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Alchology: Alternative venue

Described as an “alternative venue” for Cebu City’s MSM who do not want to be identified as such, Alchology is not exactly a bad place for hanging out. But the place’s promise is not completely fulfilled, says Kiki Tan.

This is, in not so many words, the “alternative venue” for men who have sex with men (MSM) who do not want to be identified as such.

Daghan man gud bi* sa (There are too many ‘bisexual’ men at) Numero Doce,” said one Cebuano – a self-identified “regular clubber” who knows the “ins and outs of Cebu City’s party scene”. “Most of us opt to head to this place near it, instead.”

That place is Alchology at Mango Square, which host a collection of restobars in downtown Cebu City.

Charging from P100 (normal days; else the rate increases to a few hundreds when there are special events, such as when international DJs head to Cebu City) as cover charge, Alchology is a one-floor establishment divided into three sections: two lounge areas (left and right of the club), complete with comfy sofas surrounding coffee tables; and the dance area in the middle (of the lounge areas), complete with rows of cocktail tables (with four stools allocated per table) for those who want to be close to the dance area (or, simply, failed to get one of the cozier sofas). At the very front of the dance area is the DJ booth, wide enough to host not just the DJs (at times three at a time), but also their friends (usually sexily clothed girls), or the friends of their friends (even more girls, gyrating to the music).

Venue-wise, Alchology is actually relatively big – no surprise since this was actually a former department store (the bar by the side of the door used to be the baggage area).  As a relatively big place, it is airy enough; this becomes important when in Cebu City, since smoking indoors is still allowed.  It is this size, too, that gives it some… class. Or at least touches of it, e.g. check those huge chandeliers all over the place, more suited to, say, dining venues than this generally dark place; and those heavy front doors, akin to some of those used in bars in Hong Kong, Sydney, and even New York.

Worth highlighting is the venue’s lighting, which, albeit not as grand as to encompass the entire venue (e.g. note how the lounge areas remain… gloomy), still tells you that money was spent here.  And then there’s the sound system, with the thump-thumping to be felt, so that – not surprisingly – many of the dancers sway to the music not just heard, but actually felt.

No, you don’t come here to drink (on offer are beers priced from P50 per bottle; and no, there are no specialty drinks to rave about) or to eat (only the usual pulutan are on offer).

And this key point (i.e. going there to dance) is why visiting Alchology made me sad. Why? Because the music sucked. Yes, occasionally, you’d be placed at the present, with Nicky Minaj’s “Starship” mixed with Rihanna’s “Where Have Your Been”.  And then, suddenly, you’d be thrown in the… tacky past, with hyper-extended versions of the likes of Mousse T’s “Horny” and Diana King’s “Shy Guy”. The mixing wasn’t good, too, almost sounding canned (think of the annoying mixing of O Bar in Malate, City of Manila) – except that you can see DJs take turns as they make attempts to do mixes.

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Having said this, though, one question remains: Is Alchology worth a visit?

I’d say yes.

But – at least for me – only if/when:

  • You’re hanging out with het friends (not too different from the likes of Gilligan’s or Pier One, in a way; though this could also necessitate you looking after your female friends, who could get too drunk and be put at risk for who-knows-what…);
  • You want to see where those who live as MSM, but are afraid to be identified as such occasionally or regularly hang out;
  • You want to observe how some women attempt to flirt with good-looking (usually muscled and well-clothed) MSM; or
  • You just want to dance and hope (against all hopes) that the music will somehow turn good at some point of the night.

This is, by no means, a criticism-for-criticism’s sake of the place.  After all, Alchology is way better than the nearby J Ave. (which – for all its appeal – may be criticized for the blatant sex work happening inside) or Hybrid (it may have looked like a cozy hang-out, but it emitted a sleazy feel…). But the place can certainly be much, much better…

As for Alchology being an alternative venue for “straight-acting/straight-looking” MSM supposedly because the “out” MSM are not there? Not completely true (you know the now-clichéd “we’re queer, we’re here, get used to it” is true EVEN in Alchology) – and this is a good thing, too…

Here is a caveat: my perspective of Alchology may be too… subjective; so go check it out yourself, and – who knows – your experience may be much, much better.

*As frequently used in the Philippines, “bisexual” actually refers to “straight-acting/straight-looking” men who do not self-identify as gay or bakla because the former are considered to still act like men, versus the latter who are considered to want to be like women because they are perceived to be effeminate/pa-girl. This does not necessarily refer to behavior (with many of those who self-identify as bisexual are actually NOT attracted/never experienced attraction with the opposite sex); instead, it refers to identification with gender expression (i.e. “straight-acting/straight-looking”). This is considered by many as an expression of internal homophobia.

To check Alchology, head to Mango Square in Cebu City. While it’s open on weekdays, visiting on weekends guarantee bigger – and better – crowds, so that partying could continue until past 7:00 A.M.

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