Feb 24, 2013

[Technicolor Musings] Malate is Dead

Malate White Party 2004
Malate is Dead.

Or at least, Queer Malate is Dead.

Or perhaps more specifically, My Queer Malate is Dead. At least that's what it feels like.

I'm not one of those super old school Malate folks, that much I have to admit. I only started hitting the club scene in 2003 and by then BED was already establishing its particular niche in the local gay dance club scene and the likes of Mint and Joy had already shuttered their respective bars. By some standards, I was rather late to the game, but who's counting, really?

Admittedly first going to Malate felt like walking into a show like Queer as Folk. It was such a colorful and vibrant community. BED was a tiny little bar right beside the likes of Komiks and New York Cafe. Pride Exchange officially became my very first sex shop I had ever entered with the appropriately phallic door handles. And it seems like night there as some wild and crazy party with someone new to meet at every turn.

BED Friends (June 2006)
Over the years, businesses have come and go, but this is probably most true for the Courtyard, which had always felt like such a key area for me. We saw BED slowly expand and new bars like Club Mafia Manila would come...and then go. But the community remained and Malate always felt like the vibrantly beating heart of gay Manila.

Thus when June would roll along, then there was no question about the need to go to Malate to brave the crowds, ignore the street party and get to your favorite bar to be with your friends. The White Party meant a time to celebrate LGBT Pride and hug and beso random strangers and just feel like you're a part of something greater. And there were bars that appeared outside of Malate like Government and such, but Malate was Malate was Malate.

But over the years, things started to change. Cafe Breton gave way to some weird Korean place and more bars that catered for foreign visitors (but not necessarily queer ones) took up more spaces. Red Banana got raided, but at least O Bar took its place. Eventually even Gilligan's closed and various establishments have tried their best to make the most of the that particular spot.

Post White Party 2007
Did Malate change or did I change? Did the place just seem more and more alien with every passing year? Did the people frequenting the White Party seem younger and younger and constantly needing to ask the question, "Do we really need to wear white?" Or did I just move on and transition to other interests or perhaps even other friends?

Over the years, the community just felt less and less like a community. It just hasn't felt as warm and comfortable and just more and more commercial. And now that BED pretty much occupies more than half the Courtyard and too many other spaces have been vacant for too long, it doesn't feel quite as diverse either.

And it's not like I had stopped going to Malate by the time I had gotten together with Tobie. That was not the transition point when Malate stopped feeling like a second home. Although I was with a new set of friends by 2009, I actually found a new home in O Bar Malate with Tobie and his circle of friends. And when O Bar Ortigas came along, we primarily went there since it was closer but also to support the new bar and help it walk those first few steps. But for the major events like the White Party, the Halloween Black Party and of course the post-Pride March parties, we were always there, at Malate.

But then the Pride March has made grounds in recent years to explore new venues for the annual LGBT Pride March including Quezon City and most recently Makati. The street party has evolved (or devolved?) from a massive open celebration with the community into a sad, highly commercialized event (although it seems the remaining Malate bars are trying to address this, finally).

I guess the clincher for me was when O Bar Malate finally closed its doors last Janaury. That just killed me on a completely different level. I had already tried visiting the renovated BED last year and didn't really enjoy the experience. And it's not like I would ever go to the likes of Che'lu - that place never really felt like home either.

Thankfully there's a new O Bar Ortigas to call home, a place where I still have friends who are valued enough to feel like a second family. The massive, expansive community of the old gay Malate may seem dead, but we are now at a point when the challenge is making all of Metro Manila - and in time this whole country - feel like a true home for the LGBT community. I guess it is why I volunteer now to help with Task Force Pride Philippines, to help make that dream a reality.

Home is where the heart is. I know where mine is. But sadly, it doesn't seem to be Malate anymore.

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  1. Awts. Malapit na pala ma-dedo ang gay club sa Malate -- hindi pa rin ako nakakapunta! :(

  2. Why am I not surprised you'd once again comment about things you haven't done in life, E. You really need to stop living in regret and take action!