Iligan City is a gateway of some sort – that is, may not be as “developed” as nearby Cagayan de Oro City (though it is developed enough), but it is where many people in more restrictive areas (I’m talking about the likes of Marawi) go to when they want to (in one word) escape. LGBT, for instance, who are forced to be “invisible” in more conservative areas, head to Iligan City to be able to live their true selves, thereby serving as their gateway to something better.
It is therefore somewhat saddening noting how its (arguably) most popular venue for partying highlights, more than anything, the Filipino people’s penchant for creating hierarchies.
Let me intro the so-called “University of Petron” (or UP, or just “Petron”).
The place’s name says it all, actually.
UP is a venue right beside a Petron gas station that is right beside a major road in Iligan City. Here, tables are placed beside the gas station, with only a barricade (lamely) attempting to separate the drinking space from the gas station.
“Lamely” is a word worth using because the tables actually spill over the area of the gas station, so that – when there – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re really just drinking by the gas pumps, and not a party venue.
There is a covered area where a bar is located. This is where you (obviously) order your drinks (serve yourself is the norm here), and where the person manning the music player is located (no, there’s no DJ here).
Beside the bar is the toilet – which is also the toilet for the gas station.
This covered area has an extension, so it also houses some tables for the partygoers. This isn’t a popular spot for those who go there, and is instead often used by oldies and not-that-pretty.
The more popular section is the barricaded area just off the covered area (NOTE: The metal barricades are the same as those used by Maynilad to cover its works that affect traffic flows). Here, there are tables occupied by the (as our guide said) “university educated”, “well-off”, “better-looking”… you get the idea. So if you want to be identified with the “right” crowd, stay close to the barricade.
Now, because the barricades do not stretch too far, there are tables almost right beside the gas pumps. And here stay the people who do not belong to the supposed “upper crust”.
WHY GO THERE
Now why go there at all?
To start, it’s the “in” place in Iligan City – everyone knows this place.
Secondly, and related to the above, the crowd can be… yummy. The pa-mhinta (non-effeminate gay men) often go to this place with their boyfriends and friends (also with their boyfriends). Since there aren’t that many LGBT venues in Iligan City (if any at all!), UP has become the go-to place for so many MSM.
Thirdly, the drinks are cheap – a bucket of six beer bottles costs P200+. If you have the know-how (and the patience), you can even mix your own cocktails after buying the “raw” products (e.g. usually bottles of Emperador or Tanduay) from the bar.
And fourthly, the mix of the people who go there could provide you of glimpses of the city’s diverse population – from students to pedicab drivers to construction workers to young professionals to transwomen to… again, you get the point.
But it’s that barricade that almost always comes to mind when thinking of UP. Because that creates the hierarchy, the segregationist approach of the place to highlight that even when everyone’s just drinking by the street, right beside a gas station, there are still people who consider themselves better than everyone else. Don’t expect egalitarianism here; expect pa–sosyal (trying/pretending to be classy) in a somewhat trashy place.
Why trashy? Think empty bottles on the floor/under the tables and chairs, vomit on the floor/under the tables and chairs, too-drunk people left by their friends/partymates while slumped on chairs…
And then we have the gas fumes…
IN THE END
Since Iligan City doesn’t have that many party venues (yet), visiting UP is a given. But know that, when you go there, it may not always be what you’d expect at least a decent party venue to be (the cakes of dried vomit on the floor comes to mind). So long as you know what to expect when there, though, UP may be worth a visit once, or twice, or thrice… or more times.
University of Petron is located at Tibanga, Iligan City. Take a padyak or a habal-habal, (local modes of transportation) and just say to the driver to take you to “Petron”. You won’t get lost.