There was a time when pink partying in Boracay was well-defined. Simply, you just head to Juice Bar where so-called “people like us” (i.e. men who have sex with men) congregated when darkness starts to envelope the island. Not that it was an “exclusive” gay venue, or that it was perfect; but at least most of the people who went there were members of the rainbow family.
But Juice Bar is dead.
And so now, LGBT party-goers are left with no “real” space to call their own when here. Instead, we’re “integrated” into the largely hetero venues. Which is good, in a way – after all, for those fighting for inclusion, why should our partying be any different from the rest, right? But this is also not good – heck, hetero people in venues can have PDAs, but LGBT people can’t (expect some bouncer to tell you off), so we’re not really completely “integrated”.
In Boracay, though, not all bars are (as they say) created equal (obviously!) – particularly when we consider the fun that can be had by LGBT people. And so we take a look at what the place has now, and if – should LGBT people be curious to try them – what to expect when there…
Located at Station 2, Epic is the “classy” club of Boracay. Think of this as the island’s Valkyrie – complete with the pretentiousness and social climbers and all that. For starters, this bar that used to be Hey! Jude is actually small – it’s but one flat space with a bar at one side, and the DJ booth at another side (the DJ faces outside; to the beach). The interesting thing about the “new” Epic (at least compared to the Epic I visited maybe over a year ago) is that it actually now has VIP “areas”. That is, the open dance floor, small as it is, has “divisions” (basically cordoned off areas, complete with bouncers who stand guard to make sure no once crosses the line from the “common” dance area to the space of the VIP people). By itself, this is an epic fail for me – immediately creating a “them” versus “us” feel. But – whatever! – if this is what Epic intends to achieve, then it surely succeeds in this.
The crowd is mixed, though mostly hetero. Hetero picking up is common, but not gay flirting. Instead, for the latter, what’s commonly done is the eyeing of each other, and then the actual picking up happens outside of Epic.
There is, by the way, cover charge – new to me since this wasn’t a practice in Boracay in the past – reaching P300 on a Saturday night. For that amount, you get two free drinks – watered down drinks, I must emphasize, as if they basically want you to just order more, or, better yet, order the beverages by the bottle and drink these in the VIP areas.
The music’s still good (here, this place is epic, indeed). But after you get stuffed by watery drinks (you actually feel busog/full, as if you’ve incessantly gulped water), dancing isn’t at all comfy. And so off you’d rather be from what once was the island’s happening place…
Located at Station 1 (beside the largely dead Cocomanga’s) is Paraw, a venue that can be said to have been left by time. I say this because, when there, the first thing you’d notice is the music played by the DJ – and these are not at all new. Suffice it to say, you don’t come here to dance – unless you want throwback emos/blast from the past experiences.
As with most bars in Boracay, this only has the wide(r) dance area – again with a DJ booth in one side, and a bar at another side. Many people gather around the bar area, where chatting is possible (perhaps while waiting for good music to be played).
The crowd? It’s mixed. There are actually many locals coming here, with a sprinkling of Caucasians. And, surprisingly, the people here are relatively younger (at least younger than I expected, considering the music being played).
For LGBT party-goers, what’s there? Nothing particularly pink. But if you want a venue that’s away from it all (i.e. Station 2), this is where you go.
Is Paraw worth a visit? Considering the P200 cover charge, I’m not so sure…
In the 1990s, and even the early part of the 2000s, Boracay had the likes of Bazura – popular places that many tourists frequented, so that they were also frequented by sex workers who wanted to… consult with these tourists. When these sleazy places closed, SummerPlace came into being in Station 2 to become the – arguably – face venue of so many in the sex industry.
As a side note: The “old” SummerPlace was always criticized for discriminating particularly against trans people. That is, they encourage female sex workers from going inside; but they outright bar trans sex workers from entering.
There is, however, now a “new” SummerPlace (called “ClubSummerPlace”).
The key differences include:
1. The “walling off” of the place, so it is now not accessible from all sides; instead, there’s but one main door, and there’s a big window where you can see what’s happening inside from outside.
2. The P200 cover charge.
3. Better DJ (and, yeah, sound system).
Yes, the trans people still get barred from entering the venue. But this is with some…. shall we say conditions? If you are a transwoman, and you can “pass” as a cisgender woman, then you can enter, no problem. And if you are a local, and the door bitch recognizes you as a trans sex worker, then you could be barred from entering the venue.
Yes, there are LGBT party-goers inside – something expected since this has less pretentions than Epic (the latter tends to have less people, even if SummerPlace is packed). But I also noticed that there are more GBTs (yes, the “L” was intentionally left out) staying outside the club, chatting, drinking, making out by the beach…
Located in Station 2 (between Paraw and Epic) is BonBon, a chill-out place that offers a hippy – well – everything. If you are considering going “reggae” in Boracay, then this is definitely one of the places to visit (just one; because even Yellow Cab Pizza Co. plays Bob Marley over and over and over again!).
There are cuties here. Though expect to see rastas (or those who look the stereotypical part) when here.
No, you don’t have to pay to get in.
No, you don’t need to shell out much for the drinks.
And no, you don’t have to be into reggae to like this place either.
Basically, if you’re looking for a “chill” place to be, this is definitely, DEFINITELY, worth checking out.
And the pink crowd? Again, we’re there – again, furtive glance, small touches, akbay/putting of arms over shoulders are tolerated, though (at least from what I observed) not blatant PDAs even if hetero people are allowed to smooch openly…
Not too far from BonBon is Bamboo Bungalow, a small-ish place that has: 1) the bar that has a small area fronting it where people stand to chat the night away; and 2) the “entrance” to the place which looks like a walkway, but which hosts the crowd when the area by the bar is already too packed.
Since this is a place that doesn’t have cover charge, it gets packed quickly, with the crowd young-ish, and cute-ish (though obviously followed by those who are into the young and cute).
The drinks aren’t costly, just the usual under-P100 for a bottle.
Can you dance? Sway, perhaps; but this isn’t a dance venue per se, more like a hangout place that happens to have music you can sway to.
Again, as usual, the LGBT people are integrated – and I noted how some gay men get “confused” with this, as they try to “book” obviously straight men (particularly Westerners who may just be friendly or drunk or both).
In any case, sans Epic’s pretensions, this is a cool/hip/comfy/et cetera place that’s okay to be in.
At Cocomanga’s (not too far from Paraw in Station 1), a rainbow flag is actually put on display with other flags – something that induces a happy feeling when seen. But don’t be tricked by this seeming “acceptance” of LGBT people in Boracay. Because yes, our trans sisters (e.g. sex workers) still get barred from entering particular venues; gay men are still expected to pay for sex with hetero-identifying locals who approach them; and you would still hear some people snickering, saying “Bayot!” or “Agi!” (i.e. gay/faggot) under their breath when gay people walk by.
This may be why in Boracay, many LGBT people – particularly gay men – prefer the “fringes” to be with each other. At night, walk by the beach. It may be drizzling, the tide may be high, the wind may be blowing coldly… these do not matter, you’re sure to find some LGBT people by the beach. Because it is here, away from the main “strip” of Boracay, is where they end up openly expressing who they are…