When Sir Skilty announced the options of the locations for the urban ethnographic tour, among the three, my attention gravitated automatically to the gay bar. I was kinda scared of choosing the comedy bar because I know they sometimes call people from the audience randomly up the stage to make fun off. I’m an Enchanted Kingdom virgin and I think my first time should be spent with someone that I trust and can laugh with during and when it’s all over. You know, my friends. I was excited at the prospect of spending a night in a gay bar. I can finally check that off my Sketchy but Fun Things To Do While I’m Still Young and Can Get Away with It list. I dragged my friend, who was also looking to experience new things in her life, to accompany me that night. We arrived at the Adonis bar way later than the ETA but my classmates and other SA 21 students from different sections were still crowded outside it. While waiting, my friend was telling me how she wished that upbeat songs would be played during the show because she would be bored otherwise. It was a long wait. We passed time by dancing the pelvic thrust (well, that was mostly me), and planning our next trip to a gay bar when we have enough money to buy a dancer a drink and talk to him (not really gonna happen, I think). Our beadle collected each one’s payment for the entrance fee and the obligatory drink. Everyone (me) was complaining about the steep fees but, as they say, everything has a price; even a new experience. Finally, by about 10:30, we were let in. I wondered what Sir said to the manager and how he convinced him or them to let innocent (arguable) college students—some who were minors—in. It slipped my mind once we were seated on our chairs.
It was dark inside just as I imagined it to be. The arrangement of the furniture was somewhat peculiar for me. The stage was at the center complete with a ledge and two poles. There were couches around it, and at the back of the couches were five or so tables with chairs around it which where we were seated. It was like, the customers seated at the couches can only get all the action while the ones at the back with the plastic chairs are only allowed to watch. The bar had its own audience hierarchy. It smelt of air freshener at times, when the dancers and servers weren’t standing right in front of the air conditioner to smoke which was something they liked to do quite often. My friend and I were seated right beside the air conditioner, so aside from the shivering, we get to have honorary whiffs of secondhand smoking. Minutes before the show started, the waiter put a menu on our table, and we were appalled at the 1000% increase of the rates of the drinks. Moreover, sexism stared at us while we were scanning the menu in the form of a slight increase of drink prices for patrons with mammary glands and vagina. My friend suggested that male customers probably left larger tips than the stingy females. Anyway, in this setting and scenario, political concepts are muddled and matters are grayer than ever. I mean, what about the transvestites who are almost XX-chromosomed except for their genitals. Are they gonna be charged 50 pesos more than their biological sex? And if yes, can they use their penis to lower down their tab? Do the female customers (mostly matronas as I’ve seen) even care when all they want is some company? As I was mulling these irrelevant things over, my night started.
A disembodied voice introduced the dancers and all throughout the night, I swear I only understood one word, a name, from him. I didn’t know if he was doing it on purpose or if that was really how he talked but try as I might, I only got “Miguel” from all of his introductions. Two men clad in white wife beaters, daisy dukes, knee supporters, and cowboy boots, swayed and gyrated to mopey boy band hits of the 90’s to the early 00’s. One of the first dancers looked younger than me. They had blank expressions on their faces which turned pained whenever they would execute dance steps that could’ve torn their tendons and ligaments. I was wondering for half of the night about the strange addition of the knee supporters to their already stangely-themed ensemble, and the answer only came to me, once again, through my sage friend who pointed out that all their knee and hip twisting probably made them large consumers of Bengay. Their dance ended once the song did, and with no gestures whatsoever, they quickly hopped off the stage. It oddly reminded me of a high school program where students are required to do intemission numbers. They danced, teased a bit, and off they went. After each pair, the whole bar would go dark and dim strobe lights bathed the stage while the next dancers prepared to get on the stage. Some dancers who were already through sat at the couches at side of the bar, using their phones, or smoking, or talking with each other. One of the dancers was also celebrating his birthday that day, and his colleagues brightened at the bilao of pancit that he had with him.
Change the couches and stage with cubicles, and their pseudo-cowboy costumes with polos and pants, and this could be like an office job. Except it’s not. Their toned bodies are their computers, photocopiers, pens, stacks of papers, and staplers all rolled into one. Their meetings and brainstorms are probably a few minutes of the manager telling them to go topless tonight. Right-wing fundamentalists condemn their line of work, but for them, it’s just all in a day’s work. A way to make a living. The whole shebang got repetitive until someone “went all the way”. He came to the stage with only a sarong and an erection, and my friend and I knew this was what we were really waiting for. We weren’t your regular perverts, mind you. It’s just that we came that night expecting certain things. He teased and pulled on his sarong, then he lifted it all the way. With the buliding anticipation, when it was already there hanging in front of us, it was kind of anticlimactic. After the mild shake-up, it got repetitive again and disappointment crept up on us again.
At about 12:30 in the morning, when the dancers were paraded in some weird beauty pageant-ish kind of way, we decided to leave. We felt kind of shortchanged and ended up in a Mini-Stop near my house eating cup noodles. I didn’t expect my night to end like that. I imagined that after the gay bar experience, I’d leave with memories of scandalous fun. The incident with the saronged dancer was like a metaphor for the whole night. Then I realized that I was not far from the right-wing fundamentalists. I tried to keep an open mind but I only managed to objectify the dancers, the gay bar, their work. I judged the bar’s patrons who came in to get some entertainment and company. The night was merely an opportunity to gain a new experience, and I can leave and shake the dust off my shoes and leave it at that. I treated the whole thing as just another fun story to tell, but for all the people involved in that culture, that was the only to way to survive. And as I write this, the irony of my realization isn’t lost in me.
Beatrice Cedo SA 21 – T