To everyone’s disappointment there were no superheroes at the door. Photographs online had depicted little people in skin-tight leotards manning the front, so it was with a level of some sadness we were greeted by a full-sized gentleman built like a lampshade. He had remote eyes and opened the door with a smile that barely hung from his teeth.
The drunk Aussies who brought us here said it was to watch “midget mud wrestling” and that this was a “must-see” in Manila.
Nothing makes me cover my nuts and grab my wallet like “drunk Aussie” and “must see attraction”. As a result, my travel companion, Professor Roy and I agreed earlier in the evening that we would avoid this obvious trap on Burgos street. But dammit if the poolside San Miguel’s didn’t get their foothold in us and as the clock struck midnight something akin to a mob mentality erupted in the common area of our guesthouse, sweeping us all into taxis.
The first thing you notice as you nod your way past the doorman, is, well, the boxing ring — the second is the strippers. Quite a one-two punch. You instinctively look for shelter. No one wants to be discovered by mom in the marketing material of a third rate mud wrestling venue in the Far East. But the layout allows no protection from the chaotic cry’s of the emcee, the gratuitous grabs from the bar girls, or the accidental forearm shiver from the Canadian sexpat you’re sharing a table with. You feel like the liver of Prometheus.
“It isn’t considered prostitution like in the West …..for girls to go home with a guy.” The Canadian sexpat explained, to no one in particular. Our whole guesthouse had collected at a long chest-high table in the back accompanied by a few bar-stools. This had the unfortunate side-effect of forcing interaction with the tables’ lone inhabitant, who was eager for an audience and oblivious to conversational cues. “Many of them just come for a night or two before their regular paycheck arrives. Helps make ends meet, eh? In Thailand, you can actually pay almost any girl you meet. Trust me on this one. Even once proposed to a gorgeous sales girl at a Prada bag shop in Bangkok. It just takes learning a few phrases and a loose grasp on your Thai bot. Slip the cash under your pillow before you fall asleep. When you wake up the morning, they’ll both be gone!” He snapped his fingers for effect. “The anti-tooth fairy, eh?!” He exclaimed, as if he’d just stumbled upon something wondrous. “Another strange tradition we share with the Americans!” He whooped and elbowed the Professor whose remaining good eye was looking ringward.
“Fairies?” Perked up one of the Aussies, raising his head with considerable effort. “I stick to the lady boys these days as well. At least you can reason with them, hay.”
Chuck Pahlianiuk says a great anecdote isn’t one that leave people speechless, it leaves them competing to a tell a better version of the same thing….. Slightly worried about where this conversational jenga game would take the table, I tried to change the subject by inquiring as to what in the actual living fuck was going on in the boxing ring. “Ah you’re curious about the ring are you?!” Replied the alpha-aussie, accompanied by a cheshire smile and a glance at his friends.
A few shitty cocktails later, there I was. In the ring. The Aussies were at fault, no surprise there. But the blame-game would do me no good now with the Rocky theme pumping from the speakers and a bouncing little dude across from me scowling with ill intent. I took stock of the joint looking for fire escapes or a friendly face.
There was a double row of tables closest to the front where I could see the Aussies celebrating their prank and the Professor guzzling some of the grimy mixed drinks that were the best option on the menu. I motioned him to corner me and just as he obliged the bell rang thrice. Oh shit. What to do? No time to think. In an instant my opponent was firing away from behind the ref like a thick little woodpecker, I stretched out with one arm and lowered my chin, parrying the blows while also hoping the demonstrated reach advantage might stutter the flurry. It worked. Turning slowly, my shirtless and sinewy opponent walked right into my jab with an upright neck like a celery stalk. He was wobbled. He studied me carefully. “Too bad to meet here,” I shouted. “We could be sitting down smoking a cigarette in one of these charming chairs.” At which point he charged.
The front-row chairs of the Ringside were shaped like gargoyles with wads of jade-green cushions carved into them. The bar consisted of only one room, with the ring taking up 1/3 of it, and it contained an assortment of odors, dominated now by the smell of ether coming from the referees gloved hand he was chasing my opponent with. I took the opportunity to hit him with a straight cross that bolted the fella to the floor. He dropped down in a soft messy thump. “Protect yourself at all times.” I whispered, justifying the shot. He popped right back up and angrily bobbed under the bright disco lights. Boxing someone half my size reminded me of Adam Lavines sleeve tattoos. More cute than intimidating. He slipped around my guard and just as I was feeling confident with my footwork ……..A BELL RANG……A Light….. a closed door……. silence. I reached out for a stool but there was none…… it wasn’t the end of the round….a white light shot hard …… and I was forced to take a knee. The little man had decked me in the dick. I waved for my cornerman to help and mouthed, “Whiskey.”
With enough money and tips, anything can be organized at the Ringside. This went for the guy getting the blow job in the booth by the door and for the match following mine where a Brit backpacker fought three little people with one arm tied behind his back.
For a different kind of blow, head to the bathroom. Prior to the “shot heard ‘round my ball-bag” we met a pair of Belgium ladies who claimed to be in the import/export business. One of the Belgians returned from the bathroom shimmering and asked if I wanted to join her on a return visit. Without waiting for an answer she grabbed my hand and led me past the missed elbow-drop off the bottom rope and down a long corridor that went to the bathroom. We banked a hard right at a barely perceptible doorless entrance and down a blind hallway that was black as satans gooch and equally narrow. The errand culminated with her depositing me in a barber chair. Immediately a half-dozen hands were in my hair accompanied by squeals, hair-spray and a blow dryer. I returned back to my table foggier than after my dance in the ring. “Cool hair” the Professor remarked, casting me a side glance as he winced down a fourth jack and coke. Apparently the famed lady-boy bar next door shares the same toilet region as our establishment. Hence the hair salon.
The boxing match ended as expected. Before I could draw a long breath and let it out, I missed the count. The ref waved it off. I must say it was a quick count. But hey, I was on their turf and saw good cheer in no longer being the spectacle.
So should one venture to this most bacchanalian of backwater bars, I don’t recommend engaging in the pugilism. But if you want some crazy action in Manila, go to the Makati district, and if you want some crazy action in the Makati District, go to Burgos street, and if you want to get crazy on Burgos, well, then by all means, go to Ringside.
Just remember to watch your nuts.
Where: The Ringside Bar, Manila, Philippines.
When to go: From 8pm-4am ten bouts are staged. They range from the pantomime to the petrified. None of which are PC.
What to order: Mixed drinks. No time for beer here. And too dangerous for shots. You need to be tipsy. But not “lose room key, get robbed” drunk. When you enter, the bar is to your left. Do not pass “Go”.