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Naked Confusion
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 moderation.
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!

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Kelly - the Bar girl who would be president
ISBN : 978616-2450761
Category : Books on Asia
Pages : 360
Price from : 6.99 US$ (ebook)

Kelly - (c) 2001 - 2011, Copyright notice
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