Just the other day I was chatting with Prince Charles and he was extolling the virtues of a little bar he had just discovered named Honey Ko’s. To put it simply the Prince was quite amazed by the raunchy atmosphere and the wild girls who knew no limits. Then after this he said the magic words, “Martin it’s carzy I never knew bars like that existed in Angeles”.
Now for me who has lived and visited Angeles for many years Honey Ko’s is just another bar but very obviously for Charles this was something new. After seeing his reaction it was then that I realized there are probably many people in the same boat as Charles and maybe a basic guide to the different sorts of bars would be handy for tourists. So without further ado it’s a quick thank you to Prince Charles for the inspiration and on with the guide.
Directly after Mount Pinatubo exploded the bar scene in Angeles was fairly basic and there was very little difference between one bar or another. Most bars featured a basic sound system, a solitary air-conditioning unit, a minimum number of dancers and a limited range of cheap booze. The bars ranged from basic hole in the wall blow job bars through to what (judging by today’s standards) can only be described as very basic go-go bars. The main customers back then were Americans and Australians as was shown by the vendors and street sales people who would hail you as “hey joe” or alternatively would say “gooday mate”. The expat community was decreasing in size as the Americans prepared to leave and the base was virtually out of commission due to the large amounts of volcanic ash (lahar) scattered everywhere. Occasional tourists seeking a cheaper venue than Manila would come up but mostly it was a very basic and some would say a dying bar scene.
As is clearly evident by today’s vibrant bar scene the bars didn’t die but in fact thrived and evolved. This evolution first started with the closure of Ermita in 1993. The closure of Ermita sent shock waves throughout the Philippines and throughout the mongering world. Many thought this would be the end of the bar industry as we knew it but in fact quite the opposite was true because like in so many aspects of life, the closing of one door prompted the opening of another. With the closure of Ermita some of the more forward looking bar owners cast their glances further afield and invested in Angeles. Of special note are Roadhouse bar, Illusions and La Bamba all of which were founded by people previously operating in Ermita.
These bars were important because they represented a monetary investment in Angeles, a sense of optimism, and to some extent they set a higher standard for other bars to aspire to. These bars represented well thought out designs and they along with Ziggys and Dreams were the first to employ multiple number of dancers and place an emphasis on the quality music systems, presentation of the dancers and maintenance of the actual bar. The Manila bars were one step up from the average Angeles bar and they were well maintained to prolong the higher standard.
From 1991 through to 1997 the bars slowly developed and eked out an existence but then a major player in the form of the Blue Nile group moved in with the building of Neros.
Neros was the first large bar with a center stage, an expensive sound system and over 100 girls. It represented a significant financial investment previously unheard of in Angeles and at the same was a harbinger of things to come in the very near future. This was commercialism reminiscent of Visions Superstar, Mistys, Firehouse and other large bars in Ermita. Neros also represented the beginning of a divergence of style between Perimeter road bars and those of Filed’s Avenue. Over the years this difference in style has become more and more pronounced and there is now a clear division between Perimeter road bars and Fields Ave bars.
After Neros and founded by the same company came Blue Nile Blue Nile Executive.
These were the dominant bars in terms of the number of girls they employed and the financial investment they represented. The Blue Nile Bar was the first big commercial bar where the girls were literally paraded on a hydraulically driven stage and the impersonal approach dominated as they actively sought the Asian Market. Many other bars also developed but the next real change was several years later with the emergence of the DollHouse group. The Dollhouse group developed big bars with more than one level capable of seating 100 people or more. They employed numerous girls and were the first to represent the big business aspect of girlie bars in Angeles. The Dollhouse group specialized in an impersonal approach catering for the mass market with numerous girls available 24/7 and a noticeable lack of foreign managers. Taking another leaf from the book of the Blue Nile Group they also specialized in choreographed shows and large, well publicized parties. Together the Dollhouse group and the Blue Nile Group represented what was in a way inevitable. The go-go bars had now changed from small to medium sized bars which were almost like a local pub with a few girls and an emphasis on the social aspects of mingling with one’s friends, to big business employing hundreds of girls complete with the glitz and glamour of modern day show business and a strictly impersonal approach.
In modern day Angeles there are literally hundreds of bars each with something unique to offer customers. Each bar has carved a niche in the market and has regular customers that appreciate the bar and what it represents. Due to time restrictions it is not practical for me to examine each and every bar in Angeles but instead I will give a general overview of the different types of bars (citing examples along the way)and what they offer the customers.
I have called this article From Golden Nile to Gobbles because apart from the alliteration aspect these two bars in my opinion represent totally opposite ends of the bar spectrum.
The first type of bars I will look at are the bigger show type bars. These include Blue Nile, Neros, Golden Nile, DollHouse, Atlantis, Crystal Palace, and Camelot, All these bars are physically large with many of them encompassing two or three separate levels, they all employ numerous amounts of girls, they all have various show groups of one sort or another, they mostly have a two tier bar fine system where one group of girls costs more than the other, they nearly all have the double ladies drink and they all have expensive sound systems and lighting. The emphasis in these bars is on glitz and glamor and showmanship.
On the positive side bars such as these offer a wide range of girls for the customers to meet and because you often have a greater number of new people flowing through the doors, each night can bring a different situation. When crowded the big bars also have a more lively atmosphere conducive to partying. On the negative side bars such as these are often little more than a meat market with little interaction between staff and customers. Lastly the drink prices are often higher than the less commercialized Perimeter Road bars and the double ladies drink will nearly always be present.
Next we have what I call the medium sized bars and these include Honeypot, Angelwitch, Roadhouse, Eager Beavers, Bodyshop, Tropix, Vortex La Pasha, Carousel, Owls Nest and Fantasy to name a few. These bars vary in size and also in what they offer.
Bars such as Angel-Witch and Roadhouse offer rock and roll music, a limited number of girls and proactive customer friendly foreigner managers. Bars such as these have a type of “local pub with girls” type ambiance and a large percentage of their business is regular clientele AC expats and long time tourists who have been visiting Angles for many years. Bars such as these act as a watering hole as much as they do a girlie bar and you can expect to find a group of regulars in there downing drinks, swapping tales and reveling in the old rock and roll music.
A second type of medium size bar as exemplified by Carousel, La Pasha and Fantasy are what I call the new breed medium size bar. These bars are slightly larger in area to that of Roadhouse or Angel Witch and they have what could best be described as a more commercial ambiance which is reflected by their clientele.
Generally speaking the music here is more modern and is played for the girls to dance to as much as it is for customer enjoyment. There is of course a healthy dose of music played for the customer especially in La Pasha but bars such as this cater for tourists as much as they do the locals so the ambiance is a little more high energy and commercialized. In these bars you can expect to find a greater number of girls as the bars make their income from bar-fines and ladies drinks as much as they do from customer drinks. The pricing in all these bars is much the same as the bigger bars of Fields Avenue and they do have the double ladies drink.
There is also a third type of medium size bar and they are bars such as Owls Nest, Eager Beaver and Honey Pot. Physically they are much the same size as the La Pasha group of bars and they have much the same pricing structure. But that is where the similarities end. These bars represent for want of a better term the old school. All these bars have been here under one name or another for over 15 years and in the case of Owls Nest for over 20 years. In these bars you can expect to find fewer girls and less razzmatazz. The pricing is slightly less than other Fields Avenue bars and the main type of customers are those who like to monger but shy away from the glitz and glamor of the more mainstream bars. Mostly the customers here are people that know the Angeles bar scene well due to the fact that they have been coming to Angeles or living in Angeles for many years. Generally speaking these customers are the ones who gravitate to the older style bars which represent the fond memories they have of yesteryear in Angeles.
These bars will nearly always take the role of a local pub with girls and will place an emphasis on income generated through customer drinks as much as and in some cases more so than income generated by bar fines and ladies drinks. In the course of any one night these bars normally have less customers than the mainstream bars and as a result you can expect the girls to be more friendly and a bit more raunchy as well as being a little more appreciative of your patronage. The general ambiance is less commercialized and there is less pressure salesmanship for things such as ladies drinks.
So far I have only dealt with the mainstream bars on Fields Avenue but there are many bars in Angeles which are in another league all together. The majority of these bars are in Don Juico Ave or Perimeter Road as it is colloquially referred to by the locals. Like Fields Avenue bars there is a variety of bars here ranging from the more commercial larger type bars as exemplified by Eruptions and Stargate through to the smaller hole in the wall bars that offer the very basics and nothing more such as Niftys and Rio’s.
The bigger bars are perhaps best exemplified by Stampede, Cherrys, Emotions and Eruptions.
All of these bars are within a comparatively close distance to Checkpoint which marks the end of Fields and the beginning of Perimeter Road. In these bars you can typically expect to find Perimeter Road prices which are approximately 20% cheaper than the Fields Avenue bars. There will normally be an emphasis on the regular social drinkers and indeed regulars make up a significant part of perimeter road bars market, much more so than Fields. The bars here have a sort of local pub feel but with girls which is why they have cheap SML and many will have draft beer.
In general the Perimeter Road bars will not have as many girls as the mainstream Fields bars but amongst the girls they do have you will nearly always find a “hottie” and in general the girls hare are experienced and eager to please. These bars range in style from the slightly glitzy Eruptions through to the older style Stampede. It is my experience that the girls here tend to be more friendly and approachable than in Fields bars but there is no where near the amount of girls that can be found in the bigger bars. The average customer age seems to be older and there is certainly a more laid back atmosphere where business is conducted at a much slower more relaxed pace. Most of the bigger Perimeter Road bars have an extensive range of alcohol and all the usual marketing tricks such as events, shows, raffles, ping pong balls etc. Perimeter Road bars tend to open earlier than Fields bars and a major part of their trading is done during the day.
A prominent feature of nearly all Fields Avenue bars is the so called managers table where a number of regulars will sit around and swap tall tales while watching the girls and the goings on of their favorite club. The managers table is important in that it sums up the approach of these bars and the market they appeal to. There are of course many tourists who visit these bars because the price is less but on a day to day basis these bars depend on and cater for the expat or regular visitor.
The next group of bars which can also be found on Perimeter road are the slightly smaller ones which appeal to the long term tourists and expatriates. Of course tourists visit them but these are very much dependent on the day to day business of regular patrons. Often these bars will attract people of the same nationality as the owners /managers. For example Dr Holmes which is owned and managed by Norwegians is very popular amongst Scandinavians customers whereas right next door in Eruptions they tend to have more Australian and American guests. Illusions on the other hand is a truly multicultural bar attracting patrons from all around the world but nearly all have one thing in common and that is they have been coming to AC or living in AC for many years.
Most of these bars will have a pool table and will be part of the local pool competition which is guaranteed business during the slow season. Again the emphasis here is on a friendly more laid back approach where the selling aspect is low key and the interaction between girls and customers is slower and more easy going. There is hardly ever pressure to buy ladies drinks and the atmosphere is more personal. These bars pricings are in line with other Perimeter Road bars and when visiting you can expect a heavy emphasis on consumption of alcohol as sales of this product forms a large percentage of their overall sales.
Some of the Perimeter bars can get fairly raunchy and the main one of these is HoneyKo’s . In HoneyKo’s they again rely on local expats and tourists who have been visiting the Philippines for numerous years and the prices are in accordance with that market. The girls here go through a fast learning curve and well know how to please their customers.
Again the emphasis here is on low cost drinks and local patronage and the only difference between here and other Perimeter road bars is that the girls are a bit wilder and more forward than in other Perimeter road bars. Topless shows and girls playing with various parts of your anatomy are a regular occurrence here. This bar is a bit more raunchy as can be its neighbor ThiHi and the girls are far from shy, in fact traditionally the girls in here will do just about anything to get your attention.
Lastly we have what I loosely refer to as the hole in the wall bars. These bars are generally smaller and offer the bare essentials only. Normally they will have one solitary air-conditioning unit, a few overhead fans, basic and limited seating, a limited number of girls the vast majority of whom are experienced especially in regards to oral activities and their wet bar stock is normally limited to the local alcohol with the occasional bottle of the more popular imported brands such as Johnny Walker black.
There will always be a limited sound system and the emphasis here is on maintaining the basics, there are not any set costumes and the girls can often be seen wearing boots, shorts and a skimpy top of any description. These bars mainly cater for people on a budget or people who have been residing or visiting Angeles for a long time. There is rarely a manger here as the emphasis is on quick sexual gratification rather than a social gathering.
One hole in the wall bar that is an exception to the rule is the Hangout. This, as the name implies, is basically a small outside drinking bar where many long term expats from all over the Philippines gather to have a drink or ten and basically hangout as they swap tales and watch the world go by. The emphasis here is on a social gathering with heavy consumption of alcohol this really is Angeles cheaper equivalent to the pub.
The prices here are on the lower side as would be expected given their market and there are only a few girls who work the inside bar. This bar is a leftover from days gone by and yet there is still a large number of modern day patrons who love this bar and make it their favorite watering hole. Tourists and newcomers are of course welcome here and it is a fact that by buying a round or two then just sitting back and listening to what the regulars have to say can be very informative, entertaining and instructional.
There are a number of different types of bars in Angeles and this article no doubt only scratches the surface. Indeed it was not my intention to do an in-depth report on all the bars of Angeles but rather just to give readers a broad overview of what to expect when visiting the different types of bars in Angeles city. For more specific information on some of the bars mentioned here please feel free to refer to the Asian Escapades bar review section.