We have written about the death of Malate – the once LGBT (okay, maybe just gay) capital of Metro Manila. While, in the past, Malate had just about everything – from the high-end restos like Fidel, to the a la Queer as Folk’s Babylon like Mint, to the hang-out havens like Batavia and Café Breton, to the sleazy Biology Café, and so on – nowadays, the place is more akin to a (for the lack of better word) graveyard than a “happening” place.
Gone are the parties – indoors (i.e. inside such clubs as Joy, Mint, Bed 1, Red Banana, and even the Red Banana 2) or outdoors (i.e. the streets of Maria Orosa and Julio Nakpil).
Gone are the diners (e.g. Pepe and Pilar, anyone?).
Gone are the suck/fuck-and-go venues (e.g. think Red Banana).
Gone, even, are the sex workers who used to be commonplace along Julio Nakpil, Adriatico, and at the vicinity of Philippine Women’s University (along Taft).
Gone are the street parties – Red Party in February, White Party in June, and Black Party in October/November.
And gone is the Pride, which used to be celebrated here every year.
Malate is no more.
Having said this, though, there is one place that remains a reminder (leftover, even) of the past: Che’lu.
Che’lu is a club/bar right in the middle of where the action used to be in Malate. In the past, it used to occupy a smaller place – but with the growth of Malate, it saw fit to buy the space beside it, so that it became one of the relatively bigger party spaces in the area. Even now, it keeps the big space.
That the place used to be two places is apparent when you go inside – there are posts/poles in the middle of the place, hindering the view of those who just entered the place of what’s in front.
At the left side is a bar; at the right is a ledge, where the dancers do their stuff, or where the performers do their stuff, too.
There are high tables scattered everywhere – with “empty” spaces near the ledge for people to dance, and more spaces near the bar for people to pass through.
At the very front, facing the crowd, is the DJ booth; and right beside it, the entry to the toilet.
Look-wise, this is but a typical gay club/bar…
WHY GO THERE
But because it’s typical may be why you should consider checking it out. This is particularly since – if/when you are in Malate – there aren’t any other typical gay place to go to anymore. With Che’lu as the last one standing, you really have no other choice.
At times, of course, the crowd thickens – e.g. Halloween, when there is a special party being held. And at times like this, the place gets packed; so that being there is, well, worth it.
At times, too, the cuties (still) frequent the place. Not surprisingly, if I may add, since so many of the universities of Metro Manila are nearer here (than, say, O Bar or Bed Bar). As such, those who are too – well – lazy to head to Greenfield or Ortigas or Cubao or Tomas Morato just stay here.
If you wanna go dancing, this is the place to check. This is because the other bars now specialize in ogling. That is, men who self identify as straight dance (sometimes almost naked), while the gay guys lust after them. We have reverted back to the go-go boys’ days – only this time, they have gone mainstream, and we gave them some class.
Of course, for those who want to get a sense (some sense) of what Malate may have been in the past may benefit from checking this place out. Now and then, the place offers glimpses of that…
WHY AVOID IT
Not that this place is, for me, always a must-visit.
The music SUCKS. The DJ starts with a good intro, and then mixes that with this generic-sounding canned “something”, and then segues into the next good intro, and then mixed that again with this generic-sounding horrible sound. It is sooooooooooooooooo… 2000s.
The cover charge is over-the-top. Asking for P300 on a slow Saturday night is a rip-off, if you ask me. Even if that goes with three bottles of beer (thus, you basically pay P100 per bottle; still cheaper than O bar or Bed Bar).
Malate is – sadly – dead. So it isn’t fair to expect to find the fun that this part of Metro Manila used to offer in the four corners of Che’lu, even if it is the last gay club/bar from the olden times that remains in the area.
Without the expectations, this place may actually be okay. Otherwise, head elsewhere – with an occasional looking-back with visits to this place if only to reminisce what partying once was in Metro Manila.
Che’lu is located at 1802 Maria Orosa Street (at the corner of Julio Nakpil corner Maria Orosa Street), Malate, City of Manila.
For more information, visit Che’lu’s Facebook page.