Metro Manila, the Philippine National Capital Region, has a population of about 12 million people in sixteen cities on the eastern shore of Manila Bay --among the world's most densely populated areas. Inhabited since around 3000 BC, the area was thriving by the 10th century as the Kingdom of Maynila, trading with Ming Dynasty China and the Hindu-Buddhist Medang Kingdom of Java. The Majapahit Empire governed from Java in the 13th century, until the invasion by Brunei in 1485 --after which an Islamic dynasty was imposed.
Spain arrived, bringing Christianity in 1571, and established their Spanish East Indies capital here in 1603. Maynila was simplified to Manila, and the city became the Far East center of activity for Spain, linking Manila and Acapulco with galleons; a major hub of world trade between Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Except for a brief two year British occupation, Spain's rule continued for the next three centuries; first from New Spain/Mexico, then directly from Madrid.
Americans, who took control after the 1898 Spanish-American War, were resisted in a three-year guerrilla war, but US administration city planners transformed Manila, adapting the old city to modern needs. In 1945, the World War II battle to retake the city from the Japanese was the bloodiest event of the war in the Pacific, and much of the city was devastated, especially within the historic Spanish colonial district. Only Warsaw suffered more destruction than Manila during the war. Reconstruction of the old walls began in 1951, and the Intramuros district was declared a National Historical Monument. Ties between Americans and Filipinos endured after independence, and US military bases such as Subic Bay and Clark Field didn't close until 1991. Over 3.4 million Filipino-Americans now live in the USA.
The capital of the independent Republic of the Philippines was moved in 1948 to Quezon City, to the northeast. Rebuilt and revitalized, the city was prosperous, and again called the "Pearl of the Orient," as it had been in pre-war years. But, with billions of dollars in public funds stolen during the twenty years under President Ferdinand Marcos, and other corruption scandals, the city's reputation has been tarnished, and there are fears of impending insolvency. With heavy reliance on automobiles, Manila suffers heavy air pollution, and several rivers are deemed biologically dead.
Despite these problems, over a million tourists come to visit each year, and those holding passports from most countries can stay up to three weeks without a visa. Lonely Planet ranked the country 6th among their "most popular destinations to meet locals," and 8th in their best "value-for-money" category. In this archipelago of 7,107 islands, there are plenty of opportunites, away from urban centers, to enjoy the country's unspoiled natural wonders, with some of the world's richest biodiversity. The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan ranks among the best dive sites anywhere, to see coral reef habitats with marine animals of all sizes (boats leave from Puerto Princesa, a short flight from Manila).
Destinations in Manila include the Intramuros walled city, the National Museum of the Philippines, the Manila Zoo, the City Chinatown, and shopping and nightlife disticts in Ermita and Malate, along with Santa Cruz. Events include the Feast of Black Nazarene, free performances in Rizal Park, and concerts and ballet at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The Divisoria area and the 168 Shopping Mall are popular with those looking for shopping bargains. Much of Manila's gay nightlife is centered around the intersection of Julio Nakpil and Maria Orosa Streets in Malate, but there are also gay spots in Quezon City, and beyond.
Filipino/Tagalog is the common tongue of the Philippines, but English is widely used both in education and business throughout the country, and in everyday usage by many in Manila. Knowing Spanish is also helpful, as many words were adopted into Tagalog during the colonial era. Most city residents are Christians, with four major Roman Catholic basilicas, but there are Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu and Sikh temples here too. The Masjid al-Dahab, or Golden Mosque, is in the predominantly Muslim section of the Quiapo district.
Conservative in many ways, Filipinos are gracious hosts, and respectful of personal idiosyncrasies and preferences. As LGBT people feel freer to be open about their sexuality, the subject has been more visibile in the media and in public discourse during the past decade. Check out "Bubble" by Sebastian Castro, a Japanese-Peruvian-American who moved here and made a splash with his coming-out music video.
Asia's first gay pride march took place in Manila in June 1994. Festivities have continued at he Quezon City Pride March, now in mid December, celebrating the support shown for the local LGBT community by local government. Jungle is a series of circuit party events.
See our bar and sauna listings for some tips on where to go, but note that Macho Dancer bars open, close and/or move quicker than any guide can keep up. Ask around for the latest hot spots, and the more hard to find anything-goes places, once you arrive.
The Ninoy Aquino/ Manila International Airport located between Pasay and Parañaque, the main international gateway for travelers to the Philippines and the hub for all domestic airlines, is one of the busiest airports in Asia. A shuttle bus system connects all four terminals.
Nine bus routes can get you from the airport to various points in Metro Manila. Eight of these take Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), and one travels by way of Circumferential Road 5 (C-5). The Baclaran station on the Manila Light Rail Transit System and the Nichols station of Philippine National Railways also serve the airport. See the Seat 61 website for an overview in English. An airport authority-operated shuttle bus connects Terminal 3 to the Taft Avenue MRT Station.
Clark International Airport, in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, is the low-cost carrier alternative landing point. Shuttles and buses can get you into downtown.
The Manila Light Rail Transit System, (LRT), metropolitan rapid transit/ Metro system serves the Metro Manila area with 31 stations along 31 km (19 mi) of mostly elevated track on two lines: the north-south route LRT Line 1, (Yellow Line), and the east-west MRT Line 2, (Purple Line). Reusable plastic magnetic ticketing and Flash Pass cards are used, and bus connections can get you to points in between stations.
A famous local modes of transportation, the jeepney, patterned after US army jeeps, has been in use since the post-World War II years. Buses, jeepneys and the more modern Tamaraws follow fixed routes for set prices. Other vehicles include: taxicabs, "tricycles" (motorcycles with sidecars), and "trisikads" or "sikads" (bicycles with sidecars).
The Philippines National Railways operates rail services across Luzon Island from San Fernando and San Jose in the north, to Batangas and Legazpi in the south, by way of Manila and Clamba among other cities at the center. Commuter Express trains connect Caloocan to Calamba, with Manila stations, and connections at Blumentritt LRT-1, Sandta Mesa MRT-2, and EDSA MRT-3.
The Peso (PhP) is the currency of the Philippines, with one hundred Centavos to the Peso. Exchange shops, banks and hotels can change foreign currencies. Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted, but ATM transaction fees can be higher than elsewhere in the world. The 2015-16 exchange rates have hovered around 46-49.9 PhP per US$1.
Media and Resources
Outrage is the LGBTzine of the Philippines, with feature articles, lifestyle info and events listings.
The Quezon City Parade takes place at the Quezon City Memorial Circle in December.
Travel Gay Asia's Manila pages have up-to-date listings of gay bars, clubs, bathhouses and gay-friendly hotels. They also cover other regional cities. Utopia also has gay listings for Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines, among the 20 Asia-Pacific countries they list.
Lexuality, "loud and queer" is a blog with an every-day view of life here, from various writers, going back five years.
Machos&Hostos blogspot is another local's "Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila; his "experiences, learnings, anecdotes, some secrets and personal insights on going to Manila's gay bars." The Gonograd Resident documents one blogger's experiences in local macho dancer bars and strip clubs. DiscreetManila is another gay blog of interest.
The Manila Times, the daily English language newspaper with headlines, business, lifestyle, sports, provincial and world news, also has an online edition. A good local news source for those wondering what's going on in the current political situation.
The Tourist Bureau sponsors the It's More Fun in the Philippines website, listing destinations and plenty for visitors to do.
See our gay Manila listings page for map locations of the gay bars, clubs and bathhouses listed below - with contact information and website links - plus some hotel and restaurant suggestions, theaters and museums/galleries.
Adonis Club (55 Timog Ave, Quezon City), macho dancer bar, constant rotation of dancing hunks, VIP room private dances, drag shows.
Che'lu (1802 Maria Orosa St, Malate), popular gay bar and grill, late-night dance club, theme parties.
FAB Karaoke & Music RestoBar (1739-B Maria Orosa St at Nakpil, Malate), gay bar/restaurant, nightly performances, many-language karaoke.
F Club (1204 Eulogio Rodriguez Sr Ave, Quezon City), dressy, upscale gay lounge/bar, DJs drag shows, events.
JEFZ Café (1811 Leon Guinto St, Malate), mixed crowd, sing-along music bar, Friday sexy male body shows; restaurant.
Humane Element / HE (610 Julio Nakpil St, Malate), gay show bar, live stage entertainment, drag shows, male dancers.
King Machette KTV Entertainment Bar (3993 Crosswinds/ Airport Rd, Parañaque), gay bar, macho go-go dancers, karaoke, shows, comedy events, free WiFi.
Library (1739 Maria Orosa St, Malate), bar and restaurant, gay/straight mix, comedy club, cabaret/drag shows.
Music Box (1 Timog Ave, Quezon City), gay karaoke party bar.
Nectar Nightclub (5th Ave at 26th St, Taguig), high-energy, DJ-driven LGBTQ dance club and showbar, theme parties, international performers; Tuesday Girl Nation, Wednesday Poison and Spectrum Saturday go-go boys, Sunday Home Bass trap and bass.
O Bar (Ortigas, Julia Vargas Ave, Pasig City), gay pub/showbar, go-go dancers, restaurant serving lunch through dinner.
The One 690 Entertainment Bar (39 Don A Roces Ave, Quezon City), gay club near Amoranto Stadium; “Real Men..Real Entertainment!” go-go dancers, drag and comedy shows, contests.
Time (7840 Makati Ave, Makati), monthly gay techno/ house/ electronica music parties at Royal Club.
Club Bath (2456 FB Harrison Blvd, Pasay City), gay bath house/steam, gym, lounge, rooms, snack bar.
Fahrenheit Cafe & Fitness Club (1204 Eulogio Rodriguez Sr Ave, New Manila/ Quezon City), videoke bar/club, videos, shop, gym, steam/Jacuzzi, cabins.
The We’rehouse - Cool Spa (2421B Morse St, San Isidro, Makati City), men's sauna/bar, videos, karaoke, pool games, massage, huge maze. Aka: The Mansion.
For man-to-man massage services see some listings at our map & listings page.
CLOSED: Bed (The Portal, Greenfield), gay dance club, male revues/go-gos, drag; BuddhaKan (79 Sierra Madre St, Mandaluyong), gay nightclub/bar, comedy, cabaret, drag; Formula 690 (27 Mother Ignacia St, Quezon City), entertainment show bar, go-gos, comedy, drag; Heaven (1802 Maria Orosa St, Malate), four-club gay cocktail bar/ nightclub, cabaret, go-gos, bar/grill complex, including Red Banana and Zinc Music Bar; and XRoads (Ortigas Center, Pasig City), gay line-dancing cowboys, karaoke/piano bar, lesbian nights.