Ask anybody who has been around South East Asia for
a number of years and they will rave about Manila nightlife.
Unfortunately they will then tell you about one Mayor
Lim who a few years ago had it all closed down overnight.
What they may or may not know, is that some ten years
after the event the Philippines high court ruled that
that action was illegal! Talk about apologizing to the
beast after you have shot and stuffed it!
Of course the nightlife did not go away and all those
little girls did not suddenly become good upright citizens
earning an honest buck elsewhere. Mainly because earning
anything elsewhere is not that easy. In fact the failing
Philippine economy has now elevated prostitution to
the 4th most important factor in the GDP of the country.
And if the number of girls working in the bars is anything
to go by, that looks correct. Every bar we went into
was full of girls.
There are two main bar areas in Manila, as far as I
can find, although there are odd bars scattered around
the area that is greater Manila. The Edsa Complex,
opposite the Heritage Hotel, seems to have picked up
a few survivors of Mayor Lim’s crackdown on Ermita.
This a mall of bars with seven bars on the ground floor
plus a few nefarious operations up one floor. We had
a good night out here wandering from bar to bar, as
did the rest of the crowd. By the end of the evening
we were quite friendly with several fellow bar hoppers.
The real benefit here is the prices which are that much
cheaper than we what found in Makati. Beers were about
the same (125 pesos) but Scotch was also 125 as opposed
to 250 Pesos and more in Makati. To get the conversion
$1US = 54 Pesos. But another great advantage here was
the operation seemed to be a little more old fashioned.
The music resembled songs we all knew. The Firehouse
which was one of the main legends of Ermita was by far
the best bar. It was pleasantly full, the girls almost
danced and the DJ appeared to have a brain in customer
mode. Of course Filipino gogos are different to Thai
gogos in that the girls spend a long time dancing, or
just hanging around the stage. To contact a girl the
mamasan is normally approached and then the lady of
your fancy may then be released into your clutches for
a while in order for you to lavish lady drinks on her.
Here lady drinks were 150 Pesos as opposed to an outrageous
300 in Makati. Another good club in this area was the
Cotton Club. Much larger than the other
bars it was a comfortable bar where the music was in
A taxi ride away is P. Burgos Street in Makati. Needless
to say a taxi ride can vary from about 20 minutes to
2 hours in the rush hour. Manila traffic is best avoided
unless you enjoy sitting in a jam. Many will tell you
that Burgos Street is the main Manila nightlife area,
and I suppose it is. Makati does have a serious number
of gogos and other bars in P. Burgos and environs. However
as I suggested the prices here are definitely business
district rather than tourist, be it of the sex variety.
Since my last trip a few new operations have opened,
otherwise an update is more about what is now good and
what is now naff. I am afraid the main prize in that
category must go to the Wild West which
was not the fun place it was a few years ago. Rogues
is a pleasant upstairs sports bar that is a good spot
early on when happy hour makes it a good place to get
rid of the early thirst. For a place calling itself
a sports bar, a large number of dancers had arrived
by the time we left. We also had a lady who was determined
to get us into one the curtained booths, avidly displaying
every asset she thought she had!
Across the road is a big new gogo called the Flamingo.
I am not sure how many girls they have here but in can
not be less than a hundred with over 50 girls on the
stage at one time. It was normally full and had a good
atmosphere, Further up the road Bottoms Up
has had a makeover that has elevated into a special
place. There was normally four girls dancing in show
format on the stage plus several others wiggling on
the dance floor. A considerably investment in lights
and sound, as well as a bubble machine gave it the edge
over many others.
One place that I did enjoy was Mogambo
which is just off Burgos but very close to Flamingo
and Rogues. I do not think the girls here would be described
as the beauties of the street, although quite a few
were more than presentable, and the place is stuffed
full of them. However they like to engage punters in
a game, and if they win a drink has to be bought for
them. Unfortunately, for them, one of the games is cross
4. And they quickly found out the hard way that I had
not wasted all those years playing cross 4 to no avail.
“Where did you learn to play like that?”
was the cry as they stood naked in front of me. That
was the bet - lady drink or “getting naked in
front of me.” I did pay a few lady drinks but
I won many more then I lost. And there was a continual
steam of takers.
One aspect in Manila nightlife which has changed and
in the change caused total confusion. In the past a
bar fine included the girl for the night. A tip in the
morning was appreciated rather than obligatory. In the
Makati area the bar fine is now 3,000 pesos, although
that can normally be negotiated down with the mamasan.
However the girls expected something in the morning
and a 1,000 pesos was sniffed at. In the Ensa Complex
the bar fine was a 1,000 Pesos and the mamasan explained
the girls needed more in the morning. 1,000 Pesos seemed
to do the trick although I heard of one girl demanding
5,000. She was eventually dispatched by the hotel with
a grand! But all in all the bar fine situation is at
best confusing and at worst likely to cause enormous
grief. I am not sure whether it is the greed of the
bars, or the girls, which has created this situation.
As ever, I suspect it is a little of both!
We did find a couple of decent restaurants in Manila.
On the road parallel, and down from Burgos, is La
Tiende (43 Polaris Street: Tel: 890 4123).
This is an extremely good and friendly Spanish restaurant
and tapas bar. We had various meals there, both tapas
only at the bar and table meals. The boss was a friendly
cove and the customers were often clearly regulars.
I just wish La Tiende would move to Soi 4!
In La Tiende we asked about a place for lunch and were
sent to a first class Italian restaurant called L’Opera
(G/F Anson Arcade, Pasco De Roxas, Tel: 844 3283). This
is in the Green Belt next to MacDonald’s. L’Opera
has been around for over 20 years and is a comfortable
old-fashioned restaurant ideal for a couple of gentlemen
to have a proper lunch!