30 May 2003


The town of Baclaran, where I have lived all of my life (except for the four years in the US), is full of girlie bars. Much more so now, when the City of Manila, about fifteen minutes away, closed down places like these a few years back. Now called KTVs, these places offer a place to drink, meet women (known as Guest Relations Officers or GROs). Actually KTV (derived from Karaoke Television) is a misnomer since you won't find a karaoke in the bar except in the VIP room. Most of these places are darkly lit, subdued, and more often than not, have women on stage stripping and gyrating to such songs as Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory". Not to be a hypocrite, I go to these places with friends once in a while.

But I am digressing.

In the early 70's, there weren't places like these. There weren't KTVs. Places with naked women dancing where scarce. There were Beergardens. Similar to KTV's where women serve your orders and also offer GROs (then called hostess) but instead of the karaoke, there were jukeboxes..

One of these beergardens, was D' Lovers Nitespot. In the day, it was a cafeteria and portrait studio. Yup, a portrait studio. A place where you go for an ID Picture for your uhhh... ID card. The person who used to man it was a guy called 'Boy Portrait'. A lot of people named 'Boy' here in the Philippines. Baclaran is not an exception. The guy who owned the then swanky girlie bar "Wild Duck" was called 'Boy Pato' (pato is the filipino word for duck). Even the guy who used to supply the jukeboxes in the town was called (yup) 'Boy Jukebox'.


D' Lovers Nitespot. I remember that place since it was just literally around the corner from where I lived. Around a hundred square feet, yellow linoleum tiles, white walls, red folding tables with matching chairs, and in the afternoon, a big camera on a tripod sitting in the side. At night, the camera is gone, all the lights are red, the tables are covered with red plastic table covers ,and the jukebox is cranking out Ben by Michael Jackson (or was it The Jackson Five?). Three women who both serve as waitress and hostess sit outside enticing the passersby to come in and have a drink. That was around 1974. I was six years old.

2003 and I'm 35 years old. D' Lovers Nitespot is still around. Still in Airport Road, it moved around two blocks from where it originally was. But the old metal sign is still there. The lights inside are (is?) still red. And there were still three women outside coaxing me to come in. The Portrait Studio is gone, closed in the early eighties when 'Boy Portrait' junked his aging camera and started collecting Jai Alai bets (and no, he wasn't called Boy Jai Alai he was still Boy Portrait). The jukebox is also gone. Instead of that, there was a karaoke machine playing 'We are the Champions' by Queen.

It's still a classic hole in the wall. Sandwiched between three other bars, D' Lovers Nitespot is for me, one of the landmarks of Baclaran. It wouldn't even cross your mind that this place has been operating for 29 years. Although it looks like it.

I wonder if Boy 'Karaoke' has updated the songs in the machine...