Saturday, February 26, 2011

MD: An Unexpected Career Shift or Not?

When I request for a macho dancer to sit with me (or "table") for the first time in a gay bar or male strip bar, I usually do the typical rounds of questioning: age, where they live, how long they've worked here, etc. It's so tempting to ask them, at their age of early 20s, if they finished their schooling and which school they went to. But because I don't want to offend them by making them remember their sad "poor life" stories, I just wait until they bring up the topic or something related to it.

What I notice though is that when we do talk about their educational attainment, the most often mentioned course these MDs took up is B.S. HRM or Hotel and Restaurant Management. (No, MD does not stand for Doctor of Medicine, but macho dancer). It may be in x-y-zed school that's not in a top-tier university, here in Manila or in the province. All never completed the course, due to financial reasons or delinquency. 

The profile of a typical drop-out of HRM who's working in a gay bar: 19-22, slim, junjunin-looking. Just like "Thomas", the first-ever macho dancer I tabled last year, and "Routh", one of the latest in my list of tabled guys.

The common thread among these guys, aside from why they stopped schooling, is why they even took up the course in the first place. It's not a specialist course that typical Filipinos (or the older macho dancers) usually take, like computer science (popular in the late 90s - early 2000s due to the demand) or nursing (popular in the mid-to-late 2000s due to the high salaries abroad). The course has been available in any school's curriculum for some time already, but more and more, students are picking this lately. "Shine", a former-HRM student turned macho dancer, shared that in his school, enrollees for HRM have been growing the past years, and has now even overtaken nursing 3-to-1 in enrollment numbers.

Hmmm... maybe HRM is the "it" course now, and not computer science and nursing anymore. Thinking about it, the macho dancers in their mid-to-late 20s, whom I talked to, took up computer science before dropping out. That course was the "in" thing when these guys (who are the same age as I am) were entering college.
From talking with these MDs, there is a notion that majoring in HRM leads to much more opportunities than specialist courses. They say one can choose to work for a range of establishments in the service industry, hospitality industry, tourism, hotel, food service, and etcetera industries out there. Because of this wide choice, they say it's easier and more flexible to get a job anywhere.

Another reason for this choice is the opportunity to cook or be a chef, especially if they have the passion for cooking. Routh claimed this, as with "Derek" who's a working student, and also "Brian J" of Lord Gay Bar in QC. This growing trend of cooking may have been an influence of the popularity of upscale culinary schools in recent years, which has influenced even the less popular and less expensive schools to come up with their version of culinary training via HRM. But honestly, I am quite skeptical of their reason of "passion for cooking"; I doubt these boys even lift a finger to help their moms cook at home.

But the appeal is where the course leads them. "Dream ko talaga makatrabaho / makasakay sa barko" (What I really dream for is to work in a shipping line or cruise), admits many in various gay bars. To them, working in these international shipping lines pays well, as they heard from a sibling or a from friend of a friend.  It's a real, tangible opportunity to sail away and leave this country for something better in other countries (I don't blame them). And these boys think that HRM is a requirement in this field. Fair enough, as most job openings in these ships are for crew, kitchen staff, cooks, waiters, utility/custodian, and even entertainers -- similar to the type of work in Manila, but with higher salaries.

So where are these hotelier-hopers, chef-dreamers and shipping-cruise-aspirers, who stopped schooling because their single-parent-breadwinner could not afford for their education anymore or because they couldn't wait to start working for their income and indepedence at an earlier age?

Many are scattered in various service industries -- as fast food crew, shopping mall salesmen, restaurant or kitchen staff. In fairness, a requirement of the HRM course is to do on-the-job training (OJT) in a restaurant or hotel, so getting a job in this industry is easy. 

A few I've met already in another service/entertainment industry that I frequent. It can still be lucrative for them here -- easy money. Can this indsutry be considered a career shift for them, if where they are at now is even considered a career at all? Maybe, maybe not.

GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila

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