Lower your expectations.
That may not be the best way to entice people to check out a place – in this case, a bar – but it definitely is the most honest. That is, if you want to appreciate the possibilities of this place, I’d have to say for you to leave your expectations at home; instead, just keep an open mind. A very open mind, for that matter, about the scene that exists outside Metro Manila, and how it tries not only to exist but to thrive.
Having said this (shall we say, warning?), welcome to Awrahan Resto and Bar (at times only referred to as ARB), the only pink venue in Marikina City. More a sing-along bar than a restobar, this place was so named because it attempts to be a place of “awra” the gay-created word referring to the act of making one open to advances, or doing the advances (as in: sensing one’s aura to ascertain if one is interested/interesting).
The place is actually small – more akin to an apartment-turned-into-a-bar, the place occupies the ground floor of one of the semi-commercial units along Katipunan St. in Marikina City. You can tell it’s a bar because of the wooden tables placed outside (four of them, each able to seat from four customers).
From outside, you can see the inside because of the glass door and front wall – and even from that, you can see that the place isn’t all that grand. While facing the bar, you can see at your right a small stage. Seven to eight tables (again, each able to seat from four) are scattered; though the number of tables vary as these are often connected to accommodate bigger groups of people. Chairs are wooden; though there were some metal chairs (add-ons to the wooden ones).
A bar is at the far end of the place; though this isn’t much use to the customers, since there are waiters who move around to take the orders (that is, you need not go to the bar at all).
Yes, there’s a second floor, but this isn’t part of the bar per se; instead, it is used by the place’s owner for accommodation.
The lighting is… basic. Even if you’re on something, and you want to see the lights dance (as you would in, say, Bed Bar), this place isn’t where you’d go for that.
The sound system? Nothing great; at times, even crappy (a friend I was with was actually apprehensive singing, fearing he’d sound worse than he already is, HA HA).
WHY GO THERE
Having said these, though, the question that needs to be asked is if Awrahan is worth even checking.
I’d say there are reasons to do so.
For one, if you’re a Marikina local, and heading out of Marikina isn’t an option, well then Awrahan IS the only place for you to check. Yes, there are other bars in the city (particularly along the riverbank), but this is the only LGBT bar here. Established three years ago, it used to be only one of the two such venues in the city; but with Budoy folding when its owner died, this is the one pink place in Marikina City.
Secondly, if you wanna check out the Marikina crowd, this is arguably a place to consider doing so. I have a friend who wants to have sex at least once with guys from different Metro Manila schools; another who wants to have sex at least once with guys from member States of the UN; and another who wants to have sex at least once with guys from the member countries of EU. In all instances, they wanna know if the guys from these different places have a different/peculiar taste. Now, if you are curious about the taste of a Marikina (gay/’bi) guy, Awrahan is a good place to start your search.
Thirdly, as is expected in LGBT places outside Metro Manila, the “gay attitude” is almost always nil here. For example, people are… under-dressed (think slippers), so that the snootiness that comes with, say, being wrapped from head to toe by big brands just isn’t here.
Fourthly, there’s a sense of community here. Hear the standup comedienne (i.e. Charmie) call the regulars by their first names, and realize that hey, these people know each other.
Fifthly, the host (see above) Charmie is a… charm. The wit is not so different from the standup comics of Metro Manila’s bars (say, The Library); but it’s refreshing seeing how well the comedic approach is used in a different context.
Sixthly, if you wanna sing for the sake of singing, then head here.
And lastly, the crowd mix is interesting. The bar opens at 5:00PM, and from then until 10:00PM to 11:00PM, it is frequented by breeders (I mean, hets). After then, the LGBT crowd (and their ever-supportive friends, usually female friends) stay until (get this!) 6:00AM. So if you wanna see how a pink place is actually a party place of everyone, this is a good study somewhat.
WHY AVOID IT
Now, you may say that this is such a build-up, so you may as well head there now.
Well, my dear, as was first said, just lower the expectations. Because there are reasons why you may not want to be there, too.
If Marikina sounds… out-of-this-world for you, then heading there to check this one place is obviously not going to please you. Particularly if you don’t even drive, and you have a hard time finding/accessing this place…
If you want hot Muscle Mary’s, this isn’t the place for you, too. I am sure Marikina has its share of hot queens; but I’m quite certain this is not where they congregate.
If you want a (sound and lighting) system that rocks, then… don’t come over, too.
And if you want a venue where you can “feel” the place’s quality (Do you remember Acquario in Malate in the olden times?), then this place’s somewhat home-y feel isn’t gonna make you have fun.
IN THE END
Again, should you check this out?
The venue isn’t grand. No, it isn’t as dilapidated as, say, Pink Manila or even Starlites; but this is no Bed Bar or O Bar, either.
The drinks are basic (Heck, many even drink Emperador, instead of ordering a bucket of beer or a pitcher of cocktails!).
The food is so-so (e.g. the kropek looked tempting; but it’s just… kropek).
The guys aren’t all laglag-panty (that is, so hot your knickers drop off you).
But let me tell you this: By providing a safer space for LGBT people in these parts of the Philippines, this place is – even conceptually – already a success.