The One-Hundred Peso Beer
Last Saturday, we went to the comedy bar, Laffline, at Timog cor. Mo. Ignacia, to take a shot at having our own socio-anthropological experience for our SA21 class. Our goal was to analyze and observe the people present at the bar, watch how the comedians performed and executed their jokes, and take in the general vibe and mood of the situation.
My group arrived 15 minutes later than the agreed time, and as such, we were not able to grab a table next to our assigned class. Wanting to sit as close as possible to our classmates, we took a table by the wall. However, a waiter approached us and told us, with matching sneer, that it was only a table for two. We were then directed, rather rudely, by the waiters/bouncers—they seemed to have massive upper torsos—to a table across the room, possibly the most distant from out class.
So in true sociological spirit, we took our seats as observers, ordered our “almost mandatory” bucket of beer, and became one with the crowd. For the most part of the time we spent there, there were two homosexuals who just kept cracking green and rude jokes at each other—the usual tirade of stand-up comedy, the audience, iconic figures, and to society. Though there were these occasional and amazing singing talents that genuinely impressed me and my tablemates, most of the time we spent was directed towards listening to rude and green jokes.
My first observation was regarding how poorly the waiters/bouncers treated us, specifically us Atenean students. Whenever we had an order to make, it seemed as if they were very reluctant to do it…as if they had better things to do. My table noticed that it was only with us Ateneans that the waiters/bouncers were rude to. Other patrons of the bar were guided politely and with respect.
Now I attribute this rude demeanor to the social stigma that Ateneans are children of the extremely wealthy, the powerful, the privileged, and the influential. The waiters/bouncers, who were probably born to the demographics E-D, ended up treating us Ateneans as such because of the popular and sad idea that Ateneans, as children of the privileged, are snobbish, proud, rude, and undeserving of their wealth and opportunity as daddy’s boys and girls. They must feel a certain resentment towards us because of our apparent underserved affluence. I’ve come to this conclusion because I saw how other patrons were treated…patrons who came in polo barongs and slacks…patrons who were probably as wealthy and influential as the average Atenean parent. These patrons were treated with high amounts of respect and courtesy. They would be offered the choicest seats with no regard on how many each table sat and a waiter would always be there on hand. Now, I noticed that such patrons were not regular visitors of the bar. I heard them exclaim at how funny the comedians were, how that was their first time at Laffline, and such. The unequal treatment based on age lead me to deduce that the waiters were rude to us Ateneans because of our youth.
Another observation of mine was that of the overly expensive beer. A regular bottle of San Mig Light would set a person back by around twenty-five pesos. In this bar, an iced bucket of five bottles of San Mig Light would cost at around five hundred pesos. At that rate, a bottle would then cost four times its regular street price.
This high pricing is representative of the exploitation of the bar on its victims—its patrons. The comedy bar…with its connotation as a bar with a lesser comedic feature imposes the unspoken requirement that one has to purchase alcoholic beverages in order to “fit in” with the beer-swilling bar populace. Laffline is marketed as a comedy bar. That is, a place where one will get amusement and humor (albeit green ones) and alcoholic drinks. I say will get because of the social norm that is getting drinks at a bar. One does not go to a bar to get a diet coke or a coke zero. A person goes to a bar to partake of alcohol. Thus, a person goes to a comedy bar to receive entertainment, that of the green and dirty variety, and alcohol. Now, due to the non-existent buyer power and extreme seller-power, the bar can price its alcoholic beverages to whatever it likes…thus the hundred peso beer.
Now it is interesting to note that people still patronize the comedy bar despite its pricey beverages, very steep entrance fee, and smoke smelling ambiance. I observed that its more regular looking patrons (those who came in pambahay outfits and slippers) smoked, looked really bored, spoke loudly and cursed, and came with other male friends. Based on the barkada feel of the regular patrons’ groups, I deduce that it has become tradition for them to go out to a comedy bar for a night of drinking and laughs. Drinking with friends is a social norm…a tradition even. The Filipino society has taken this norm and actualizes it in the tambay-sa-kanto inuman, bars, garage drinking, comedy bars, strip bars, and more. The comedy bar caters to the needs of the barkada looking for a place to drink by offering pulutan, alcohol, and a bonus—gay comedy.
The image of the Filipino male is that of a macho man—sadly, a man that has grown to shun and abhor the gay community. The comedy bar adheres to this stigma by offering what the macho Filipino male wants: alcohol and a chance to prove his machismo. The alcohol and chance to abuse the gay community by seeing them humiliate themselves makes the man feel manlier and sure of himself. Therefore, the comedy bar is such a strong business because it takes away a man’s insecurities about his sexuality. Harsh, huh?
In conclusion, it all goes down to whether you want to be a victim of said machismo and but that one hundred peso beer.