Stickman's guide to Bangkok
Being Naughty in The Philippines vs Thailand
By Occidental Orient
If you are looking at the readers’ submissions section of Stickman’s Guide to Bangkok, then I assume that you are probably a Western man who either lives in Thailand or else visits the Kingdom on a regular basis. As such, you might be curious about other countries in Southeast Asia. If you haven’t been to the Philippines, then this essay will give you an overview of what our hero Stick likes to call the “naughty nightlife” and various other important aspects of the Republic of the Philippines also known as the Philippine Islands or simply as the “PI.”
My perspective is that of an American man who has lived in chilly Northeast Asia for a number of years, but who has made regular trips to sunny Southeast Asia. In this connection, to varying degrees, I have been involved with both bar girls and so-called “good girls” from Thailand as well as the PI. No doubt some people will disagree with some of the things that I have to say here. This is just one punter’s view.
Here’s a little trivia for you. Thailand is larger than the PI in terms of land area, but the PI has more people. Also, the population of the PI is growing at a faster pace. Perhaps it should not come as much of surprise then that the PI is clearly the poorer of the two nations. However, the PI is not as bad off economically as, say, Cambodia or Laos.
You probably already know that Thailand was never colonized by a European power. By contrast, the PI has had a long history of foreign rule. The Spanish ran the show for more than three centuries. They were followed by the Americans for about half a century. The Japanese managed to occupy the PI for a few years during World War II. Even the British seized Manila briefly back in the 18th century.
The Spanish influence is readily apparent in the names of people, places, and things. Take that famous Philippine export, San Miguel Beer, it has a very Spanish name and some farang think that it comes from Spain or Mexico, yet the company got its start in the PI. By the way, I think that San Miguel (or just “San Mig”) is one of the best beers in Asia. Maybe the boys at the brewery can send me a couple of cases for the plug….
On a more serious note, the Spanish influence can be felt in the area of religion. Most Filipinos and Filipinas are at least nominal Roman Catholics. In terms of art and architecture, the old churches in the PI often look like the historic missions of Mexico and California.
The more recent American influence can be felt in things like the surprising popularity of basketball in the PI. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I wonder why so many people are crazy about basketball in a country where almost everybody is short. By contrast, the traditional American summer pastime of baseball, which has a pretty strong following in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan and which would seem to be well suited to a tropical nation, is not nearly as popular.
Another American influence is the popularity of pool by which I mean the game that some Thais like to call snooker. (Pool and snooker are actually two different games). There are lots of pool sharks, female as well as male, in the PI – something to keep in mind when you’re hanging around the bars.
One really nice thing about the American legacy and a big difference from Thailand is that English is widely understood in just about every corner of the PI. Even your average bar girl in the PI who most likely didn’t finish high school can manage a lengthy conversation in English. So, you can normally get by without even carrying a phrasebook for Tagalog or any of the many other local languages. Of course, some cynics maintain that the higher level of English simply leads to more tales of sick water buffalo….
English as used in the PI has its own flavor. You will come across some local terms that are not found in mainstream dictionaries like “GRO” for “Guest Relations Officer.” That’s a fancy name for a bar hostess.
Costs and money
Although I don’t keep careful records when I travel, I generally feel that while the costs of many things are roughly similar, I spend slightly less on average when I am in the PI versus Thailand. For example, drinking in the bars is often cheaper. The fact that the Philippine peso has recently been fairly weak compared to the Thai baht in US dollar terms has helped matters.
The best foreign currency to bring to the PI would certainly be the US dollar. After that might be the Japanese yen. The Euro has been a bit slow to catch on especially with some of the hotels. A few places in the PI will exchange baht for pesos, but I would avoid relying on that.
Philippine banks can be very fussy with travelers’ checks. Counterfeiting of checks and cash remains a problem in the PI. So, it is best to carry at least two different major brands issued by different banks and to also have lots of US bank notes i.e. greenbacks and perhaps a credit card or two for emergency use. When you go to the bank, you will often be asked for not only your passport, but also the receipt from when you purchased the TCs. And, even then, somebody at the bank might have to make a phone call or two to check whether a certain series of checks is being accepted. Some moneychangers only deal cash. Exchanging money outside of the cities and major tourist areas can be real problem. Be that as it may, be sure to avoid rip off artists on the street who will offer to exchange money for you.
The PI is a more dangerous place than Thailand. Although the prospect of terrorism looms on the minds of many thanks to a couple of groups of Muslim hotheads from the far south, the more immediate concern is everyday crime. Quite a few people carry guns in the PI. Security at banks, shopping centers, and even many bars tends to be tighter than what you would normally come across in Thailand.
In the PI, you need to exercise a bit more caution than you might in Thailand. When dealing with bar girls, keep in mind that the PI does not have a Thai-style national ID card system. Some Filipinas offer some rather doggy looking IDs when they come into hotels. (I recall one girl who used a video store rental card as ID!) Make sure that your valuables are kept in a safe deposit box.
Thai restaurants can be found in just about every city and large town in Farangland these days. But, how many Filipino restaurants have you seen in the West? Well, the relative lack of such restaurants despite all the millions of Filipinos living overseas should tell you something right off the bat. For many Westerners, Filipino food can be disappointing. It is an especially bad cuisine if you happen to be a vegetarian.
If you can’t stand the local fare, then you can usually find at least a fast food outlet or a family-run Chinese restaurant in any major town. Thai restaurants are few and far between in the PI. It is somewhat easier to find, say, Japanese food or Italian food than Thai food.
Filipinas versus Thai ladies
Girls, girls, girls! Ah, now I got your attention!
So, which nation has cuter girls? Well, that is really an issue of taste. Some guys prefer Filipinas while others go more for Thai ladies. To me, there are hot and not so hot women in both lands. Generally, one could argue that Thai ladies tend to have nicer faces whereas Filipinas tend to be better endowed.
Some guys maintain that Filipinas are more romantic while Thai ladies are more practical. Be that as it may, I have had pleasant as well as nasty experiences with women from each country. In the end, culture only goes so far. You ultimately have to judge a woman’s individual personality. Also, try to think of how you come across to the females even if you are paying for their time. Things are simply more likely to go nicer that way no matter what country you are in.
As is the case in Thailand, bar girls in the PI typically come from relatively poor, rural families. In both countries, many of the working girls are actually single mothers. The fathers have all too often left the women alone without any financial support and there is no real welfare system in place. The kids are usually being watched by their grandparents or other family members who might be several hours away by bus and/or ferry from where the mother is working.
Many (but certainly not all) of the bar girls within the PI are Visayans from the islands in the vast middle of the archipelago. So, Tagalog is not their mother tongue. Yet, they can typically speak Tagalog as well as passable English. By contrast, many of the Filipinas working in bars outside of the country i.e. in bars in certain other parts of Asia hail from Tagalog-speaking areas of the main island of Luzon. What the precise reasons for this apparent pattern are, I do not know. Regardless of where they originally come from, it amazes me how few Filipinas know how to swim.
With centuries of Western influence and widespread poverty, a lot of people in the PI are looking for a way out of the country. For many Filipinas marriage to a farang is an acceptable option. Indeed, this option might be more popular in the PI than it is in Thailand. So, the PI might be a good place to find your future wife. However, be sure to choose wisely! Don’t rush in!
The naughty nightlife scene
The naughty nightlife scene in the PI is fairly close to the scene in Thailand albeit slightly less diverse. Stereotypically, it is mostly go-go bars for the Western males with a mix of karaoke bars and massage parlors for Asian males. The PI also has an institution known as the casa. These are literally houses of ill repute. I have not been to a casa yet, but I understand that they cater more to the needs of local men viz. Filipinos rather than tourists.
The go-go bars are similar to what one finds in Thailand, but some have all-inclusive bar fines. This is especially true up in Angeles City (“Angeles”). Ladies drinks are often cheaper than in Thailand, and again this is especially true of Angeles rather than Metro Manila. If you want to ring the bell or blow the horn or whatever, the fee for that privilege is often fixed and posted in the PI.
The dancers normally do NOT wear numbers in the PI. Yet, dancers in Angeles do have a municipal ID card. On stage the bikini tops usually stay on, but sometimes a few girls will push the envelope a bit. So, if you are in the right place at the right time, then you can see some wild stuff.
The karaoke joints go by different names. If a place has a “KTV” sign, then it is probably targeting Chinese men from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Other places are geared more towards either Japanese or Korean men. The hostesses, who often have fair skin, can often sing at least a few songs in one of those languages. The “Videoke” places tend to me more down-market, often open-air, and for Filipinos. Be that as it may, Western men are normally welcomed in any of these establishments. Personally, I have not come across any “For Japanese Only” signs in the PI. So, that is a big difference from some of the bars in Thailand.
Frankly speaking, the massage parlors are something of a disappointment in the PI. The naughty massage places in Thailand tend to be much better than what’s on offer in the PI. The in-room massage services in certain hotels tend to be particularly lame. So, I would recommend avoiding them.
What the PI lacks is a clear beer bar culture. To some extent, the role of the Thai beer bar is filled by the cheaper karaoke joints and the BJ bars. The BJ bars have private rooms in the back or upstairs. Sometimes more than just BJs can be had in those places. Also, the staff can often be bar-fined. The girls in some of the BJ bars seem to enjoy going on bar fines more than regular bar girls do. It must be a bit of a treat for them.
There is a freelancer scene in the PI much like what one finds in Thailand. Some freelancers have regular, day jobs (let’s call them “semi-pros”) while others are only freelancers (we can consider these to be the real “pros”). Naturally, the pros are more likely than the semi-pros to be available to serve as “tour guides.” Some go-go dancers also moonlight as freelancers later in the evening if they didn’t get a bar fine.
Getting down to business
Assuming that you are in your hotel room with a pro or semi-pro rather than an amateur, you can expect the pre-act and post-act shower routine like in Thailand. Also, even if the girl is a dancer, she might want you to dim the lights.
You might or might not get a starter BJ. And, it might or might not be a BBBJ.
Obviously, if you are going to enter the Jade Gate, then make sure your Banana is properly wrapped. Despite all the Catholic impact on the PI, condoms are sold in most pharmacies, many stores, and in some bars.
As far as the Rear Entrance goes, that is rarely an option, and it is not really my thing anyway. So, you Back Door Men should probably ask first.
If you are paying the girl, then don’t expect the “wai” gesture. That is a part of Thai culture, but it is not a part of Filipino culture. At most, you will get a huge.
The PI offers an alternative to Thailand. It is worth checking out if you like the Asian bar scene.
Originally, I was going to include some reports on specific destinations in the PI, but I might save that for a follow-up piece. So, if you want more, then I can work on a Part Two. In the meantime, there several web sites with basic information on bars in the PI.
Very nice report.
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