Sunday, July 3, 2011

Third Dimension

3rd Dimension Reunion
Third Dimension

Location: Gilmore Avenue, Greenhills Manila, Phillipines. Later moved to Quezon City.

Opened: 1998 or 1999--accounts differ

Closed: 2007?

Third Dimension is credited with being the first "exclusive" lesbian bar in the Phillipines. Until the "time" of Third Dimension, lesbians had to make do with a once-a-week party at a small bar called the Sports Zone. Or find space within a larger disco like the Power Station on Roxas Boulevard (later destroyed by a fire in 1990). In 2007, Roselle Pineda described the long-awaited birth of Third Dimension:

It was an E-mail that informed us of this place. It said: "Finally! A bar exclusively for women, all throughout the week." Finally, we did not have to wait for the weekend to be able to feel free in a space dominated by our kind. And so, one day, we decided to pay a visit to Third Dimension.

That first time, the feeling of seeing a sign saying "Exclusive Bar for Women" was both relieving and weird. Inside, it felt even weirder. It was dark and nearly empty, the menu still incomplete. The spinner at the bar was playing that irritating album by Mariah Carey. But we didn’t mind these first impressions, for all we could think about was the potential of the place.

Third Dimension is relatively spacious, with a dining, drinking and bar area on the first floor and a dance area, slightly darker, upstairs. Erotic sculptures and murals are installed on the second floor. The menu features such dishes as Garlic Nipples (garlic mushroom), Sticky Fingers (cheese sticks), Potato Peck (french fries) and Girlie Nuts (peanuts).

In a lengthy talk with Melissa, the bar manager, we finally got an inner look into the history and concept behind the bar.

Melissa is the bar manager of a gay-owned exclusive bar for women called Third Dimension. It claims to be the first exclusive bar in the Philippines. Ironically, however, it is owned by a gay man, although Melissa says that he leaves most of the decision making, managing and planning to her. Being old friends, they trust each other, and it has been agreed that the relationship would be strictly business as far as running the bar is concerned.

Aside from being a full-time bar manager, Melissa is also involved in cause-oriented foundations based in the entertainment industry. They produce concerts in other countries like Japan to promote campaigns on the awareness of sexuality and against the use of drugs, among others. It was on one such trip to Japan that Melissa and her friends first thought about putting up an exclusive club back home. They happened to be strolling along the busy streets of Shinjuku when they came across a club called "Mayonnaise." To their surprise the guys in the group weren’t allowed to enter or even peek inside the club. "We realised that it was a lesbian club. Okay, from that time on, we thought, why not put up a club like this in the Philippines?" Months after that, Third Dimension was born.

Recognising the need to reach out and bond with other women in this society where all women are marginalised, Third Dimension does not limit its clientele to lesbians only. Rather, they seek to welcome other women by providing a venue for the discussion of issues like battery, rape, and single motherhood.

The place, according to Melissa, offers women a sense of freedom. "Here, they can do whatever they want, and no-one will judge them," which is not usually the case elsewhere. Undeniably, however, most of those who come to the bar are lesbians. You only have to read the name of the place, or if that’s not enough, take a look at the art works upstairs to know that the place caters to the so-called "third sex."

A big come-on for the clients of Third Dimension is the privacy it offers. When I asked Melissa what happens inside the bar, she quickly answered, "Whatever happens here, whatever may be seen here, is nobody else’s business." One is reminded that society still considers lesbianism to be a delicate topic, and most people going to exclusives not only seek freedom and fun but also a sense of safety and privacy. Not all lesbians are out and not all the people around us are supportive when we do come out. The bar is sensitive to this and the management tries to keep the place as private as possible.

Then a blogger named Lavender Girl picks up the story. For one thing, we find out why Melissa insisted that whatever happened at Third Dimesion was "nobody else's business." That place got WILD:

In 1998, a bar along Gilmore in Greenhills opened its doors for the Filipino lesbian. First of its kind, 3rd Dimension, proved to be the hottest hangout for lesbians of different shapes and sizes.

3rd Dimension was a split-level structure with a bar at the ground floor and mezzanine that had a dance floor/performance area. Hosted by two good-looking mestizo gay men, 3rd Dimension opened the Pinoy lesbian's eyes to a stripshow. Yep! There was a stripper every Saturday night. It caught the ire of feminists, true, yet many flocked to this watering hole to check out the show, meet up with friends, and dance the night away.

The 3rd Dimension crowd consist mostly of chatters: IRC,, etc. Most were college age or yuppies in their mid-20s or early 30s. There were professionals, creative artsy-fartsy kinds, and jocks. 3rd Dimension welcomed everyone -- lipstick lezzies, stone butches, soft butches, baby dykes, bi-curious, girl-next-door types, preppies, andros. It seemed as if every gay girl hung out in 3rd Dimension at least once in her whole lesbian existence. It was like one big, happy family yet there were still cliques and barkadas. It was a veritable Cheers bar, lesbian version. 

I bet a lot of love affairs had been formed in this bar; perhaps even more flings and hook ups that lasted barely weeks or months. And sadly, this place has seen a lot of heartaches and broken romances, too.

A few years back, 3rd Dimension moved to Libis, Quezon City. It was located on the second floor of one of the establishments bordering the affluent subdivisions. It had better parking, a bigger dance floor, and an improved bar. 

Yet, the crowd was different. Lesbians who frequented the Libis bar seemed to come from a differing generation and sub-culture. The Libis crowd seemed to follow the rainbow spectrum more stringently: some were girlier, some were more butch, some were more androgenous than what the Gilmore habitues were used to.  And definitely, they were all much, much younger than those who hung out at the Gilmore branch.

Still, I suppose it was just as fun and wild as it was. And I bet even more hook ups and heartbreaks were made and broken in Libis.

[At the same time that 3rd Dimension was in Libis, another lesbian bar opened in the gay central, Malate. Perhaps this is what defined the crowd from 3rd Dimension Gilmore.]

3rd Dimension Libis didn't last long. Perhaps its regulars from way back Libis grew up or grew tired of the stripshows and the crowd. Perhaps they simply outgrew the whole bar scene. Nevertheless, 3rd Dimension will always be 3rd Dimension.

I'm not exactly sure when Third Dimension closed, but I'm guessing around 2007--partly because a reunion was advertised as taking place in December 2008 (see poster above).

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