J. Nakpil corner M. Orosa Street
Malate, City of Manila
Contact: (+632) 5363045
Yes, LGBT struggle is largely to mainstream-ize LGBT issues in discussions of human rights issues. So that, it can be said, LGBT struggle is a fight against a non-accepting non-LGBT (read: heteronormative) world.
What is not always given attention is the struggle within the LGBT community – the infighting, what with the various sectors within the LGBT community seeing different ways of LGBT representation. For the gays (in the Philippines, this may well include self-identifying bisexuals even if what is meant is the compliance with heteronormative expression of self-identity, i.e. “straight-looking/acting”), the dichotomy can be said to be generally divided between the political/cause-oriented versus the party-going/commercial.
Bed Manila – whether knowingly or not, and whether it wants to or not – may well be classified as an exemplification of the latter.
Back in April 2003, when Bed Bar first opened, it was – as Jay Santos, resident DJ and VP for operations of the venue, said in an earlier interview with Outrage Magazine – “quite a smaller bar (competing with) plenty of bars around the area such as Acquario, Fidel, Mint, et cetera.” It was, nonetheless, very clear in its intention to be the “it” venue as far as dance clubs are concerned. Then, “our concept was to have an open floor, no chairs, and a pumping sound system powered by two awesome spin-meisters, DJ’s Travis Monsod and Cocoy Puyat,” said Santos, who gladly shared that “needless to say, the formula was pretty successful. We were packed to the rafters every single night.”
Within a year of its opening, and thanks to the patronage of – almost entirely – the gay market of Metro Manila, Bed Bar was able to double the size of the venue (buying out, thereby killing off, the bars beside it), with the place garbed a la any other gay bar in a Western country – e.g. construction of a new DJ booth decked out in Pioneer CDJ-1000 MKII’s, an Allen & Heath Xone 6, and double Technics turntables; installation of state-of-the-art lighting system with two new scanners and four moving heads; inclusion of TV monitors and a big video wall; installation of a new Martin Audio sound system; and the addition of a new lounge area on the first floor, as well the putting up of more cushy seats all around the club.
Gay DJs – Toy Armada, Brian Cua, Ohm, and Santos – were also added to the roster of music-spinners, so that Bed Bar became completely gay-owned and operated.
By then, the place has truly “become an integral part of the nightlife romps of the gay community,” Santos said.
On July 8, 2010, fire razed Bed Bar, forcing the closure of the (arguably) only upscale gay bar in the country. None died or was hurt, but partying a la the gays in the West took a backseat (and, it can be said, gave the likes of O Bar and Chelu the chance to shine). Not that fretting took a while, since after an extensive renovation, Bed Bar reopened on December 17 of the same year, with the reopening dubbed as the return of the “real deal,” a seeming claim to “ownership” of gay partying in Metro Manila.
The newer 600 square meter Bed Bar boasts of three storeys of “dance and music playground” designed by JKF DDC Inc., still bedecked with all the high-tech equipment.
In a press statement released to Outrage Magazine, Bed Bar’s aim this time is to “be Asia’s capital of lifestyle celebration, giving its unique market the most innovative entertainment, products, services, facilities and exceptional individuals all in one equally uniquely designed space.”
The new “battlecry”: “Live Loud. Live Proud.”
“In Bed Manila, every day is a celebration of diversity as well as individuality. It celebrates music, the soul of its home. It celebrates dance, the way we play. It will be the home of great individuals who celebrate their passion for success, love, life and freedom,” stated the company.
Advocacy-wise, it can be said that not much has changed for Bed Bar. Case in point: over-emphasis on partying for partying’s sake, which may be argued to be (still) the biggest “flaw” of Bed Bar.
Santos earlier noted the lack of venues (or avenues) for LGBT expression. Thus, “we felt strongly that we had a responsibility to act as an instrument to reach out and get (LGBT) advocacy across. If Bed Bar (is a) place where gay men and women will, at one point in their life, step into even if only to check it out, then we feel we have an obligation to (give them pertinent LGBT information), to be the messenger of change,” he said.
Admirable, obviously, is Bed Bar’s carrying out of its deemed “obligations”, as may be seen in its outreach activities, sponsorship of charities, participation in the annual Pride celebration (perhaps highlighted when Great Ancheta, one-time Bed Bar VP for marketing, himself headed for two terms Task Force Pride, the organizer of the once-a-year event), and hosting of events of various LGBT groups and organizations in Metro Manila (e.g. elitist clan gatherings).
Nonetheless, the dichotomy between the political/cause-oriented versus the party-going/commercial in the gay community is, however, highlighted by the very existence of Bed Bar (not just in the ways it carries out what it thinks its role in the local gay scene may be).
Start with the creation (not only continuing promotion) of elitism in the scene. Prior to the reopening of Bed Bar, a section was allocated for the moneyed gay men (and their friends) at the second floor of Bed Bar, many of whom are gay men who cannot be bothered joining calling for equal treatment for LGBTs even if they, too, will benefit from the cause. In the overhauled Bed Bar, the section was not only widened (looking from the ground floor, the self-proclaimed “pink elite” are enclosed in a glass cage on the second floor, where they look down on the “normal” gay people), but was made even more exclusive (they now have a floor all their own on the third, open-air floor; and they have their own entrance).
Bed Bar now charges P200.00 more than what it charged before per visit: P500.00 (which only the “normal” people, by the way, pay; many in the “elite” club social climb their way in for free). This actually highlights, on the one hand (and on the good side), the existence of the pink peso; though also highlighting, on the other hand (and on the negative side), the willing compliance of many in the gay community to (even if unknowingly) fuel (by paying for) the inequitable status quo.
There, too, is the continuing seeming apathy of Bed Bar to OPENLY promote LGBT issues. The now-defunct Government Bar (along Makati Avenue in Makati City), for instance, had posters pushing for safer sexual practices; but nary an endeavor related to curbing HIV and AIDS prevention may be seen in Bed Bar.
That Bed Bar could be more than what it is goes without saying.
Ancheta earlier told Outrage Magazine that Bed Bar “has since become the ultimate gay gathering space for meeting and making friends, dancing, and for taking part in live entertainment and events.”
This remains true after the reincarnated Bed Bar.
And this is why Bed Bar, for all the criticisms that may be thrown its way, is important (in its own way).
“(Our vision) still holds true today. We are, and always will be Manila’s hottest, sexiest, wildest, raunchiest, wackiest, loudest, hardest, biggest, silliest, funnest dance club for gay men and women, their admirers, and the city’s tourists. We will always serve the best tasting drinks and churn out the most awesome house and tribal sounds at par with the best clubs around the world. We are out, proud, and very, very loud. We are Bed Bar,” Santos earlier said to Outrage Magazine.
If the loudness that Bed Bar creates can help better the lives of gay Filipinos (as Bed Bar’s main market), then the LGBT community is indeed in for a treat. And that is both a wish and a challenge.