Monday, April 29, 2013

The Last Dance

The Malate of our generation gained fame as a bohemian district dotted by edgy dance clubs, quirky cafés, and novelty restaurants. Its Renaissance in the early 90s was heralded by establishments diverse and colorful: Blue CafeJoyPepe N' PilarBatavia, and Sala, among others. 

Among these, Joy, the gay dance club, had the most meteoric rise, blazing bright and beautiful before it inevitably burned itself out. From the shimmering trail it left behind rose the next wave : Bath*Acquario, and yes, BED. Red Banana emerged and, for a time, ruled. But when the WPD blundered through its doors one time too many, it self-immolated.

From its ashes, O-Bar took flight, and reigned on the corner of Orosa and Nakpil for seven years until it, too, just very recently abandoned Malate for Greenhills pastures.

And now BED has followed suit.

Last Saturday, BED - the last remaining vestige of the Malate renaissance - played its music one final time.


BED stood loud and proud as a Malate landmark for a good decade, a record that surpasses those of its predecessors Joy and Subway, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Mr. Piggy's

The party fever generated by Joy could not be sustained by the short-lived pretender Bath, and BED quickly ascended the throne, eventually ruling the Malate gay club scene with a velvet fist. Anyone who was anyone had to be there, to see and be seen the same way we all did in oh-so-tony Giraffe or Venezia, ABGs and later on, down to Orange and eventually, Emba, Government, and wherever it is nowadays that the half-breed kids and aspiring models pose and preen.

But while these other clubs shared Makati and Taguig airspace, BED was singularly Malate, standing alone, its lofty position unchallenged. Expats, tourists, celebrities, social climbers of all stripes and various hangers-on shared the same smoke-filled air of BED, sipping their cocktails and swigging their beer, the occasional waft of amyl nitrate in the air mixing with the distinctive smell of the fog machine.

Joy may have started the party, but BED pumped up the volume and rocked the house. And that house party raged and raved for ten long years.


The death knell for BED Malate came as a surprise to many; my only surprise was that the owners were able to keep such open, common Malate knowledge secret for so long.

One of BED's principals stated in his FB page that the crowds simply dwindled over the years. This much is true, although the presence of cheaper alternatives such as O-Bar Malate and Che'lu surely siphoned off a good chunk of BED's clientele.

But there was no denying that times were a-changing. At its zenith, the door policy in BED was a formidable thing, as daunting as the long lines snaking a path to its hallowed portals. A serpentine, testosterone-fueled procession of young men, offering themselves to worship at BED's altar. Even with a steep door charge, people were flocking to BED on the weekends. It was, quite simply, Party Ground Zero.

But after its last (and, as it turns out, final) renovation, the writing revealed itself on the wall. BED never looked so good. From the hottest gay disco in town, BED had transformed itself into a super club comparable to what the best in the region had to offer. The owners seemed to have spared no expense in turning BED from a local clubbing legend to an international phenomenon.

And yet sometimes, if you build it, they will not come.


There was a lot of talk and movement in Malate even before BED made the announcement. Malate being Malate, there was advance knowledge of the looming void, and as naturally as the muscled hustlers hanging around the Orosa-Nakpil intersection eye drunken Malate habitués, certain sectors were hungry to fill the black hole BED would leave behind.

But some voids cannot be filled; not because they are unique and irreplaceable, but because they are products of their place and time. 

Now, clearly, inexorably, that time has passed.

And soon, so shall the place.


There is talk of a loose consortium formed by at least three of the remaining gay establishments left in the Orosa strip. And that this Trinity was hoping to take over the newly-renovated space where BED used to be, and convert it into a multi-level, multi-establishment venue: shades of the old Streetlife in Glorietta, or the various dance clubs and videoke bars that sit cheek by jowl in Soi 2, Silom Road, Bangkok - otherwise known as the DJ Station alley.

However, there appears to be an unforeseen development: one that the Three perhaps hadn't anticipated. If rumors are true, the owner of the property vacated by BED may not be keen on renting out the place to anyone at this point. Apparently, no matter how grand our schemes are, there's someone whose plans are even bigger.


If you've found yourself in the Malate district anytime lately, you'd have noticed the proliferation of mid-level buildings: gray, characterless concrete monoliths reaching for the sky. Along Orosa itself, the beautiful white architectural marvel with graceful, sloping curves that used to be Acquario - as well as the lovely structure that used to be its sister establishment, Raj - have both fallen into a gaping hole in the ground where a mid-rise condo will eventually flip a middle finger to bohemia.

That middle finger is Progress.

And as surely as the backhoes claw empty spaces into the earth, Progress will reduce the Malate we know into Nothing, before rebuilding it into Something Else.

Buildings! Condos! As high as the dubious ground beneath water-logged Manila will allow them to rise. Ave, Ave Avida!

And for this brand-spanking new district of middling condos and multi-purpose, anonymous buildings to rise, something else must first fall.

As all the once-mighty do.


The formidable owner of the section of Orosa where BED - and before, Komiks, The Rainbow Project, Pride Xchange, and other establishments once clustered - has been famously known to remark that "It doesn't matter to me whether someone rents out the place or not. My price, take it or leave it."

It is truly marvelous to be so rich that one could simply shrug one's shoulders and let prime property stay idle. But rich men do not become - nor remain - rich by sitting on non-performing assets.

The current conjecture is that the reason the Trinity's plans may yet go up in smoke is because the owner may very well be planning to sell the property to any of the big realtors gobbling up the city, one old neighborhood at a time.

One big cash-out, no more headaches about the turnover of tenants who cannot rekindle the faded magic of Malate.

One simply cannot blame the man.


And when one gleaming, cookie-cutter condo rises, like a cancer made of concrete, others shall quickly follow.

It isn't far-fetched to presume that the strip on the other side of the street - the famous line-up once headlined by Café Caribana (then the short-lived lesbian bar Ladida), Pepe N' Pilar, Joy, Café Breton, and Batavia - will also fall to Progress' irresistible march.

Already, one by one the lights are going out. O-Bar has extinguished its presence from the area. And half in its place, Midz rages, rages valiantly against the dying of the light. Che'lu stands impassive, a poker player holding its cards close to its chest. Beside it, the nameless Korean videoke/resto seems to be clueless about the neighborhood's impending demise.

And as-yet unconfirmed rumors say that Dados, that refreshingly anachronistic throwback to the old Malate watering holes, has closed its sentimental doors for good.**

There is something sadly poetic about establishments that come alive only at night being swallowed by the darkness one by one.


Whatever the ultimate fate of Malate - particularly the "gay nexus" of Orosa and Nakpil - BED will always stand as a glittering disco ball point in time. A time when we were young and beautiful, and our eyes sparkled with all the possibilities of youth. When life was full of fun and laughter, full of music and dancing.

BED was a beacon, summoning the scattered members of the LGTB community from the dark. Beckoning them to come one, come all, to dance in the spotlight and embrace the nightlife. To flirt, to grind, to cruise and be cruised; to live in wild abandon, if only for the night, all cares thrown to the winds as we celebrated to a different drumbeat.

There will come a time - soon, some insiders say - when Malate will no longer be recognizable to those of us who were fortunate to have witnessed the glories of its ever-changing face. The charming cafes and defiant old mansions of the elite that used to reside in the once-exclusive district will soon all give way to the new lords of progress.

When the last café made of antique wood and decorated with memorabilia probably more suited to a Segunda Mano bazaar is demolished under Progress' heel, then the Malate we knew and loved will pass into myth. 

And then, like the fabled Coco Banana, a new generation will only know it as legend.


To BED - the last gasp of the Malate renaissance.

Thank you for the music.

And now, a moment of silence for the late, great Malate.

Where the band plays on, not knowing - or caring - that the music has died.


*And MINT, of course, how could I forget? Thanks, JM!

**Good news. Reports of Dados' death were exaggerated. They merely shut down for a few days for renovations. Fight the good fight, then.


  1. This is an eulogy fit for royalty. The pangs of nostalgia, loss, and withdrawal, crocheted in the rich, velvety texture of remembrance. The passing of our youth, by way of coming of age, and the painful revelry that has marked a moment in our history. We, the children of Malate, now fragmented and orphaned, seeking a semblance of the identity we once claimed, in the deeper, darker, more anonymous corners of the metro.

    Well done, Rudeboy.

    1. You stated so eloquently and so beautifully in one paragraph what took me several.

      Well done, red the mod.

      And The Lost Children of Malate sounds like a great title for a book, fictional or otherwise, about our lives and times in bohemia.

  2. I will skip this one until I'm able to publish my own version of events. And you forgot Mint. :)

    You were there pala. =)

    1. MINT!!!

      There we go! I was trying to remember it. And I liked it, too. Yet I end up remembering Bath, instead. Oyyyyy...

    2. Oh. And I was...where, exactly?


    3. Bed last Saturday. Haha. I wonder, are you one of the guys I flirted with? JOKE!!!

  3. and so another gay spot in malate has closed, and not once i've been there... not that i'd like to...

    but it would be nice if the time comes that i decide to finally visit Malate, there'd be a place for a guy like me to hang out in. :(

    1. At this rate, gillboard, you'll have plenty:



      And Watson's.

      The horror. The horror.

    2. Watsons???? Hahahaha Ikaw talaga Rudeboy!

    3. What would you prefer, Kane? The Generics Pharmacy?

  4. You were lucky. you were a generation ahead of me. I had only squinted an eye and then the glory days you lived were gone.

    1. While not all generations may live through a Gilded Age, I believe every generation will have their own legends, JM.

  5. oh deimn.. now how do i cross this off my bucket list?

    i think it's sad but i can't say i'm surprised. we are so quickly evolving that there's just no room for something as balaj as bed anymore.

    heck, even blogging's seen better days.

    1. Well...obviously the time for that has passed, Nyl.

      And we're not evolving, I think, so much as we're hurtling. Towards what, I don't know.

      Blogging's as dead as BED.

      And yet - look who's undead. At least for now.

      Nice to see you again, stranger.

    2. Yes, for now we live to see another day. I guess the problem with being part of the generation responsible for evolving is we also get to see which things get thrown away in favor of something brighter, shinier, beckier (?) maybe one day bed will come back and blogging will be fun again. till then, let's just hang tight.

      i will never be a stranger, rudie. X_X

  6. "Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?"

    Each generation will have their own Bed. The ones before us had Cocobanana, we had Bed, the next gen has O Bar, and so on and so forth. But times are a-changing, and the romance of the discreetly exteriored gay clubs will give way to progress as well. We grow, we look back, we move on. Gay clubs will come and go and evolve as well. Who would have thought that a group would have the chutzpa to put up a Bed in a place as open and public as Greenfield?

    "I see a little silhouette-o of a man... Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?"

    1. Live long enough, and you'll see everything go right round to where they began, right McVie?

  7. Hey Rudie, I miss you. Kamusta ka na? Let's catch up soon. You (points finger) OWE me!


    1. And I was just wondering which rabbit hole you'd disappeared down into.

      How are you, Kane? I miss you too, you lush.

      Let me just get this week of shoots I dread over with, then we'll have that much-overdue catching up.

  8. Thanks for this homage to gay Malate. I grew up gay in Malate in the 70s, where sex was free and the streets were run by fashion designers, decorators, and libertarians. Saw the change through the years, which has been a bit of a pain in the heart. Now it does seem to be all memories to me.

    1. Hello there FDRivera!

      So you saw the rise and fall of Coco Banana, I presume? I didn't wander into Malate till well into the 80s - Penguin being my watering hole of choice. I remember there was a place called Hippopotamus, with a statue of a giant pink dancing hippo out front. Do you recall that? It was around the time of EZ-DZ, Route 66 and Subway, I think.