A fun night at the bar with friends is more often than not an inviting idea for college students who find themselves bombarded with requirements, tormented by academic pressure, and stretched thin by the often harsh realities of adulthood. As an escape from the stress, some Lasallians like to head to the establishments lining Taft.
But things have changed.
With Manila mayor Isko Moreno’s newly implemented ordinance of banning drinking spots within 200 meters of schools, the uniquely Lasallian drinking culture of “Happy T” is perhaps at its end. The bars that used to cater to Lasallians have since been shut down as well. While it is indeed the end of an era, let us take a look back on some of the more legendary fixtures of Happy T—the bouncers. With their main obligation being to keep people safe both from themselves and from each other, it is these unsung heroes who provided the safety and security people needed to have a memorable night out.
The Beach House, one of the many bars located in Taft, used to be a hive of activity—now it is quieter and more relaxed, but the drunken singing and laughter of its past customers can still be heard echoing through its walls. While his burly physique may have been intimidating, Arcival Raymundo greeted everyone who entered Beach with a smile. However, despite Arcival’s pleasant smile, it was clear he was not someone to be messed with. “Once na nagkakainitan, inaalis na namin,” he firmly says. With his tall and muscular build, it is not hard to imagine Arcival broke up even the worst of fights.
(Once things start to get heated, we remove them.)
Having worked in construction before he landed his gig as a bouncer, Arcival recounts how he became one in the first place: he was doing his regular workouts at the gym when one day, a representative from a security agency approached him for the job. When asked about the requirements, Arcival laughs and simply says, “Wala naman. Malaki lang katawan.”
(Not much. Just a large physique.)
Not far from the Beach House, by the entrance of Double Down, there stood a man who looked as if he could knock you out cold. But once the conversation got going, Melton Lucero transformed from an intimidating presence to one that made us feel safe. Looking better than his age of 50 would show, he has been working as a bouncer for five years, and at the time of his interview, was only on his second week on the job.
Melton has seen his fair share of fights in his time as a bouncer, with some fights devolving into all-out brawls. He recalls, “Nagbatuhan ng bote. Tapos nung nakaraan may nag-away, buti naawat namin kaagad baka magbatuhan na naman.” Despite all that, he remained calm and collected when doing his job.
(Bottles were thrown. Then recently there was a fight, it was a good thing we got them before bottles were thrown again.)
Happy T remembered
While not as built as your typical bulky bouncer, Rene Fernandez stood tall when he watched over the night scene in Verano. He often relied on his eight years of experience being a security guard and bouncer to manage the fine line between a party and an all-out brawl. He had not experienced many fights throughout his three years stationed in Verano; however, with how crazy parties have been around Taft in recent years, scuffles have been ever present in the Taft party scene.
Sharing his opinion on the students who used to go to Verano, Rene says, “Masaya naman sila eh. Basta ‘wag lang silang magulo. Sinasabihan naman namin na ‘wag kayong magulo ah’.”
(They’re happy. It’s fine as long as they don’t cause trouble. We tell them ‘don’t be troublesome’ anyway.)
Stamping out underaged drinking
Despite how alluring the party scene is, it is not for everyone. Minors have tried to find a way to get into Taft bars, often relying on fake IDs. Bouncers, however, are more aware of your age than you think. Rene has checked people entering for years, so it is no surprise he has gotten used to profiling underaged drinkers. Rene points out, “Makikita naman sa itsura eh. May kabataan talagang batang-bata. Hindi yan pwedeng papasukin.“
(You can see it through their appearance. There are minors who are really young. They’re not allowed to enter.)
Bryan and Jason have had their fair share of catching underaged drinkers as well. Bryan mentions the presence of police, while Jason explains their process, “Pinapalabas namin. Kasi bawal talaga sila eh. Kasi, pag hindi namin pinalabas yun at nagkaroon ng gulo tapos nalaman na minor sila, yari kami. Yari yung bouncer, yari yung bar. Kaya kailangan talaga palabasin. Bawal talaga minor.“ Age does not necessarily define maturity; but in the case of drinking, there is a reason for the age limit. There is always risk present when alcohol is involved, which is a main factor contributing to Mayor Isko’s order to close the bars within schools’ immediate peripheries.
(We escort them [minors] out. They’re really not allowed [to enter]. If we don’t kick them out and something happens and they’re found out to be minors, we’ll get in trouble. The bouncer is in trouble, the bar is in trouble. That’s why they shouldn’t be allowed in. Minors really aren’t allowed.)
Message to the partygoers
The life of a bouncer is not all fun and parties. “Medyo nahihirapan ako kasi lagi lang kaming nakatayo eh. Masakit sa binti eh,” shares Melton. However, he mentions that he was well-compensated for his hard work, and he was surprised at the generosity of the tips he receives for a job well done.
(It can be slightly difficult because we’re always standing. It hurts my legs.)
Late nights spent keeping customers safe resting on their shoulders, bouncers may have very well been the real life of the party. Jason shares, “‘Yung gusto lang namin malaman nila, welcome sila uminom dito tsaka sisiguraduhin namin yung safety nila. Number one sa amin, safety nila. Tsaka ma-enjoy nila yung pag-iinom nila.”
(We only want them to know that they’re welcome to drink here and that we’ll ensure their safety. Their safety is our number one priority and they can enjoy their drinking.)
Though Happy T is no more, it’s only apt to give our thanks to the bouncers who kept things under control while the drinking culture in Taft thrived. They preserved the peace and did all they could to help young people stay safe while having a good time. Despite the closing of Taft bars, partygoers are responsible for their own behavior.
True “fun” is when one knows how to keep oneself in check, understand boundaries, and prioritize his or her safety during a night out.
After all, it is a bar, not a fight club.