Last February 12, Tanghalang Ateneo (TA) journeyed into an unknown neighborhood of Iloilo, where we are chosen to have a special performance of the very famous Sintang Dalisay for the 4th Internation University Theatre Festival (IUTA). We landed early in the morning, rest for a bit in the hotel and then go on to rehearsals before performing two shows the next day. TA, being a very sociable and outgoing organization wherever it goes, the first thing that we look for despite the exhaustion we have after two performances is a good place to drink and enjoy the night away.
Luckily, an alumnus of Tanghalang Ateneo, Sedfrey Cabaluña, happily brought us to some places around Iloilo to get a bucket or two. During the first night after our rehearsals in University of San Agustin, he brought us to a local bar, Blue Wave, a few blocks away from our hotel. It had a very cozy yet a bit of shady environment, the lights were dark placed with a pinch of blue and white. We sat in a square type sofa, which instantly soothed our tired bodies from practice.
As we drank and devour our food and beverages, a band playing such sentimental songs that captured our ears entertained us. My friends and I, having so much balls and courage, went up the band and sang with them. There came a point wherein it is we who were already up the stage, singing our hearts out in front of a small crowd. Whether it was our intoxicated mind or just our passion and joy to entertain others made that night really special and memorable. Sedfrey told me that Blue Wave is the sort of bar wherein you just want to sit down and have a chat with your friends, in an area where there is not much competition to deal with. I remember it to be our Katipunan here in Manila, a place where people can dine, drink and catch up.
However, Sedfrey told us that there is a far greater drinking area that can be found in Iloilo, where most people celebrate their nightlife. Right after two successful shows of Sintang Dalisay in University of San Agustin, we used a bus to reach our drinking destination. He introduced this strip to be their own kind of Eastwood or Jupiter Street, where all you can see around the street are restaurants, bars and clubs. A place they call Smallville, coming from the name of the village beside it.
At first, most of us were very used to it, a simple set of establishments wherein people dine, drink and enjoy each other’s company. As the rest of us started to drink in Annex, a resto-bar with KTV and billiards, I started to roam around and checked the premises of Smallville. Sedfrey and I visited the clubs in Smallville namely Aura and Flow. We didn’t expect these places to be so bare and empty, only some couples trying to find a way to fondle and flirt their way to the home plate.
What shocked me the most is when we passed by Shipwreck Restaurant and Pirates Bar. As we were listening to the live band in the said resto, we noticed a numerous set of foreigners together with some locals having their dinner and a bottle of beer. I then asked Sedfrey and he told me that it is very known in this side of Smallville where a lot of DOMs (dirty old men) are found with some Filipinas. He also showed me where most of them stay, in Smallville 21 Hotel, where it kind of feels like an Iloilo version of a Sogo hotel here in Manila.
These observations were not so new from what we can see in Manila, but it sort of affirms me that for some reason, what we do here in the urban may not be so different in other provinces. Also, what seems to be so strange and unacceptable here in Manila seems to be normal for them as well.
As I came back to be with my friends in Annex, I tried to discover some more traditions and habits that are done here in Iloilo. Well for one, we were extremely shocked with the prices in the bar. First and foremost it was relatively cheap for snacks while the price of beer remains the same. It was kind of delighting to have billiards inside the bar, because it is very seldom for bars here in Manila to have such leisure activities. Found upstairs is the KTV rooms where most people drink, sing and enjoy a bit.
After going through the Iloilo nightlife experience, I sat once again with Sedfrey to discuss life there and here in the urban city. He can say a lot because he once stayed here in Katipunan also being a dormer back when he was still studying in Ateneo. He told me how strangely similar it can be as for the drinking scene in Iloilo, with all the clubs that cater for those who love to party, bars that provide a very chill and lax environment for everyone, and hotels that… satisfies the needs of peoples’ desires and wants.
All in all, Iloilo is not so bad. Given the amount of alcohol I had during those two nights, which had a great share of memorable experiences and insights. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance to YOLO in the land of Biscocho.
While witnessing such a strangely similar yet distant environment of Smallville, I believe that trying to join in activities around the area gives a different kind of experience rather than join observing everyone while they drink and enjoy the night. While I was playing billiards with people, drinking and socializing with Sedrey, I see how much enjoyment and relaxation it can get, especially in a new environment that may just feel so close to my second home in Katipunan.
Having a TA alumnus help me as my guide in the busy street of Smallville really helped a lot, because of obvious reasons that I am just new in Iloilo, so having to participate in a local strip will be difficult without someone like Sedfrey. It was also easy to communicate with him basically because we come from the same organization so we were in the same wavelength in most things about the nightlife. Without Sedfrey, it will be really hard for me to have a breeze in observing and being with the locals in Smallville.
Comparing it right now with a simple questionnaire or an interview with Sedfrey, it’s possible that I will not know most insights and learnings that I found if we just had a simple talk over a cup of coffee. I’m pretty sure that what I got just by talking with Sedfrey while doing the observation and participation helped a lot because we were both comfortable in doing the “experiment” and not having to think so much about the topic at hand so gravely.
However, for some instances it can be better to use interviews or questionnaires rather than participant observation. For one, it is possible that it is better to intervene with an expert or a skilled person in that specific field, rather than trying out as a beginner the experience, it’s possible that this expert may help you gain a deeper insight rather than trying it out without any restrictions. Also, it may also be true that questionnaires and interviews may give more detailed explanations on what we may observe because it is well documented compared to having to experience it.
– Jay Caluag