Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Explain Manila's Gay Bars to a Foreigner

Said by my colleague over dinner: "I don't want to go to the spa anymore. Let's just see some naked dancing guys."

I was in a tricky situation last Saturday night when a gay officemate of mine, "Rye" (SEAsian, early 30s, discreet gay, has a partner) from Singapore was here in Manila. He has experienced the "modern" gay sex-life of Southeast Asia -- cruising, gay clubs, M2M massages with extras, and go-go boys. He even brought me to Bangkok's go-go boy area near Patpong two weeks back, which was my first time. However, he hasn't been to Manila's so-called macho dancing bars or gay bars.

So I felt it was my time to bring Rye to Manila's version of go-go boys.

Choosing where to go to became a minor dilemma. Because I had a reputation to uphold (ehem) as he didn't know of this secret hobby of mine, I needed to be discreet and choose the perfect place:
  • Should be near Makati and in a bar where I've been to
  • Should NOT expose me as a regular customer, but as someone who has gone there 4-5 times only.
  • Should NOT be where I was known by almost half of the macho dancers, whom I have possibly tabled previously, but only by four max.
  • Should NOT be where I would greeted with fawning "Welcome Back" screams of the gay managers, the waiters, and the rest of the staff when we arrive.
Thus, Home Base was out, and to Kingdom Come we went.

What happened next, read after the jump:

Upon entering the bar, he already caught a glimpse of some cute boys, which he whispered to me. The sight made him very curious about many things. So instead of asking the managers, whom he doubted can fully answer his inquiries in English, he asked me, his so-called "cultural tour guide."  To explain to him the gay bars of Manila, I always had to compare against the go-go boy bar we went to, "Dreamboys" of Bangkok.

He scanned the audience. No old white guys. Just old Pinoy gay men. And a group of women in their late 30s - early 40s.

As the first macho dancer we saw was slithering slowly shirtless in his underwear, on stage, he asked, "What's with that dance?"

"That's called 'macho dancing,'" I said, which made him smirk and raise his eye brows, like an expression of "oh!!!" to the odd term. I then rambled how all the boys in Manila gay bars dance in that specific slow routine accompanied by slow ballad songs, how that that gave rise to the name "macho dancing bars", and how this dance compared to the more club-like disco-dancing high-energy moves of go-go boys.

I sort of explained that to the gay clientele of Manila, this dance was the definition of "sexy" or "seductive" to them.

"So, you mean, we'll be hearing these same type of songs the entire night?" he asked.

"Yup. The music in these gay bars is different. Very romantic, sensual, emotional. Not like the fun, upbeat ones in Dreamboys."

"It can get dragging if the same kind of slow songs are repeated over and over again," he replied. I sort of agreed to that, but feared he might get bored. Good thing that after the routines of two guys, the tranny impersonators went on-stage for their dance performance to break the monotony. It was followed by the hiphop group dancers. Claps from him, plus a "nice dance" comment.

He finished his first glass of gin tonic, which was duly replaced with a second one. I noticed a quizical look on his face. So I mentioned that we're obliged to order two drinks aside from the entrance fee, after I signed the slip.

"Why do you keep signing?" he asked, to which he answered himself, "Oh, it's like the tab."

Then, the first two boys who danced on stage were being introduced to the group of women at the far end of the bar. I then proceeded to explain "tabling a boy", and how much that would entail. Of course, he knew about tabling, based on our experience in the go-go bar two weeks ago.

"Can you also take these boys out?" he asked. I think he remembered the mini-escapade I had in that go-go bar.

"Yes, for a specific bar fine. Can't remember the exact price, but about P3,000 to P5,000. Then you give a tip after to the boy."

"That's quite expensive."

"Yes it is. And unlike in Bangkok, where you could just get anyone. Not all boys here can be taken home."

"Have you taken home some of them?"

"No." It was the truth. Though, I've met with some outside for dinner. So I just explained to him how "other" customers do it -- get their numbers, text them to meet outside for a dinner, then befriend them and hope to further the relationship with something intimate. That made him give an "I'm impressed" look.

Then, the gay manager introduced a boy, "Perez", to him, and let the boy sit beside him. I was actually waiting for Rye to table a boy, so that I could get a boy for myself. I had my eyes on Stewart, who was without customer. But I saw the hesitation on Rye's part. After confirming with Rye that he didn't want Perez, I just told the gay manager that Rye wasn't interested in getting the guy.

Rye said as the boy went off, "I didn't want to spend much on these boys. Besides, he wasn't that cute."

I asked him if he found anyone interesting to table with him. He scanned the room, and just replied, "Nah, I'll just enjoy watching the show."

Maybe he was waiting for the naked men. So I told him that not all reveal their private parts, just like in "Dreamboys." We had to wait for a while, I explained, past midnight, before dicks would show up. This was unlike the go-go bar, where part of the show was an acrobatic circus-like full-sex romp among 6 men.

Another tranny performance ensued. This time, with an elaborate set and props, a la queen of the jungle, full choreography, flames on bowls, and dramatic effects. And now, they performed with a macho dancer, covered in gold glitters, playing the part of seducer.

"Wow. They really prepare for these stuff," was all he said afterwards. He might have compared this performance to the little skits we watched in the go-go bar -- just costumed trannies in a comedic act involving a fully naked boy.

He asked if there were gays among the boys. No, I responded. That puzzled him because of the "gay bar" term. I then explained how "gay bar" referred to the clientele in these establishments, as these were the only bars that catered to gays in the 80s-90s. It did not refer to the sexuality of those working there, again unlike in go-go boy bars in Thailand where some of the boys were gay and effeminate. I also shared why there was also confusion when gay-oriented discos and clubs arose in the 2000s. Because in other parts of the world, gay bars referred to these dance clubs for gays.

After a few more of "macho dancing" on stage, we got the bill. I thought he got bored with the slowness of it all -- slow dance movements, slow romantic music, slow "action" with the boys who didn't show any cock for the hour or two we were there. Slow night for my cash flow as well, as I only spent P600 in the bar! Yey!

As he wanted a "cultural exploration" of gay Manila, we proceeded to Malate, to the newly reopened top gay club in the area. We had loads more fun there, with upbeat pop dance music, amidst young handsome gay guys our age, who discreetly offered "free" sex after a night-long chase. Worlds apart from the gay bar in Pasay, with its macho dancers and its older gay man clientele.

Gay bars in Manila. Go-go boys in Bangkok. Gay clubs among the young gays. Different venues for different cultures. Different turn-ons for different men. To each his own, I guess.

GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila
Follow me at Twitter: @Gbgoer

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