The Philippines may be a predominately Catholic country, but it is also one of the most tolerant in Asia when it comes to LGBTQ rights. The government is working to pass the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Bill, which aims to protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Manila, in particular, is home to a melting pot of bars and clubs, open to people of all creeds and colours. Here we list the best LGBTQ bars and clubs in the Philippine capital.
Expect to brush shoulders with Manila’s A-list LGBTQ crowd at this luxury nightclub in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), dancing it up to top hits from international DJs. Make sure to check out their schedule online, as Nectar offers a different theme every night from 10am till sunrise! Their weekly Poison Wednesday is a particular hit, as the door fee is waived. At the end of every month, the resident ‘Drag Cartel’ hosts a drag queen lip-sync battle, where the best entertainers fight for the crown. It also hosts popular queens from abroad, including those of Rupaul’s Drag Race fame. The drinks are a bit pricey, so if travelling with a group of friends, it may be wise to order a whole bottle and split the bill.
Originally located in Malate in old Manila, O Bar has since moved to a brighter venue in the bustling Ortigas Center – just look for the pink signage. O Bar is hands down one of the most popular gay clubs in Manila and has been for over a decade. It features live entertainment with a large dance floor, attractive male go-go dancers and drag queens in elaborate production numbers. It is reasonably priced with an entry fee of PHP500 ($10), with your choice of three beers or one cocktail included. Weekends are busy with extended time to party on Thursdays to Sundays from 11.30pm until 6am.
Located in Manila’s original gay district in Malate, along Orosa street, Chelu is one of the longest-running gay bars in the city. It is surrounded by some of the best Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants in Manila. Make sure to grab dinner in the area before heading to Chelu. The newly renovated space on the second floor is open daily and offers karaoke and stand-up comedy sets. On Thursdays through Saturdays, watch talented drag queen shows, most notably the ‘Amazonias’, a group of beefy drag queens who dance remarkably well. The lower level has an open dance floor with DJs spinning popular hits. Chelu is reasonably priced as PHP350 ($7) pesos could get you in with three free beers or your choice of cocktail. It also has a quiet section outside if you’d like to talk and catch up with friends over drinks.
Formerly known as Boho Sarapsody, this LBGTQ-managed space is popular for its cheap drinks deals and friendly atmosphere. Welcome to all, it hosts open mic poetry readings, social debates, fundraising activities and great live music during Friday and Saturday nights. It has a quiet, homey feel that is popular among Bohemian artists. Try their signature drink, the ‘baywalker’, which comes in a tall, salt-rimmed glass filled with their version of a Long Island Iced Tea.
Tucked in between two pawnshops, this hole-in-the-wall venue along Malvar Avenue in Cubao, Quezon City caters to a predominantly hip LGBTQ crowd. Designed as a secret bar from the future, this quaint joint is adorned with memorabilia like old TV sets, books and vinyl records. The vintage 1970s mirror ball in the centre of the room adds the finishing touch. The place is packed over weekends with people dancing to live bands and DJ sets. Things slow down for Tuesday Jazz night in case you’d like to unwind with friends over relatively cheap cocktails and bar chow. Look around to see a melting pot of local musicians, artists, and writers.
Run by retired and accomplished Filipino photojournalist Jose Enrique Soriano, this laid-back bar is situated in Cubao Expo, a haven for trendy restaurants, bars and vintage shops. Fred’s has long been vocal about accepting guests from all walks of life and shall treat everyone equally regardless of sexual orientation and gender identification. A Safe Space Campaign was launched in Cubao Expo in 2013 for the protection of the LGBTQ community, with Fred’s as one of the first establishments in the area to sign up. Choose from well-curated craft beer and inventive Filipino bar snacks. Their second branch recently opened in historic Escolta, old Manila, inside the regal 1930s First United Building. Fred’s has been at the forefront of working together with the community to revive old Manila to its previous pre-war glory.
One 690 first opened its doors in 2012, resting across from Amoranto Sport’s Complex in Quezon City. Furnished with state-of-the-art light and sound systems, the bar features attractive male models, dancers, singers and talented impersonators to keep you entertained for the entire evening.
This cosy bookstore, coffee shop and artist space supports events by Galang Philippines, a non-government organisation that assists the urban poor LGBTQ community in Manila. It is also used as a meeting space for the Task Force Pride Philippines, a local group that discusses LGBTQ issues in the city. It has recently moved to top food destination Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.
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This pioneer club north of Manila, in Quezon city, is open daily to gay men and straight women alike to view sexy male dancers. Everyone gets along! Their performers are friendly and may join you for a drink if you ask the manager nicely. This is a favourite spot for group bachelorette parties.
Jefz Cafe is located inside the New Solanie Hotel in Manila. This casual haunt in old Manila offers reasonably priced drinks, a karaoke system and live music and shows – open to everyone. Friday is gay night and features live male dancers. Make sure to call in advance for their discounted drink deals and events.