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In the Scene

Bt: Where the boys are in Davao City

In its third incarnation as Bt, the MSM venue known as Boyz Town or Boys Town remains as Davao City’s (arguably) most popular MSM spot – somewhat of a big feat considering this place is nothing grand, but (simply) boasts an un-pretentious ambiance for hanging out and, yes, picking up.

Boyz Town

“The party ends at 1:00 AM,” said Davao City-based NGO worker Mel, who agreed to party with us on my last night before heading out of the “durian republic”. “So says the manager, who said so said (Mayor Rodrigo) Duterte…”

We were in this small-ish MSM bar – with transwoman Jopay and self-identified bi Prime from Davao City’s Deaf LGBT group – somewhere along Jacinto Extension. Not too hard to find, if you know where you’re headed; though easy to miss, nonetheless, if you aren’t looking for it.

This is Bt, where – as Mel said – Davao City’s better looking and (this one’s important) “attitude-less” MSM hang out to be with “other PLUs (people like us).”

Ask any (self-respecting) Davao City-based gay or bisexual male, and he’d surely know where Bt is.  This is because the “original” venue opened over 10 years ago, making this place the only such bar to exist this long.  But this place has undergone numerous incarnations, though (despite the constant re-birth, and under different ownerships and managements at that, too) it is still widely known as BoyzTown/Boyz Town or Boys Town/Boys’ Town or, in its current form (and as the logo on the front door states), just Bt.

But, no, this isn’t a grandiose place.

It’s actually but a small place – a loft-like venue, with the downstairs area able to host over 50 people (tightly gathered together), and the upstairs area able to host 30 more people (also tightly gathered together).  There are tables outside, too, for 20 or more people – though because of the 1:00 AM curfew, there are more who prefer to stay inside even if the place gets (too) packed (for it to still be comfy).

But exactly because it’s a small-ish place, is why many flock to it. People know people. They chat. They say hello. They smile.  And for the too-obvious tourist like me (current state: long hair, so VERY non-clone-like for a gay person), they stare, craning heads to check out the “stranger” in their midst.

This is a community of sorts.
Of Davao City’s MSM.

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They gather to catch up with friends – many tables surrounded by rowdy friends, speaking in a combination of Bisaya, English and Filipino, toasts made now and then.
They gather to let their hair down – many MSM with their female friends, perhaps out for a few drinks after a hectic day at work.
They gather to celebrate – no, not necessarily Pride, but just togetherness (e.g. there was an exclusive party on the upstairs area when I visited).
They gather to drink cheaply – whether they party with others, or just by themselves, MSM sure can spend P220 for a bucket (of SML or Ice Tanduay or Pale Pilsen).
And they gather to cruise – the “perving” that MSM do too apparent to be ignored, with the stares that won’t go away once targets are found.

There’s singing, too.
Bt is, after all, a singalong bar.
And no, good voice is not a prerequisite – particularly because just about everyone singing may already have had a drink or two by the time their r turns come.
But that they have fun, that’s apparent.

And yes, there were some cuties.
Prime, signing in Filipino Sign Language, noted one or two – who Mel then said are actually together. And then Jopay, right beside me, pointed one or two, too.
Cuties – let’s qualify – in the typical Muscle Mary-leaning kind of way (not that there were many Muscle Mary’s, mind you; but there were many posing as such).

But – alas! – before the party even started (for me, at least), the clock struck 1:00.
The party’s over.
The bar will have to be closed, or face Duterte’s wrath.
Which is weird for me, with the partying I know ACTUALLY starting at 1:00, NOT ending at that same time.

“The (local) law’s the law,” the nice shorts-wearing manager said, smiling somewhat… bitterly.
And it’s a bitterness I understand.
Because, yet again, what we do (in this case, gathering or partying, depending on how one looks at the coming together) is getting pushed underground.
And criminalizing something is NOT ALWAYS the best way to deal with what may be perceived as “bad” practices (even if, for us, it’s just partying, for Pete’s sake!).

And so we packed our bags (figuratively), chatted a while along Jacinto Street (even meeting Mel’s somewhat inebriated hubby), and then headed home.

Not surprisingly (perhaps because of the lack of gay space after 1:00 AM), many MSM still arrived while we were chatting – gathering in clusters while catching up with people they know, or like… or maybe both.
The boys coming together

Because, truly, in Davao City, it is at Bt where the boys really must collate.

Bt is at Door D, The Site, Jacinto Ext. corner Mapa St., Davao City.

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).


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