Baklas and Beer in the Afternoon: A Tale of Manila

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I have just been to the Bureau of Immigration Visa Extension Office in Makati. I have to do this once every two months, for the economy of the Philippines.

My papers are in and my money has been paid, but for unknown reasons, they’re not handing the passports with the new visas out yet. I have plans for the afternoon so will have to come back on Tuesday. I sigh and decide to get a beer and some food. I had no plans, then, to meet baklas.

Baklas, to let you know, are the local ersion of the ubiquitous ladyboy, the transwomen found all over southeast Asia, under different names. They are highly feminised males who live as women and seek straight men for partners. They are often as beautiful as natal women — or more so.

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I head for Market! Market! in Taguig. It’s my favourite mall in Manila by far, partly because half of it is actually outside. Unlike some malls, there are plenty of beer-bars and small restos too, serving a myriad array of meals in price bands to suit any bakla’s pocket, as they say. So I indulge in a taxi — 105 pesos — and, once I’m there, head for the bars at the back, near the van depot. I know from experience that these are good and cheap and so, attract locals — including baklas.

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books by rod fleming baklas

I randomly select one on the shady side and order a Red Horse. The waitress — not a bakla — indicates a table inside (seedy) but I decline and point to the outside ones. I plan to check the menu while enjoying a cold beer. As well as the walking scenery.

After settling in, I spot three  baklas at the next table. One is  facing my direction and her two companions both have their backs to me. I catch the first bakla, glancing at me and smile. She doesn’t respond to me but says something to her friends. A few seconds later, they both furtively look round to catch a glimpse. The bakla on the left is a peach, very pretty. When she looks round again — and thus demonstrates that she’s interested — I smile at her.

A smile like that in the Phils, when the person is looking directly at you, must be responded to. These are Asians, not European or USican women. Feminism came here in the 90s, hit a brick wall of Asian matriarchalism, got its bottom smacked and fucked off again. Thankfully. So ‘my’ bakla grins back and seconds later does so again; that is a sure sign. I make a gesture with my hand — ‘May I join you?’ All three baklas signal acceptance and I join them. The whole preamble took about forty-five seconds.

These baklas work in a call centre, servicing a loans company. They came off shift at 10am and have been here since; it’s now after one and they are all micked. Several empty litre bottles of Red Horse litter the table, along with the remnants of various dishes — pulutan. Red Horse is strong beer, 7%, so its effect on a 38-kilo bakla, already tired from working all night, is pretty impressive.

Although the bakla I’d smiled to at first is the most talkative, she is not my principal interest here. The pretty one, who is, pulls out a chair close to her before either of the others can. She is the youngest, it turns out. Her name is Toni and she comes from Dagupan in Pangasinan to the north. She has beautiful eyes, turned down at the corners and her irises are a deep russet brown with golden flecks. And she’s three sheets to the wind.

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In a situation like this, baklas will try to figure out if the man has clocked them or not. If they think not, they might try to carry on the illusion, but things will become a great deal more relaxed if they know that you know and are cool with it. The trick is in tactfully letting everyone understand that you are aware without dropping too obvious a clanger.

Jez (the first girl) makes this easy when she refers to Toni as ‘he’. Now you have to understand that in Filipino, the word for ‘him’ and ‘her’ is the same (a classic marker of a matriarchy, by the way.) So they often make errors of gender in English. ‘She,’ I insist and Jez thanks me. By gendering Toni correctly, I have respected the whole group, but at the same time, we are all now singing from the same songsheet. I know they’re baklas and they know I do.

baklas
These are actually Thai kathoeys but check that little one in the middle — she’s a classic HSTS, absolutely gorgeous. Notice how fine her wrists and forearms are. Beautiful girl — and about five feet tall! . That temptress on the right is probably HSTS too, even though she’s a bit taller. It’s just natural variation. The one on the left, however,  is an obvious AGP, unmistakeable.

I feel Toni’s hand slip onto mine and she squeezes it. It’s not sexual; it’s to say ‘thanks’. But the way she leaves it there, lingering, is sexual. This bakla wants me.

I let my arm relax and she gently guides my hand onto her upper thigh, where it is very comfortable indeed, thank you. Her skin is smooth and softened by the hormones she takes, like nearly all baklas — even the ones who don’t life full-time as women. She’s wearing a floral print frock, with the hem above the knee but not close to the danger zone. It’s already summer here and hot; her attire is appropriate and I can sense, with my hand, that under her frock she’s wearing cycle shorts.

Many Westerners don’t understand that most baklas are good Catholic girls and can be very conservative; but they live in a climate that, especially in Manila, can be utterly sweltering. So a compromise is to wear cool cotton dresses with cycle-shorts underneath for modesty. This allows baklas, who are traditionally more flamboyant in their dress than ordinary girls, to wear eye-catchingly brief skirts or cut-off shorts, while maintaining social decorum.

books by rod fleming baklas

Sex and the tele-series

Jez is leading the conversation while Apple, the third bakla and Toni just chip in occasionally. She’s being quite brazen; she has already let me know that she does not have a boyfriend. I don’t know if she can see that Toni has a firm grip on my hand but surely she must have noted her body language; anyway she steers the conversation in a risqué direction and begins to talk about sex.

‘Doesn’t it hurt?’ I ask, playing the daft laddie.

She shrugs. ‘Yes, but I don’t mind. I just like to lie back and watch my partner’s pleasure.’

There’s something in her voice that alerts me and a sudden, quickly suppressed, flicker of mirth flashes across the other two girls’ faces. I maintain a poker face, but I have read it; Jez is a virgin. They probably all are.

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It is said, amongst those who have been sampling the physical delights of the region for decades, that Thai ladyboys are built for sex and Filipina ones for love. It is an interesting observation and a true one, I think. Certainly baklas — in fact all pinays — fall quickly and heavily. In bed they have few inhibitions.

I think it is a function of the strongly family-oriented, matrifocal culture they live and grow up in. The virtue of romantic love is trumpeted here. Hours of television, every day, pump out images of women finding their ideal romantic partners in every conceivable setting. I wrote about this in The Warm Pink Jelly Express Train, referring to Brazilian transsexuals or travesti, but it’s no less true here. The tele-series are not aimed at baklas, but boy does the message get across: love-making, not just sex, is the ultimate, the Holy Grail.

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Baklas are women who were born male

At the same time, though, baklas are ‘women-born-male’. They do want love and respect and a life-partner who will care for them and be with them for the ‘big future’; but they are not at all averse to a quick fuck for the simple, intense, ecstatic reward of being penetrated. Of being taken — and conversely, for the intense thrill of complete, unequivocal, unconditional surrender.

If you’re a straight man like me, then you can never really understand what is going on inside a bakla’s body and mind, when she has sex. In fact you’d probably wonder how on earth they could find it as pleasurable as baklas very obviously do. It becomes clear to any man, the first time his ladyboy lover orgasms on his dick, that there are definitely more things in the world than were previously dreamt of in his philosophy.

His partner goes wild with sexual ecstasy, shaking, grunting, moaning, writhing on his penis. Her sobs are not of agony but of sheer lust and intense physicality. When she comes the release is so strong it snaps her body into a rictus and, afterwards, she is left whimpering. This is not a person suffering pain; this is a person being taken so far into physical pleasure that it’s the dark side of the moon. It’s a sensation beyond human cognisance, unless you’re a bakla; and that, of course, is the unique bond between all gays, the secret knowledge that is theirs alone. They have tasted the nectar of the goddess; but you have to be a woman or a bakla to do that.

They sure don’t teach you that in school.

books by rod fleming baklas

A tricky situation

Ladyboys, at least in the Philippines, are almost always strongly averse to penetrating. They are girls and girls do not fuck men. It is a social taboo. In any case they seek that exquisite agony, that ‘little death’ which other ladyboys, a slight smile on their lips, who have had the pleasure, whisper tales of to them when they are young.

Bakla culture — kabaklaan —  is absolutely rooted in the desire for cock and to be anally fucked. It really is a Holy Grail. But finding a man to actually fuck them — and whom they like the idea of being fucked by — can be more tricky than you might think. If she has not had her cherries broken by the time she’s sixteen the pool of local men willing to date a bakla begins to contract; now the men are looking for a natal woman to marry, not a bakla to fuck against a tree..

A Romantic moment

I am brought back from my reverie by Toni, who has, in the meantime, inveigled herself so close to me that our torsos are actually in contact and her bum is half on my chair, half on hers. The sort of forwardness is pretty common; a bakla who likes a man will let him know. But she is looking at me with a troubled expression.

‘You like her?’ she asks, pouting towards Jez, the bakla who had saluted me first. She’s not asking if I find Jez’ company diverting; she’s asking if I’m sexually attracted to her.

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KIssing a bakla

I smile. ‘I like you,’ I reply, and it’s true. Toni has that certain something. It’s not just that she’s pretty, it’s more. She’s an ingénue. Wide eyed and innocent, and for that matter, right now, legless. Without even thinking about it, I lean in and kiss her full on the lips. The temptation is just too much to resist.

She responds with gentle enthusiasm, her warm soft lips pressing onto mine. I feel her hand come up and rest on my shoulder. Her breath is fresh and her kiss sweet and lingering. She pulls away, aware as I am that the other two are staring.

‘That’s the first time I ever kissed a foreigner,’ she chuckles aloud, after a moment. The others giggle and make oolala noises, fanning their faces with their hands. The frisson is evident.

‘Did you like it?’ I ask. I know the answer but I want to hear it from her.

She nods. ‘Oh yes, I liked it,’ she smiles. She has an engaging smile, wide and open. She’s incredibly desirable. ‘I liked it a lot.’

She leans in this time and kisses me. It’s just as nice. She’s so very slight; she probably weighs about 35 kilogrammes. She lingers and takes her time; she wasn’t lying about liking it. Her deft tongue enters my mouth and flicks against mine; it is exquisite.

When she withdraws, she leans her brow on mine and murmurs ‘Can you fuck me?’ There is an emphasis on the word ‘fuck’ that speaks of her yearning.

I take it in the literal. ‘Yes, of course.’ I mean, I am a man, I do have a dick, and it works.

books by rod fleming baklas

Feeling it

What is possible, though, is not always practical, or even proper. I already have a prior engagement to meet an old friend and Toni is  drunk. She is twenty-one and, right at this moment, vulnerable. It’s not really clear to me that she would even be capable of having sex in the condition she’s in.

I don’t know if Toni is a virgin but her manner strongly suggests that she is. She has that innocence; open and trusting and she clearly does want sex. Her offer is genuine — in fact it is less an offer than an appeal for that realisation that is so important to every virginbakla: what is it really like to be fucked? ‘I don’t care if it hurts, I just want to FEEL it!’ But for a bakla, losing virginity is not a simple process. Entry is via the anus and, unless she is properly prepared, intolerable pain or even physical damage is quite possible.

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Baklas and Sex

Sex is also a big issue, romantically. It implies commitment. For a man to take a woman and leave her would be a massive insult. It would destroy her ‘face’ and shame her. Toni’s no bar girl or street-corner hustler, she’s a nice, well-brought up young woman who has had too much to drink and whose hormones are raging.

There is no doubt in my mind that if I take her to a taxi hotel and fuck her, then Toni  will bond strongly on me; she will see it as the beginning of a romantic relationship, her ‘big future’. Apart from the fact that a bakla can be as attached as piece of chewing-gun to a shoe, I  am not ready to make that kind of a promise to her. I like her too much to take advantage of her insobriety. She sees making love with me as the answer to the prayers she has offered up; I see fucking her as a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It’s unfair.

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I am no saint but I have a rule: treat the young women you meet the way you’d want a man to treat your daughter. I might not always have lived up to this standard, but I have always tried.

Toni is a transwoman and so vulnerable to the constant intermediacy of her life, neither fully one thing nor the other. Would she have asked me for sex, so quickly, if she’d been sober? My call is no, she would not. She’s drunk and lonely and wants a man to hold her and tell her how much she means to him, as a woman — not just sex. All of this flashes through my mind as I search her lovely russet eyes for a clue. What should I do now?

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This feels wrong, too fast, too unconsidered; we’ve known each other all of half an hour. I see my daughter in her face and trust my instincts.

‘Let’s exchange numbers and we can meet on a date, maybe next week,’ I say, defusing the situation and protecting her at the same time; there’s no shame or rejection here. ‘I have a dental appointment at four, so I need to go soon.’ That last is a fib but a harmless one. I already know that she is going home to visit her parents for a long weekend. This seems a reasonable way to take the heat out of the situation and prevent any regrets. I’ll read her messages and see.

Although we did exchange a few messages, I have never seen Toni again and I probably never shall. But I’ll never forget her and I don’t think she’ll forget me. Although I am sure she was disappointed, I am comfortable that I did not dishonour or abuse her, but treated her with respect. I don’t like to preach, but men should consider this.

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books by rod fleming baklas