There’s an overpass that crosses Abanao Street in Baguio City, taking one from the side where the market (where you buy, say, fresh good, preserved fruits, and pasalubong galore) is to the side where the wagwagan/ukay-ukay (building housing the sellers of secondhand goods) is. Before you actually enter the wagwagan/uka-ukay area, at the very end of the overpass is – GASP! – a bar. Peculiarly located, this place isn’t very apparent at daytime – largely because it doubles as a massage parlor. But at night, when the wagwagan/ukay-ukay stalls are closed, it stands out as a venue that is – for sure – not-to-be missed. The very overpass leads to it, after all; the “road” literally leads one to it.
And that was how we found Dap-ay Massage and Bar, one of handful of LGBT venues in Baguio City, touting itself as the city’s must-visit “gender-free bar”.
Wait – what’s with the name?
Dap-ay actually started as a massage parlor. In fact, it actually still has a massage parlor. The massage area is separated from the inuman (drinking) area by this entry at the side of the bar. This massage area is, by the way, at the left side of Dap-ay (that’s when you enter the venue from the overpass).
The drinking area is divided into “parts”. There are tables near the bar and the entry to the massage area – these are the VIP tables, in a way, as the owners and favorite patrons stay here. The walls are clad with… just about everything from empty bottles of alcoholic drinks to the drink list to old photos of some places in Benguet to… whatever. Above, there are baskets from the region – hanged to supposedly give the place a local feel (or – if not – just sway there with that stuffed bayawak/monitor lizard).
And then there are three “sections” across the VIP area – each “section” has a few tables, as well as its own TV for the singing. Having stated this, it’s worth highlighting that this is a singalong bar – not a dance club. And no, there aren’t anything fancy about the place – just wooden tables surrounded by some wooden or metal chairs, and the ubiquitous monoblocs.
The somewhat weird lay-out of Dap-ay is due to the place’s location. According to owner Jojo Quinio, when the massage parlor was opened in 2009, “we just had two tables in front of the massage parlor. It was enough for the clients to stay at while they were waiting for their scheduled massages.”
The number of tables was eventually increased, and this was done by Dap-ay by “getting the spaces across us that were once occupied by wagwagan/ukay-ukay sellers”. The secondhand shops disappeared, and with that, Dap-ay grew. But the dividers that separated the wagwagan/ukay-ukay stalls from each other remained, thereby becoming the dividers for the “sections” of Dap-ay now.
In total, there are 12 tables – give or take, as some tables can be merged, with others thereby added as needed. The tables can seat from three customers.
Getting a massage could start from 10:00AM; but the drinking and singing happen from 5:00PM to 5:00AM. And yes, Dap-ay does not rest; it is open every day.
Now, is Dap-ay worth visiting?
First, when in Baguio City and you’re looking for a gay night out, it’s not like you have a lot of choices. There’s Rainbow Bar, of course. Located not too far from Dap-ay, it remains a “place that LGBTQ people can call their own,” as owner Tita Bootz Yabut once said to Outrage Magazine. There’s Rumours along Session Road, known in these parts as a remnant of the past as it continues to be a place for closeted gay (or self-identifying ‘bi’) men; they mingle here in abundance, but so many of them refuse to be identified with the LGBT community (according to a local HIV advocate, they don’t even want HIV-related posters displayed in the premises, even if it’s to benefit their target customers; just as they don’t even support Pride). There are at least three male go-go bars… though nowadays, the target market isn’t necessarily members of the LGBT community. As such, when in Baguio City, particularly if staying here long, you are almost certain to come across Dap-ay…
Second, it’s accessible. It’s just off Session Road, not too far from Harrison Road (near Burnham Park/Igorot Park), and not too far from the city hall. As such, even if you end up way drunk, you should still be okay heading home…
Third, “we have a community,” Quinio said to us. No, if you want to check out the LGBT community of Baguio City, Dap-ay could provide glimpses.
Fourth, this place is unpretentious. Sure it has a VIP area, but that area just separates the people personally known by the owner versus those who are new; or maybe the older versus the younger crowds; or maybe the smaller versus the bigger groups. But that you can come here as you are – tsinelas (slippers) and all – should give you an idea of this place’s overall ambiance.
And fifth, here, the crowd can be beautiful. Let’s get this out: The people from Northern Philippines (e.g. Igorot) are among the most beautiful – well, particularly the men (Hello, I’m gay!). There are plenty of them here – from the masseurs (if you’re into that) to the students out for a night of fun to the MSM (again, if you’re into that) to those just visiting. No, not everyone is beautiful – but then again, even in LA, not everyone is; but at least you get glimpses of beauty here…
WHY AVOID IT?
Yes, yes, we obviously acknowledge that different people have different tastes. As such, this isn’t necessarily for everyone.
For one, the place isn’t fancy. The connotation of the name (i.e. massage) envelopes this place’s “spirit”. And I already mentioned the stuffed bayawak hanging above the VIP area… Now, if you are dressed to the nines in Baguio City, expecting to party wildly as you would in, say, Chelsea in New York, then Dap-ay isn’t the place for you…
Second, the facilities aren’t topnotch. Great sound system that allows you to “feel” not just hear the sounds? There’s none of that here. Great lighting that could bring you to different worlds (particularly when loaded with something)? None of that here, too. Foams and smokes and all that? None, none, none. If you abhor simple (some would even say shabby), then this place isn’t for you.
Third, the drink list doesn’t offer much. Stick to the beer – or as many locals do, “hard” drinks by the bottle (think Emperador, shared among friends through a shot glass).
And fourth, the singing can be… disturbing. Since anyone can belt out, even those who know better actually attempt to sing. Now, if you aren’t into karaoke, then… avoid this place (or go there, but you’ve been warned).
IN THE END…
If in Baguio City and interested to see the gay scene, check this place out. This isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure, but if you end up not liking it, you can always head to the nearby Rainbow Bar or (if that doesn’t define gay partying for you, too) hop on a cab and head to the likes of Ampersand (more hetero).
Because in the end, Dap-ay does have its appeal. Just lower the expectations and – who knows – you could have fun here…
*OUTRAGE MAGAZINE WOULD LIKE TO THANK REV. MYKE SOTERO OF METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH-METROPOLITAN BAGUIO, AND HIS HUSBAND GREGORY RUGAY, FOR SHOWING US PARTS OF THE NIGHT LIFE IN THE ‘SUMMER CAPITAL OF THE PHILIPPINES’
Day-ay Massage and Bar is located at 3/F Cyprus Bldg., Abanao St., Baguio City. Updates are available at the bar’s Facebook page.