As blessed and gifted as I think I am, one of the more relevant things I’m sure I wasn’t granted was a sense of direction. The absence of an excellent one doesn’t seem to be problematic, but you never know how the absence of a decent one can prove to be costly. This was the issue that came about upon informing my parents at 7 in the evening of March 3 that I’m supposed to be in Timog in a matter of hours. As much as it did take some effort to convince them that I wasn’t auditioning for a job nor was I availing of services from a club named after the most elegant Greek god, their main concern was my ignorance with regards to where I’m going. Don’t get me wrong, I had been around the area several times in the past, and I was completely familiar with the place; I just didn’t trust myself to be able to get there by myself. I couldn’t blame them for thinking in such a way, as I’d have my apprehensions as well if I didn’t have the assurance provided by the trusty GPS device. Thankfully, the little genius had enough battery to last the night, thus my parents and I were ready to put my life in its hands yet again.
I set out for Timog a little past 10 in the evening. Although I had been generally excited since hearing about the class visiting a gay bar together, this emotion seemed to die down upon being informed that the venue is located in foreign territory and that it wouldn’t adhere to me and my classmates’ notion of a gay bar. Since a girlie bar is known as a bar with ladies providing a show minus majority of their clothes, we had naturally figured that a gay bar would be featuring homosexuals and transvestites doing the same. Although the type of fun my classmates and I thought we’d be able to poke at each other wasn’t available anymore, I still thought being provided a show by topless heterosexuals ought to come out interesting despite the certain absence of lap dances on some fellow classmates for our viewing that night. On the way there, as much as I had a rough idea of what was in store for me, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. I know how conventional girlie bars worked, with male customers paying to “table” ladies in the hopes of striking an agreement with regards to the price and the eventual extent of service. I was curious if female and gay customers of these gay bars did the same for these straight men. Are guys in these places emasculated in such a way? Or are they simply made to provide a show on a nightly basis, trusting the generous inflow of tips from bachelorette celebrations all year round? These were the predominant thoughts that ran through my mind as I anticipated my arrival in Adonis.
The first thing I observed with Adonis was that it looked like a small place from the outside. I had expected it to be a relatively large club, which would be packed on a Saturday night, thus having me anticipate difficulty in finding the rest of my class who had gotten there more than an hour earlier. Seeing the actual size of Adonis made me think of two possibilities; either it was one of the smaller bars that catered to a smaller customer base or it was one of the smaller bars that would be jam-packed nevertheless on a Saturday night, thus making it a physical ordeal to get around the place amongst eager customers. Thankfully, it seemed more like the former, as I realized it was only 10:45 in the evening, and the party mustn’t have started yet.
Upon entering the club, it took no effort to locate the rest of my class, as our group of twenty or more people made up for a significant part of the audience. There was no extravagance going on, as the only thing resounding off the club’s speakers was the voice of someone making an announcement that I didn’t catch, since my classmates called me to take a seat and settle down already. They began letting me in on what had already happened and what they’d found out in the past hour or so. As I listened to them talk about the amount of skin they’d already seen and the startling truth about how much those male performers make on a regular basis, I carefully scanned the place, closely paying attention to the overall crowd. The entertainers, with their tank tops and denim short shorts, outnumbered the audience, excluding my class. I observed the males who were neither performers nor waiters, hoping to identify just how congested with gays the customer base of a gay bar must be. To my surprise, most, if not all of the customers in the bar, were females. Some of them would be accompanied by males, whose sexual orientation I am not certain of, but it was evident that the majority of the audience was female. In line with my initial observation, there truly was an absence of extravagance at the time, as customers were simply talking amongst themselves while performers were walking around in their attire, taking a smoke and lounging around the place.
The first dancer I was to witness climbed up the stage, the first sensual pop song for my ears that night was cued and my attention was hooked. Never had I seen a man attempt to dance in such a provocative yet elegant manner. As effeminate as he looked performing the whole routine, passionately grazing himself as he seemed to flirt with the notion of taking off more of the few pieces of clothing he had on, I realized at that moment that men are in fact able to and actually do market themselves the way we usually thought only women could. I was awestruck at the way it seemed like it was a girl coquettishly dancing up on the stage, as if there had been an exchange of roles between sexes that occurred for once. As intrigued as I truly am, though, there was no sense of enticement on my part, and I honestly wasn’t hungry for more as the first performer walked off the stage.
Throughout the rest of the night, the class would witness several more performances, with most of the ones that followed being just about as indecent. Although one of them startlingly let out his penis on steroids, much to the anguish of the females of the class, performers’ regimen on stage were rather repetitive. Abiding by the rules of the project, we left the bar at midnight, right before things were to start getting more savage.
Looking back at the experience that was my trip to Adonis, I sense a predominant theme of discovery. As I set out to an unfamiliar place in an unfamiliar area, I was open to unearthing new experiences and truths. Ultimately, the trip to the gay bar materialized what used to be an alien notion, finally lending me a first-hand experience into a world of seeming interchange. That’s how I really saw my experience in the gay bar, an avenue to witness something extremely different, even going as far as swapping perceived conventional gender roles and making me see how men too can be objectified, in an eerily similar manner as women usually are.
This whole idea, I believe, lends itself to the essence of the entire course. Throughout the semester, we’ve encountered societies unheard of, with practices ranging from the subtly bizarre to downright sadistic. However, before visiting the accounts of these societies, we are asked to rid ourselves of prejudices and judgments, which would ultimately harm the objectivity and the motives of our goals. Instead, we are expected to treat such examples with respect in our efforts of studying and trying to understand the culture. This ethnography project, to me, is the ultimate culmination of this sociology and anthropology course, as it realizes what were once mere articles and pieces of information to study. If this isn’t a way of applying what we’ve learned in the classroom to the outside world, I don’t know what is.
Jose Leandro A. Roman 103259