IT’S the first week of October, a monsoon month in this tropical region, and a “ber” month in the country known for holding the longest Yuletide celebration beginning with September and ending on Epiphany Day. I have been agonizing on what interesting topic to tackle for this week but have not been successful as yet. However, just this morning I overheard a smartly dressed woman at the table behind me in an eatery comment on her Saturday night visit to a macho dancer bar (as how a male strip club in the Philippine Islands should be called). I thought this might be a “good” thing to talk about, even for the time being, since, for many a macho dancer club patron, this subject is relatable. Who amongst the regular strip club guests has met and tabled* a “macho dancer” who was not “macho” at all?
“I thought they were macho,” the disappointed woman lamented to her female companion. The blunt remark drove home the point, piercing the manager’s heart, rather figuratively, and certainly offending, if not, putting the non-macho strippers, to shame, particularly the performer who joined her at her table and spent a good thirty minutes with her. She couldn’t be faulted for her disappointment nor could we blame her for her desire to see and spend time with a macho stripper. After all, she was in what was supposed to be a macho dancer club, whose nature of business clearly suggested she, or any other patron for that matter, could watch macho men perform on stage, to the satisfaction of the customers. She was hoping to see Chippendale-type entertainers, if you will. The strip bar let her down during that late night visit, in the process losing a good paying client whose bad experience could very well spell doom for the establishment. We all know how word-of-mouth works.
What does macho mean? Let’s quote authoritative Merriam-Webster on this: macho (mä-chō) means having or showing qualities (such as very noticeable strength and aggression) that agree with traditional ideas about what men are like : manly or masculine in a very noticeable or exaggerated way (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/macho). This seems vague from a local islander’s perspective since he equates “macho” with “handsomeness” and “sexy physique,” which idea, of course, doesn’t come off as fair and acceptable. The dictionary’s explanation appears a bit incomprehensible to the average islanders, whose own definition of a macho man still appears more acceptable and clearer, at least in this part of the world, and almost all his kind subscribe to his idea of a macho man: muscled, handsome and sexually appealing. Which are the same qualities virtually all macho dancer club patrons look for in a stripper. Quite simply, we are talking about a hunk.
What is a macho dancer? A macho dancer is a straight stripping or non-stripping performer in a Philippine male strip club or male entertainment bar, popularly known as a macho dancer bar and famously miscalled “gay bar” even by the locals, and is supposed to be good-looking (which concept is variable) and gym-toned. Macho means you are straight as an arrow because your workplace caters to a different breed of homosexual men, who are actually looking for heterosexual performers, and to female patrons including matrons. The idea of having openly out but straight-acting, straight-talking, and straight-looking gay men as strippers does not sit well with strip bar owners and managers, most of whom are virtually transvestites who prefer real guys for strippers or for non-stripping dancers.
A visit to a local macho dancer bar, however, proves that not all male dancers are macho and handsome or cute. Yes, there are macho, that is, from a local’s viewpoint, “half-macho” (whatever that means), lean guys who are not toned, stocky chaps, as well as chubby performers. The non-macho men may not be hunky but they are still classified as “macho dancers” by virtue of their job as macho dancer bar performers. They might not be hunky on the day they were hired, but they would eventually transform into beautiful swans in the next several weeks, because their envy of their macho counterparts’ sexy physique would push them to hit the gym. Here, the terms “macho” and “hunky” are used interchangeably, because locals think they mean the same way.
But then her companion countered with this thought-provoking quip: “It does not matter if he isn’t macho as along as he can talk about anything.” As to this utterance, I subconsciously wish I could table* a stripper, macho or not, who could also talk about the situation in Juba or East Ukraine, the current Greek economy, the Chinese mainland stand on the present university student-spearheaded protest in Hong Kong, the Catalonia independence referendum, the plight of the Kalash people, the ISIS threats, the Ebola outbreak, or the beauty of nudity, as much as he could lament about the poverty that has driven him to work as a macho dancer. A stripper like this might set me back 15,000 Pesos (US$350) but it would be worth my time and dough.
(For the Gonogran)
The author does not own the images featured in this article. Photo credits: Michael Stokes, Rick Day, and rap.genious.com.
*table – a local strip club parlance meaning to get a dancer to join you at your table.