Monday, March 14, 2011

Macho-Go-Round in Manila

Musical Chairs with Macho Dancers, anyone?
 A year after going around the macho dancer gay bars of Manila, my friend Ringo and I couldn’t decide where to spend our night last Saturday. There was no question that we’d go to a gay bar; the question then was which.

We drove through Manila’s dark streets, as we crossed out each gay bar that we passed by – “Kingdom Come” lacked interesting boys, “Answers for the Emotionally Needy” (ATEN) didn’t have parking, Quezon City was too far, “Mexican Knife” too slasher-suspense-movie scary. We contemplated on going back to “Home Base,” but after four visits in the previous seven days, we wanted to explore other men in other gay bars.

Then we found out the new “Lord II” opened that night.

The story and realizations, after the jump:

The idea of going to a new gay bar stirred up our curiosities. Not only was it fresh and brand-new, the bar also used the popular name of the lord of all gay bars in Quezon City. Its location was also familiar – “Lord II” occupied the building of a former hosto bar, "Neighborhood," which Mary and I used to frequent every week late last year. Seeing the actual sign in front of the bar confirmed the rumors I heard a month ago (refer to a previous post). 

Though we were intrigued with what we would see inside, entering “Lord II” for the first time had different effects for Ringo and me. For Ringo, he didn’t want to remember the traumatic rambol (rumble in the streets) among the drunk hostos and machos that happened in front of the bar late last year. I assured him that those hostos have long been gone, as their place has been closed for months now. For me, I didn’t want to be recognized by the hostos or machos employed by the new bar. Nobody assured me whether I’d see a bar full of familiar faces, who might tell on me to their macho dancer or hosto friends whom I also "tabled" in the other bars. Another rambol might happen among these boys, jealously fighting over me.

“Where did all the boys come from?” I asked the newly employed gay manager, Susan, after she ushered us to a couch at the corner and gave an introduction of the bar. I scanned the area, somewhat nervously, to see if any boy looked like someone whom I had eye-to-eye-sex with in previous gay bars.

“From the forty boys, around fifty percent came from ‘Lord’ and ‘Gents’ in Quezon City. For the rest, we held an audition. A lot came from the closed-down ‘Heart of Manila’, some from ‘Home Base’ and ‘Mexican Knife,’” she responded, as if knowing both her new clients had gone the rounds of the gay bar circuit.

It is a fact that macho dancers and hostos transfer from one gay bar to another. If something goes wrong with him in his bar, like he has no frequent guests or not delivering the quota of drinks or being regularly delinquent, the boy would just look for another bar to work in.

Just like the 3-4 dancers I met in Home Base who one by one transferred to ATEN in a span of four months.

Just like this new popular dancer from Heart of Manila who transferred to Kingdom Come middle of 2010, and after a few months, won as the bar’s titleholder because he brought along his matrona guest and her money.

Just like the fresh-faced guy from “Earthling” (to borrow fellow blogger theunscratchableitch’s term) who looked so familiar because he actually came from Kingdom Come and was “tabled” by my friend Mary.

Just like “Hobbes” from Home Base who texted me two weeks ago inviting me to visit him at his new employer, the gay bar “Lord” in Quezon City.

And just like “Derek” who, just a few days ago, left Home Base where he’s already one of the bar’s stars, to start anew in Kingdom Come.

They just go round and round in the scene, just like playing the children’s game musical chairs – Stop when the music stops, and look for the nearest available empty chair. If you don’t have a seat, you’re out. Not just out of the game, but out of work.

With this constant transfering of men from one bar to another, does the saying "once a macho dancer, always a macho dancer" hold true? Perhaps not, especially if the dancer reaches the mature age of 30, where the “macho” term would not apply anymore, as the body starts to expand and sag after years of nightly beer-drinking and lack of sleep. But for the younger men, once they’ve tasted the “easy money” lifestyle, it would be more painful for them to transfer to a stable but less financially rewarding job in a shopping mall, restaurant or fast food outlet, at minimum wage. “Wake up, get large tips and gifts, sleep” and “Get paid to drink beer” can obviously become addicting.

(Tip: Once you table a proclaimed “new” macho dancer, probe if he’s new to the bar or new to the industry. Chances are he just came from another bar in another city. Especially if he’s between 23 to 27.)

After two hours in “Lord II”, I felt relieved not to see anyone familiar in the newly opened bar, even though the gay manager pointed out some guys who came from Home Base and Lord. For us, there were no interesting faces in the bar, no “star potential” or “future lover potential.” Most of them were from the typical low-tier macho dancer mold, which we got so used to (and slightly sick of) already.  

Ringo and I left at 230AM, which was early for our usual Saturday night out. Walking to the car, the parking attendant recognized me, and uttered “Thank you for coming. And welcome back home.” With a chuckle, I looked back at him, and noticed that behind him the old “Neighborhood” sign was still hanging beside the new “Lord II” sign. I asked him where the former “Neighborhood” hostos – Manong, Lorenzo, Gun, Jimmy, etc – were now working.

“Most of them are in another hosto bar in Buendia, called ‘Shimmering Sun’ I think.”

Ringo and I looked at each other. A former macho dancer mentioned this bar’s name to Ringo already. It’s another new gay bar we can visit on a plan-less Saturday night. Or maybe, just another bar to completely avoid altogether.


GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila

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