Stickman Readers' Submissions July 14th, 2023

Angeles, Sunday 9th June

My resolution for tonight is – no barfine! I’ve got an early start tomorrow, and anyway, believe it or not, I’ve had enough (for now). My plan is to start in La Bamba and visit a number of old favourites on the way up to Brown Sugar, where I hope to see my intellectual friend, Althea, apologise for not turning up yesterday, and talk to her some more about Nihilism (but I must check it out on Wikipedia first!). I have decided not to barfine her. 4,000 is a serious chunk of cash to shell out for just a nude cuddle. If I feel in the mood, I’ll go on to the last bar on the strip, Dimples, and see if I can get lucky there.

By the time 7 o’ clock arrived, I had changed my mind. That new gogo bar, Skyfalls, was directly opposite The Royal Amsterdam, so I felt honour bound to check it out. You will see in the photograph a sign that says “Grand Central” over the gogo bar sign. That’s not a main line railway station, it’s a hotel – but just imagine a main line railway from Manila to the centre of Walking Street, terminating in a gogo bar!

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The first thing I saw when I passed the curtain was dancers in black mini dresses. I already knew it was a Korean bar, so the dresses were to be expected, but – a pleasant surprise – there was no smoking. The girls were of a good standard, though nothing stood out. A few gave me a welcoming smile, which I needed, because I was the only western customer in there and the oldest by about 30 years! There was a stage to one side of the bar and customer seating to the other. There were three tiers of seats upholstered in grey leather. About two-thirds along that side of the bar was a door and a staircase which obtruded into the bar and cut off the seating. On the other side was one table with four seats where some waitresses were sitting. They moved over and made a space for me to sit. There was no stage bar or stools, thus seating was limited. Not long after, a group of five Koreans came in, and finding nowhere to sit, went out again. There is plenty of space in there, it has just been badly utilised. The music was horrible, loud techno, made worse by a showoff DJ who walked around with a radio mike making unnecessary voice-overs.

I settled down with a Pale Pilsen to study the form, but not before I had asked a waitress about prices: my drink, 150, lady drink, 350, barfine, 5,000. 5,000! that’s pushing it! I’d think twice before shelling out that amount.

There were about 36 girls on or around the stage. Most were not dancing, but were chatting to their friends or obsessed with their phones. I caught the eye of a girl at the extreme left of the stage and signalled her to join me – Marife, 23, and only two days in the bar, though she had worked in Las Vegas bar for 9 months previously. She had a shapely body and a little of that fresh-faced look which was probably the result of being new to this particular bar. We chatted for a while and then I asked her the million dollar question: if I barfined her, would she stay all night.

She replied, “When can I go in the morning?”

I said, “7,” and she seemed OK with that. I said that I had only just come out, and that it was too early for a barfine and that I might come back later and barfine her, but I wasn’t sure, because my mate Dave might drag me off somewhere else, so she should take any other offers that came her way.

She told me that she was on the afternoon shift and finished at 10, so I would need to come before that. Then I made my farewells and tried my “kiss test”. I made to kiss her on the lips, but she turned her cheek – fail! Never mind, I put her on the back burner as a possibility if I didn’t meet anything better.

I decided to get back on plan, so I headed to La Bamba – shock horror, closed! But I don’t think it has closed down. Sunday and Monday are slow days and some bars close to save running costs and give the girls a break, so I went into Gecko’s next door. You can see from the photo of the bar frontage that a gecko lizard is the bar’s logo. Anyone familiar with the Philippines will know that geckos are ubiquitous house guests, helping to keep the house clear of insects, and keeping the occupants awake at night with their signature call: “Gecko!”.

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It was another time warp. Nothing inside had changed since I first visited it in 2006 (except for the flat-screen TV). It is a long, narrow bar, with a stage to the left and one row of customer seating to the right. The ceiling is black and decorated with small bas-relief geckos in different colours. There are the usual “infinity mirrors” some of them covered with names of guys who rang the bell going back as far as 2009.

Once again, the only thing that was not vintage-style were the girls. On my first visit, this bar was crammed with young cuties, about 12 on stage, and another half a dozen sat in front of it facing the customers. That night there were only five dancers, most of whom were on the heavy side. Only one of them was halfway decent. She was somewhat slimmer than the others and had a pretty face, but her signature feature was her long, black hair, the longest I have ever seen, going all the way down her back and ending just below her butt cheeks. I was just about to call her down for a chat when the set changed and she disappeared somewhere.

I asked a waitress about prices and found that drinks were standard, but there was no barfine. “What! No barfine!” I exclaimed. “Can’t you take a girl out?” She went on to explain that you could take a girl out and what you paid was between you and the girl, the bar didn’t take anything. Since a girl’s cut is around 50% of the barfine (sometimes a little more), that means you could take a Gecko’s girl for 2,000 – 3,000. What a great system! So much better than the Korean bars, which are pushing prices up.

After Gecko’s, I made another attempt to get back on plan, intending to visit a number of old favourites on my way to Brown Sugar. I looked into Carousel, but there were few girls, fewer customers and no atmosphere. This is a huge bar with a large carousel in the centre which goes slowly round and round. In 2006, that bar was so full there was nowhere for me to sit and the carousel was so full the girls were hanging on at the edges. Even if you are not tormented by memories of this bar in its heyday, it would still appear somewhat forlorn.

So I went to Camelot. It was better than the last time I looked in, with about eight girls on the stage, but there were no customers at all. The girls cheered to see me, and there was one I quite liked in a bright red dress with bright red lipstick, but she avoided my glance and hid behind another girl. Well, this is a Korean bar and most Korean mongers are young men. She obviously didn’t want to waste her time with a western granddad. So my plan had failed again – time to move on.

When I walked into Brown Sugar I was on plan at last. I saw Althea straight away, apologised for not turning up on Saturday night, blaming my friend, Dave (by the way, Dave is a mythical friend whom I use as an excuse, though I did have a friend of that name in AC years ago). I told her that, anyway, I’d had second thoughts about barfining her because she was a virgin (the real reason is mentioned above). She seemed fine with that, and soon we were chatting philosophy again, with Althea asking questions like: “Is truth relative?”. I mumbled something about the different definitions of “truth” from Megan Markle’s “my truth” to Einstein’s E=MC2, but I didn’t explain myself very well because I was simultaneously checking out the talent on the stage.

She went on to ask me about my reading. Had I read, Aphorisms on Love and Hate by Friedrich Nietzsche? No, but I had read a summary of his philosophy. Had I read Of Mice and Men, by Steinbeck? Yes, and explained how it was a victim of the culture wars in the US, as the description of the black character, Crooks, is said to be racist. What was I reading at the moment? I told her Iron Coffins by Herbert Werner, a book about the Battle of the Atlantic written from the German point of view. She’d never heard about the Battle of the Atlantic, and was a bit hazy about WW2 in general. Of course, she had no idea what a U-boat was, and telling her it was a German submarine didn’t seem to help.  To be fair, I suppose that, from an Asian point of view, we westerners also have surprising gaps in knowledge.

All this time, I had been keeping one eye on the stage and had spotted a girl who looked promising. She was tall and a little heavy, but had a pretty face and dyed-blonde hair. I decided it would be polite to wait until Althea had finished her drink and gone back to waitressing before I invited her to join me, but soon after, the guy at the end of the row beat me to it. I watched them together out of the corner of my eye and came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t barfine her (I’m getting quite good at doing this – how? It can only be intuition, since the way they interact is often no guide). All I had to do was wait.

I briefly considered going back to Skyfalls for Marife, but baulked at the price – 5,000, especially considering that it was so near the end of her shift and that she had failed my kiss test. I’m not that price sensitive because I can’t get here very often and 1,000 PHP one way or the other makes little difference – but it’s psychological. Back when the all-in barfine was, on average, 1,200, I was happy to take a chance on a girl I wasn’t sure about.’ In retrospect, I think she would have been the best girl of the evening, but you only get once chance, and I missed it because of my obsession with Miss Blondie.

I decided to wait until she was free, and that the best place to wait would be another bar. So I paid my tab, told Althea I’d be back, and went in search of another bar – but where? My two favourites, Lollipop and Shooters were out because I wanted to avoid my two previous barfines, and I had checked out most of the other possibles. Then I saw Monsoon and remembered that I had had a good night there back in 2019 when I met Miss Perfect Butt. I had avoided it on this trip because I was under the impression that it was now a Korean bar, but hey, any port in a storm!

As soon as I went through the curtain, I saw that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Monsoon is a western-style bar of the Lollipop/Shooters type – just my style. I sat down, ordered a drink, and asked about prices: my drink 135, lady drink 350, barfine 4,500.

As soon as the waitress went away, a girl made a play for me. She seemed pretty enough, so I invited her down. Lane from Tarlac, with three kids to support. When I asked her age, I was shocked at the answer – 37! She could easily pass for 27 (but it was dark in there and I had the wrong glasses on). I was even more shocked when she went on to describe her bargirl career. She had started in Apple (now gone) about five years ago and had worked in Insomnia, Lollipop, Baccara and Shipwrecked (so been round the block a few times). She told me a lurid tale of how she had fallen off the upper tier in Baccara, where there is a stainless steel mezzanine over the stage. She had been badly injured, but the bar paid her hospital fees and gave her compensation, and luckily, there were no long term effects.

As we talked, I eyed up the talent, and found a few of the girls quite likable. One, according to Lane, was a cherry girl, and the other was as much like a cherry girl as makes no difference, with the same fresh-faced innocent look.

By this time, Lane was all over me, including stroking me down there. I’ve no doubt she would have been good in bed and that her clients would have the benefit of her (very) extensive experience, but she wasn’t for me. I’m not keen on pussy that his been pounded like tenderised meat. I’d rather have a fresh-faced innocent even if she is a poor performer.

It was at that point that I realised my plan was defunct in a more basic way. I had begun the evening with no intention of barfining, but my session with Lane made me realise that I was hot for it – though not with her – hopefully, with Miss Blondie.

Lane necked her lady drink, a San Mig Light, in no time, so, feeling sorry for her, I bought her another, making it clear at the same time that there would be no barfine because I was going to meet my mate, Dave.

Before I left the bar, I complimented the western manager on his good work, but I couldn’t help feeling a sense of frustration. I had discovered a Lollipop clone, but it was of little use to me because Lane would jump on me as soon as I walked through the door, and there was no prospect of her retiring just yet.

I discovered another thing in that bar – water. I had already had five Pale Pilsens and I was feeling the effect; it was making me drunk and tired. So I ordered a bottle of water and it perked me up in no time, preparing me for my next foray into Brown Sugar, as, surely, Miss Blondie’s customer had gone by now.

He hadn’t, he was still there in the corner with Blondie on his lap, so I decided to chat to another girl to while away the time. There were two towards the left of the stage whom I fancied, one with that fresh-faced look of youth, the other, slim and lively. I chose the former: Leah from Leyte, 18 years old and only one week in the bar – just my type! Except that that was all I got out of her. She sat there like one of those Japanese love dolls and made no attempt at conversation or body contact. What a deadbeat! She’s going to have to do better than that or give up the profession!

I drank up quickly and moved on to nearby Insomnia, reasoning that, by the time I came back. Miss Blondie would surely be free. There was not much going on in there as there were few girls, only five on stage, and about the same number of customers, but hey, I had time to kill and couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. I had water again, 110 PHP for a bottle. Lady drinks are 165-300 and the barfine is 3,500 for dancers and 4,000 for Spotlight girls.

Insomnia is a medium-sized bar with a central stage. Above the centre of the stage is a large hole and a fireman’s (sorry, fireperson’s) pole down which the Spotlight dancers slide. The ceiling is decorated with the stars and moons of the Insomnia logo and there are the usual “infinity mirrors”.

There was nothing I fancied on stage, but I spotted a bored and tired looking cutie at the bar and asked a waitress to bring her over: Mylene, 20, from Samar. She was pretty and, at 55 cms, petite, potentially the best girl in the bar – except that she turned out to be even more of a deadbeat than Leah (if that’s possible). Back in the day, the mamasan would have been watching, and would have had sharp words with her, but these days, it seems girls can do what they like and get away with it. When her drink was only two-thirds finished, she said she had to dance, and went on the stage, but that was just a porky pie, because, in Angeles, unlike Thailand, girls who are with a customer do not have to dance.

Never mind, it gave me a chance to try again with a cute little number dancing almost in front of me: Reya, 24, just as pretty, but an even worse deadbeat than the other (who was now sitting with a customer at the opposite side of the bar, chatting quite happily). In addition to her name and age, I managed to elicit from her that she was from Samar and had a son of eight years old (she must have got started early!), and that was the sum total of our conversation. It was bit like taking a prisoner in a war – name, rank and serial number – and that’s it!

Three deadbeats in row! What was wrong? Was it my age? Couldn’t be. The guy opposite was also sporting shades of grey. It was probably because I kept picking the best lookers – and the best lookers can be picky! He probably had something that I don’t have – maybe a bigger bulge in his trousers – where his wallet is! Time to move on. Surely, Miss Blondie would be free by now.

I checked the time when I entered Brown Sugar. It was coming up to 11:30, and that guy was still there monopolising my Juliet. He had been with her for over two hours. An Old Asia Hand once told me that it is bad form to monopolise a girl like that unless you intend to barfine her, as you should give her a chance to meet other customers who will. I hope he bought her lots of lady drinks.

Then, before I had even ordered my drink, the guy stood up, paid his tab and left – alone! I was right, he was not the barfining type. Perhaps I am wrong to attribute this to my intuition. Perhaps it is the case that fewer guys are barfining these days. They come into the bars to see the show and enjoy a bit of hands on fun, then they leave. Also, I get the feeling that the girls are not as keen to be barfined as they used to be. Their salaries are around 500 PHP per day (compared to around 300 in a store), and they will get around 175 per lady drink on the “double lady drink”, usually a San Mig Light, which is the most common choice. They also seem to be choosier about whom they go with (and we’re not all handsome, young Koreans!).  These reflections were reinforced by my waitress friend telling me later that there had been no barfines that night.

As soon as her customer had gone, Miss Blondie stepped onto the stage not far from me, and now that I could get a better look at her, I saw immediately that she wasn’t my type – pretty enough, but large and heavy. After waiting all that time for her, I was disappointed to say the least, and it was too late to go back to Skyfalls for Marife.

I switched my attention to that other girl I had seen earlier, the lively one: Cathy, 21, from Leyte. Her conversation was reasonably good, but there was no chemistry. She wasn’t a deadbeat, exactly, but she wasn’t going to be my “Juliet” for the night, either. It looks like I was going to break a record – three deadbeats and a non-starter in a row.

Nevertheless, it’s no good just sitting and looking. You have to keep chatting to girls until you find one with whom you have “chemistry”. For me, it works out that about one in five is any good, so, by the law of averages, the next one should end up in my bed. But there was nothing left worth trying. Where then? All I could think of was Champagne, which had one or two OK-ish girls on my last visit. So Champagne it was. It was past one when I walked in – to find just two girls on the stage, and anything resembling a cutie long gone.

I ordered a Pale Pilsen and sipped it thoughtfully while I considered my options. Then I had an idea. I’d go to Lollipop, buy Aurora a drink, but say that I wasn’t going to pay a barfine this late in the evening. Instead I’d meet her outside. It was win win. I’d get her company cheap, and, in return, I’d let her leave when she wanted to. But she wasn’t there – some other lucky guy was fondling that killer body. I sincerely hoped that she’d do a runner on him too.

I was desperate by now, so went after my default girl, Joy, in Shooters. I didn’t see her, and when I asked after her, the response was “Absent”. Had she taken a day off work? I doubt it – barfined, more like.

Time was running out. Most bars close at 3:00 which gave me about 45 minutes to score – but where? The only thing I could think of was Lucifer. The bar frontage had always put me off as it looked as though it was going to be another of those soulless Korean bars – but it was Hobson’s choice. I had completely forgotten about Dimples (the effect of drink and desperation), even though it was in my original plan.

I went through the curtain and found myself in Lancelot bar of old (the very first bar I visited on my first trip to AC in 2006). Shields and scutcheons lined the walls and the back of the bar was decorated with a portcullis theme. The only new decoration was hellfire flames painted behind the stage (which had been moved from its central position).

I asked a waitress about prices. My drink was 135, a lady drink 350 and barfines were divided into two tiers: girls in dresses cost 4,000, girls in bikinis cost 4,500. I looked at the dancers, bemused, because, despite the differences in apparel, there were no differences in attractiveness. As it happened, I chose a girl in a dress because I thought she was one of the best lookers in the bar. Danica, from Manila, aged 22. Unfortunately, she turned out to be the worst deadbeat of the evening. She said hardly anything to me, but kept getting up to talk to other girls, and even other guys. It was embarrassing, and, back in the day, I would have complained about it. But discretion is the better part of valour, so I used my Dave excuse and paid my bin, for the second time on this trip leaving a drink unfinished.

That evening reminded me very much of a similar evening in 2020 when I scoured bar after bar with mucho pesos burning a hole in my pocket and was unable to get laid. See my submissions here and here. I consoled myself by thinking that if the concept of averages has any meaning, I’d be in for a marathon orgy on my next visit!

I planned to end each article in this series with a photograph of my “Juliet” for the night, but there isn’t one for Sunday. No, wait! Perhaps there is. It’s this cute little number I met outside a restaurant on my Sunday afternoon stroll:


If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy some of my books about Thailand and the Philippines. Take a look here, here or here.


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