Before gay fun left Malate (in the City of Manila) to start heading to Quezon City, Palawan 1 was already in every gay radar. No, this isn’t exactly a hip place – for those looking for hipper gay/MSM venues in these parts of Metro Manila, Palawan 2 along Yale Street , Buddhakan along Aurora Blvd. (not too far from Palawan 1), or Starlites that is also along Westpoint Street, may be better alternatives. But Palawan 1 has its appeal that managed to make it (somewhat of) a must-visit in the past – and this appeal still manages to make this place worth checking.
The establishment is divided into four “parts”. The first part, which is what you’ll see as soon as you enter the main door (for a fee of P50.00 on weekdays; and more on weekends), is a non-airconditioned place that has over 30 tables facing a mini-stage where stand-up comedians/drag performers perform; and where those who want to belt their hearts out can sing (after they are “interviewed”/belittled/whatever by the host/s of the evening).
The second part is at the back portion of the first portion – the two segregated by a coffin-like door, since the second part is (supposedly) airconditioned. This part has no hosts who will facilitate the wannabe performers. Instead, those who want to sing will have to choose songs from a songbook, and then queue their choices via the place’s karaoke system. Here, there are approximately 20 tables.
The third part is off the right side of the first part. Technically, this is but a car park; but the place’s owners – maybe after realizing that the place can earn more – put some tables there, so there is a spillover of clients to the outdoors. Yes, this place is not well lit – but this makes it “ideal” for those trying to make “bookings”.
The fourth part is, technically, not a separate part of the third part; instead, at one side of the third part is where the cases of the drinks/beers are placed/stocked. There’s an “aisle” in the middle of the two rows of these cases of beers, which lead to a small opening in the end. The “aisle” and that opening – dark as they are – have been turned into this place’s “dark room”.
But let’s be completely honest: this place is nothing spectacular.
Yes, the drinks are affordable (P220.00 per bucket of five beers).
Yes, the shows can be fun, even if they are nothing great (but – as a friend said – still way, WAY better than the “best” performances we’ve seen in Cambodia, where lip syncing to EVEN Madonna’s Like a Virgin could not be done properly).
Yes, there can be cuties – many you’d not see in more “elitist” gay/MSM venues; and may from the edges of Metro Manila (e.g. Valenzuela, Cainta, et cetera).
And yes, letting your hair down in a comparatively unpretentious place can be fun (hey, even the tone-deaf can sing here!).
But be prepared for: 1) the stench, since the place can be mapanghi (smell of urine), particularly the venue’s first part (where the loo is located); 2) slow service (at times, the waiters seem unable to accommodate the big number of people flocking to the place); 3) dirty stuff (be sure to check those glasses before pouring drinks into them…); 4) the heat (no proper ventilation + lotsa men equals…); 5) theft, with the hosts themselves warning the patrons to be careful (particularly when visiting the dark rooms); and 6) possible drunken fights (I’ve seen hets picking fights with gays in the place, too).
And yet, just drop by. Because while it isn’t for everyone, it may just be the place you’d like…
Palawan 1 is located along Westpoint Street in Cubao, Quezon City.