tropical Depression. Sina Cooky (Chua) din, sina Rolly (Maligad) of Cocojam. Marami naka-experience ng baha sa España.

ESQ: Tell me about the food. Ano yung favorites sa Mayric’s?

SZ: Ay naku, favorite ng mga banda yung buttered chicken, lomi, and chicharon bulaklak. Pang tomador din naman talaga. (Laughs). Masarap magluto yung cook naming. Si Robert, naging si Alex, tapos si Peter, stay-in ang crew sa Mayric’s. Kapag family ka na dun, pwede ka pumunta dun at kumain. Andami kong inampon dun during Sazi's Bar. 

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Si Jay (Contreras) ng Kamikazee, paborito niya yung Lomi. Laging may take home yan.

I remember, yung NU107, parang radio partner naming yan. Chris Hermosisima (former NU107 station manager), Sa kanya galing yung tagline ng Mayric’s na “Where all great bands are born.” Siya rin ang gumawa ng radio plug ng Mayric's

Ang NU 107, madalas nagre-remote. Like yung The Dawn ang malimit na banda ng NU107. They would play at Mayric’s tapos NU107 would broadcast it live. A few other artists also. Yung iba pang mga artists na papasikat na. May mga record deals na. 

ESQ: Were there ever any fights or altercations there?

SZ: I’ll tell you something. Yung (radio station) LA105, malaking tulong yan sa pag boom ng alternative artists. They played a lot of originals ng mga bands. Open sila sa lahat ng genres. Yung mga punks  may underground scene sila nun, parang hindi sila tanggap sa ibang establishments nun at ng ibang genre. And may mga prod-prod na rin noon.

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May panahon na hindi magkasundo ang punks at skinheads noon, kaya minsan nagkakaron ng commotion pag nagkatagpo sa venue. May eksena naman na may isang tatakbuhan yung chit, hahabulin, aawayin pa yung waiter. Common scene sa mga bars yan.

But those cases were very rare. And usually, strangers ang gumagawa ng ganun. Ang regular customers ng Mayric’s parang pamilya na sila. They would hang out there. Chat with each other. Kaya yung iba dun na nagka-girlfriend and nagka-asawa. Maraming memorable stories sa Mayric’s. Ako, I spent almost three decades of my life there.

May mga event productions na nabuo. May regular schedules yan sa Mayric's. Back to the Edge (new wave community), Buzz Night, Sunday Grabe Sunday, Club Ska, RastaManila (reggae community), Indiemand, at iba pa. 

May Fullmoon Jam din. World music, dance, rituals. 

ESQ: Okay, so how did you end up owning the place?

SZ: In 1997, Eric So, the son of the owners, took over Mayric’s. Hands-off na yung parents. He ran the place until mga 2008. And that year, he was planning to close it na. And then he asked me kung gusto ko ituloy. So I acquired Mayric’s in 2008.

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ESQ: And then you changed the name to Sazi’s, right?

SZ: Yes, kasi there were some legal issues and we couldn’t use the name Mayric’s. May iba pang business ang original owners with the same name, yung trading business nila.

 

Photo by Eddie Boy Escudero.

ESQ: Was Mayric’s profitable?

SZ: Oo naman. Hindi naman siya magtatagal kung nalulugi sya. Hindi kami aalis dun if we weren’t forced to vacate the area. We were forced to move kasi yung building, pina-lease ng 25 years. Ngayon, dorm na siya.

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From 2008, the bar was named Sazi’s Bar na until we bid goodbye sa España.

We closed in June of 2012. So it ran for 29 years. Almost three decades. Mayric’s is a music institution.

ESQ: It certainly is.

SZ: You know, yung owners ng 70s Bistro and Club Dredd, tambay din sila ng Mayric’s.

Yung owners ng 70s, mga NGO yan, mga aktibista din. Nagpatulong din sa ‘kin with the artists nung simula. Also with the sound system set up. Kasi pag Sunday, yung mga acoustic singers lang tumutugtog sa Mayric’s. Salatin, Noel Cabangon, Grace Nono, Gary Granada. Ang nag sound system sa kanila si Mio. Kumpare ko yun. So when 70s was starting out, original concept din nila ay acoustic set up lang din tapos unti unti nag evolved na into band set up na rin.

Natutuwa nga ako andiyan pa ang 70s. Yung mga sumisikat sa Mayric’s dati sunod na sa kanila tutugtog. Meron na silang iikutan.

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Ang Dredd naman, may sarili ding culture yan, kahit palitan kami ng artists. Of course, younger yung owners (ng Dredd). Open sila sa younger generation. Sa Mayric’s kasi, minsan strict din sa pagtanggap ng mga banda.

Also read: An Oral History of Club Dredd

I remember also, yung culture na pay-to-play. Nung nauso mga prod, some of them would ask yung mga bands na gusto mag play sa kanila to sell tickets. Kailangan nila magbenta ng ticket para makapag-play. Ayoko ng system na ganun, kaya bihira yung ganun sa Mayric’s. Pero may iba na nakakalusot. Nagsusumbong na lang yung mga banda sakin.

Ang sakin, patugtugin na lang ng libre. I mean, unless they were willing to sell tickets para din sa kanila. 

ESQ: When you closed down, did you ever consider reopening Mayric's somewhere else?

SZ: Walang magandang location e. Actually, nag-try ako sa Baliwag, yung Sazi’s, pero ang layo. Isang taon lang ako dun. Nag-close din. That was 2013.

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In 2014, may nag-offer ng partnership sa Nakpil, pero maliit yung lugar. Partner ko dun magkapatid na si Rolly at Dennis Rafa, schoolmates sa NU. Only 20 people ang maximum na pwede sa loob. How can you earn with that? May overhead ka, everyday expenses, salaries pa sa mga waiter. So I said stop na muna.

ESQ: When you look back at them now, how do you feel about those Mayric’s years?

SZ: I cherish them. I treasure them. All the people I met and became my friends and family, priceless memories. Lahat naman kasi talaga temporary. May kanya-kanyang time lang. I guess parang anak din yan, parang buhay ng individual—may naghihiwalay, may magkasama pa rin hanggang ngayon.

Yung contribution ng Mayric’s sa music scene, hindi mo siya matatawaran. Andami niyang na-produce na artists. And yung samahan ng mga arists noon, solid. Tipong ang mga banda, tatambay dun kahit hindi nila set. Kunyari, pag set ng Cocojam, kung walang tugtog sila Karl and Kevin Roy, dun sila tumatambay, at iba pang artists to jam with the band. And may respect yung mga batang banda sa mga seniors.

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When Mayric’s closed down, parang nawalan kami ng bahay. 

Kahit mapanghi yung CR niya, kasama na yun sa experience. (Laughs). Sa dami ba naman kasi ng tao. Pag labas mo dun you smelled like cigarettes and sisig. Lahat magkakaibigan lang.

Check out these photos of Mayric's through the years: 

Mayric's sign in the early 2000s

Photo by Facebook / Sazi Cosino.
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Mayric's schedule in 1997

Photo by Facebook / Sazi Cosino.

Itchyworms said they would often play gigs with only three or four people in the audience

Photo by Facebook / Sazi Cosino.
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Slapshock rocking the crowd

Photo by Facebook / Sazi Cosino.

Mayric's classic sizzling plates

Photo by Facebook / Sazi Cosino.
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Franco plays a set

Photo by Facebook / Sazi Cosino.

Mayric's changed its name to Sazi's after Sazi acquired it from the original owners

Photo by Facebook / Sazi Cosino.
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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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