Saturday, March 5, 2011

How It All Started: Part 1

It was a few days before March 6, 2010.

My friend, "Mary", a single mother in her late 30s who was my officemate, called me up in the morning of March 1 on our way to work. We had our regular morning chats -- work-related quick discussions and office gossip. In the middle of our talk, she had a pause.

"May gusto akong itanong, pero atin-atin lang (I want to ask something, but it's between us two)," she said.

"Sure," I replied, curious as to what it was.

Squimishly, she asked, "Gusto mo magpuntang gay bar? (Do you want to go to a gay bar?)"

"Huh? Bakit? (Why?)" I gasped.

"Wala lang. Nagpunta kasi ako, kasama yung friend ko, last weekend. (Oh nothing. I went to one with my friend last weekend)."

"Ha?" was my only reply. I was still quite speechless, but a laughter mixed with fear, excitement, and curiosity went through.

Mary then proceeded to share how she and her high school friend, "Ringo", a 40 year old never-been-touched, never-been-kissed gay guy, were roaming the streets of Malate, Manila the previous Friday night to look for that area's infamous gay scene. Since they weren't familiar with that intersection of Nakpil St. and Maria Orosa St,  having driven almost an hour looking for any signs of gayness, they both thought of going to a macho dancing gay bar instead, their first time if ever. So Mary called up her sister and asked for a recommendation. Her sister, who had been to one gay bar with her friends a few years back, suggested "Home Base." And off Mary and Ringo went to that gay bar at 11 in the evening.

"Pero pwedeng magpunta lang tayo, at hindi mo naman kailangan mag-table. (We can just go there, and you're not required to get a guy)," she told me.

"Oh my gosh, nag-table kayo? Pero Sige. (OMG, you got a guy? But sure)," I answered with some hesitation, though my voice couldn't conceal my excitement.

Before this, I've only seen a "macho dancer" on TV during my adolescence, when teenage curiosity made me rent an R-rated macho dancing movie of the 90s. In college, my gay high school friends and I have been endlessly daring each other and joking about entering a gay bar in the Quezon City area. That happened for many years, when we used to frequent the Timog-Morato areas, and drive by one gay bar after another in that stretch. Some of them already closed down, while a few opened over the years, but never did we attempt to go inside one.

Behind those half-hearted invitations, underneath those nervous jokes, I know all of us, deep inside, really wanted to experience the gay bar and discover the mystery surrounding naked macho dancers. But no one was brave enough to push through.

"So when?" I asked with a fearful but naughty smile.

"This Saturday... evening. If you're free."

"May bridal shower si (name of officemate) diba? Paano yan? (But there's the bridal shower of our officemate. So how?)"

"Madali lang yan. Pwede natin pag-usapan paano magkikita. (That's easy. We can discuss how to meet)."

"Hahaha! Sige! Sige! (Sure! Sure!)" 

"Pero quiet lang, atin-atin lang ito. (It's just a secret between us)," she assured me, while asking for my assurance as well.

We met up in the office less than an hour after. We had knowing smiles, but proceeded without any indication that a mischievous plan was brewing between us.

I flew to Thailand the following day. That week passed, with a few text messages of "Saturday ha!" exchanged between us. The thought of finally going inside Manila's gay bars never left my mind that week. Even on one night when a colleague of mine and I went to Patpong for the first time, and as we were being lured by its shows and seedy bars, I still had my mind set for Manila. I flew back home on Friday night, March 5.

Then in the afternoon of March 6, 2010, Mary and I called each other again.

(To be continued... Part 2)

GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila

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