When The Party’s Over: The Day The Future Never Came

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Falling prey to the punishing pummels of the pandemic, Today x Future is unceremoniously closing up shop, leaving behind a rich and storied legacy that its regulars will take close to heart. There may be no proper farewell, but perhaps this heartfelt tribute is enough to tide things over, even just a bit.

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Everyone talks about the door, which once upon time was painted red to match the equally striking coat of crimson that colored the walls of the façade. There were words that curled in between a wedge of white contrasting through the shocking sea of scarlet that stood out like a sore thumb in between pawnshops whose iron accordion curtains have been locked up and left to bookend the nights that would just begin. No one really read into it, perhaps in the flurry of the night, or only when the eventual buzz starts to fade out and the gaze catches the liberal abridgement from the great Oscar Wilde: “No man is rich enough to buy back his past, but every man has a future to toast to today.” This was the thrust that built the ground of Today x Future, the nondescript hole-in-the-wall that was anything and everything to the many people that swung that door open and got lost in the moment, but today, it served as a chilling, almost prophetic statement that alluded to its unfortunate fate.

Photo by Joseph Pascual

“Need to talk,” my friend, Karla Ynzon, one of the steadfast regulars turned event host and unofficial resident door bitch said in a message the night before, which is almost always never a good sign. Without pussyfooting, she exhaled what we all have been dreading: “Today x Future will be closing.”

We talked at moderate length, figuring out how else to help, especially the staff that have since been left with no work since the violent and vicious brunt of the pandemic weighed itself on the world. Lumps of memories were pulled out and exchanged as our heartbeats were now too loud to ignore. It was the end as we knew it, but as the swell of sentiment washed over, it still didn’t quite settle even in the morning after.

“After long days and nights of deliberation, wrestling options and way too much alcohol to cushion the emotion, we are left with the decision to say farewell,” its statement read on Instagram in striking black and white. “We would have turned 12 years old, but alas, the uncertainty has made it incredibly difficult. However, this isn’t a statement about sorrow and regrets and wishing things would have been different. This is a love letter—a love letter to all of you who have kept our Future shining bright for over a decade.” As lingering as the words of Oscar Wilde stood to be, there it was: the gavel pounding on the surface as the ringing of judgment passed in finality. Today, no toasts were made as it was made known, the Future will never come again.

Photo by Joseph Pascual

Once Upon A Time

Everyone has a story in Today x Future (usually truncated as Future or TxF by seasoned regulars). Different as destiny has worked its magic through every living soul that sought refuge at the space that was anything and everything at once: a resto-bar, dive bar, and dance club all rolled into one anachronistic hyper-reality that bursted with color, chrome, and copious charm. But a common thread sewed itself into the hems of this rich, textured, and warm tapestry that bound our lives together: it was longing that all brought us through its doors, even as it took on the form of its predecessors I Love You x Future, Thank You Today x Future, and finally, Today x Future. There it stood in the corner of a turn in the time capsule that is Cubao Expo, where even when the rest of the area had retired for the night, the party was just beginning across from where I sat in the shadows of Mogwai, carefully studying every drunken stupor, every crack and crash that punctuated the scene, and the people that would inevitably bleed to the path across, spilling over the steps of the amber-tinged Bellini’s and the trails of Fred’s Revolucion.

It wouldn’t be too long when I would inch closer, just as many would have, coalescing from being strangers in a strange place to kindred spirits starting a multitude of stories all at once. Even if you felt severely underdressed and out of place as the likes of Shahani Gania, Patrick Galang, Jujiin Samonte, and Paulo Castro towered over everyone with their unapologetic sense of fashion and truth, it was immediately usurped by warm smiles, tight hugs, and handshakes that would turn into the most illuminating of conversations, sweating bottles of beer in hand, of course. Everyone was welcome, no matter who you were, where you from, or what you did, there was space for you to dance, drink, and dare to surrender to the feeling in reckless abandon.

Photo by Karla Ynzon

This was a place where time stood still, distances bridged, and moments made memorable. Even if life would pluck you away in circumstance, you could just as easily find your inch of space in a dusty corner, a grimy curb side, and the glistening dance floor, much like a missing piece of the puzzle that just fits. As it endured as the Today x Future that we have come to know or for some, have heard, the impossible was possible: the fleeting shifted into the familiar, the prodigal turning permanent, eventually becoming the home we kept coming back to again, and again, and again.

Photo by Karla Ynzon

Lost and Found

Defiant in its self-contradiction, at least by name, Today x Future stood its mighty ground in what we had assumed would be its permanent address along the bustling and busy street of General Malvar in Cubao, much like a David to the ominous Goliaths of development lording around it in high-rise condominiums and an aggressive row of restaurants. It wasn’t always like that, where replete of the brightness and booming business district it has morphed into, we enjoyed a drivel of mystery as we were shrouded in the barely there light and dark, as if we were chiaroscuro paintings canonizing chapters of history for every passerby.

Like a secret that everyone was in on, people would stop by Today x Future at various points of the week, some even clocking in everyday from Monday (when it still operated at the start of the week) to Saturday, capping off the to deflate, exasperate, or simply just ice things down with a cold bottle of shockingly cheap beer and conversations that were encompassing, educational, and enriching. On calmer days, it was the most compelling, where pretense was left as soon as one stepped on the elevated concrete and there you can just let go and be.

Photo by Joseph Pascual

The irony was not lost once you pushed the creaking door open, with the insulated music escaping through the crack at every chance it gets, setting foot in the tiled dance floor. An assemblage of found objects seemingly revelling in its state of loss, there was an old-school lamp that lights up the DJ’s booth, which by now glistens in its mirrored-exterior. The walls decorated in a rotation of housed art works from emerging and under-the-radar artists, where a wooden table stretches out as if ready for a banquet of beer and bar chow. Further along the stretch that seems like an expanded hallway more than anything, an acrylic tree stump branches out in a corner, which stood adjacent to a lounge in the corners that are lined by literature and liquor. Looking up, the sign in glowing red that watches over reads: The Future Is Now, as if goading you to take charge of the moment, which is a smart placement, as it is perched atop the bar where the friendly faces of bar staff like Palafox, Alvin, Jazz, and JP shuffled in between crafting cocktails, juggling orders of pork belly rice bowls, platters of beer bacon resting on criss-cut fries, plates of fried skin-wrapped chicken hearts, and everyone’s favorite, pans of their signature thin crust pizza topped with garnishes that range from fresh basil leaves, tomatoes, ground beef, and lots of cheese, and stretching out their hands with your drink of choice without even you uttering a single syllable.

Photo by Joseph Pascual

And then there’s the dance floor, which in itself a gravitational draw that is almost always too hard to ignore, even if you swear to be of a certain age, where flinging your body and soul to reckless abandon are but days you put past behind you. Navigating this compact system of interlocked tongues and orgy of glistening bodies, each rotating on an axis in a rhythm that is completely their own, is an experience of slipping, swerving, and sassing your way to the where a gasp of air awaits you by the door. Often, you would get caught by the music, the soaring soundtrack that earmarked scenes with either smooth and honeyed tunes on the unofficial Chicken Lambing Mondays, buoyant jazz on Tuesday, experimental music on Wednesday, decade-tripping throwbacks or dance-your-inner-awkward indie ditties on Thursday, and once Friday and Saturday rolls along, it would be a mash-up of gritty hip-hop, transcendent techno, unapologetic pop, and a splash of dazzling disco, where no choice left in the matter, your body submits to the song selection, whether it be that definitive track by Robyn, Whitney Houston, The Killers, Sky Ferreira, Carly Rae Jepsen, and which pop diva church you pledge allegiance of worship to. Before you know it, you beads of sweat have soaked your perfectly coiffed hair and stained your shirt in maps of moisture.

Don’t worry, no one’s looking. They’re all lost in the moment—or seeking respite in front of the stuttering air-condition.

Photo by Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena

To The Future

Over the years, patrons who have whiled their time, carving out a routine in Today x Future have had a known penchant for sitting outside, guzzling their nth bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen or downing shots from Austin Castaneda, engaged in overlapping conversations with their respective social peripheries. Whether it was age, comfort, or that electric fan that gave you quite the blow-out, this was the case of the familiar that became standard of most weekends.

A study of life in general, these intersecting networks would see everything from the calcifying of acquaintances to solid friendships to the inevitable crumbling of several relationships that were presumed to be bound for the lifelong. In between puffs of smoke, rum cokes, and all the words in the world, this was where a lot of us grew up in the most adult sense—breaking and bonding, learning and unlearning, resisting and relenting. These social segments, which formed the backbone of Today x Future and our lives, would orbit around each other in different capacities, traversing corners, all fully being acquainted with realities and truths we wouldn’t otherwise be made aware of. Surviving, rather than competing for a space was what made the delicate and often volatile balance work, exacting a profound understanding of life beyond the real estate cordoned off by a rope. Here, we truly learned how to live, love, and sometimes, let go.

Photo by Joseph Pascual

Above everything, no one was alone in Today x Future. You could come on your own and eventually join in a circle through social osmosis that would be clanking bottles at the end of the night. If you haven’t been in a while, emerging from a self-prescribed hiatus, you will return as if no time has gone by. And should you find yourself severing ties from people, this is where you find a family of your choosing. As lost you may have been or felt, you will find your place in a space where you will feel safe and seen, always. We did not merely exist in this construct of time, movement, and scope—we thrived.

Suffering from the cruel hands of fate, wringing the life out of the place that anchored so many people over the stream of time, including a post-pandemic reunion under that glittering disco ball, the promise of the future today is no more. Now that the party is over, we are left with a sharp pang of regret knifing through our consciousness, perhaps because we were complicit to a false hope that it would all pan out, and we would dance again.

Photo by Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena

Unceremoniously, the door is now closed and locked, the chandelier with feather boas now appearing misplaced and gathering dust, and a hasty tarpaulin draped over the wooden sign that meant home. What once was a paragon of possibility on a nightly basis has left the building, leaving hearts broken and for the people who made our future a reality, dreams crushed just like that. No send-off. No farewell. No one last time.

Photo by Joseph Pascual

There is a lot to miss from Today x Future, I’m sure a lot will tell you just that in a most insular, personal, and heart-wrenching way, but for me, I already feel the gaping void of that moment watching the rest of the sweat-drenched and out-of-breath crowd file out of the dance floor after the last call has been sent out with nothing but euphoria plastered on their faces. From my watchful gaze at the far end, it is this singular fleeting moment of unadulterated bliss we all have at point enjoyed and lived out that most makes me glad I didn’t just stay for that one last beer I swore hours ahead, because really, no one just comes for a drink and dance at Today x Future, they come home and stay.

Everyone talks about the doors, welcoming them to their today and their future, but for everyone who yearned to belong, and found it in Today x Future, we will always remember what it was to be inside, in that moment, singing and dancing as if our lives depended on it, because looking back now, it really, truly did.

Featured art image by Cru Camara. Photos by Joseph Pascual and Karla Ynzon