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.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Get Your Panties In A Bunch

At one point in the toy-commercial-masquerading-as-a-movie G.I. Joe: Retaliation , lead characters Duke (Channing Tatum) and Roadblock (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) underscore their homoerotic bromance with the following exchange:

        Roadblock : It's up. Like your panties.  
        Duke : You love my panties.
                             Roadblock : ... 
Especially when I slip them off your fine, fine ass.

Now, I'd have chalked up this witless banter to bad, baaaad screenwriting had The Rock not been gushing over Tatum's good looks IRL:

It's not just us girls who think Channing Tatum is hot - his co-star The Rock also thinks the Magic Mike star is a hunk too!
          The wrestler (real name Dwayne Johnson) worked closely with Tatum on their   
          latest action movie G.I. Joe: Retaliation and by the sound of it, he's now got a   
          little man crush on Channing.

          In fact, Johnson even thinks the 32-year old heartthrob deserved to be named the Sexiest Man Alive by   
          People magazine last year.

          "He's a good looking guy," Dwayne said at the London premiere of the movie this week. "World's sexiest 
           man by People magazine."

          "Love Channing. (He's a) Great, great guy. Very humble. Very cool. I'm very happy for all his success."

Then again, this isn't an entry about Dwayne Johnson's comfortability with his sexuality.

Nor slashfic about Duke N' Roadblock.

Let's talk about Channing Tatum's panties again.

More specifically: what are your thoughts on lingerie for men?

This is just so wrong, on many levels. I mean, a man and...and... a woman?!?

Anecdotally, I actually know a very built, masculine, straight guy whose love of wearing panties is an open secret among us, his friends.

After the initial months of ribbing from us, the fact that he wears women's silk panties under his jeans is as much a non-issue as his haircut or whether he shaved that day or not.

Maybe he's a grower.

Now, while I'm happy my friends are comfortable enough in their skin to publicly declare what they wear next to their privates, I'm not quite so sure about the wonders of "mangerie."

I like to think of myself as open-minded as the next guy, but maybe I draw the line at wearing feminine underthings.

Kinda changes the context of the whole "'Sup, brah?" thing.

It's hard enough to admit that I'm on the fence in the eternal Tighty Whities Vs. Boxers debate (for the record: I prefer athletic boxer briefs). Throwing Thong Vs. Teddy Vs. C-String into the mix would be enough to set me free balling again.

Awww... a lace teddy bear.

I understand, though, that there are a number of not-necessarily-gay Filipino men who actually enjoy wearing women's undergarments. They're not necessarily fetishists or cross-dressers : one simply admitted to me that he loves the soft feel of silk or satin against his nether regions, compared to say, cotton, which can sometimes be scratchy.

But that brings up the question: why not just buy silk men's boxers or briefs?

And speaking of scratchy, I think lace is nice to look at, but it looks itchy as all hell. Just imagining it sitting next to my testicles makes me want to scratch them till they're raw.

Unless you're Dennis Rodman. In which case you're far away 
enough from sanity to wear whatever you goddamn please.

If I sound like somebody put starch in my bloomers, maybe it's because I'm just an old-fashioned guy.

Or maybe because guys in panties just simply look ridiculous.

And I'm / Too sexy/ For this thong

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Just a day after he penned a "leave of presence" post in his journal, Roger Ebert - possibly the most famous film critic in the world - is dead.


"What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: 
reviewing only the movies I want to review."

Sadly, that entry would serve as his final review.

And while he did not get to do what he had always fantasized about doing, he did make his mark doing something he loved: watching and reviewing movies.

I didn't always agree with his reviews, but I made a point of reading Ebert's column as soon as I watched a film, to see where our viewpoints matched, or diverged. More often than not, he would have a few insights that escaped me, which only amplified my own post-viewing experience.

Ebert had been battling thyroid cancer for the past 12 years, and lost his voice to it in 2006. But his written voice remained strong, and until the cancer recently returned, Ebert provided an elegant, thoughtful, and humorous post-mortem to movies of all sorts. From pop dreck like Freddy Got Fingered to cinematic wonders like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ebert's was the voice that steered and guided millions along the vast expanses of what the talkies had to offer. 

Ebert was interviewed often about his thoughts on mortality, given his medical condition. One of his most poignant, yet comforting, reviews on the matter comes from one of his journal entries - cleverly titled, Ebert-esque, Go Gently Into That Good Night :

"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe 
there is nothing on the other side of death to fear.
I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. 
I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. 
What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. 
You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. 
I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir 
of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris."

I had just started skimming his journal a couple of months ago. It was a belated discovery, for I normally just went to his site for his legendary, occasionally harsh but never dull reviews. But now I shall relish reading his entries, and his takes not only on films, but on life in general.

And it's only poetic to end this entry with the final sentences in Ebert's last written piece:

"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. 
I'll see you at the movies."