Friday, February 8, 2013

Goodbye, O Bar Malate

Effective February 1, 2013, O Bar Malate finally closed its doors. And while O Bar Ortigas is still around, I can't deny that I feel a significant degree of sadness over seeing our old Malate haunt go.

Admittedly, it's not like Tobie and I had been going to this branch of the bar all that much - it's hard to get away from the fact that it's a heck of a lot more practical for us to go Ortigas given we're based in Quezon City. But still, Malate holds far too many memories for its passing to go by unfelt.

Tobie already shared a hodge-podge photo post of some great Malate memories on his queer blog. And this is me taking time to commemorate, in a way, the role that O Bar Malate played for us.

In the days before Tobie, I used go primarily to BED, since it was the favored bar of my partner at the time and our circle of friends. And BED is still a fun place, generally speaking, although more often than not I'd find myself not in the mood to leave the house on weekends and thus I'd be home alone while everyone else went out.

While friends like Jayson had always wanted me to go to O Bar, I never did for one reason or another. It wasn't until Tobie that I finally went and was initially shocked at the drag shows - not because of the cross-dressing, but more because of how they handled some Broadway songs. But in time I learned to appreciate the unique brand of camp that the Oh Divas bring to the table and found myself loving it more and more.

Going to O Bar became my routine with Tobie during our getting-to-know-you stage. We'd meet up on Sundays to record the geek web show Fandom Live and would head on over to Malate immediately after. There we'd hang out with friends, laugh at the drag shows and generally have a good time.

When Tobie and I first got together, it actually happened at O Bar Malate. Tobie had actually gotten down on one knee and proposed to me in the middle of the bar. It's definitely a moment that I'll never forget. And it also helped define Tobie's unique brand of baduyness, which eventually inspired the creation of this blog.

As much as we'd hang out a lot at O Bar Ortigas, we always "had" to go to Malate for the big events in the LGBT community. And that means we'd be there for the annual White Party to celebrate Gay Pride. And we'd go for the Black Party to celebrate Halloween. And we would't even go to the street party itself - we were more than happy to be with friends inside O Bar.

Tobie and I had actually gotten our first HIV tests together at O Bar Malate - although technically it was a booth that had been setup in the outside seating area. Admittedly it was a nerve-wracking experience, but in the end I felt great about it and don't regret it for a minute. And it also marked the beginning of my appreciation for the HIV/AIDS advocacy moment as a whole. Better to be safe then sorry, right?

It was outside O Bar Malate that I had last seen Jayson before he died. It was at O Bar Malate that we last partied together to celebrate my 29th birthday. And those are some really great and important memories that I never want to let go of.

I regret not having gone to O Bar earlier on, when Jayson has been first dragging me over to go. Part of me will always feel like I had missed out on an opportunity to spend more tie with him. But then again, I'm sure we all think along similar lines when it comes to friends who have passed away.

It was because of our friends at O Bar Malate that I started to appreciate that maybe I'm not exactly terrible at taking photos. It's kind of crazy how supportive everyone has been of my photography efforts, but no single group of friends has been more supportive than my O Bar family.

It's because of our time at O Bar Malate in such close contact with the drag queens and the ledge dancers that I started to invest some serious effort into taking more photos. And what better subjects than the various entertainers at the bar? Plus dealing with the often erratic lighting of a smokey bar can prove quite the shooting challenge for anyone with a camera. Talk about being forced onto a rather steep learning curve!

Yes, O Bar Malate gave me a new extended family in the form of many new friends who (eventually) celebrated my relationship with Tobie and helped me experience a whole new brand of fun.

But more than the friends and the wild times, there are just so many strong memories that I share of Tobie and how our relationship grew stronger over time. No matter how I think back and look at things, we always come back to O Bar...

We'll miss you a lot, O Bar Malate! Thanks for all the memories. Your legacy lives on in all of us who spent time there. And Malate will just never be the same without you.

And as the tagline goes, Party OUT, Party LOUD!

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