Another Tour Of Duty
To the man that has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the bars at night these days, all this will all come as a bit of an anathema.
Two flights, 11 hours door to door solely and only to frequent Manila's Makati famed gogo bars yet again. What on earth can I find here that isn't already on my doorstep in Patong, and up the road in Bangers?
Well to me it feels like the equivalent on when the silent movies discovered sound, black and white TVs to colour, analogue TV to the finest digital HD in all its glory. In a word, suddenly overnight there's somebody out there.
That of course is the Philippines' trump card, the equivalent of disembarking your flight and throwing away the white stick. For all the disadvantages of the Philippines, being able to speak and be understood in your own language, once again is like finding water in the desert. No sooner than climbing into my taxi and starting off a fluent conversation, that the express thought came to me, just what the hell am I doing living in Thailand?
But regrettably all it takes is to step out of the insulated foyer of my hotel, to be greeted by the Fourth World, and by the present rate of decline vying to be a candidate of the Fifth one.
Even living in a third world country like Thailand doesn't prepare you for the Philippines where the poverty is extreme by comparison. It seems as if the country is just how huge baby factory, churning them out at an alarming rate. Even if the country were to refrain from having sex for just one week, you feel and think it could have a huge impact. It's as if birth control has yet to be invented.
I haven't chosen my hotel for somewhere to sleep, rather than somewhere to spend the days. Venturing out is not a pleasant experience with no pavements. When you get into a taxi the shock absorbers are shot and coupled with the condition of the roads make for an uncomfortable journey. The equivalent of the Landmark right on top of the action, and when I do go out of the area it's only to the equivalent to the Biergarten in Soi 7 – the Manila Bay Cafe. From my corner hotel room on 18th Floor the incessant blaring on car horns reaches up to me. The city from this height looks to be in a permanent grid lock, the girls spend an average of an hour commuting to the bars on a good day, and if it rains you can then add another half an hour to this. The big advantage to all of this though, is that it is an environmentally free area of joggers.
So what about the bars, how do they compare to last year?
It feels as if I'm in the low season, but from what they've told me they don't really have seasons like Bangkok. 160 Pesos (114 Baht) for a beer now is dirt cheap compared to Thailand, but the relentless, grinding down of lady drink requests certainly takes its toil.
Last night at the end of a particular harrowing assault in the High Heels bar, I told the girls I deserved a medal for not succumbing. What really shocked me was in Ivory a girl told me that by the time the girls leave their clients in the morning, they don't have any change from 10,000 Pesos (7000 Baht).
The bar fine in this particular bar was coming in at 3,900 Peso, and that did not include any extra curricular activities. If the girl does not turn up for work the following night she has to pay her own bar fine! The bars are run in a very draconian fashion, and they are never primed with alcohol by the mamasan. The standard of the looks of the dancers is well down this time, not a vintage year, and for sure all the GROs (Guest Relation Officers) who surround you, on sitting down in these bars have past their prime.
The GROs are not paid any salary so no lady drinks = no income. So in turn they can be highly aggressive. This situation would get so bad on occasions, that I in turn became aggressive to the waitresses demanding them. "Will it create a problem if I don't buy all these girls a lady drink", I inquired.
Some other observations: The girls in general are overweight and their diet dictates this and their lack of height compounds it. Secondly by comparison with the Thais they certainly look their age – Philippinas don't age well.
By contrast the freelancing bar Manila Bay Cafe – used to be the LA Cafe (equivalent of SBG7 with air conditioning), is packed to the gunnels with young girls – by that I mean student university graduates upwards. Some very attractive girls, who can be had for a very reasonable donation. The down side is that this bar still permits smoking. Also on a Saturday afternoon it had all the atmosphere of a graveyard shift.
The other good bit of news is that the tramp stamps have barely made any inroads here, thankfully they are still very much of an exception.
Everybody was shocked that I had never got married, so just trying to live with a girl here I think would be nearly impossible.
And then of course it would dictate a Catholic wedding, followed by lots of Catholic kids, with the church becoming the third party in any relationship.
This must have been my fifth visit to the Philippines, but this time I was nearly mugged. This all happened in broad day light just outside of my hotel in a very upmarket business district, walking to Delice at midday. Initially about three or four street urchins approached me, so I've now got my shoulder bag right in front of me, but then another eight that just came out of nowhere and surrounded me, like a pack of hyenas. Whatever direction I took they blocked my path, all the local people just passed by and would not get involved when I was shouting for help. Very intimidating, as the last thing you want to do in a situation like this is to touch any of these kids, let alone hit them. In the end I think I had to go out into the traffic, and I was quite shaken up by the time I reached Delice.
"Oh yes we now all about this street gang, they're robbing the tourists daily", I was told.
But I was lucky that I didn't get into an altercation with them, as it's only then the police make an appearance, and have you up for assault. Of course they are the ones who are running these gangs. I never saw a policeman in all the time I was there. As for the professional adult muggers, you should always carry enough so they don't go short, not too much but then again not to little I was informed. Too little then they have a tendency to get upset, and when this happens for all their toil and trouble they often decide just to kidnap you instead.
I hold the Catholic Church directly responsible for the extreme poverty that they have indirectly created in the country.
Two weeks of research again proved fruitless for a decent meal.
Will I be going back again? Yes. Why? Free air miles.
A nice honest report. I had heard that that bar area was where all the really good looking girls were, at least compared to what's available in Angeles but your report really doesn't confirm that at all.