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Queering the neighborhood

But in recent years, as consciousness on heritage burgeoned, Escolta garnered the attention of heritage advocates and creative types.



GAYBORHOOD hosts in eye-catching dresses.

Expect queer people to liven up a party, to color a once decaying but heritage part of the city. On the night of 16 November, they took the spotlight at the Escolta Block Festival as Pineapple Lab and FringeMNL showcased queer talent and performers with their popular variety show “Gayborhood Night.”

Escolta Street in the district of Binondo was once the trendiest part of the Philippine capital with chic stores, restaurants and business offices. But through the years, it lost its glamor and became neglected.

But in recent years, as consciousness on heritage burgeoned, Escolta garnered the attention of heritage advocates and creative types with its heritage buildings, mostly in art-deco and neoclassical styles. There are now efforts to revive this part of the city.

Aside from efforts on conservation and transforming old structures into creative and recreational spaces, events and parties have been held. One major event is the Escolta Block Party.

It has become so popular that the Manila Creative Exchange, the organizer, decided to make it a month-long event, the Manila Block Festival. Every weekend in November, there are different events and parties. For the first time, queer people took the lead for one weekend.

WEARING a gown made out of garbage bags.


DRAG queen Brigiding.


SAM Reynolds.


ARCHITECT and heritage advocate Richard Bautista roams the party dressed as a Girl Scout.


Architect and heritage advocate Richard Bautista, whose main intetest is Escolta, said that queer people make up a substantial part of the creatives. Thus, a queer event is just apt.

“Gayborhood Night” was staged before, and because of its popularity, it has been restaged a few more times. This time, it was brought to Escolta, playing from 6 p.m. to midnight,
“Gayborhood Night”featured DJs, drag queens and other performers.

Drag shows are now becoming popular in the country. The television show RuPaul’s Drag Race has paved the way for the acceptance of the once underground gay event.

“Gayborhood Night” showcased drag performers Sam Reynolds, Star Ore, Foxxxy Gray, Vinas Deluxe, Brigiding, Jan Cerezo, Lucinda Sky, MC Black, The FFS, Buttercock and Maniqueen.
Aside from entertaimment, the show also put the spotlight on advocacies such as HIV/AIDS awareness and LGBTQ+ rights.

NEWLY opened Escolta Exchange, a hub for ideas and socializing.


ONE of the food stalls at the gathering.


HERITAGE street in Manila comes alive at night with the festival.

One could hear one of the hosts stating, “Tama na ang hate sa LGBT, “ “The world is a better place with us in it” and “Walang mali sa pagmamahal,” etc.

Pineapple Lab said it has been providing safe spaces for queer people and giving platforms for LGBTQ+ artists.

It rained by 10 p.m. but the hosts exhorted, “Ulan lang ‘yan; bakla tayo,” referring to gay people’s resilience and persistence amid adversaries and persecution.

Then the DJ played the beloved gay anthem “It’s Raining Men,” turning the damper into a moment for jubilation.

Attendees, mostly young people, continued partying.

During that night, the Escolta Exchange was inaugurated, serving as the main event space. Located on the ground floor of the old Panpisco Building at 246 Escolta Street, it is planned to be a work space, a hangout or an exhibit venue.