When I heard that our block was going to the Adonis Gay Bar along Timog Ave. for our SA21 ethnography project, I thought that were going to witness a show that featured homosexuals. The idea of watching gay people dance on stage didn’t seem to bother me too much because I believe that they were “women trapped in the bodies of men”. In that light, their seductive dancing on stage followed what women could do. But when I found out that they were actually straight men, I was completely stunned. Moreover, some of these men have female partners. This stirred a feeling of confusion in me because I could not reconcile the idea that these men were straight despite that fact that they wear skimpy outfits (short denim shorts and boots) and dance for the visual pleasure of others.
The show follows a simple routine. The emcee introduces the dancers to call them out of the dressing room; they usually come in pairs. When the soft and mellow songs from the 80’s and 90’s start playing, the dancers slowly walk up the stage and start dancing seductively on stage. Since the dancers share the stage with another performer, they have to take turns being at the center and front of the stage. Although one takes the spotlight at some point, the other does not fail to continue on dancing. They touched themselves, pose seductively and perform lunges to get the crowd going. As an added bonus, some of them take their tops off or even their shorts in the hopes of getting the crowd even more excited. Despite these supposedly stimulating acts of stripping their clothes, the audience remains neutral about the performance. At the end of these shows, no applause or cheer can be heard from the crowd; there are only the footsteps of the dancers as they go down the stage. An upbeat intermission follows this dramatic and depressing conclusion of the Adonis dancer’s performance.
Although Adonis Gay Bar is relatively spacious (having a capacity of about 150 – 200 people) to accommodate a crowd of people, the venue is only filled after the clock strikes 12. The center of the room was the huge, elevated stage with two long poles. A semicircular arrangement of black couches surrounded that stage for people who wanted to be closer to the performance. The rest of the room was filled with chairs and tables for groups or individual customers. These seats were for those who wanted to keep a distance from the dancers, but wanted to witness the show. The informant mentioned VIP Rooms for clients who want to have a more “intimate” conversation with the Adonis dancer, but I didn’t get to see it.
When I panned the room for a demographic of the people inside the room, I realized how empty the room would have been if it weren’t for us ethnographers from Ateneo de Manila. There was a group of two girls and a guy who sat in one of the couches. They seemed to be engaged to the show. Right beside the table where I stayed, there was a middle-aged man who was drinking all by himself. He seemed troubled in life. Aside from these people, there was also a group of middle-aged men at the far left of the room who were taking glances of the performers, but seemed to be more engaged in eating their Pancit Malabon. The rest of the “crowd” was composed of the male ushers of Adonis and us. I was quite surprised that there were more men in the crowd than women. Soon, I learned from the informant that the gay bar actually becomes filled with women after midnight. It is at this same time that the Adonis dancers start becoming wilder and flaunt their naked bodies on stage. Perhaps, this is probably what the women look forward to.
Regarding the performance of the Adonis dancers, it is interesting to note that they did not maintain eye contact or hardly did between the members of the audience. Perhaps, it was a way of expressing their discomfort with what they were doing. On top of this, their emotionless faces conveyed a feeling of their dissatisfaction with what they were doing. After all, these men danced for money and it is not exactly the most dignifying way of making a living. This made me wonder how these people could withstand dancing topless in front of strangers every night in very revealing outfits. In this case, I guess that the main objective then is not to entertain people, but to give a venue for men to earn a living by using their bodies for the pleasure of others. I can only assume that they lack formal education to allow them to be employed in professional jobs or they lack the necessary skill set to apply for jobs. Furthermore, there is a sense of dehumanization being upheld by the gay bar. I can only imagine the thoughts and feelings of these people regarding their relationships with other people, their lives outside the gay bar, the morality of their job, etc.
After experiencing an hour at the Adonis Gay Bar, I think that it serves as a social establishment where the middle-aged customers, mostly women, can escape their personal problems and where the Adonis dancers can earn a living. In a sense, both parties gain from the existence of these gay houses. Although the concept of the gay bar would make one think that the Adonis dancers are homosexuals, they are actually straight guys. For the customers who simply want to observe the show and gain some visual pleasure, they can choose to stay in the regular room. But for those who are looking for something more stimulating in the physical sense, they can choose to purchase VIP rooms and even take these men home. In the Adonis Gay Bar, the bodies of men are treated as products, which people pay for.
JB Capinpin 100710
2 BS ME