It was 7:00 PM when the group met up for the exposure trip. At first we decided on going to a strip club, but we figured there might be someplace else more enjoyable than what was previously decided upon. After deliberating for several more minutes, we then finally decided to head on to a comedy bar in Tomas Morato. The name of the bar was Zirkoh.
We took a while getting a taxi. We were worried we might be late for the show. To our surprise, the program starts at 9:00 PM. The entrance fee was expensive, it cost us PHP 300. Not to mention there was a dress code. Good thing we left wearing decent apparel instead of the usual garb of shirt, shorts, and slippers. Those who come in sandos, shorts, and slippers, are not allowed inside. Guess the place was a lot fancier than expected.
Having arrived early, we got to get good seats. The security guard let us in, saying that we were lucky for later in the night people would be filing in and it would be difficult finding decent seats. We rushed in eagerly and contented ourselves with seats on the second row.
While waiting for the program to start, we checked the place out. The place was air-conditioned and dimly lit, loud music was playing on a plasma screen T.V., there was a drinking station, and there were waiters in uniforms. One of them approached us and handed us menus. Since it was dim, we had to make use of flashlights to see what they had to offer. The drinks were really expensive, so we chose not to buy anything.
Minutes before the show began, only a third of the venue was full. Most of the guests were women in their late thirties and above. Perhaps a typical girl’s night out, by the way they interact with one another. There were only a few men and foreigners who came with their families. They seated themselves in groups of three to ten.
The show finally started at around 9:30 PM. Six cross dressers came out, and each appeared to be nicknamed after an actual personality, such as ‘Boobay’. They first sang songs as a group, and then individually. During their individual presentations, they interview foreigners in the audience. Some of them even made jokes about these foreign guests, making the audience laugh, and their ‘victim’ too. All of them, save for one, were very fluent in English. When the last presentation ended, they came again as a group, interviewing other customers. Most of the jokes were green, which the crowd found funny. They seem to be very fond of foreigners as they spend more time with them (or always make them the subject of their joke). In the middle of the program, they started asking the audience if they had a particular request. They at the same time encourage people to sing in front. One man was not that lucky. He actually was pulled up stage to perform. The man was tall and young, and we thought he was a college student. When the hosts interviewed him, he surprised everyone by saying he was a senior high school student.
People were undeniably having a good time. They were eating, drinking, smoking, and chatting. The hosts went on interviewing people, and from that we found out that some came from Laguna and one was a balikbayan from London.
We meant to stay longer, but the night was over for us. The danger of going home late at night, and the fact we had other stuff to do, moved us to leave after two hours. It was enjoyable and interesting. Something worthy of a second.
1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
People are always in search of interesting forms of amusement. The people who went were most likely there to de-stress or catch up with one another or spend some quality time. This apparently shows what Filipinos would best give them relief. Perhaps this could explain why Filipino movies are mostly comedy. Escapism: a means of veering away from reality for a moment and sink into a worry-free haven. Everybody likes a good laugh. It allows you to relive happy moments, leaving you elated.
It is worth pondering over, however, why the comedians spend a lot of time with foreigners as well. And why do they have to cross-dress? Can they not be funny with normal clothes on? Would this not show what it is that Filipinos commonly find amusing? Why do we find things different amusing or entertaining? Could it be that the very difference of one person to the other is worth talking about? There is always something to talk about a person who is different. I guess this shows what it is that Filipinos love to talk about. Something apart from their normal day-to-day experiences. Could be the reason why we like tsismis. It’s outside of us. And at times, events that we cannot associate with ourselves are found funny as well.
We also notice that they keep the audience engaged. It’s not just about having them to listen to you and them laughing once you hit the punchline, it’s about having the audience feel that they are a part of it.
There is also the thing about the dress code. It is a comedy bar and people came over to relax, but why does it limit to only those in pants, shirts, and closed shoes? Appearance is everything. To be able to live up to its image of being a very ‘posh’ comedy bar, its audience act and dress accordingly.
2. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
Not much since the key informant does not really work there. By informant, they recommended the place to us. It was a last minute arrangement heading to the comedy bar.
3. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
I guess it would be experiencing it yourself. Seeing things at their perspective. In a questionnaire, it is too impersonal and the person who is answering can only say so much to describe something. And that is not enough to be counted as participation. Participation would mean to be involved or engaged. There is none of those in questionnaires. In interviews, there is no action. They can tell us what happens, but similar to questionnaires, words would not be able to fully encapsulate the experience.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
I guess when you’re doing a survey. Information collected from these two methods can be condensed into a simpler thought. If one does not need to be involved, then these two methods would be better. Participant observation calls one to be involved, while the two do not. There is more that action can show. Not only do you know about the person, you can also find out what made the person continue on doing the same thing. What affected his choices? Why a comedy bar? How different is the environment of this area to another’s? These are the questions best answered through participant observation. Only through experiencing can we understand what it is that these individuals have to go through.
Group: Keight Yabut and Arielle Vidal