Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bar None

When I first started going out and exploring the life of a gay person in Manila, Malate was the place to go. At first we’d go to Penguin Café, where the culturati and the artsy-fartsy converged. But across Penguin was Zoo Café, which was co-owned by a friend of mine. He was in advertising, so a lot of folks from agencies and on supplier side would go to Zoo. Then we discovered Giraffe in Makati, and from then on I never saw my bedroom on Fridays and Saturday evenings. We’d go to Zoo around 10-ish then transfer to Giraffe between midnight and 1am. Some people I know chose to stay in Malate, opting to move to Mr. Piggies or the Library instead; these people found the crowd and atmosphere at Giraffe too hoity-toity and upscale. Little did they know that these expats and label-wearing hoi-poloi would scream with delight at the intro to “Macarena” then danced on top of tables, knowing the choreography by heart.

I dropped off the scene after three years, tired and unhappy and still single. When I went back to Malate, Zoo was closed already, and the gay scene had transferred to Orosa Street. There Joy reigned. By this time Giraffe was also cooling down, and Makati was turning out to be a no-gay’s land again. I didn’t frequent Joy as much, because right beside it was a restaurant called Pepe ‘n Pilar. Owned and operated by several of my friends in advertising, it served comfort food like tuyo and kesong puti in pan de sal, champorado, even Spam sandwiches. I would hang out there instead.

When I moved out of advertising and worked in Quezon City, I again abandoned the scene. Cut to several years later. Bed Bar was the place to go to—it was small and narrow, and got really crowded Fridays and Saturday nights. Which was part of it’s charm: it was difficult to ignore anyone, especially if he’s mere inches in front of you; you get to touch and be touched by hotties; plus it was a test of skill to navigate from one part of the room to another, where a cute guy has been giving you the eye the whole night. Beside Bed were various gay-friendly bars. Malate was again the hub of gay nightlife.

Then Makati responded with Government Bar. It was a blast of fresh air; at last in the heart of the Philippines’ central business district, an honest-to-goodness gay bar opened. Giraffe was at best a gay-friendly place; the bar placed in the middle served as a sexual Berlin Wall—straights on one side, gays and gay-friendly on the other side; those who crisscrossed sides were considered open-minded. But Government was an openly gay bar. Now gay yuppies and those who found Malate too risqué and too open had a place they can slip into quickly and quietly, to be amongst men who liked other men.

For a time the weekend migration pattern of birds of the same pink feathers was as follows: Greenbelt 2 or 3 before midnight, then fly to Government when the clock strikes twelve, then go to Bed at around 3am, sometimes earlier. Meanwhile Bed expanded and widened up considerably.

At first Bed and Government acknowledged each other’s importance in the over-all gay scene. But now I noticed that the pink gloves have come off. Sadly, there have been badmouthing on both sides. Both claim that the other one is a haven of drugs and drug dealers. There are t-shirts that state, “I am loyal to Government” while Bed proudly flashes on its walls, “Malate will always be our home.”

I find it sad that people would want to pit the two bars against each other. I’d feel better coming to a place that welcomes me instead of frowning at me because I choose to visit a competitor’s place from time to time. And why view each other as a competitor? In fact in the early days both bars fed off the same customers. Of course there will always be customers who would prefer one to the other, whether it be because of the location, the crowd, or the kind of music played. But do we really have to badmouth one another?

A few days ago I read an article about CocoBanana, the hottest spot in the Metro during the Marcos years. There opposites mingled, the ordinary with the high society, the straights with the gays, the unknowns and the celebrities. There was no other place quite like it. Perhaps there never will be another one like it again.

Recently I’ve been told about Palawan, a bar in Cubao, QC that’s fast gaining buzz. If the Makati crowd thinks that Malate is downscale, wait ‘til they step into Cubao! Though I’ve not been to Palawan, I’ve been told that it’s the Cubao version of Bed and Government. And because it’s in Cubao, people seem to just toss away their pretensions. Hello, Cubao na po yan, noh?! Despite the presence of Gateway Mall, Cubao will always be Cubao. If any bar maintains an alienating attitude, people will gravitate somewhere else. Maybe even in Cubao.


Raymond said...

Thanks for this very interesting article, McVie. Makes me miss Manila, being so far away. I'm quite intrigued about Palawan and have always had fond memories of Cubao ;-) It's sad that the crab mentality that afflicts many Filipinos here and abroad is also dividing the gay community. This rivalry between Bed and Government is just plain silly to me.

Mugen said...

Thanks for the interesting history. Hehe, I'm in the middle of completing an entry about my review of some of the hotspots beyond malate.

Anonymous said...

hi there. i've been reading your blog for the longest time and i must say, it's a breath of fresh air (yours is "authentically" self-reflexive and self-aware) among most blogs sprouting like fungi nowadays.

we've already met in bed before. i remember giving you a hug and telling you im a big fan of your blog. =)

i was thinking of going to palawan soon. would you like to join me? my number is 0919 232 4514.

btw, i'm also an atenean.

Anonymous said...

I miss Palawan..went there a few months ago with my friends from a previous job and we always had fun - Palawan has two branches now, the original one near Chowking and the new one (forgot which street) with the entance fee.

Nelson said...

Oh Cubao will always have a place in my heart! :)

carlos said...

wow what can i say abouth this place, well i and daming lugar para sa lahat, meron starbucks, alta theater, satelitte karaoke bar, palawan bar... miss kona talaga ang cubao hope sa 2011 maka uwi at mag lamirda hehehehe meron akung nakilala dyan napabait ..