Feb 29, 2008



mIRC logo. I mentioned in my first post that the first gay person I met (and outed myself to) was through IRC, so that makes it my first eyeball or EB. This was way back in 1999 and the guy I met was this shy, kinda nerdy teenager and I let him jerk me off. Anyway, I stumbled onto the local gay chat rooms out of curiosity. I already knew about IRC way before my first EB and it was during a lazy afternoon in September 1999 alone in my room that I decided to log on to #gay and to try to chat with other non-straight guys. Of course the room was filled with people from all over the world but I noticed an obviously Pinoy guy based on his nickname (which I don't recall anymore). I did a simple whois on him and I saw that he was logged in the #gaymanila channel. The rest as they say is history.

I guess that a large number of us had our first encounter of our secret world via IRC. Way, way before Guys4Men, Yahoo! Messenger, eGroups, Friendster and blogs, IRC was there to give people like us a discreet way to secretly meet other guys. I would assert that it is the pioneer Internet outlet for us gay and bi guys. I still log on to IRC from time to time and still see that the chat rooms are still quite active despite the rise of social websites like Guys4Men. I guess nothing beats the real-time nature of talking to other guys that IRC provides. The old #gaymanila channel is no longer active and it was replaced by the #bi-manila and #salsalan on both the Undernet and Dalnet IRC networks. I still remember the time when there was an impression that the chatters on bi/gay Undernet channels are "snobbish" while those on Dalnet are "jologs." Nowadays, this distinction is largely gone and many people actually log on to both networks at the same time (and spew the same personals ads on all four channels).

If you're still into IRC chatting, here's a tip that I would recommend: if you're using mIRC to chat in IRC (note: mIRC is the application used to access the IRC Internet service; they are not the same thing, though most people assume so) and you're using Mozilla Firefox to browse the Web, try the ChatZilla extension instead of mIRC. I've been using ChatZilla for a few years now and I find it much better than mIRC. One advantage is that ChatZilla is immune from the stupid scripts that plague mIRC users. Another is that since ChatZilla is integrated into Firefox, you get some nifty advantages such as middle-clicking on URLs in ChatZilla will launch that URL into a new tab in Firefox and these URLs are also colored such that you can tell whether you have visited it or not, just like in most normal web pages.

Since five years ago, I haven't been chatting on IRC as much as I used to. I guess I must've met more than a hundred guys from my early years spent chatting. (There were times when I had an EB every week!) Nowadays, I still log on from time to time and get to have a few EBs, but I have since ventured into more diverse ways of meeting other people. But if you're still very much in the closet, IRC is still an excellent way to get to talk to other guys since you only reveal as much of yourself as you are comfortable with.

So, have you ever chatted on IRC? Do you still chat there frequently or as much as before? Tell us some of your more interesting chat-related encounters and stories. :-)

Feb 24, 2008

Epitome: that bathhouse in Malate

Epitome logo.Epitome is the first gay bathhouse I've ever been to in the Philippines (I've visited one in Japan before) and it's a pretty decent place if you want to get your fix of naughty adventure. I've gone back here several times and most of my experiences in Epitome have been great. Epitome is located along Leon Guinto St. (that's on the other side of Taft Ave. from the Orosa-Nakpil area) near the corner with Remedios St.

If you've never been to Epitome but you have seen Sikil (which I reviewed recently) then you've already seen a good part of the interiors of Epitome, since the bathhouse is one of the major settings of the indie film. The elaborately costumed shows were staged in Epitome's lounge, the locker room scenes are also in Epitome, and the garden-air bathhouse scenes show the heart of this bathhouse (including the jacuzzi from which a nude Richard Guebar came out of). In fact, Sikil had a special advanced screening last March 2007 in Epitome. But, don't think that what you see in the film is actually what goes on in Epitome. For one thing, Epitome is usually open at night from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. except on Sundays when they open from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., so the daylighted scenes in Sikil is not the norm. Also, there are no costumed stage plays in the lounge, but there are drag comedy shows instead.

As far as bathhouses go, Epitome is not really just a bathhouse. Its 3rd floor lounge doubles as a comedy bar where the Raging Kittens (a drag group) perform stand-up comedy and sing diva songs, from Thursdays to Saturday. You might say that the lounge forms a wholesome front for Epitome to mask the carnal goings-on happening below the lounge. Hehehe. There are several videos of their performances in YouTube, if you're curious.

The bathhouse proper of Epitome is quite complete in amenities. There's a locker room with a powder counter at the entrance. There's a video room where blue films are regularly played. There are eight cubicles in the second floor where you can have intimate privacy with your catch. On the ground floor is the gym area (with a not so-complete array of equipment), a sauna and steam room, a jacuzzi, and open-air showers as well as two shower cubicles, if you're not up to bathing in the buff. There are also two toilet cubicles near the shower area. On the other end of the ground floor is a garden bar with chairs and tables where you can enjoy your drinks or chit-chat with someone, and there is a dark almost pitch-black "maze" where you can grope around your way touching what normally isn't touched. :-p

Unlike its older cousins, Fahrenheit in Quezon City and Club Bath in Pasay, Epitome does not have its own website and so you have to be resourceful to find out any information about this place online. Guys4Men is the perennial PR site of Epitome and the proprietors often post events of Epitome in G4M's calendar and any bathhouse-related threads in G4M's forums regularly get "spammed" by weekly events listings. If you don't have a G4M account (who doesn't?), then you can learn more about Epitome over at this public thread in the Pinoy Pride forums.

So is Epitome any good? Well, it's quite decent and I have enjoyed myself over there. The crowd is quite varied and has more of the yuppie-types and are not too aggressive. I find going there an ego booster, actually, and there are some cuties and hunks that grace the venue. And unless you're a really unappealing guy, physically, it's not impossible to find some quick fun in the dark corridors of Epitome. If you've never been to a bathhouse before and want to try going to one, I would recommend Epitome as a good introductory place. :-)

I will post more about Epitome in the future. In the meantime, shown below are some shots of Epitome's interiors from Sikil.

Feb 17, 2008

A review of Sikil


Among the unusually numerous locally-produced gay-themed indie/digital films coming out this year, it is Sikil, with international title Unspoken Passion, that was first to have its regular screening starting last January 16 at the Robinson's Galleria. I was able to catch Sikil amidst fairly glowing reviews coming from The Bakla Review, and fabcasters Tony and McVie. Sad to say, I wasn't as impressed by the movie as them.

Unlike Tony who totally related to Enzo, the gay main protagonist played by Ginoong Pilipinas 2006 cutie Ken Escudero, I wasn't able to relate to any of the characters. (Of course, I ain't straight so I also wouldn't be able to relate to sexy hunk Wil Sandejas' character, Adong, hehe.) This isn't to say that I have to be able to emphatize with the characters to like the movie but that coupled with the other elements that were quite blah for me, did not a great film make. The film is not crap, that I will tell you, but nothing in particular stood out for me so it was definitely a not very memorable film.

Easily the best thing in the movie is the light plot with a fairly happy ending that is atypical of most local gay indie films. In it we have Enzo, the gay guy, falling for his childhood bestfriend, Adong who is smitten with their common friend Melay. Enzo so loves his guy that he helped Adong elope with Melay to Manila and after many years, took in both Adong and his daughter after Melay abandons them. What ensued after are scenes of mushy domestic scenes of Enzo and Adong taking care of Adong's love child. It's not quite your typical unrequited love story. Enzo's family sub-plot is a pretty nice addition but were times it became too awkward and dangerously skittered close to the tasteless shouting prevalent in Filipino drama.

The acting was passable enough though the first-time actors could definitely use some improvement. On the other hand, the editing seriously needs an overhaul. There were several scenes that had a why-the-fuck-did-they-put-that-in-there character, like the moviehouse scene where the gay pimp gets stabbed to death in the bathroom and dumped down onto the gay audience, who promptly screamed "punyeta!" Also, the attempt to invoke helplessness in a sado-masochist scene by cheap camera blurring effects is quite distracting. The movie clocked in at a full 1 hour and 50 minutes and it simply didn't need to be that long.

As for the eroticism? Well, there's plenty, including a full frontal of Richard Guebar that had absolutely nothing to do with the story. On the other hand, the lead actors, Wil Sandejas and Ken Escudero, provide plenty of eye candy.

Sikil is a good film to see once. But before it can become a fine cinematic jewel, the numerous rough edges definitely need some smoothing and the various elements, a lot of polishing.

Feb 16, 2008

Where is Icon Magazine?


Cover of the May-June 2007 issue of Icon Magazine.Whatever happened to Icon Magazine, that high-end glossy FHM for gay and bisexual guys? I have bought several issues of this promising magazine and I find the contained articles very thoughtful, the layout professionally done, and the boys just plain yummy, without delving into sleaze. (I'm still drooling over the close-up shots of skinhead cutie Paolo Cabalfin in the second issue. And Mark San Diego's photoshoot.)

It seems that the last issue was the May-June 2007 issue that had a smorgasbord of guys on the cover. After that, I haven't heard of any further issues. Even their website (http://www.iconmag.com.ph) isn't working anymore.

Is this symptomatic of a larger problem in the gay publishing industry? Can't they sustain their production costs (like, the talent fees of the models might be too much for them)? Is the pink peso not strong enough? Or do we just want the nudity that other more risque magazines have to offer?

Feb 11, 2008

Stonewall, AIDS, and the Internet


I think that there are three paramount moments that have affected the lives of gay and bisexual men in the last century. First is the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Second is the emergence of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s. Last is the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the 1990s.

The Stonewall Riots were the first violent and large-scale protests between queer people and people in authority. Prior to the riots, New York City policemen had been regularly harassing gay and transgender people and raiding their bars and clubs. On June 28, 1969, Policemen did one of their usual raids at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and in the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, those arrested decided enough is enough and resisted the law enforcers. Violence ensued and the protests continued over the course of several days. This event resulted in the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement, marked by political activism and pride consciousness. Today, queer people all over the world celebrate June as the Pride Month and in Manila, this is celebrated in the annual White Party in Malate in the weekend nearest to June 28.

AIDS, of course, has dealt a huge blow to sub-Saharan Africa and also against gay populations in the Western world. The sexual revolution that became widespread during the 60s and 70s (and on which the LGBT rights movement rode on) was drastically tempered by the rise of the "gay disease" in the eighties. AIDS has claimed an estimated 25 million lives to date with 38 million more living with HIV. To drum up consciousness, World AIDS Day is celebrated every December 1st and the local LGBT community celebrates this in the annual Pride March during the first week of December.

More than LGBT rights and AIDS, I think it was the Internet/WWW that profoundly affected the vast majority of gay and bisexual people all over the world. Majority of us queer guys are in the closet and would not openly support LGBT rights and most of us are healthy and, through proper education and safe sex practices, have avoided the AIDS plague. So I argue that it was the arrival of cyberspace that had the most impact. The anonymous nature of the Internet has liberated millions of gay and bisexual people from the homophobia of the society at large. Never before in history has there been a safe and widespread venue for gay people to seek kindred souls and realize that they are not alone and that they need not suffer in silence. Chat rooms, web forums, and blogs are filed with the hidden lives and stories of queer men.

My life as a gay guy in Manila is shaped in a large part by the Internet. The first gay person I met was through IRC. Most of my closest gay friends I have met online. And the Web remains to be my single biggest resource for information for living my "other" life. So, I created this blog as my way of contributing to that vast resource. I hope that through my writing, other gay and bisexual guys can learn and enjoy the queer life without necessarily outing oneself.

My name is Vince and this is Discreet Manila. Welcome to our world.