Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hanggang Saan Aabot Ang P2,000 Mo?

(Or, what can your P2000 buy you?)

Thanks to the commercial for the screen shot

So you're a gay boy who wants to have his first ever gay bar experience. You have been dreaming of seeing the insides of a macho dancing gay bar since you were a teenage gaylet. As excited as you are,  you however wouldn't know where to go, what time you're going, how you'll get there, who you'll bring along, and especially, how much to spend.

Oh yes. How much to spend. But unlike little boy Sef of the infamous Selecta Cornetto ice cream stick commercial, who seems to be savoring every lick and bite of a phallic symbol, you're given more than P20 to spend. (Seriously, what can you get in a gay bar with P20? Handshake from the parking attendant [hindi ka kasi pinapasok]? O baka, yung matabang mamang guard biglang mag macho dancing on his own while singing tugs, tugs, tugs?)

So because we're generous, let's increase it to P2,000. It's more than the average Friday night or Saturday night gimik spend. 

P2,000 can buy you a dinner date for two in Friday's or Chilli's, then catch the last full show (may pam-popcorn ka pa). It will allow you entrance in a Malate gay club, order 4 bottles of beer, pick-up a trick, then pay a 3-hour room in the nearest motel (may pambili ka rin ng condom -- priority!). If you want to do retail therapy, you can go to the mall and buy two new pairs of Havaianas, or a nifty shoulder bag, or a nice new collared top. 

But how about in a gay bar? How much do you bring when you go into a gay bar? And what if you only have P2,000? Let me show you what it can buy:  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Private Lap Dances

A lap dance is a type of erotic dance performed in some strip clubs in which the patron is seated, and the dancer is either in immediate contact (contact dancing) with the patron, or within a very short distance.” – Wikipedia

I don’t often hear this term used in Manila. Maybe it’s used in the upscale girlie bars where the male patrons request for a solo dance with the girl stripper of his choice. Or it may be used during private off-bar bridal showers and hen nights, where the bride-to-be is seated by herself, perhaps strapped or hand-cuffed to her seat, with the hired male erotic dancer seducing her one-on-one. But used as a term in the gay bars of Manila, I haven't, yet.

We are more familiar with “macho dancing”, where the male stripper is dancing on-stage from a distance. It differs hugely from a "lap dance" as no physical contact between the dancer and the customer is involved. The nearest one-on-one experience a customer can get with a dancer is during the "area", when an all-the-way dancer approaches the customer for a tip. But this act only involves the naked dancer standing beside the customer for a few seconds. No private nights, no personal dance, nor intimate moment there. 

That is, if the customer is willing to take the dancer into a private room, called the VIP Room or “Showcase”, in some bars. This is where those moments in private, like your own special dance, can happen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Korean Invasion: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

Based on the number of tourists from South Korea that the Philippines gets yearly, it is estimated that around $1 billion (or P44 billion) is being pumped annually into the Philippine economy. That means that if there are around 500K-700K tourists yearly, then the average Korean tourist spends around P70,000 per trip. That's just the average tourist; what more for the immigrant Koreana who stays longer for education or business.

That's why targeting these moneyed demographic is so lucrative for these gay bars. Before it used to be the Japanese and Taiwanese, but recent years saw an influx of young or middle-aged Korean tourists, even to the point of seeing bus loads of Korean women going to some of these bars. The challenge for these gay bars is how to market to these tourists, to ensure the constant influx of revenue.

In gay bars where a lot of these Koreans go to, you'd see the gay bar's obvious tactics of attracting that specific market, just by looking at their selection of men. In their line-up, you'd see this particular type of boy (see previous post on types of macho dancers and hostos). These are the few macho dancers with the unique K-Pop boy band-inspired haircut, that's long, layered, with bangs or fringes, and often with light brown highlights or in entirely blonde with their natural dark roots showing. These guys intentionally alter their entire look to mimic the young popular men of their customer's homeland (see styles below).

Take your pick from Super Junior  

And somehow, the Koreanization makeover actually works. The ones that Korean women always get are the same-looking guys who have not only adopted the distinct hairstyle but also East Asian-sounding names like Koji or Ryu. Interestingly though, these same guys who look so attractive to the Korean women oddly don't get picked by the typical Pinoy gay bar customer or matrona market. That's why some dancers are labeled by their workmates as "Pang Koreana lang yan (Only for the Koreans)."

I remember talking about hair cut with Japoy*, a macho dancer I met in Home Base* and who somewhat looks like Eun Hyuk in the photo above (top right most). Being a half-Chinese, he was very popular among these Korean customers, as feedback was he really looked like someone these women would meet in their home cities. He shared with me how he once got tired of his glorious blonde hair, and had it cut short and re-colored to its natural dark shade. The effect: his sales went down, especially among Korean customers. Without his blonde layered locks, he wouldn't stand out to catch the attention of his target market.

Not only do these men alter the way they look, they also dance to K-Pop just to attract this specific customer group. If the typical Pinoy-looking macho dancer would gyrate to an English R&B track or an OPM Ballad, these Koreanized guys would dance to a fast-paced K-Pop dance song or a romantic song from a K-Pop balladeer (I will dedicate another blog post entirely on top K-Pop songs heard in a gay bar). And it's even sometimes obvious when the entertainment manager starts to cue a series of Korean songs a few minutes after a group of Korean gay bar virgins arrive in the bar. Halata kung sino tina-target so that these women would be enticed to choose among the "Only For Koreans" guys to table with.

What happens when these Koreans table a Filipino macho dancer? They are either very quiet or very noisy. The silent ones I understand. The one-word discussions between the Korean and the dancer stem from language barrier obviously. So unless the tabled dancer would understand the broken English of these women (eg. "You just talk and talk there okay" or "I give beer why not kiss you me"), some men actually learn to speak Korean (not just "Annyeong Haseyo") to the delight of these customers, to help them converse easily.

But the noisy ones? Urg.

In some websites, I've read that some Korean tourists are observed as "difficult to deal with. They are demanding and rude." While I haven't had first-hand experience on dealing with these supposed "spoiled" and "aggressive" Koreans, I've heard a lot of stories of their attitude in gay bars already. Like how they seem to do anything they want to do in the bar. Some just go up on stage as if drunk ledge-dancing in a disco or dance club, while a macho dancer is in the middle of his performance. A lot I hear just cheer wildly when their favorite man is onstage.

What do the gay bar managers do? Sometimes, encourage them more to have the most fun they could have. "Kailangan lang patawanin yang mga yan (You just need to make them laugh)," a gay bar worker informed me. Another said, "bola-bolahin mo lang yan, matutuwa na sila (Just flatter them, they'd enjoy it)."

The most extreme cases I've heard, and even seen at one point, were regular Korean guests who would actually get so jealous and make sugod (charge, advance, like in an army) to other customers tabling their guy. Like there was this Koreana matrona I wrote about before who got so jealous and angry that she got up and "attacked" the other Korean women who previously tabled her guy. A few weeks back, I also saw a young Korean woman who was obviously drunk and from her booth, she went inside the enclosed booth of a Pinoy gay guy with another macho dancer. Apparently, the guy was also a regular guest of that drunk Koreana's chosen macho dancer. She wanted to confront the other customer, but the bar's staff blocked her, and tried to lead her away. She refused to leave the customer's booth, and sat on the couch like a spoiled brat. Guess who was the only one who could force her out of the gay man's area. Her macho dancer, the guy in the middle of it all.

I guess with the money they are bringing in, they'd want to get even more special treatment. As the gay bar obliges with some special requests they have, such as coming as late as 5AM and requesting for an all-cast show up, even when the dancers are already departing from the bar. With their attitude, do these Koreans even care how much money they spend? No, according to Japoy and the gay bar managers I've chatted with. While their receipts can average about P3K to P6K per person, the tips they give can get really high. Especially the regular ones, who sometimes even get tricked into tipping every single waiter in the bar. And that is the main reason why this demographic, with their demands and eccentricities, are so lucrative for Manila's gay bars and their macho men.

So not only do Korean tourists in general bring in the money to the Philippine economy. They also bring in money to Manila's gay bars too.

To some of the macho dancers, I even give advice, that if they want to really earn in their industry, they'd just change their hairstyle to look more Korean. Because if an average Korean spends around P70K per visit in Manila, and would just decide to go to one gay bar at 5AM, then the Koreanized macho dancer has more chances of getting picked to be tabled and getting some share of the P70K spend. The question then is how that single macho dancer, or the whole gay bar industry of Manila, or even the entire Philippine tourism, can ensure that their Korean guests, their Korean customers, or their #1 Korean tourists, would keep coming back for more.

GB Goer
email: char.affairs@gmail.com
twitter: @gbgoer

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Korean Invasion: Part 1

You see them almost everywhere. You see them walking along the busy streets of Quezon City or the sloping streets of Baguio. You see their shops and restaurants near the red-light district of Burgos Street in Makati or the dark alleys around Remedios, Guerrero, and Bocobo in Malate. You see them surfing inside the internet cafes of Timog, or working inside some high end beauty parlor in Buendia or strolling inside the Mall of Asia. You see newly set up institutions focusing on teaching them English. Heck, you even see their soap operas on local primetime TV and topping local music video charts, supported by advertising of some local packaged noodles, with a distinct flavor inspired by their cuisine.

And more recently in the past how many years, you see them in the gay bars of Manila as well.

Annyeong Haseyo!
Based on Department of Tourism's statistics, tourists from South Korea were the top visitors in the country the past year. They consistently rank either top 1 or 2 over the past few years, ranging from around 500K to 700K annual visitors. And supposedly, part of these visitors go to Manila's gay bars.

Every top gay bar I've been to, I've asked the gay floor managers what kind of patrons they would usually get. Typically, it would be the standard answer of gay men and matronas, with some groups of curious first timer women.

"How about Koreans?" I ask them. Every single gay bar manager, from the ones in Quezon City to the ones in Manila, would then reply, "Oh yes, even the Koreans."

Case in point
I was then wondering what would attract these Koreans to the Pinoy macho dancer. If it is said that Koreans are attracted to visit and eventually live in the Philippines because of cheap English education, plus the pleasant warm weather and tourist spots that are easily accessible by inexpensive flights, then what would make them enter a male strip bar and spend huge sums of money to sit with a young Pinoy male?

As with all virgin gay bar goers, the primary reason to enter a gay bar is curiosity. But how would they get curious if they wouldn't be aware of the presence of these seedy bars in the first place?

Well, for that, these Koreans should thank the local tour guides. Apparently, some tours include a night out in the macho dancing gay bar. Maybe not all of the tourists would want to see a half-naked Pinoy male dancing on stage; the Korean men might then proceed to the girly bars, while the women to the manly ones. Then what the tour guides would get in return with their referrals is a cut from the entrance fee. They'd tell these visitors that the entrance fee would be P500, which is more than twice the actual entrance fee in some bars, but still inexpensive for the won-earning tourists. The result: Korean women happy, gay bar happy, tour guide happy.

On promos and advertisements, I doubt there are TV ads in Seoul promoting "Wow Macho!" for Philippines tourism. But, according to one gay bar manager, as part of their promotions, their bar had a Korean website. They even have tie-ups with travel agencies in Korea. Hmmm... I wonder if the brochures for Boracay are being outsold by the brochures of a macho bar featuring a beaming Sandara Park beside a shirtless Joseph Bitangcol.

There is of course the so-called power of "word of mouth." For instance, a Korean girl living in the Philippines to study English enjoys her one-night experience beside a macho dancer. She then tells her Korean friends living with her in their close-knit little Korean town. These Korean friends then try the gay bar, spending only a small fraction of their huge allowance, enjoy themselves extremely, then recommend their other Korean girl friends visiting from Seoul. The word about an entertaining night spot, that features naked men for cheap fun conversation, then spreads to other curious girls in Korea. Idagdag mo pa si kurakot na tour guide. You then have a recipe for a good kimchi, err, booming market of giggly, wild Korean women.

Then there are the Korean matronas.

Before, I've asked one of the macho dancers about the deal regarding their bar's top patron, who was a Korean matrona. How could she afford to go to the expensive gay bar every night? Did she even have a job? Where does she get the money? Does she even have kids at her ripe age? Where are they? Where is her husband? Does she even have one?

Apparently, she does, and the poor guy is living in Korea. Well, he's not really poor, as he supposedly owns numerous buildings for rent here in Manila and back in Korea. Her children are also studying, but I am unsure if in Manila or in Korea. That perfectly exemplifies what I read in an article why some Korean fathers can still work in Korea while leaving their families to live in luxury in the Philippines, where cost of living is lower. A few managers admit that while there are van-loads of Korean tourists seen almost every weeknight in the gay bar, those Koreans who became gay bar regulars are the migrant negosyantes who already own retail shops or restaurants in Manila, and even more specifically, their wives who are given huge monthly allowances by their rich absentee spouse.

And those huge sums of money is what makes this Korean market very attractive for Manila's gay bars.

(to be continued...)

GB Goer
email: char.affairs@gmail.com
twitter: @gbgoer

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ang Muling Pagpasabog

May nag-text. Madaling araw na noong natanggap ko ang pinaka una niyang mensahe. Pauwi ako sa isang lakad noon, at noong nabasa ko kung kanino galing, nagulat ako.

Aba, nagparamdam. Ang para na lang naglahong hosto na si Air* (na naisulat ko na dati). Kaboom (cue in Boy Abunda's "Pasabog!" tuwing lingo sa The Buzz).
Left (in gray): Si Air*
Right (in green): Me
Syempre, dahil may nakaraan, napa-ngiti ako. Mga ilang buwan ko na rin siyang hindi nakikita. Siguro, wala pang closure sa aming relasyon, kaya't mayroon pa rin akong nadarama para sa kanya. Kinilig ako kahit na masakit ang naging nakaraan.

Hanggang sa nabasa ko ang mga susunod na text...