Inside, Kokomo’s has a colonial feel. There is a high ceiling open to a corrugated roof with a gallery around leading to hotel rooms. A wooden framework supports the roof and three fans which cool the room below (better than the arctic chill of some over-air-conditioned bars). On the ground floor, two doors lead to two small bars: Voodoo and King of Diamonds. Every now and then a bargirl in a bikini issues forth to go to the bathroom at the far end which serves the whole building – a nice touch which hints of the pleasures to come later in the evening.
Over a meal of a burger and fries, I plan out the rest of my evening. It is a while since I have been to Angeles, and there are some new bars I want to check out, as well as some old favourites I want to revisit. Top of the list is Golden Nile.
Golden Nile looks very impressive from outside. In a country where most buildings are termite-ridden shacks, it seems strange that such magnificent palaces should be built for such dubious purposes. The exterior promises much, but I am immediately disappointed. The ground floor is just an empty space. A doorman beckons me to a lift. I’m not keen on lifts at the best of times, but in the PI, where brownouts are a regular occurrence…
I take the stairs. The first floor is also empty. I go up another flight, and at last find the bar – I am already put off. I can’t think why anybody would place a gogo bar on the third floor, especially when the two floors below it are empty. One quick glance at the bar is enough to put me off completely. There are two tiers of girls dancing on a chromium-framed two-storey stage. The girls are attractive enough, but they are too far away. My eyesight is good – 20/20 vision on my last eye check – but in the dim light of a bar, and 20 feet away, I just can’t see the girls clearly – and any interaction is out of the question. You just have to pick a number and hope for the best.
That’s not the way I like to do things, so I head off for an old favourite – Carousel. This is one of the older bars – small, and full of people – and atmosphere. Most of the seats are taken, so I have to sit at the bar around the carousel itself. Now – instead of 20 feet away, the girls are two feet away or less – so close in fact, that I almost need my reading glasses!
It is not long before I see a girl I like. She has that sweet, innocent look I am attracted to. Thinking about it now, it seems strange to go to the trouble of travelling 8,000 miles to a dodgy place like Angeles City to meet girls like my childhood Sunday School sweetheart – surely the idea is to get laid – and isn’t the experienced hooker the best bet for that? I think something deeply evolutionary is at work here. In evolutionary terms, a man needs to be sure that the children he is raising are his own, and for that, he needs a faithful partner – of course, he doesn’t expect to be faithful himself. His evolutionary motivation is to spread his seed as widely as he can – hence the double standard. Angeles City is a place where the double standard is alive and well – there are so many Sunday School-sweet girls that you can have a different one every night. It’s an illusion of course – most of those girls have more partners in a year than I will have in lifetime.
I signal her to come and join me, but she is slow to get the message (shy) and a waitress has to help me. She is 18, from Samar, and a cherry girl – which is AC-speak for virgin. There is a surprisingly large number of cherry girls in AC. They work for their salary, the commission on lady drinks, and the occasional barfine from a customer who will take them bar-hopping – or even to bed – but without sex. That privilege is for sale for about the price of a small motorbike (50,000 pesos) – but it is not as simple as that. What most cherry girls really want is a husband, so they might well turn down your 50,000 if they thought you only wanted one thing.
Given the large number of cherry girls, and my predilection for the sweet, innocent look, it’s not surprising that a lot of the girls I invite for a drink and a chat turn out to be cherry girls. This particular cherry girl was as cute as a button – and had about as much conversation. It wasn’t a language problem. From the few sentences I got out of her I could tell that her English was good enough. She was just painfully shy, and, dare I say it, boring. In the three years or so that I have been visiting Angeles, I have come across a lot of girls like this, both cherry and non-cherry, and can’t help wondering why they are in the bars at all. I can’t imagine some of them ever getting customers – not because they aren’t attractive, but because they make no effort at communication.
Time to move on. A cherry girl might be good to look at, and might even make a prospective future wife for the right sort of customer, but I’m not looking for a relationship, on the contrary, I need a break from relationship problems. In fact, I am enjoying being on my own for a while, going at my own pace, doing things in my own way. For example, my ex-wife would have wanted to go to a smarter restaurant than Kokomo’s, and would have disapproved of me choosing burger and fries.
The next stop is La Bamba. This is also a small, traditional gogo bar, and it is also crowded, with spare seats only at the bar/stage. I sit down right in front of two beauties and within seconds they are laughing and talking to me. One girl does the ‘take my friend’ routine. I can see at a glance that she is worth taking – she has that sweet, innocent look, but I can also tell that she is not too innocent – not a cherry. I decide to invite her down – and since I am a gentleman, I invite her friend too. The first girl is 18 and from Leyte. Her friend is 22, also from Leyte. She admits that she has a steady American boyfriend, but he can only visit once a year, and she keeps working because she needs the money. She’s a real chatterbox and great fun. Before long she is giving me a back massage. However, it’s her friend that I really fancy. She’s quieter – but not too quiet, and soon joins in the massage. I have visions of the same double massage taking place in bed, and it is not long before the word ‘barfine’ escapes my lips.
That’s the magic of the old-fashioned, small bar. You can keep the big, glitzy chrome palaces – whether they’re in Bangkok or AC – the small bars are much more human and encourage the interaction, and sheer fun, that leads to the best bargirl experiences.
I sleep late the next day, and go for an American breakfast at Kokomo’s at about 12. Kokomo’s American breakfast is good (nearly as good as the real thing – an English breakfast) and it sets me up for the rest of the day. I go for a walk round the entertainment area to see what’s new. I discover that the corner of Fields and MacArthur Avenue has been redeveloped. I am horrified to find a MacDonald’s fronting onto MacArthur (more American cultural Imperialism – I thought that the Philippine chain Jollibee had managed to keep them out), but I am pleased to find some new gogo bars. On the corner, in a building positioned diagonally, there is the Hard Rock restaurant and three gogo bars: Shooterz, Car Wash (I wonder how many disappointed customers turn up with a dirty car?) and Love and Music. A little further along Fields is Club Asia and Genesis Club. I don’t recall seeing these bars last year – but maybe that’s because I didn’t get further than Blue Nile which is the next bar along.
I start the evening with a meal of burger and fries at Kokomo’s (I am a creature of habit – except when it comes to female company where I like variety), and head out to the newly-discovered bars. I walk in – and straight out of – Shooterz and Car Wash, and then try Love and Music. Immediately I am struck by two things – this bar, unlike the other two, is crowded – and it’s not just because they have half-a-dozen hello girls strategically positioned on the corner – the atmosphere is great. The other thing is that the girls are wearing dresses! Of course, we like to see as much of the girls as we can – which is why Thailand does so well, but dresses are nice for a change – and I soon find out that girls in bikinis alternate with the girls in dresses. The bar is just the right size – big, but not too big. Down one side is customer seating of the low, settee type (which I don’t like because my coins roll out of my pocket). Above this is a mezzanine with more comfortable seating. Opposite is a stage with a stainless steel-framed gallery above containing more girls, and in the middle is a bridge between the upper stage and the mezzanine. One of the waitresses told me that the bar had only been open for a month. There are some very attractive girls here, though as with most new bars, they are too far away for much interaction – though not as remote as in some of the ‘supergogos’ like Club Atlantis.
As I watch, a guy from the mezzanine moves across the bridge and signals for the girls to get their kit off, at the same time showering the stage with vouchers. The girls go crazy trying to pick up the vouchers, shedding their tops at the same time, until about six of the girls on the upper stage are half naked. Much to my surprise, they stay like this for about 10 minutes. This is the first time I have seen any nudity in Angeles where it is strictly forbidden (except in private shows where anything can happen). I can only surmise that the owner must have some kind of arrangement with the police. Of course, it’s tame stuff compared to say, Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, where many girls will be starkers for most of the evening. The important thing is how the whole episode gives a lift to the atmosphere – something that is lacking in most of the other new bars.
Perhaps this is the moment for a quick comparison of Filipinas and Thai girls. I have spent a lot of time in the PI recently, and I must say that I am missing the Thais. They are, on average, better-looking, with firmer bodies (fewer ‘Jollibee bellies’ as a Stickman contributor recently described them), better proportioned (Pinays often have shorter legs, probably due to poor diet), well cared-for teeth, and more finely-sculptured features. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the attitude of the average Filipina in AC is rather more customer-friendly than the current crop in Thailand who more and more are coming to resemble their hard-bitten sisters in places like Amsterdam. If it’s sitting and looking, Bangkok is the place – if it’s barfining, there’s no place like AC!
My next stop is Club Asia. I like the name as it hints at all the things I travelled 8,000 miles to find – but the reality is disappointing – just another bland new bar. The next bar along, Club Genesis is similar, but I decide to stay for just one drink.
It’s funny how you can go from bar to bar, spending hours gazing at the girls, and can’t find one who is halfway decent, then all of a sudden, there she is. I had spotted her and decided to talk to her in the time it took for the waitress to return with my drink, so I asked her to call her down. Jenelyn, 19, from Samar. She is one of a family of 10 – I didn’t get whether it was 10 in total or 10 kids, but it was big. There is no work there, so she joined the mass exodus to AC (Samar is the Isaan of the Philippines). She is 5’ 3”, slim and beautifully proportioned (see my comment above about short legs). Her stomach is perfectly flat, but she is well-endowed in the breast department. Her face has high cheekbones, a well-shaped nose, and lips that are kissably-full. Her eyes are dark with flecks of golden brown. In short, she is a stunner – as beautiful as the best that Thailand can offer, but without the attitude. She is sweet and friendly, and quick to make body contact, though not in a pushy way. As we talk I find out that she has only been working here for a month – just my cup of tea – what another Thailandstories contributor called ‘nooky-rooky’! But a thought strikes me. “Are you a cherry girl?” I ask. “Yes,” she replies. My heart sinks. I decide to finish my drink quickly and move on – but she is interesting to talk to. Her conversation is an appealing mixture of flirtatious and intelligent. She tells me that she finished High School and wanted to do HRM at university – but of course, couldn’t afford it. I’ve met a lot of girls with this story, but never one who plans to save money from the bar and actually make it happen. A German friend of mine says it is because some cultures lack self-discipline, so perhaps that’s it. If Belle de Jour worked as a call girl in London to fund her university education, why can’t a Filipina?
A crazy idea possesses me – why don’t I barfine her anyway? Yes, reader, I know that you will think that I am certifiable. Why pay a barfine of 1,500 php to go bar-hopping with a cherry girl, when for the same price I could get the full monty? All I can say is that I had a double helping of full monty with bells on the night before, and at that particular moment I fancied something different. There are more things in heaven and earth than sex, the problem being that back in blighty we don’t get enough of it – or sometimes any of it for very long periods together. However, that problem becomes a distant memory for those who have discovered the Far East, which in my case (thankfully) was a long time ago.
I take her to Club Atlantis which is the biggest gogo bar in AC, so big in fact, that the girls seem miles away. However, it is a good bar to visit with a girl in tow as a different groups perform different dance routines in different costumes. The only problem was that the music was so loud that we couldn’t continue our conversation. Next, I decided to go back to Love and Music. She was impressed with the dresses (as I thought she would be), and I was impressed with a cute little number among the bikini girls whom I had failed to spot earlier. That’s the problem with taking a girl bar-hopping – there’s always the chance that you will see one you like better – greener grass! Well, in AC there’s always another night, so I made a mental note of her number (57), and turned my attention back to Jenelyn.
Jenelyn tells me all about being a cherry girl, that there are 11 cherry girls in her bar out of a total of about 100. She explains that the compulsory municipal ID card, which all girls have to wear, identifies cherry girls, and that her virginity is checked weekly along with her STD check. She also warns me that some cherry girls are either deliberate scammers or just unstable personalities, and they sometimes falsely accuse men of ‘raping’ them in order to extort money. Some cherry girls are keen to sell their cherry as soon as possible so they can get their hands on the huge (to them) bounty, and can get down to making serious money from barfines and tips. She didn’t want to do that, even though it meant she earned much less. Most guys don’t want to barfine cherry girls – I was only the second barfine she had had. Her plan was to save herself for that ‘special guy’. She knew it was possible, because her friend was a cherry when she met her American boyfriend, and now she was living with him in America. I hadn’t the heart to say that that was a one in a million chance, as it was obviously the dream that was keeping her going. And who’s to say she won’t achieve it? On the looks scale she was a perfect 10, and she also had intelligence and an engaging personality. What’s more, I’m sure she would make a good, loyal wife. I couldn’t help thinking of all the guys writing to Stickman with their sob stories about manipulative Thai hookers, and how much better off they would be with Jenelyn! But that’s fate! It’s so rare for the right people to bump into each other at the right time. Speaking of the right time, I could have fallen for Jenelyn myself 10 years ago. But now I am not even tempted. After 20 years of marriage I just want to enjoy my freedom.
It is now one o’clock, and I give Jenelyn the option of going home, or coming to bed with me with a promise of no sex. I almost hope she will decide to go home so that I can pop back to Love and Music for No. 57, but she says she trusts me and would like to stay – it will make a pleasant change from sleeping on the floor in a sweltering, cramped room with four other girls. She is even more beautiful naked than I imagined – her nipples, surprisingly, being pinkish, and her pubes unshaved. Her every curve is just right, neither too lean, nor too plump. The word ‘nubile’ comes to mind – the perfect ripeness of the young female, before it becomes over-ripe and starts to sag. It is a delight just to look at her. However, I am as good as my word, and though I caress her gently, I make no attempt to have sex with her. She responds by giving me a surprisingly good massage, after which we talk for a while until I fall asleep.
© Bangkok Byron, 2010. All rights reserved.