Sep 12, 2010

[Pink Scene] O Bar Malate

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2013 - Effective February 1, 2013, O Bar Malate ended operations. You can still go to the new O Bar Ortigas, for those who are still looking for the O Bar experience.

O Bar Malate With Friends
O Bar Malate With Friends

When I started venturing out into the "gay scene", for lack of a better term, Malate was always at the center of things. Like most people, my gay life sort of began with the big bars like Bed and the now defunct Government in Makati, and that sort of worked out in the beginning.

After years of Bed near-exclusivity, my current partner managed to introduce me to new places to hang out like Butterfly Bar in Quezon City and of course O Bar in Malate. I've already posted a review of their Ortigas branch, so I figured it would make sense to post one of their original location in Malate. Besides, we're still in that weird period of Bed being temporarily closed while the recover from the fire a few months back and I'm sure we all need to broaden our queer horizons.

Laser GraceO Bar Malate is located precisely at the corner of Orosa St. and Nakpil St. in the heart of what we all know to be the gay part of Malate, Manila. For longer term Malate patrons, you may remember the O Bar location as once being the notorious Red Banana or the location of the LGBT-focused clothing shop Top and Bottom, both of which are no longer present.

O Bar Malate is a two-floor bar that is one of the few that have maintained the unique distinction of being open every single day of the week. Entrance ranges between P150 - P200 (on weekends) and that entitles you to three local beers or perhaps a single (simpler) cocktail if you're willing to use up all three stubs. Or you can just decide to order drinks outside and occupy one of the tables they have set up immediately outside the bar on the sidewalk sans the need to pay entrance. Stay off the street though unless there's a big street party event or something - the local sheriffs don't like that too much.

O Bar Malate Ground FloorO Bar Malate Ground Floor
The Ground Floor Of O Bar Malate"

For the longest time, the first floor of O Bar was the only floor of the establishment while Top and Bottom was still alive. The first few adjectives that come to mind when I try to describe O Bar falls along the lines of cozy or something given the relatively smaller size of the establishment. Thus the first floor does act a self-contained microcosm for things - there's the bar for drinks, a few tables, a small stage and a even a bathroom. On most nights they don't even open the second floor area since they don't get as many patrons on week days.

The tables are important since (1) it's a place to park your drinks, (2) O Bar has some great bar chow to go with your beers and (3) it's nice to have somewhere to gather around to talk. Believe it or not, O Bar acts more like a place to really hang out with friends given it's actually not that difficult to carry a conversation unless the music is really pumping out at full volume. Given the size of the bar, it helps to have friends to talk to, otherwise you're going to be forced into intimacy with all the other patrons when the place really gets packed, hehe. Dancing is still possible but don't expect to be able to pull off massive acrobatic routines when the bar is full, which is on most nights of the week.

Oh, and the bathrooms are another example of enforced intimacy - but quite frankly stay polite and try not to bother other patrons while they're doing their business, hehe. Seriously, it's not exactly a turn on.

O Diva NapIf you visit O Bar on any day between Sunday and Thursday, then you might be surprised when the waiter lays out little baskets of popcorn on all the table free of charge. When the popcorn is present, then you know there's going to be a little show courtesy of the O Divas, O Bar's regular drag queens. If you've seen other drag queen performances before, then you might have the wrong idea about what the O Divas are like. For one, they're not the kind of drag queens who devote all their resources to just looking as female as possible in order to put themselves on display. Nor are they the kind that will stand on a stage with a microphone and randomly insult members of the audience for comedic value.

O DivasAs far as my experience is concerned, the O Divas are all about fun, of the campy variety. On Sunday to Thursday nights, the O Divas will have 2-3 shows in a night geared towards entertainment together with fun costumes, silly props and gimmicks and the occasional awesomely accurate impersonations of popular stars. These are the kinds of performers who are not afraid to walk amongst the crowd or have people touch their campily fake boobs and tongue-enhanced vaginas. They're pretty serious about their shows though - they'll stay in whatever person they're channeling for the duration of the song whether its a recent pop hit or a classic older diba song.

I've read a few other opinions about how they feel the O Diva shows get in the way of their dancing, but it's sort of part of the territory. If you only want to dance, then stick to visiting O Bar Malate on Fridays or Saturdays.

Halloween Go Go DancerWhen there are no drag shows, then you can trust that the bar will have go go dancers present around the bar. Generally the dancers at Malate tend to be different from the dancers at the Ortigas branch, although there have been exchange programs where the dancers rotate between bars. Given the smaller size of the bar, this means to get a lot more up close and personal with them so yeah, they're definitely close enough to touch. They're always open to tips but don't expect them to lose more than just their shirts - that's not how things work in the local gay scene for now. Although they are open to receiving tips for their being on display, hehe.

Hairy DancerI have to admit that this feels a lot more fun than the dancers I've encountered at other bars. Generally those dancers tend to try and get more people to dance in order to keep the fun flowing, I suppose. That's good and all, but the O Bar dancers really tend to be there to be looked at and speculated about depending on your tastes. There are all sorts ranging from the slightly innocent-looking ones to the somewhat hairier ones that seem somehow more intimidating. So yeah, I can see that there's bound to be something for everyone in terms of eye candy.

More recently O Bar has added a second floor to the place that's only opens for Fridays and Saturdays and during special events for now. It provides more comfortable seating that makes it feel more lounge-like along with a second bar and a second bath room that's not quite as intimate as the downstairs one. While you won't be able to catch any drag shows if you're on the second floor, you will still get your share of go go dancers on the platforms. More importantly, it's a venue that makes it a heck of a lot easier to talk with your friends and I wouldn't be surprised if the option to host private parties here becomes possible in the future.

O Bar 2nd Floor
O Bar's 2nd Floor

I like hanging out at the second floor for more than just the chairs. It offers a different kind of bar experience than what we generally have these days. You can still dance, but it's not all about that. Nor are you being subjected to some kind of a show (comedy or otherwise). It's probably not as effective for meeting new people since the configuration limits how many people can hang around, but you can always go downstairs for that. I just wish that the second floor was open more these days, but I understand the economic limitations in play here.

So if you're looking for a different bar experience or you enjoy being able to get a heck of a lot closer to other people (quite literally), then O Bar Malate is a good place or you. Plus it's one of the better bars that are open on week nighs, which I can imagine comes in handy for you call center folks with split rest days or non-weekend days off. Best to go with a few friends for more fun, but if you're looking to meet folks, that works too. O Bar regulars are known for buying a drink for someone they're interested in or even passing along a rose from the rose girls who hover outside the bar.

My partner and I don't visit the Malate branch together very often because of my work schedule, but as I always say, feel free to say hello should you get the chance. We'll at least try to share a toast or something.


  1. Iv been to these malate strip once... And I never had the chance to return because the first one was traumatic... There were a bunch of guys fighting... My friend who left for Germany sees Malate as his mecca and he has always wanted to bring me there... Id say. Il just go to Government instead of malate... But then I dint know Government closed already... Too bad... =) I am still in the process of convincing my friends that malate is a safe place... hahaha! =)

  2. There's always Ortigas to consider.

  3. Vitori:
    That's odd - in all my Malate adventures, I've yet to be around during a fight. I still don't think it's a highly common occurrence - no more so than any other location with a bunch of guys who are under the influence of generous amounts of alcohol.

    But as my partner Tobie mentioned, another alternative is always O Bar Ortigas given it's in a more, um, straight location that offers what may be a more comfortable experience for foreign guests.

  4. Mon:
    It was my pleasure! Catch you next time! =D

  5. Sadly that branch closed down some time ago. But there's always the Ortigas branch to look forward to.