Dateline : 3rd Feb 2007.
To read the previous entry, click here.
After crashing out in my hotel room after the long day, I woke up at 7 pm feeling rested and quite hungry. Turned out everyone in the group was feeling the same as my doorbell rang almost moments after I woke up. The guys decided to all gather in my room bearing the food that they brought with them from home. The 4 of us had dinner of instant noodles, serunding, bread and fruits all washed down with enough soft drinks to make a dentist cringe. Dinner aside, the other reason for the impromptu gathering was to discuss what we all wanted to do that night.
We were all for going out to see what was available in terms of nightlife in the area surrounding the hotel. Since we only had one person in the group who has been in Manila before, the 3 of us left the decision of where to go up to his discretions. I was actually hoping to go on a pub crawl to sample as much of the Manila scene as I could given the short time I was there but it seems that the others were more inclined to go see a strip show instead. I have to say that I have had expected this given that the rest of the group were married men and that they have hinted to me of their plans even before we got on the plane to Manila. While it was not really what I was looking forward to be spending the night doing, being outnumbered 3 to 1 meant that I had to tag along with the group. Going off on my own would be too dangerous and I wouldn’t want to be the anti-social one of the group by staying in. At the time I was hoping that the strip joint would not be the only place that we hit that night.
After our dinner, everyone adjourned to their respective rooms to rest again before getting ready to go out at 9pm. After a lukewarm shower and finding the courage to finally wear the black little shirt that I brought with me on this trip, I went down to the lobby to wait for the rest of the group. Shortly after the whole team was there and raring to go an have fun for the night. We took a cab from hotel to the East Asia Club, Theatre & Restaurant located at Roxas Blvd. It didn’t seem to be that far away from the hotel and the ride cost about 200 pesos. Once we arrived we were greeted by the customary security people who did a cursory body pat-down and run us once over with a metal detector. Like most other places in Manila, they really take security seriously here.
Once we passed the security check point, the guys at the door asked us if we have been there before and if we knew any of the guest relation officers from out previous visit. Not savvy to what usually happens in one of these places, I guess that if it was your first visit then they will assign an employee to set you up and get your first round of order of drinks. Since one of our group knew one from his previous visit, we ended up asking for her by name. She appeared a few minutes later and greeted us enthusiastically, much more that I would expect from just a casual visitor. I’m guessing that the guy from our group who knew her must have came here quite often in the past. Once all the introductions were made, with a special welcome hug given to the only bachelor in the group i.e. this taken unawares writer, we were all ushered into the main hall where they gave us seats next to the stage where the singular pole in the place was located.
I have to be frank and explain here that the only other time that I have been inside a strip bar was back when I was in college on my semester break road trip to Las Vegas during my senior year. Spent most of that particular road trip under the influence of various alcohol beverages and as a result I can hardly remember what the experience was like. Unlike that previous experience, I vowed to stay sober the whole night and at least remember part of what I was expecting to experience in Manila. In hindsight, I wonder now if it would not have been better for me if I was already three sheets to the wind when we ended in our seats. It wasn’t that the whole experience was bad but it just bored me out of my skull. It didn’t start that way since the first performer on stage was not half way bad looking. In fact she reminded me of Rosario Dawson’s Mimi character from the movie “Rent” when I first saw her. However the comparison stopped there as there was nothing from her that would “light my candle” so to speak.
As the show dragged on and one after another performer took the stage, I found myself thinking about the girls who do this for a living and the guys who go to these places for entertainment. Trust a basket-case like me to get all philosophical in a place like that in the middle of a strip show! The thing was that very few of the girls that I saw on stage that night did anything to engage the audience. Most of them looked as bored as I am when they come on stage. I guess that it is fair to say that they might not want to be there anymore than I did and they were doing it only for the money. I have to admit that I had a romanticized image of striptease where the emphasis was more on the tease rather than on the stripping. The art of seduction was truly absent on stage that night only to be replaced by repetitive acrobatics that looked that it would hurt more than it would feel good doing it. Seriously … who in their right mind would think that doing full leg splits and slamming your groin area repeatedly on the stage floor anywhere remotely sexy? Could it be that the fact that seeing that on stage totally does nothing for me is quite telling of how I’m wired?
To ease the boredom, I tried to discreetly observe the other people in the establishment that night. I must say that I was surprised that the club was not as busy as I would thought it would be on a weekend. Other than our group, there was only 5 other tables occupied with groups of not more than 4 people a piece. Of course the table with the drunk white guys with the free flowing drinks was the most popular one with the girls that night. They got rowdier as the night progressed and it was funny watching them getting more and more shitfaced as the night dragged on. Watching drunk people stumble around is always funny as long as you’re not the one getting drunk. The other people there were a fair mix of locals and tourists. It was actually quite fun watching them and trying to conjure their life stories in my head as a way of relieving my boredom at being stuck watching really bored girls going through the motions on stage.
At one point in the night, they had some male staff offer shoulder messages for us. I guess that after sitting on the sofa watching the girls performed on stage, some people may need to have their shoulders messaged so at least some blood will circulate to the other areas in the body. Since I had nothing else to do, I decided to accept the offer and got one of them to message my neck and shoulders. It wasn’t really that bad and the guy did know how to message the area correctly so it doesn’t hurt so it was quite worth the 100 pesos tip that they were expecting from me afterwards. They would come around to offer it again later in the night but by then I was not really keen for another neck rub by then. They even offered me neck messages after I was done with my toilet break but the thought of getting a neck rub in the toilet freaked me out too much.
Back in my seat nursing my diet coke and lime, I noticed that they continue to have the same people up again and again that night. What was worse was the music that they used to accompany the girls as they performed. Never again will I be able to listen to Celine Dion “Because You Love Me” without having flashback of that boring night. Most of the girls would perform solo but they were a few group acts. In between the sets they would have the girls wear skimpy revealing clothes and put on a fashion show for the crowd. Most would have the same poses and when they performed their clothes-less acts they would indubitably reuse the same moves that they had been using the whole night in every set. Very few of them even walked up to the podium where the pole was and those who did only walked around it once before going back to center stage. The absence of anyone working the pole that night further shattered my romanticized view of a strip club.
We stayed there for almost 4 hours that night. I was bored out of my mind but the other guys I came with were not budging from their seats. The only consolation for me was being able to watch the antics of a group of young-ish local boys who came in much later after us that night. From their clothes, I assumed that they were well off college students who were there to have a good time. Some of them didn’t look that bad to the eyes so I just sat there trying to watch them discreetly from where I was. It was either that or just get more bored as I finished nursing my coke & lime. Once the other guys had the their fill of the surroundings, we decided to settle our bill and get a taxi back to the hotel. The whole bill for us came up to 1200 pesos for the four of us. Given that we all didn’t drink much that night, it was quite a cheap tab to pay compared to what a night out in KL might cost us.
Reaching the hotel at 2 am, I already had my share of the long day and was looking forward for some shut eye. The experience left me with a whole new view of a strip club, terrible ringing in my ear and intense flashbacks when I hear a Celine Dion song but not much else. It was not the best way that I would liked to have spent the evening but I didn’t really have much choice in the matter. With only one more night in Manila left the following day, I went to bed hoping that it would be much better than the one I just wasted.
PS: For obvious reasons, I did not take any photos at the club. I didn’t have that big of a death wish.
More pictures from Manila Trip '07 - Day 2 are uploaded here. Warning - I have not had a chance to put in captions for these pics.
Next installment : Day 03 in Manila
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Dateline : 3rd Feb 2007.