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Red Banana: Attempts to re-ignite parts of the past

Re-introducing Red Banana – which opened where Bed Bar used to be when it was still in Malate in the City of Manila – as a venue that tries to recapture what made these parts of the city the gay capital of Metro Manila for years.

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Red Banana2For those who can remember the Red Banana of the past, it was one of the… naughtiest (bear with me as I’m trying to stay PG here…) mainstream places Metro Manila has ever known. Yes, it had an area where you can dance the night away while drinking whatever you can grab; but what made it – uhmm… – appealing was its “special” areas where you can “hang out” with whoever caught your fancy at the dance floor/bar/restroom. It was, in not so many words, akin to Queer as Folk’s Babylon.

With the changing face of Malate as the gay capital of Metro Manila, that version of Red Banana disappeared – along with everything naughty. And we were left with bars that – more than anything – stressed on social impressions (i.e. social climbing). Fun (the Red Banana type) was seemingly relegated to… oblivion.

But when Malate’s existing bars post-Red Banana folded (only to re-open elsewhere), one of the main venues that served as party central for gay Manilans re-opened as (well…) Red Banana. And so we now have Red Banana 2.0.

VENUE IN FOCUS

Bed Bar – just before its venue closed in Malate – had two entrances: one was for the “normal” people (the ones who actually paid money to get into the bar), and another for the VIPs (those who were supposedly moneyed, but – embarrassingly – entered the bar without even paying). The entrance for the normal people is now the entrance of Red Banana, while the entrance for VIPs is a lounge.

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On weekends, the divider that separates Red Banana and the lounge is opened, making for a larger venue. This is somewhat of a necessity, considering that weekends see the grand performances (in these days, these include drag acts and go-go boys – though Red Banana’s versions are not as naked as O Bar’s or Bed Bar’s).

What used to be the upper floors of Bed Bar’s former Malate venue are also separate venues. In fact, that section of Bed Bar where the go-go boys used to shower is now a stage, complete with two semi-grand staircases that lead almost to a small-ish dance area fronting the cocktail tables.

Looking at the stage, the bar is at the left (same with the old Bed Bar); while the toilet is still near the exits (also same with the old Bed Bar).

Thus, Red Banana is, therefore, considerably small. Made even more apparent when it gets full (and it DOES get too full at times)…

PLUSES AND MINUSES

That it’s small works for this venue, however, since many of the people going there sort of stay friendly to each other. It’s almost like a small community, with new meats (uhmm… faces, I mean) coming in. That people stay friendly is worth highlighting because, sans the presence of the pushy bouncers of O Bar in Ortigas, for instance, Red Banana remains welcoming.

Red BananaBy the way, I have yet to hear of theft happening in Red Banana. I remembered blacking out on my first night there, but when I woke up, my phone and cash remained with me…

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The performances aren’t all bad, either – on weekends, shows could last for 40 minutes (!), well worth the cover charge paid.

The cover charge (at P250 on weekends) is also a come on. O Bar charges up to P400 (also on weekends), offering a less personal gay space, so that – for me – Red Banana seems like a more sensible option.

Truth be told, the sound system of the old Bed Bar when it was in this same venue was way better – you could “feel” and not just hear the music. But – particularly when already tipsy or drunk – Red Banana’s more than suffices.

The music? Think pop most times. House was thrown now and then, I think – but I am not so sure anymore; I must have been way too drunk at those times I was there, simply swaying to what was being played.

And the boys? Yeah, there were cuties around. But you are more to run into people you may be familiar with when malate used to be the “it” place. Those who are not are the newbies…

HEAD OUT

Having started this coverage with a chat about the “naughty” Red Banana of the past, it’s worth stressing that Red Banana 2.0 is not at all “naughty.” So forget Babylon expectations – this one’s simply for clubbing.

But sans that, however, is Red Banana worth a check?

Yes, if you miss the “old” Malate.

Yes, if you want to see many of the “old” crowds.

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Yes, if you wanna be in a closer knit community of gay/”bi” men.

Yes, if you believe you should not be ripped off your hard-earned cash just to be in a gay space.

Yes, if you’d rather be in a safer gay space.

Yes, if you want a big production with less (not totally eliminated) the unnecessary male dancers for the male idolatry.

Yes, if you want to be in a place where you can still chat with who you are with while… doing all of the above.

Oh, well, just head to Red Banana, which somehow captures how Malate was before the scene as we now know it spread too wide and too thinly…

Red Banana is located at the (former) Orosa-Nakpil Courtyard, which is at the corner of Ma. Orosa and J. Nakpil Street, Malate, City of Manila. Cover charge is P250 on weekends, with one free drink.

"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." With this, this one writes about... anything and everything.

In the Scene

5 Reasons why you should consider watching PETA’s ‘Rak of Aegis’

We take another look at “Rak of Aegis” to see what makes this iteration worth it…

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In the later part of 2012, PETA’s artistic director Maribel Legarda had a chat with Liza Magtoto about making a musical using the songs of Aegis (the group that gave Filipinos the can’t-be-escaped “Basang-basa sa Ulan”, among others). We know the approach re making of such a musical, of course; overseas, “Mamma Mia!” has been making waves (and lots of money) by using the songs of AbBBA; ditto “Across the Universe” that uses the songs of The Beatles.

Though that chat was – in a way – partly a joke, Magtoto said that the musical that “had a Pinoy soul in it” eventually came to life because: 1. if you’re a Filipino, there’s really no way to escape Aegis (Hello “Halik!”); and 2. if you listen closely to the lyrics of Aegis songs, you’d eventually understand why they “click” (e.g. “Basang-basa sa Ulan” has a line: “Ngunit hero, bumabangon pa rin”).

And so – eventually – “Rak of Aegis” came to life (the title a play at “Rock of Ages”).

That was around 2013, when the “rock comedy musical” was (first) rolled out. And now, for the Nth time, PETA is rolling it out again…

We take another look at “Rak of Aegis” to see what makes this iteration worth it…

1. Providing a “current” look at current issues…

“Rak of Aegis”, for me, remains relevant because it tells a story that’s valid on our times.
To start, there’s climate change, and how this particularly affects poorer places (say, a country like the Philippines).

“Rak of Aegis” tells the story of Aileen (and the people around her) who lives in Barangay Venizia, a place submerged in flood waters for two months already. The flood has already affected the livelihood of the locals (e.g. shoemaking); and is affecting other aspects in the lives of the locals (e.g. her mother has leptospirosis, a disease spread by contact with water contaminated by the urine of infected animals).

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Though she works (as a saleslady, a contractual worker), Aileen falsely and blindly believes that their way out is for her to be famous (I’d say: “Welcome to this famewhoring generation”). So she kept trying to make a YouTube video to make some “noise”, hoping that the “likes” she gets will save her, her family, and the entire barangay.

Aileen eventually gets her wish, forcing the cause of the flooding (i.e. absence of a sewerage system in a nearby subdivision development) to surface; the enterprising spirit of people (e.g. holding a concert in a flooded area) to become apparent; and opportunism to be seen (e.g. surfacing of other wannabe celebs to follow Aileen’s footsteps)…

All these issues are “now” issues; and kudos for PETA for being able to roll them into a “rock comedy musical”…

2. A glimpse at intersectionality.

Yes, there are poor people. And poverty is NOT (only) because people are lazy. Their contexts need to be considered – e.g. access to education, access to opportunities, et cetera.

Yes, the Internet can help popularize issues; but keyboard activism – on its own – is NOT the solution. Being proactive in developing efforts offline/in the real/physical world is just as important.

Yes, opportunists abound (e.g. real estate developers that don’t give shit for the environment so long as they get ROI); but “kaput sa patalim” (that “opportunism” because people are left with no choice) is also existent (e.g. we put up with shitty proposals from those in power because… it’s not like we really have any choice).

All these – and more – are tackled (lightly or in-depth) by “Rak of Aegis”…

3. Worthy production…

PETA – being PETA – is expected to produce good shows; and this is no exemption.

Take the set design (by Mio Infante) that may look simplistic; but gives life to Barangay Venizia as a water-swallowed place (i.e. with an actual “flooded” canal in the middle).

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The lighting (by Jonjon Villarreal) more than helps set the atmosphere of the scenes; it also – for me – highlighted specific moments/people worth highlighting. Think of the character Tolits (Pepe Herrera in the production watched for this review), who had more than one, two or even three breakout scenes; all of them emphasized by how well he was literally given the spotlight.

PETA’s facilities aren’t as big as, say, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). But that it was able to make the most of what it has is praiseworthy…

4. The cast, the cast…

When I first saw “Rak of Aegis”, somewhat-celeb Aicelle Santos was the lead (as Aileen), supported by the likes of Jon Santos (Fernan, the real estate developer); Kakai Bautista (Mercy, the mother); Isay Alvarez-Sena/Bayang Barrios/Jenine Desiderio (as Mary Jane, the barangay captain, and former GF of the father); and Robert Sean/Noel Cabangon (as Kiel, the father of Aileen). That this is a star-studded affair is… a given; so for stargazers, this is an opportunity to see these celebrated thespians performing.

Santos is still with the production, though Shaira Opsimar was the Aileen seen for the review. Adept in the role, Opsimar is unlike Santos; with Opsimar, she is easily “swallowed” by her bigger-named co-performers (e.g. Sweet Plantado-Tiongson, the Mary Jane in the production reviewed). This is not necessarily bad as it creates that sense of naïveté. But those wanting Aegis-like “birit” will remember more the co-stars Tolits (Pepe Herrera), Kiel (Renz Verano), and yes, Mary Jane (Sweet Plantado-Tiongson).

Others seen in the production reviewed were the somewhat tamed down Vince Lim (as Kenny, the former BF of Aileen); and eye candies/ensemble and scene-stealers Gio Gahol and Carlos Matobato.

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As a unified whole, though, the cast of “Rak of Aegis” deserve to be seen.

From the comedic timing of Jewel (Ron Alfonso), to the agaw-eksena/secene-stealing singing of the likes of Mary Jane and Kiel, you have here a definite winner…

As FYI: The “older” cast members (e.g. Aicelle Santos, Kakai Bautista, Isay Alvarez-Sena, Bayang Barrios and Jenine Desiderio) are still performing; so if you’re extra picky, you may want to know beforehand who’d be going onstage…

5. Aegis songs – of course!

And then there are the songs of Aegis – e.g. “Halik”, “Luha”, “Basang-basa sa Ulan”, “Christmas Bonus”, “Munting Pangarap”, et cetera.

Ogie Alcasid – yes, the hubby of THE regime Velasquez – the president of the Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), once said that “a show like ‘Rak of Aegis’ is an embodiment of what we have to do as Filipinos – suportahan, tangkilikin at ipagbunyi natin ang ating sariling musika.”

And he’s right.

Some may say that Aegis songs can be… baduy (slang for “in poor taste” or “unfashionable”). But that they tug at the hearts of those who listen to them is a fact. Though they may tackle of heartbreak, for instance, they also talk about getting back up; of resilience.

And this speaks so much of what makes us Filipinos.

In “Luha”, Aegis famously sang:
“Gulong ng buhay | Patuloy-tuloy sa pag-ikot | Noon ako ay nasa ilalim | Bakit ngayon nasa ilalim pa rin | Sana bukas nasa ibabaw naman.”

This is everyone’s hope, I suppose.

And with “Rak of Aegis”, well… you can get some sense of trying to be on top…

Rak of Aegis” runs July 5 to September 29 at PETA Theater Center, No.5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City, 1112 Metro Manila.

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Vienna comes to Manila to celebrate pride, diversity and equality

Under the theme “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership and the Arts” the Austrian Embassy and its partners Frontrow Philippines and Love Is All We Need bring together Austrian and Filipino equality advocates from the disciplines of photography, visual arts, fashion and makeup, performance art, film and music in a celebration of diversity, unity and equality.

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels.com

Austria stands together with the Philippines against gender-based discrimination and violence at its first-ever MNLxVIE Equality Fest, a five-day campaign championing the LGBTQIA+ community through creative activism.

“On this 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Austria continues to take a strong stance against isolation, hatred and discrimination, while honoring self-affirmation, dignity and equality: We are more than our borders. We are more than the languages we speak and the color of our skin. We are more than our gender and who we want to love. This was the mission statement and message that EuroPride 2019 hosted in Vienna this Pride Month successfully delivered. Today, we look back on a great deal of progress, but all along in the sober realization that there is still a way to go. And our ambitions are not restricted to just one country: because LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights – and as Austria we will always stand up for them all over the world,” said Austrian Ambassador Bita Rasoulian.  

Under the theme “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership and the Arts” the Austrian Embassy and its partners Frontrow Philippines and Love Is All We Need bring together Austrian and Filipino equality advocates from the disciplines of photography, visual arts, fashion and makeup, performance art, film and music in a celebration of diversity, unity and equality.

On June 25 the festival opens with a launch party at Tarzeer Pictures, Makati, by Amb. Rasoulian and equal rights advocates RS Francisco and Queenmelo Esguerra. The launch is accompanied by the photo exhibit “RECORD, RECORD” on Austria’s LGBTQIA+ history and excerpts from the book “Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi?” by UP Babaylan, Babaylanes, Inc. and UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies,  as well as works by renowned and upcoming local LGBTQIA+ photographers. Flying in straight from Austria to join the festival are Austrian intersex rights activist Noah Rieser, filmmaker Gregor Schmidinger and drag queen Tamara Mascara.

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On June 26, the Intramuros Administration unveils a Pride-themed public mural. Situated across Museo de Intramuros, the art work is a collaborative project of the Austrian Embassy, Austrian artist Katharina Kapsamer and Salzburg Global Forum fellow Ralph Eya.

On June 26, drag queen Tamara Mascara, heading cosmetics giant MAC’s Viva Glam online campaign for Pride month in the Philippines, performs at Tomatito, BGC with Filipino queens MC Black, Precious Paula Nicole and Queen Viña! Don’t miss Tamara on June 28 as DJane at XX:XX’s Elephant Night closing party.

On June 27, intersex activist Noah Rieser leads the panel “LGBTQIA+ Greatness in Leadership: An Equality Talk” on Austria’s recent legislation allowing for a third gender option in legal documents. Joining him at the De la Salle-College of Saint Benilde are Myla Escultura of Intersex Philippines, 2018 bar topnotcher Sean Borja and Filipino artist fellows of the Salzburg Global Forum Reymart Cerin, Mark Salvatus, Andrei Venal and filmmaker Cha Roque.

On June 27, Austrian filmmaker Gregor Schmidinger in cooperation with the FDCP premieres his film “NEVRLAND” in Manila at the Cinematheque Centre.

On June 28, Schmidinger and renowned Filipino filmmakers Joel Lamangan, Moira Lang and Samantha Lee discuss LGBTQIA+ films in a Q&A at the UP Film Institute.

On June 29, the MNL-VIE Equality Fest culminates with the Metro Manila Pride March, where Amb. Rasoulian and all festival participants and partners march with The Red Whistle campaign #FuelTheLove and #ExtinguishTheStigma.

MNLxVIE Equality Fest 2019 is supported by the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, UP Babaylan, Babaylanes, Inc., Benilde Hive and The Red Whistle; with the support of EuroPride Vienna 2019, MAC Cosmetics Philippines, Intramuros Administration, Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Digi Ads and Think Big Events; and venue partners Tarzeer Pictures, Tomatito Manila, UPFI Film Center – Cine Adarna, Cinematheque Centre Manila, SoFA Design Institute and XX XX.

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In the Scene

‘Kasarisarian’ LGBTQIA community cultural event slated in Lucena City on July 21-26

To “elevate the discussion about LGBTQIA Pride”, QZN Bahaghari and Guni-Guri Collective are hosting the 2018 iteration of “Kasarisarian” a cultural event, from July 21 to 26 in Lucena City.

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To “elevate the discussion about LGBTQIA Pride”, QZN Bahaghari and Guni-Guri Collective are hosting the 2018 iteration of “Kasarisarian” a cultural event, from July 21 to 26 at the ESPASYO ART GALLERY, Quezon Avenue corner Trinidad Street, Lucena City in the Quezon Province.

Particularly for this year’s event, “we’re trying to elevate the discussion and the perspective on the current situation of the LGBTQIA people in the country,” said Aaron Bonette, co-organizer of the event. “We want to make Kasarisarian 2 a non-hierarchal exhibition invested in grassroots community organizing, and focused on radical queer narratives, visioning and politics. This means that the curated works will tackle and represent queer lives and struggles based on the current and past experiences of LGBTQIA people that are skeptic – from the looming commercialized cooptation of Pride to the glitter industrial complex to the failed political myth of equality through law, violence against LGBTQIA people and class hierarchy.”

The event will feature 15 artists based in the Quezon Province and two artists based in the Netherlands, including: Lans Lans, Elvira Bvlgari, Aaron Bonette, Syeril Powsa, Catsoup, John Van Vallesterol, Annita Remoroza, Aann Reynales, Jaymar Valdoria, Alliza Beth, Joma Importante, Skimmi Shimmi, Beatriz Rogas, France dela Paz, and Brian van Niehoff. Documentaries from Outrage Magazine’s #KaraniwangLGBT series will also be shown; as will Sunugin ang Aparador by Gio Potes, and Mark & Lenny by Gio Potes.

Outrage Magazine launches #KaraniwangLGBT

Bonette added that the annual Pride month celebration has just ended, and yet – over 20 years since the first such gathering in Metro Manila “the LGBTQIA movement does and spends more on branding rather than coalition building, with the mainstream LGBTQIA movement focusing on soliciting funds from corporation to run our cause; it’s almost like our rights have been bought, paid for and sold to the highest bidder no matter how anti-worker or neoliberal policy upholder that corporation is.”

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In this sense, “the metaphor of being ‘treated like a piece of meat’ is valid, as if our bodies and identities are there to be exploited in the free market of commodification and oppression.”

Bonette said that they are cognizant that “corporate money also do some good for the community”, but that awareness is needed so LGBTQIA people also recognize that “there is something antithetical about a movement for equality and justice funded by the forces in the world that is also most responsible for widespread economic and social inequality.”

In the end, “we’d like to use this event as a venue to ask LGBTQIA people: What’s the future ahead of us? When our community is not yet united as a social movement that addresses the issues facing the most marginalized LGBTQIA people, with those fighting against systemic poverty, are we really making any progress? Or has the LGBTQIA movement, our movement, already hijacked by power elites advocating for their own interests?”

“Kasarisarian” is a term coined from: “Kasarian” which means gender, and (2) “Sari-Sari” for variety and diversity. It aims to provide queer (and straight) artists a non-commercial and an uncompromising space to tackle and explore various queer narratives, identities and politics.

This is a free event (yes, there’s no admission fee); though it is open for donations (during the event). Door will open at 1:00PM on July 21 and the program will start at exactly 6:00PM with a welcome reception, followed by the Artist Talk, film screening and cultural performances. This will run until July 26.

For more information, head to Guni-Guri Collective; or contact Aaron Bonette at aarnmssbntt@gmail.com or 0995-085-3664.

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Looking for the southern rainbow charm

Las Piñas is booming, yes. But it still doesn’t have a lot of LGBT places. Ten to One Bar eyes to fill this gap as a “safe space” right in the middle of a still-largely residential location in BF Resorts in Las Piñas.

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When Ten to One Bar and Restaurant opened in February, it was clear on what it intended to achieve: “We wanted to establish a safe space for LGBTQI people in the south of Metro Manila,” said Eunice Roman, co-owner of the venue, who admitted that this is actually “ambitious”, but that it is still “what drives (the existence of venue).”

For Eunice, this is important. A non-scene bi-identifying woman herself, she said it is difficult to make her “come out of my comfort zone”. And she said she knows there are many like her out there. And so – for people like them – there aren’t that many venues to go to if one wants to let one’s hair down (perhaps except for cafés).

WHY GO THERE

1. Design-wise and ambiance-wise, Ten to One eyes to be “a cross between a café and a bar; a “chill” hang-out place. Methinks it’s really more a bar (as emphasized by the offerings); but that it’s a chill place in the middle of a still-largely residential location in BF Resorts in Las Piñas matters. Because there would be suburban LGBTQI people who won’t venture far just to have fun; and this place could – somehow – fill that craving to go out (though not wander to far-off locations).

2. Laid-back peeps. The bar, according to Eunice, wants to create a “community” – i.e. you could come here on your own, and end up finding new friends here. So the approach is pretty laid-back – e.g. Eunice insisted you can always approach her (and her biz partners) even if it’s just to chat.

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3. Unli. LP is (in)famous for everything unlimited – e.g. right beside Ten to One is a rest that offers unli-BBQ. Well, Ten to One has unlimited BBQ, too (for P175, from 7PM to 10PM). The unli choices aren’t a lot; but if this is what tickles your fancy, check this out…

4. Peculiar offerings – e.g. the Chicken Skin Nachos comes to mind, which Eunice said (with a laugh) “could kill you, but you die happy”.

WHY HESITATE

1. Location. If you’re a “mainstream” partygoer, then the fact that this place has to be “sadyain (that is, to intentionally go to)“ may not make you want to go to it at all.

2. As a new bar, the foot traffic tends to be inconsistent – i.e. if you want to party, party, party with a big crowd, then (for now) it’s hard to tell when best to come here to be lost in that crowd.

3. Alone-ness – i.e. some bars work because, if they don’t work, you have that option to go to the bar next door. Ten to One is, currently, by itself here; so if you want to maybe move to a nearby bar, there’s none that’s immediately there. This point – of course – only stresses point #1 above…

IN THE END

LP is booming, yes. But it still doesn’t have a lot of LGBT places. For Ten to One to actually “own up” as such is refreshing.

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The add-on benefit is that it’s right in the middle of a still-largely residential location in BF Resorts in LP matters. As stated, there would be suburban LGBTQI people who won’t venture far just to have fun. Now this place could – somehow – fill that craving to go out (though not wander to far-off locations).

Ten to One Bar is located at #64 Gloria Diaz St., BF Resort Village, Las Piñas City, Metro Manila. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/TenToOneBar/ or call
0915 707 3753.

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In the Scene

CAREDIVAS slated for special run from June 24-July 30

PETA and OWWA present a special run of CAREDIVAS – AN ORIGINAL PINOY MUSICAL that pays tribute to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as the present-day heroes of the country with performances beginning June 24 until July 30 at The PETA Theater Center.

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Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) partnered for the special run of CAREDIVAS – AN ORIGINAL PINOY MUSICAL that pays tribute to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as the present-day heroes of the country with performances beginning June 24 until July 30 at The PETA Theater Center.

CAREDIVAS – a musical drama about five transgender OFWs in Israel who work as caregivers in the morning and transform into drag queen performers at night – premiered in 2011. That year, the musical dominated the Philstage Gawad Buhay! Awards, bagging seven trophies, including Outstanding Musical Direction, Outstanding Musical Production and Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical.

Caregivers, also known as home health or personal care aides, give assistance to people who are sick, injured, mentally or physically disabled, or the elderly and fragile. Their job description includes bathing and bathroom functions, walking and light exercise, plan and prepare meals, feeding, grooming, taking medication, and some housework like making beds and change linens, dusting and vacuuming, laundry and ironing. Caregivers also make and keep appointments with doctors, provide or arrange transportation and serve as a companion for their clients. Caregivers might need to lift clients into the bathtub, cars and into bed, and need strength. They help their clients engage in activities (games, memory books) and most of all, companionship.

CAREDIVAS revolves around the lives of kind and loving Chelsea, often-sarcastic group leader Shai, ditzy Thalia, bubbly Kayla, and the ill-tempered Jonee. While desperate to make ends meet, they also struggle to search for acceptance in a foreign land.

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This time around, giving life to the major roles will be Melvin Lee (Chelsea), Vincent De Jesus and Ron Alfonso (Shai), Dudz Teraña and Jason Barcial (Thalia), Gio Gahol, Jerald Napoles and Ricci Chan (Kayla), Thou Reyes and Phil Noble (Jonee).

Supporting them will be Myke Salomon (Faraj, David, Daniel), Paul Holme and Leo Rialp (Isaac, Moshe, Yaakov, Club owner), Joan Bugcat and Gold Villar (Nonah), Eric Dela Cruz and Dom Miclat-Janssen (Avi, Aryeh, Pulis), Sherry Lara (Sarah, Adara), Eko Baquial and Joseph Madriaga (ensemble).

The artistic team of CAREDIVAS include: Maribel Legarda (director), Liza Magtoto (playwright), Vincent De Jesus (lyricist, composer, arranger, musical director), Leo Abaya (set designer), Jonjon Villareal (lighting designer), John Abul (costume designer), Carlo Pagunaling (assistant costume designer), Carlon Matobato (choreographer) and Gimbey dela Cruz (vocal coach).

CAREDIVAS will play every Friday (8:00PM), Saturday and Sunday (3:00PMand 8:00PM).

The restaging of CAREDIVAS is part of OWWA’s 35th anniversary celebration, “renew(ing its) commitment in promoting and protecting the welfares of OFWs”. Aside from this, OWWA is also “providing social, education and training, workers welfare assistance and reintegration program attuned to the needs of OFWs and their families”.

For inquiries and ticket reservations, contact PETA at (+632) 7256244 or email petatheater@gmail.com; or TicketWorld at 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.





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In the Scene

Getting the LGBT vibe at Laguna’s only MSM venue…

Outrage Magazine heads out of Metro Manila to check out the LGBT scene in Biñan, Laguna via Pepper Haus.

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A hooded guy nodded at us when we got off the car. And then, while I was taking photos of the façade of the venue, that same guy tried to grab the phablet of Josh, a close friend who was with us. Failing to get the gadget, the guy then rushed across the street, where an accomplice of his was waiting on a motorcycle. They immediately sped off.

That was how we were introduced to Pepper Haus, perhaps the ONLY LGBT-specific (though mostly MSM-centric) venue in Biñan, Laguna.

That occurrence may highlight: 1. The pending danger that may meet those who’d visit the place (or how unsafe it may be), or 2) How criminals profile LGBT partygoers as easy prey, so they wait where we gather so they can try to victimize us.

It was, therefore, with gladness that we stepped inside to be surrounded by… yes… people like us.

WHAT’S THERE

According to Dennis Lucero, co-owner of the venue, Pepper Haus was established on June 2012 by Katherine Fajardo. It was only later when Lucero came onboard as a shareholder.

The place is, in a word, simple. Boxy/box-like, it is divided into three “parts” – i.e. 1. A stage is in front; 2. The tables for the guests occupy the entire space between the main door and the stage; and 3. At the right is the bar/kitchen/DJ booth/path to the dressing area for the performers.

There’s nothing fancy about the place – e.g. expect to see monoblocs, and well-used tables, arranged so closely together so that passing through (to go to pee, for instance) can be tricky at times.

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The offerings are somewhat varied; and – this has to be said – priced a la bars in Metro Manila. For instance, nachos sell for P180; lomi for P120; squid balls for P100; crispy pata from P350 to P450; and peanuts for P70.

NOT that people come here for the cuisines; instead, it is (often) to spend time with other LGBT people (friends or not) while enjoying alcohol. And the prices of the drinks are sorta high too – e.g. Emperador from P320 to P420 (depending on freebies). At least the beers are… affordable – e.g. Red Horse from P60 to P120; San Miguel Light for P60; and beer bucket for P350.

Yes, they sell cigarettes for (Marlboro 20s) for P100.

The original bar actually burned in October 2016, taken down by the same fire that started from an adjacent bar. But after 2.5 months, the new bar that is there now came to be.

WHY GO THERE

Now, even if the prices of the goods may be a source of worry for some (note that the present minimum wage in CALABARZON, where Laguna is located, only ranges from P267.00 to P349.50 per day), Pepper Haus is a must-check for various reasons.

First, it IS the only MSM-centric bar in Biñan, Laguna, so if one wants to be surrounded by PLUs, this is the place to go to there.

“Right from the start, we envisioned our bar to be dominated by members of the LGBT community,” Lucero said. This is also why the name of the place is “Pepper Haus”, poking fun at “pepper” or “paminta” in Filipino, which is the same word used in gay lingo to refer to “straight-acting/looking gay men”. “We saw the potential in investing in a place where LGBT members can freely express themselves and socialize with one another,” Lucero added.

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Second, the venue is aware of its role in the cohesively gathering LGBT community members. For instance, to “give back to the LGBT community”, Pepper Haus hosts HIV testing for its customers. Better yet, to help promote safer sex, “we also give out free condoms as a way of reminding everyone to have safer sex at all times,” Lucero said.

Third, Pepper Haus has long become a “community center” of sorts. There are instances when the venue is used to raise funds “for needy LGBT members, especially those who became our regular patrons,” Lucero said.

And then, of course, there’s the fun that can be had while there – e.g. some performers coming all the way from Metro Manila flock to perform; and Laguna’s cuties may be seen to gather here.

WHY AVOID THE PLACE

It goes without saying that this won’t be a place for everyone (no place ever is, hello!). If you’re not from the area and you don’t have a car and commuting isn’t for you, then coming over may be out of the question. If you’re easily scared by risks (READ: the intro to this article) that may be encountered when in a new/strange place, you may have second thoughts coming over. And if you have budget issues, you may not necessarily have fun here, too.

IN CONCLUSION

All the same, though, Pepper Haus is definitely a must-check out venue because – in a world that continues to push LGBT people into the fringes – this is one place at least in Biñan, Laguna where you can let your hair down and may actually be celebrated for it. Pink heaven knows we don’t have enough of those places, so that every one that exists – no matter their limitations – is worth highlighting…

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So head to Biñan, Laguna and find the rainbow explosion at Pepper Haus.

Pepper Haus is located along the National Highway, Biñan, Laguna, five minutes away from McDonalds Olivares. Landmarks: IETI, Yamaha showroom and Olivarez Complex (very near the crossing).





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