Watching the NFL playoffs turned out to be a pretty interesting experience. Ever since LACafe2Skycable canned Solar Sports I knew that watching the games would take a little more effort than usual. A buddy of mine and I decided to try watching them at a sports bar this morning.

I called a few places in Makati, but none of them would be open during the wee morning hours (first game came on around 4:00 or 4:30 am). I finally found a listing for the LA Cafe, which advertises itself as a place for expats. I called and they told me that they had American football games on their TV’s (and they were open 24/7). I knew this place would be in one of Manila’s “red light” districts, but I also knew that any bar with foreigners would have prostitutes.

I woke up around 5:00 a.m. and took at taxi over to the bar. I arrived right around 6:00 a.m. Sure enough, they had the AFC playoff game on multiple TV screens. It seemed that the activity in the bar was winding down, but the place was still pretty packed.

I sat down at a table near the door and started watching the game. A couple of young women sat down at my table and started flirting with me. I didn’t pay too much attention to them (there are times when pretending not to know the language is helpful). I eventually ordered a cup of coffee as the game continued. Another bargirl passed in front of me and signaled that she was “available.” I declined. The other two at my table kept talking among themselves, perhaps hoping that I would eventually pay more attention to them. Nandito lang ako para manood ng game, (I’m just here to watch the game) I said to them. They eventually got bored with me and left. In retrospect, I guess I could have been a little nicer to them. It’s just that I’m not sure how I could have done this without them thinking I was interested in a “business transaction.” My guard was up and I really just wanted to enjoy the game.

Erwin arrived a few minutes later. Erwin is one of our newest team members; a Filipino who spent half of his life in the States. It’s been really nice to have a friend around who likes football (most Filipinos just don’t care for it). We ordered some food and waited for the second playoff game. The bar got less and less crowded as the morning light rained in.

As we ate our overpriced pizza, I met a guy from Canada. I overheard him earlier as he told other patrons of his Canadian-Filipino heritage (I heard him speaking fluent Tagalog to some of the girls). He introduced himself to me and told me where he was from. He then proceeded to ask me if I would be interested in an “indecent proposal” from one of his bargirl friends. I politely refused, and he moved on. I think he was just trying to “help” one of his friends, and I got the impression that he is a regular patron at this bar.

Erwin and I became frustrated by around 7:30. We knew the second game had started, but it wasn’t showing on the bar’s TV screens. We started asking the staff to change the channel and look for it. They seemed agreeable, but the waitresses and security were a little distracted. The before-mentioned Canadian (now quite drunk) was having some kind of bizarre interactions with an equally drunk grumpy Korean.

The Canadian kept embracing him, shouting “Canada loves Korea!” to the top of his lungs. The irritable Korean kept shouting that he wanted to be left alone, and somehow managed to gash his own finger open (maybe when he picked up a bar stool as a potential weapon). The Canadian got some tissues and kept trying to bandage the Korean’s finger. The Korean would sometimes act as though he wanted to punch or kick his unwanted companion, to which the Canadian often turned around and offered his ample rump as a target. This spectacle kept going on as the security guards periodically separated them. The Canadian ended up with the Korean’s blood smeared on his own face (not sure if this was intentional or from all of the hugging). I didn’t feel threatened by any of this, just annoyed.

I met another American who was also came to watch the NFC playoff. He said he was going to see if the bar down the street had the game on. I was allowed to go back near the bar’s media control room and help them look through all of their channels. The second game was nowhere to be found. Erwin and I decided to follow our new friend and see if he found the game at the bar down the street. Fortunately, we found both our friend and the game. The environment in this other bar was much better–more quite and relaxed, not so full of smoke (or prostitutes). The American explained that he does international business and has contracts with some of the call centers in here in the Philippines. Overall he seemed to be a pretty cool guy.

Erwin and I watched the game until the end. We were hoping Green Bay would win, but it was a good game nonetheless. We left the bar, walked down a few blocks, and found a taxi.

I then realized that one of my cell phones was not with me. I called it and it rang, but no answer. I called again and got the “sorry disconnected or out of coverage area” message. I guess someone found my ringing phone and turned it off (before looking for a place to sell it). We retraced our steps and looked for it, but the people in both bars said they hadn’t seen it. I wasn’t surprised–I knew that a phone left in a Manila bar wasn’t just going reappear. Frustrating, but this is the very reason I use only the cheapest model cell phones. It seems one of mine gets lost or broken every year or two, so I don’t see the point in spending much money such an item.

We may actually go back to that second bar to watch the Superbowl. Next time I’ll keep a closer eye on my cell phone.

For any of you who are new to my blog, bar hopping isn’t part of my regular routine. Having said that, I’ve learned that sometimes I really need to get out and see how other people live. Reading The Jesus I Never Knew really caused me to think about the whole “friend of sinners” aspect of Jesus. I still don’t have it all figured out, but I hope that somehow I’m becoming more like Him in this regard.

I also want my readers to know that the Philippines is not necessarily any worse than any other country when it comes to prostitution. I’ve visited Hong Kong, China, and Thailand, and saw rampant prostitution in those countries. Even my own country (USA) has major problems. I know this because many of the drug addicts I worked with used prostitution as a way to fund their habit. Just don’t want one blog entry about one morning to give people the wrong idea of a whole city (or country). If you are a Filipino and find this post embarrassing, keep in mind that I’m just as embarrassed by the reputation of the Americans that frequent these bars.