Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Macho Dancer’s Last Harana

Friday and Saturday nights in the macho dancing gay bar are usually packed, with ladies wanting to be seduced and matronas wanting to fall in love. In the middle of the night, after a series of men dancing naked in their routine moves, the gay bar would feature a series of production numbers.

These production numbers are composed of various acts. They have in-house hired tranny performers doing a cabaret show or lip-synching to impersonate famous divas. Some bars have hiphop dance crews to liven up the show with upbeat dance routines. Some bars even create a full production act with a featured macho dancer, complete with full acting, back-up dancers, sound and musical effects, props, sets, and costumes.

However, out of all the macho dancing gay bars I’ve been, there was only one which had quite a unique performance. No, it wasn’t a live toro show, but something more wholesome. And in this particular gay bar, when all the macho dancers only flaunted their naked bodies on stage, there was only one who flaunted his vocal talent.

And that was before he told me that he decided to stop singing altogether.

This is his story. Our story.

The macho dancer Luigi* was only a few weeks in the gay bar when, on a weak Tuesday night, he volunteered to sing for the audience. He approached the entertainment manager for the idea. Seeing that there was no harm in allowing one of the talents to perform during a crowd-less night, sintado or not, the manager told the dancer to produce a minus-one of a song for him to sing.

The following night, Luigi brought the song with him, and waited for the cue. In the middle of that uneventful night, the manager gave him the microphone. It was Luigi's cue to go up on the stage. Not in his usual bikini and boots, but in his everyday casual wear. Two romantic songs, he belted. Every single being in the bar, from the dancers huddled in the dressing room to the few lady customers sipping their drinks, stopped what they were doing to watch and listen to the surprise performance. Cheers and applause could be heard right after.

“Friday again,” the manager said after Luigi’s performance. “During the big night.”

“Okay,” Luigi responded.

“And next time, mag-area ka (Go down the stage and ask for tips),” the manager instructed him.

The following big night was the first time I heard Luigi perform. I’ve been tabling him for a few weeks then, but didn't know he was supposed to sing until he informed me via SMS a few days prior to the big night. I was surprised to find out he had another talent, one that could actually carry a tune. 

When he sang during that night, I saw the whole bar captivated. The little chitchats that usually occur during the routine dances stopped when Luigi sang. Their eyes were fixed on the 25 year old Dennis Trillo / Luis Manzano looker. When he went down to work the crowd for tips, he'd sit beside the young ladies, brides-to-be and the matronas. He would then serenade each one of them as they giggle shyly or cover their faces in embarrassment. After a few lines, these ladies would give him a tip, and after a thank you, he then moved on to the next lucky woman.

The bar saw potential in this unique performance. Maybe because the management got a nice share from the tips he collected that night. Night after night, since then, he'd go up on stage, and just like a professional singer, he'd captivate the audience with his three song ballad renditions. On these nights. he'd still perform the typical macho dancing together with this companions. However, he had a separate performance, a special number for him to serenade the ladies wanting to be seduced and the matronas wanting to fall in love.

While enchanting the whole bar with his heartfelt interpretation of romantic Filipino ballads, and whenever I was there to spend time with him, he never failed to look at my direction. In the darkness of the gay bar, I was just in our corner. I wasn't that much interested in his performance, so I kept myself busy by chatting with my friends or sending SMS in my phone. Not wanting to be affected by a sappy song, I was just half-heartedly listening, and even told him not to approach me when he did his area. I didn't give him much attention when he went down the stage to gather some tips, even if at times, he'd take momentary glimpses of me. Even when our table was in a very discreet location in the darkest area of the bar, Luigi would peer through the various heads of customers and dancers, and from the stage, try to see if I was looking at him. And at the moment he's seen my two eyes staring at him in the darkness, he’d look back to the audience, with a little smile on his face.

His singing would continue on Friday and Saturday nights for some weeks. He would serenade the audience with lines such as “ang pag-ibig ko’y alay sayo lamang”, but he kept singing with momentary glances at me. Once, when he was back at our table after his performance, I asked him why he chose to sing those emotional songs with deep meanings, and why he kept looking at me. He should focus on the audience, I said, as they were the ones giving him majority of his income, not me.

"Masarap kasi kantahin yun, kapag nandiyan ang taong inaalayan mo ng kanta (It feels good to sing those songs, especially if the person you're offering a specific song is present)" he replied sheepishly. I didn't say anything, except to hide a smile from him.

After a few more weeks, the gay bar's supervisor approached Luigi as he was about to go home. The supervisor asked how much he earned from the tips that night. Only P400, Luigi said, then handed him a folded hundred peso bill. The supervisor claimed he didn't believe him, as he saw Luigi working the area to get tips during his singing. It was true, Luigi insisted. Feeling that Luigi was lying so that he wouldn't give a bigger cut from the tips, the supervisor banned Luigi from going down to get tips. After that instruction, the supervisor still pocketed the hundred peso bill.

In the days that followed, Luigi still performed in front of the audience, but didn't do his area anymore. The following week, he stopped singing altogether.

"Bakit pa ako gagawa ng extrang pag-kanta, kung di naman ako makakababa? (Why would I still sing, if I wasn't allowed to go down anymore?)" he reasoned out to me, when I asked him why he stopped. He just didn't want to sing anymore, he said. He had a point.

From then on, the bar and I didn't hear his serenades anymore. No more special performances. No more three song ballads. No more macho dancer highlight of the night. Only the typical macho dancing routine from a typical macho dancer.

I was just in the gay bar a few weekends ago, and seated with Luigi at the bar's second floor balcony. In the middle of the night, he excused himself to talk to the entertainment manager. While I was chatting with my companions, I heard the bar's DJ announcing Luigi as the next performer. The opening notes of a Filipino ballad played. I was expecting that he'd be half-naked for a sensual dance. But he came out on the stage fully clothed, with a microphone on his hand. Why would he sing, I wondered aloud, if he wouldn't get anything out of it? I stared intently, wondering what made him do it.

After a few lines right before the chorus, he looked up to the second floor balcony, and peered through the railings. It was like a traditional harana or a scene from Romeo and Juliet. Amidst the brightness of the stage, he tried to search for my eyes in the darkness. As he found mine, he smiled, looked back into the audience, and passionately belted out a high note at the chorus's crescendo.

That was the last time I heard him sing. I thought there was no more reason for him to give extra effort to entertain the audience. But perhaps, for him, there might still be a reason to serenade someone, for the last time, into falling in love.

GB Goer
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila
twitter: @gbgoer

Photo credits:


  1. in love ka yata? hey any advice where to go for all the way go go dancer?


  2. awwww...

    nice one

  3. nakaka inlove naman to. baka sya na ang soulmate mo hehe

  4. @jaderated hi. am not sure. what made you think so? hehe =)

  5. Be ready to fall in love, Inay.

  6. ang ganda mo 'teh! i'm quite jaded with all the experiences I had and at my age...pero malay mo, that MD is a needle in a haystack... so winner ka! pero you will always live in doubt, carry mo?

  7. Hi Anonymous. Yeah, I guess he is one of a kind. And you are truly right (true na, right pa). I am and will always be living in doubt. Source of misunderstanding naming dalawa yan the past weeks. Ang hirap din. Di ko alam kung talagang make-carry ko ito. Salamat.

  8. I have had the sincere pleasure of seeing Luigi and hearing him sing. He is a handsome and talented young man. If he is falling in love with you, you are lucky! Treat him well!!

  9. Hi Bill! Yeah he is a great guy. He stopped working in that bar already and transferred to another bar up north. And yes, we're still seeing each other... Thank you =)

  10. Where is this GB??

  11. one of the bars in Pasay with a balcony. but the said MD is not working there anymore.

  12. Bar in Pasay with balcony??? Hmmmm.... dko un lam ahh.... ang alam ko my second floor at third floor pero wala balcony. ung isa nman kz malapit sa church e kahit VIP room wala un. ung malapit nman sa airport e isang floor lang nman... hmmm san kaya ito??? wala ba clue??? hehe!

  13. @men_wisher sorry, hindi pala Pasay. Pero near Pasay. And may balcony yun.


Feel free to share what you think