It was a Saturday night. Typically we were supposed to be off drinking at a party, or chilling at a friend’s house, or chatting online, or something that does not involve the words “gay bar.” On that one night, however, we would never have expected it, we found ourselves right outside the entrance of Adonis.
While we were waiting, a sense of shame and a wish for anonymity were in our heads. We were all joking about the possibility that our other friends, not from our class, would see us and wonder why we were outside a gay bar. The banner of ADONIS did not explicitly say what it was, and yet the two Greek-looking statues of naked men pictured in the banner were obvious enough to indicate that it really was a gay bar.
To be honest, we were expecting something fancier for a gay bar. Something like a well-lit lounge with classical music playing in the background, where ordinary homosexuals would interact with each other and talk about their personal lives. In fact, we were HOPING that would be the kind of bar Adonis was. As we enter though, all our expectations shatter and we were plunged into a world of darkness, lust, and, secrets. Far from the high-class gay lounge in our minds, Adonis was a shady and sleazy looking bar and we were feeling anxious and disgusted as we went deeper into the shadows.
The interiors of the bar were dimly lit, but there was enough light to show us that the room was like a typical conference room, bare tiles and bare walls. There were different doors around us. Some were opened. One revealed the dressing (or more accurately the undressing room!) of the dancers. At the left wall, there was an opening where waiters got the drinkers to serve around. The guy who was serving the drinks was wearing a white short, muscular, and looked more like he was working from a carinderia than a fancy bar. Directly across the stage were the VIP rooms whose windows look over the audience area. Curtains drape over the windows to conceal the inside of the rooms. Luckily, during the whole time we were there, the lights were never turned on, indicating that no one was using the VIP rooms… yet. On the left side of the stage were the comfort rooms. They were far from clean. When we went there, we were legitimately afraid to touch anything because we might catch an STD or something infectious. Right in front of the stage were comfortable couches where a few people stayed. Behind the couches were tables and chairs one would usually find in a restaurant. This is where we sat, as we were too afraid to come too close to the performers.
With how the Adonis looks, it was a surprise that the manager told us it was a Class A bar. In our heads, we were wondering how Class B, or Class C, bars looked. Apparently, Adonis was exceptional among its competitors because of its location and models. We realized that the bar was indeed better than those shady “karaoke” bars by busy roads, at least their floors were considerably clean and personnel were around to take care of the customers. Regarding the dancers, it was a shock for us to find out that all of them are not gay. According to the manager, they hire heterosexual men because most of their customers were women. This was true on the night of our field study. There was a group of women sitting on the left couches; they looked like they came from work. There was also a young couple, composed of a man and a woman who occupied the couch on the right side. There was a mixed group of homosexuals and women who sat by the tables to our right. All of the customers that night looked like they were from the middle class, aged between 20-30 years old. As compared to us, they were not ashamed of watching the performances. Some were talking to each other, while some quietly observed the dancers onstage. The dim lighting of the bar made it hard for us to take note of the actual faces of the audience. The shadows were successful in maintaining the anonymity of everyone.
What were definitely not hidden were the faces of the dancers. In the gay bar, they were truly the focus of attention. The models looked like they were in their early 20’s. They looked really focused onstage, as they dance to familiar love songs such as “Just a Dream” by Nelly and “Always” by Bon Jovi. These songs were forever changed in our minds because we would forever associate them with half-naked men dancing. We avoided looking at the dancers onstage; it felt really awkward that we were watching them. The dances were raunchy and sleazy, which matched the ambiance of the bar. This was what the patrons of the bar were looking for – a night of temptations and voyeurism – and they were willing to pay big money.
The manager of Adonis informed us that some of the dancers earn P50,000 – P70,000 per month with all the tips from the customers and bonuses from the management. They also receive a share of income for each drink they convince the customers in buying. In fact, the expensive drinks were the primary source of income for the bar, not the entrance fee. Thus, the performers try hard to seduce the customers into getting drinks. It’s a win-win situation for the bar and models because both receive money for each bottle. Aside from cash, some of the models have received payment in kind. There were occasional customers who gave the dancers cars or even condo units. There was one instance even when a dancer was taken home by a customer. The business might be sleazy, but it was giving the performers a lot of benefits. Their income was way better than an average college graduate would receive, and perhaps this is why the dancers stay in Adonis. Some of them were even college graduates!
There were a lot of realizations when we visited Adonis. For some of us, it felt like we were in the underbelly of society, where people get the freedom to do whatever they want under the shadows. Adonis provides patrons the opportunity to be who they really are and to cater to their innermost desires. We were told that anything happens in the VIP rooms and some things do happen! We felt disturbed not just because the dancers were male, but also because they were selling love and turning into lust. Something about this idea makes the bar seem dirty. Ultimately, though, Adonis provides these performers with a good source of income, something that one does not find easily. While we might not appreciate men dancing onstage (and one unforgettable performance involving an erect penis), we realize that the world is diverse. People like different stuff and other people would be there to exploit these desires into a business. In the case of Adonis, their business of providing pleasure is under the shadows.
Aldrich Alcantara, 100101
Klinton Saribong, 114776