"Let's make a story," I told Darfie. He was downing his third bottle of Tanduay Ice when O-Bar's show girls took the small stage.

"Once upon a time, when O-Bar Ortigas was just an experiment - a doomed experiment I used to say." I paused to watch a tranny lip sync a Rihanna anthem. "These ladies were asked if they like to be assigned there." 

"Or they'll stick with O-Malate."

At that time, every gay guy in the city could be seen in Malate. It's the rainbow capital not even the dingy  and cheap Palawan bars could match.

"Of course, nobody wants to perform in Ortigas. Nobody goes there." I dropped my cigarette and kicked it under the bar table. "So they stuck with Malate, leaving the present Dream Girls of O running the show there."

"For some reasons, they agreed never to switch places."

"Now O-Malate's patrons are fast diminishing. Pansin mo naman, kung hindi mga tanderz ang pumupunta dito eh mga affam* na katulad ni Miss Jay." Miss Jay was the black muscular patron who wore a fit black shirt, a very short, shorts and fishnet stockings to show his skinny legs. He looked like Miss Jay Alexander of ANTM.

"Kaso wala na pumpunta ng Malate. Pansin mo, hindi na jampack dito gaya noon." Darfie nodded. "Lahat tayo, sa Ortigas.

After thirty minutes of lip syncing and sashaying, the girls' performance had concluded. They went down the stage to collect tips. Unlike in Ortigas where I hide from these drag performers, I dropped bills enough to buy a bottle of San Mig Lights for tips. The lady holding the collection bag thank me before shoving the bag to the guy behind me.

It was one of those chilly Sabado nights. I was restless, lonely and feeling a bit blue. I was allowed at home to stay out but I had nowhere to go. Evading boredom, I went back to the dance floor. I chose Malate over Ortigas this time because the cover charge was cheaper. Darfie, my twitter acquaintance was also there.

"Felt like I leveled down." I told him after the party. "Pansin mo, kung hindi estudyante eh mga laborers kasama natin." I was telling him earlier of a friend who is a Starbucks Executive who goes to Ortigas. Meanwhile, a barista was one of the revelers among us when we were in Malate.

The call boys still lined the stretch of Nakpil even when daybreak was fast approaching. Desperately in need of customers, some of them even tried to call our attention. I traded glances with them.

"This place is dying."

No longer the fairy land of our time, Malate is now an echo of its colorful past. Gone are the nights when men of every shade of pink spilled on the streets after packing the bars with their presence. The corner of Nakpil and Orosa used to be a melting pot of ideas and dramas. And while love and lust have been found and lost there, people return to purge themselves. To renew the bonds that attached them to the place.

And until I find that courage to start anew, there's no doubt that I'd stay resident of that rainbow corner. Even when the dance floor who had seen me in my best and worst times will be, but a history come February.

"After seven party years, O Bar Malate will be closing its doors on January 31, 2013." I read on Facebook. "We would like to thank everyone who helped us become what we are today. More power to all of you! See you all at O Bar Ortigas!

Party out......Party loud!"

Like all dance clubs and watering holes before it. O-Bar Malate has served its purpose. No longer a place to have fun or forget one's sorrow. I hope those who have seen its pink walls and green laser lights more than half a decade of their lives will find a place to perform and begin anew.

*affam - white/black gay men

Patient Diego (First Part)

A slight, barely noticeable fever lasted for days. My sister began to worry. Her son is barely a year old. But her hesitation forced my mother to intervene. On a cloudy Sunday a week ago, the couple had to bring baby Diego to a medical clinic. My mother's instruction.

Within the day, the blood test results came in. Doctors ordered immediate confinement. The baby's blood platelet count dropped below 100. Possible cause: Dengue Fever. I was at work when the news broke out. Coming from a crisis after our network had been hacked, the family emergency had me telling the boss that I would go half-day. Understanding my situation since he too had gone through such ordeal with his son, he let me go.

Grim images ran through my head as the taxi sped to Manila Doctors. Where did the mosquito come from? What about the dozen kids who live in our compound? Was it the dirty driveway? Was it because of my plants? Between the empty streets and cluttered thoughts, I didn't notice that I was already approaching the Emergency Room. There, inside the Pedia quarters, screams of a baby boy can be heard. A huge needle had pierced through his underfoot for the intravenous fluid to flow. His body temperature shot to 40 degrees an hour before I came in.   

"Kuya pupunta ka ba dito?" I read the message on my phone. "Nawiwindang na ako."

I was doing my report but the thought of Baby Diego, smiling, showing off his tongue, leaping from one side of the bed to the edges of the mattress kept me from accomplishing anything. I was beset with gloom. 

On the phone, my mom tried to down play the situation, but you can sense her alarm by the sound of her voice. Knowing what's need to be done, I was already on my way when she asked for assistance. "They might need a down payment before admission." I thought. And knowing it will take ages before the matriarch can prepare, (she looks after Baby Lenin) my timely arrival eased the young couples' trouble.

The Favorite Aunt soon followed to make sure the patient is well attended. Being the only doctor in the family (and a caring relative who's always been there every time there is a medical emergency) her presence had wiped away every fear clung to my skin. 

"Hindi ko na pinapunta si Ate para hindi na siya mahirapan." She was referring to my mom. I saw her gently touching Baby Diego's forehead before a hunky nurse told us that the semi-private ward is ready for occupancy.

My nephew showed signs of improvement soon after we moved in. He began to smile again, crawl across the bed, stick his tongue out and even mimic the baby sounds we did. It felt like he had no illness at all. Our best guess was that he regained his strength after being re-hydrated.

The Favorite Aunt left at the same time provisions from home began arriving. After carting the bags and baby stuff from the lobby to the room upstairs, I told my sister that I'd be leaving as well. I have work at six the next morning, and our mother was eagerly awaiting news.

"Get well soon," I kissed my nephew goodbye. He smiled at me.

That night, my sister sent a text message.

"Please pray for Baby Diego," the message read. "Mataas ulit ang lagnat niya."

- tobecontinued-