A hooded guy nodded at us when we got off the car. And then, while I was taking photos of the façade of the venue, that same guy tried to grab the phablet of Josh, a close friend who was with us. Failing to get the gadget, the guy then rushed across the street, where an accomplice of his was waiting on a motorcycle. They immediately sped off.
That was how we were introduced to Pepper Haus, perhaps the ONLY LGBT-specific (though mostly MSM-centric) venue in Biñan, Laguna.
That occurrence may highlight: 1. The pending danger that may meet those who’d visit the place (or how unsafe it may be), or 2) How criminals profile LGBT partygoers as easy prey, so they wait where we gather so they can try to victimize us.
It was, therefore, with gladness that we stepped inside to be surrounded by… yes… people like us.
According to Dennis Lucero, co-owner of the venue, Pepper Haus was established on June 2012 by Katherine Fajardo. It was only later when Lucero came onboard as a shareholder.
The place is, in a word, simple. Boxy/box-like, it is divided into three “parts” – i.e. 1. A stage is in front; 2. The tables for the guests occupy the entire space between the main door and the stage; and 3. At the right is the bar/kitchen/DJ booth/path to the dressing area for the performers.
There’s nothing fancy about the place – e.g. expect to see monoblocs, and well-used tables, arranged so closely together so that passing through (to go to pee, for instance) can be tricky at times.
The offerings are somewhat varied; and – this has to be said – priced a la bars in Metro Manila. For instance, nachos sell for P180; lomi for P120; squid balls for P100; crispy pata from P350 to P450; and peanuts for P70.
NOT that people come here for the cuisines; instead, it is (often) to spend time with other LGBT people (friends or not) while enjoying alcohol. And the prices of the drinks are sorta high too – e.g. Emperador from P320 to P420 (depending on freebies). At least the beers are… affordable – e.g. Red Horse from P60 to P120; San Miguel Light for P60; and beer bucket for P350.
Yes, they sell cigarettes for (Marlboro 20s) for P100.
The original bar actually burned in October 2016, taken down by the same fire that started from an adjacent bar. But after 2.5 months, the new bar that is there now came to be.
WHY GO THERE
Now, even if the prices of the goods may be a source of worry for some (note that the present minimum wage in CALABARZON, where Laguna is located, only ranges from P267.00 to P349.50 per day), Pepper Haus is a must-check for various reasons.
First, it IS the only MSM-centric bar in Biñan, Laguna, so if one wants to be surrounded by PLUs, this is the place to go to there.
“Right from the start, we envisioned our bar to be dominated by members of the LGBT community,” Lucero said. This is also why the name of the place is “Pepper Haus”, poking fun at “pepper” or “paminta” in Filipino, which is the same word used in gay lingo to refer to “straight-acting/looking gay men”. “We saw the potential in investing in a place where LGBT members can freely express themselves and socialize with one another,” Lucero added.
Second, the venue is aware of its role in the cohesively gathering LGBT community members. For instance, to “give back to the LGBT community”, Pepper Haus hosts HIV testing for its customers. Better yet, to help promote safer sex, “we also give out free condoms as a way of reminding everyone to have safer sex at all times,” Lucero said.
Third, Pepper Haus has long become a “community center” of sorts. There are instances when the venue is used to raise funds “for needy LGBT members, especially those who became our regular patrons,” Lucero said.
And then, of course, there’s the fun that can be had while there – e.g. some performers coming all the way from Metro Manila flock to perform; and Laguna’s cuties may be seen to gather here.
WHY AVOID THE PLACE
It goes without saying that this won’t be a place for everyone (no place ever is, hello!). If you’re not from the area and you don’t have a car and commuting isn’t for you, then coming over may be out of the question. If you’re easily scared by risks (READ: the intro to this article) that may be encountered when in a new/strange place, you may have second thoughts coming over. And if you have budget issues, you may not necessarily have fun here, too.
All the same, though, Pepper Haus is definitely a must-check out venue because – in a world that continues to push LGBT people into the fringes – this is one place at least in Biñan, Laguna where you can let your hair down and may actually be celebrated for it. Pink heaven knows we don’t have enough of those places, so that every one that exists – no matter their limitations – is worth highlighting…
So head to Biñan, Laguna and find the rainbow explosion at Pepper Haus.
Pepper Haus is located along the National Highway, Biñan, Laguna, five minutes away from McDonalds Olivares. Landmarks: IETI, Yamaha showroom and Olivarez Complex (very near the crossing).