Hot Import Nights Manila VI: Cars, Men and Women on Display

01 May

by Mark Balmes | SA21-X



  • Pop-up sex shop near the venue
  • Ticket-seller promises more cars, women, party and alcohol inside concert grounds
  • Same format: hot girls, cool cars, may or may not include flyers from auto-shops selling parts or accessories such as deodorizers
  • High SUV’s, sedans with high-angle doors
  • Loud music and again, hot girls in skimpy, sponsored clothing
  • Babes stations for assignments to cars
  • There are food and booze at the side
  • There are motorbikes, only about five of them
  • The motorbikes are designed Hello Kitties and Despicable Me
  • Surrounded by toys but no guards, really – no girls
  • Girls pose for cameras even if you ask or don’t ask them to look at it
  • You may pose beside them and make special requests to stand in certain ways
  • Concert grounds has standees for sex enhancers and motels
  • More concerts and more girls inside
  • Rapper with walking girls on stage
  • Girls change every 3 minutes, they walk across the stage
  • Final song had all go girls go to stage
  • Some men clapping, most cheering on them inappropriately
  • Women continue to smile anyway
  • Played social experiment with friends
  • Imitated girls in a sexual way even though they weren’t really acting like that (not planned)
  • Men catcalling the girls I was with


Son, Brother, Father, Guy Friend

My parents divorced in 2012, but my father has been MIA since I was 9 years old. We’re from a family of “busy people” and truth be told, aside from being reminded about my potential and having been frequently assessed, I find it a chore to put together highlights of my life with my father. Don’t get me wrong – he’s there whenever you need to tell him something. It’s only a matter of whether he will be the one to pick-up or his recording telling you to condense the message you are unsure how to organize logically in 3 minutes anyway. My life didn’t have a lack of father figure, but it wasn’t filled with one either. I’m in the in-between, in the vague cross-section of thankful and don’t care. It wasn’t an issue precisely because you don’t know how to put it into one. But at least he’s there to provide pillars to my essays, and so that the stories I share in real life don’t appear as sad as it actually is. My mom on the other hand, is a living martyr. Intimidating but caring, menacing but emotional – I got my intellect from my father and my emotional maturity from my mom, so I have concluded.

Looking back, I’ve surmised with little to no effort that my parents were my driving force to reach Point A to Point Graduation to Point Success. They were my invigilators to life and their expectations were my pressures. They are why I have my grit, determination and never-back-down attitude. I have my own touches to it: optimism with hints of abstract philosophical underpinnings – I’d hate to admit that who I was trained to become were foundations still to who I’ve become whether I like it or not. But as more time goes by, I realize that they influenced me in more ways than my “career” side, as they call it. My expectations for a man, a brother, a male friend and a husband were shaped by my parents, more so by my father. My relationships and how I formed and kept them were rigged in the beginning. Unfortunately, my father hasn’t been there for a whole lot of time and maybe it’s less of how he influenced me and more of how he didn’t. I recall going on YouTube to learn how to shave, or exclusively cousins and guy friends for dating advice.

Hot Import Nights Manila 6

I imagine the possibility of realizing what I’ve been missing out on–ones I had access to but only if I asked for them from my dad–would unfold as I walk into the event. The event was called Hot Import Nights Manila VI and it’s been an annual event for six years for Metrowalk, Ortigas. It promised modified car show, stance championship, off-road show, customized motorbike show, hot models, all-star DJ’s, concert, fashion show, digital playground, and basketball streak challenge. It has everything a guy would consider enjoyable and would want, so I counted myself in after a nude-painting session that canceled last-minute.

After training for MMA, I rode an UberX to Metrowalk to have dinner with friends at Jay-Jay’s running to the gates of our first kind of event together. Bowls of kare-kare, sinigang and pancit molo later, we find ourselves amused and ogling at ridiculously interesting items at a sex shop. Weird thought: It’s funny how we separate “toys” based on gender when clearly it’s a matter of preference. I was with a guy friend and two lady friends. All of us were equally in awe striding around the world we only see behind screens.

I have a Hyundai Tucson I received from my parents in 2012. It was coupled with a crash course at a nearby driving tutorial center I had to make time for, for 15 non-consecutive hours after school. Half of the reason why my parents got it is because it is customary to get their children cars when they feel that the time is right, half because they were moving abroad and my sisters were as well, and they have nobody to ask to monitor bills and pay them, among many other things. I was also resolved to living alone because what’s the point of going home when nobody is there? We sold the house and we made arrangements to ensure I have a place to live in and also means to pay them. Four weeks later, I am in the plan. The transition was well-done, hassle-free and most of all dreary, as expected. Along with the condominium unit, I received a parking lot that both look just like the others. Up to this day, my car is still pearl white, plain and without any upgrades. There are some dents due to a minor snag, but it looks exactly just like how we bought it.

When I looked at the cars, I was less confused than I was amused. The parking lot outside the concert hall was filled with beautifully designed cars that looked like they came from the Fast and the Furious series, complemented with hot women in leathery skimpy clothing. The sheer number of cars in parallel parking can make one question how these cars almost never share the road with the ‘others’ – the generic kinds driven by busy working men and women or by students that live on a budget. The cars there had 4 pairs of subwoofers at the back, 8 pairs of LED screens, roving disco lights, bright underglows, engines that could wake a whole neighborhood, roll cages, aftermarket wheels or a mix of all of them on Volkswagens, Ferraris, Ghiblis, and Aston-Martins. You imagine as though they are running wheels of cool on the road, assume that they have fun (and rich) owners, and are about to go to a party better than the five you went to in the past week, combined. And did I mention the women? My attention wasn’t sure whether the foci were the cars or the women as much as I was confused whether they were owned by actual people or by auto-shops, getting my clue from the glaring logos on attention-warring high-rise shorts and well-fitted tube tops on these ladies. My informant never failed to inform me however that the event is filled with cars, booze and irresistible marketing schemes of auto-shops that involve women. I had expectations, but he didn’t want to destroy my experience by telling only as much.

It wasn’t unusual for the attendees to ask for a selfie with the car, with the women or with the car AND the women (there were usually 2 per car). They typically do so by getting in between the two ladies and extending their arms so that their hands touch either the shoulders or the bare waists of both models. Some would normally talk briefly about the car or company sponsor, or simply thank them. Imitating the approach to the shoot to the thank-you’s, I did the same. I normally interact with beautiful women in corporate events or in parties, while showing off moves I learned from my dance classes.  No one constantly guided me with navigating the world of women and so I found myself in spheres of programming varsity folks or co-entrepreneurs pitching in front of investors instead. That has always been my kind of deal. This one, I have to study and execute alike, lest be tagged creepy or awkward by these perfect creatures. Men waiting in line asked if they could have their turn in excitement. “Andami mo nang picture kasama sila, kami naman uy!” I smiled and told them, “ikaw na p’re,” to the next guy in line.

After walking the stretch of throng sorts of cool, we went to the sidelines to grab a bite and a cup of alcohol to propel it downwards. Oddly enough, they only served food people would consider pulutan (appetizers for alcohol). The attendees were also blessed with a big-name bar franchise to offer them a variety of concoctions to suit their taste buds. We went back and around and see the same mile of cars and women one last time with the same creeping men around them, and visited a small further extension that featured customized women motorbikes. They were besieged by Hello Kitty plushies and other girly items, exuding a cute reaction more than a cool. Here, there are no women or men around them. They were just there like displays on a museum – untouched, unguarded but otherwise in the area. Next to them were convertible cars and cars of the uber rich, with more women per unit. Caroline by Amine was playing at that time we came by. The black-culture-inspired hypebeasts and cool guys swarm by the area.

The event or whatever it is happening inside the concert grounds was the only thing left to check. There were more cars inside, such as refurbished cars that look better than the ones in the market and a really tall Hummer that is going to get you used to fall as you climb on or alight from it for the first few weeks. There were also standee ads for Sogo as well. At the farthest end, there was a stage with a rapper synergizing rhythmic lyrics to dope beats. Models walking fashionably across all edges of the stage for a good thirty seconds before cueing the next model to continue in the revelry. The rapper low-key drops sexist remarks after every song. He then attempts to vindicate by saying, “okay lang ‘yan, lalaki kasi tayo.” Men watching, including me in the mockery of behavior long nerfed by my good upbringing, woo in the entrance of a hot model and in the appearance of the next one. Men in the audience–or the almost all of them basically–catcalls in amusement. “Pahawak naman,” “ang sarap naman niyan,” and, “sama ka sa’kin mamaya,” and their permutations share the air with music as well. Remember I was with two girl friends, and they had to hear that as well – me and Efren, the guy friend, quickly defended ourselves.

I sort of did an experiment to test how well we could control our perspectives and behave like better people in an area full of perceived inappropriateness. I remembered getting a Repsol car sticker for free. I asked my friends to mock a car model while holding the sign. All of us did, including the girls, and what we did next reminded me of our propensity to return to our unmoderated selves under specific circumstances. So we modeled in front of the Hummer I talked about in the previous paragraph as though as we were the women we saw. No one just posed like they usually do, with their signature hand signs or angled knees and all, but in promiscuous, compromising positions even if the models weren’t really doing as such when we were outside. They were standing up, holding up signs, and warmly accommodating anyone who wants pictures. They weren’t biting their lips or bending forwards. But we gave them a persona based off on what we think these women are.

We headed out and took pictures in front of the lit poster for some remembrance. It was taken by a random guy who had the chutzpah to catcall my friends as he took our pictures. I took my glasses off and look at him with a threat, and headed to the exit as he apologized and looked at his friends.

We went to the nearest Starbucks and waited for our ride to the Palace. I spent rest of the night trying to be comfortable and less weird around women, to compensate for the losses and the gains from having a figure that’s always there, but not really.


Two days later, it is bewildering and enlightening to get a glimpse of the bigger picture of male-dominated subcultures–more precisely, the “boy racer culture”– and how it ripples and interacts with other aspects of the society birthing gendered social issues. This one of the many reasons why there is victim-blaming, slut-shaming and catcalling. What’s even scarier is that men are easily resolved with “boys will be boys” excuse as if it holds any credence. It makes it look like we have the need to prove our masculinity, with rules as if we own the world and women are merely guests. The car show was a perfect SA topic for me because of its links to sexuality and male sexuality. Women in such cultures are ancillary, sexual and passive to male behaviors; while men are there to reassert their masculinity, such as with hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity.

The customization work on cars are done to gain admiration and appreciation and elicit reactions from bystanders, and shares almost the same parallelism to ladies spending on clothes and makeup as means of boosting pride and self-esteem. This, again, is regardless of gender due to our foundations in hedonism, selfishness and wanting to be above the rest. This also explains gender expressions in capability, such as customization requires handiwork that not only exudes an air of strength but also of brilliance.

As with any subculture, the “boy racer” culture evident in car shows is in many ways a deviance from routine and an avenue to showcase, reassert and display the performative institutions of gender based on purposes at hand. My experience at Hot Import Manila VI was insightful and the activity has proven that an immersion with a culture or subculture will provide an understanding, albeit experiential, that proves to be indirectly beneficial in answering questions like why we do what we do and how our interactions shape places, people, and experiences.

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Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Auto Show


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