J. Nakpil corner M. Orosa St.
Malate, City of Manila
J. Vargas, Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Not everybody knows this – I most certainly didn’t, at least not for a while – but Malate in the City of Manila, that gay capital before gayness started to spread all over Metro Manila (and the whole Philippines, thankfully), is actually alive the whole week now. Add to this the Home Depot area along J. Vargas in Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Much like the scene is in the West, you can now go partying from Monday to Sunday – largely thanks to O Bar’s Malate and Ortigas branches, if I may say so.
Why am I saying so?
Joy Bar used to be Malate – then there were Mint/Babylon, Red Banana, Biology Café, and Rainbow Pride, among others. When everything closed, the one that stayed open was Bed Bar, so much so that partying was dictated by Bed Bar’s owners’ whims and caprices; usually, that’s only from Thursday to Saturday (at times Wednesdays, or other regular days, for that matter, for special events). This would be a major factor in the rise of O Bar, which fulfilled the need to party whenever – which is what it does now, providing a venue to let the hair down even on a Sunday or a Monday or a Tuesday.
The surprise is, a lot of people actually flock to O Bar on these days – and NOT just in the Malate branch, but also in Ortigas. Maybe because it’s when they are off work (e.g. call center agents), or, as it is overseas, maybe simply because we need a place to party whenever we want to. So if/when in the lookout for relatively newer (i.e. younger) community members, O Bar is the place to be at…
And then there’s the price – from P150 (Monday to Thursday, and Sunday) and from P250 (Friday to Saturday), it’s a bargain compared with Bed Bar’s P300 to P350 (Friday to Saturday), especially since P150 is good for three bottles of beer or a glass of cocktail drink, while P300 is just good for a bottle or glass of cocktail drink.
Yes, admittedly, the place in Manila is small – as small as the ground floor of Bed Bar used to be. To those familiar with the former places used to be there (Red Banana), which occupied two floors (now, the upper floor is a shop, Top or Bottom), this is noticeable – but then again, when performers do their acts, the expression “packed like sardines” comes to mind, seemingly a warning that should there be a stampede, someone’s bound to get hurt for sure (not that the community heeds warnings…).
The place in Ortigas isn’t that different, either – packed to the full, so that “fire hazard” easily comes to mind.
Not that most would complain, actually. It’s tight spaces that appeal to gays, after all – makes groping easier, truth be told (and it happens in O Bar, too). On this, just stay closer to the dance floor, closer to the main door, those who are claustrophobic (or even semi-claustrophobics). Having said these, near the door (it only has one main one) is where best to stay in O Bar, as it’s safest, and it’s where you see everyone entering – disadvantage is it’s the farthest from the toilet, as it’s way, way at the back (near back entry, which most aren’t allowed to use), so that peeing means going out to do so.
That the place can get really, REALLY full is actually part of the appeal of O Bar (both branches). After all, this ensures that – with guys aplenty – booking is almost always certain (if this is the intention). Else, for the non-bookingera, it just means you’d be surrounded by many PLUs (err, people like us).
Music, by the way, is nothing to rave about. In fact, while Ortigas’ is at least dance-able, Malate’s is… sad, with a DJ (or DJs) often using the same transitional effects/sounds, so that all the songs end up sounding like each other (and not in any good way). And, no, the sound system is nothing great – so don’t expect to “feel” the music here.
- In Ortigas, those staying in front of the ledge (front and back) tend to be desperate (unless there are performances), so either avoid them or avoid looking like one of them;
- In both branches, the snobs (whether they look good or not) tend to stay at the bar area;
- In Manila, when outside, the supposedly “in” people stay closest to the main door (the problem is, City of Manila’s mayor Alfredo Lim disallows and then allows and then disallows and then… the placement of the tables outdoors, so being able to sit outside is an on/off thing).
- In both branches, be careful of pickpockets, as there are many of them INSIDE the bars. In Manila, too, those children who pretend to sell stuff (or are maybe really selling stuff) could be pickpockets, too – no intent to generalize here, just words of warning since many of these children have been caught (and then just let go) stealing from patrons.
All in all, though, if it’s partying ANY TIME that’s wanted (needed even), then head off to any of the branches of O Bar – the gay place that is always open.