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Manila lady killa’: Lesbian dating in the Philippines

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Aug 05, 2023

Manila lady killa’: Lesbian dating in the Philippines

Known affectionately as the “Pearl of the Orient,” Manila lives up to its name in striking fashion. The bustling capital city of the Philippines, Manila is a place where the past meets the present, where Filipino heritage meets the demand (and supply) of a tech-savvy, globally-minded, and energetic people. So what’s the lesbian dating scene like in Manila?

Well, Manila has a distinct queer community, contrasting the conservative Catholic beliefs of the country as a whole. Manila isn’t always the easiest city for meeting and enjoying the company of lady-lovin’-ladies (so some locals say), but it still offers its colorful opportunities and is a leader in (slowly) normalizing queer culture in Southeast Asia. 

Whether you’re a longtime resident, a new arrival, or were simply thinking about coming for a visit, this guide is meant to offer you information and resources to support you in all flavors of your sapphic Manila encounters to come. Let’s get to it! 

LGBT rights and safety

Lesbians and queers of all kinds gathering in a Pride march for equal LGBT rights in Manila, Philippines

Source: Facebook

You may be wondering, “Is it safe for me to travel to or live in Manila as a queer woman?” That’s completely valid. Unfortunately, there are many places where it’s not easy, legal, or even safe to simply exist, much less express yourself, as a lesbian. 

In the Philippines, the LGBTQIA+ community still has extremely limited legal rights and the Catholic Church remains resolute in condemning homosexuality as a sin. However, especially in the big metropolis of Manila where queer presence is quite strong, most of the locals are still widely accepting and tolerant of the community overall.

In fact, the Philippines has been ranked as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world and the most gay-friendly in Asia for the reach of its overall public acceptance despite the strength of its religiosity. 

How friendly? Well, beauty pageanting is literally the national sport and viewings of Miss Universe rank the way the Super Bowl does in the US. After her seasons on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Manila Luzon set up a Filipino drag race called Drag Den, which quickly prompted Ru to make a dedicated Drag Race Philippines. I mean… hello.

All that to say, feel free to breathe easy during your time in Manila because your presence as a queer person won’t be out of place. 

What is lesbian culture in Manila like? 

Three young femme lesbians smiling and hanging out beside a body of water near Manila

Source: Medium

Before making your way into the lesbian scene in Manila, it’s important to be aware of the cultural context in which you’ll be participating. 

First of all, concepts of gender and sexuality aren’t the same in the Philippines as they are in Western countries. On the one hand, it’s true that the LGBTQIA+ community has reclaimed terms like “bakla” and “bading” (originally referring to effeminate homosexual men, but now expanding to be relevant for others) in the same way that “queer” was in the early 20th century. It also uses the LGBTQIA+ umbrella for clarity and education in general. 

On the other hand, indigenous Filipino culture has a more flexible, less binary understanding of gender and has still not reconciled these perspectives with global standards of LGBTQIA+ culture until today. It was only after Spanish colonization that a gender binary was introduced, shaping the queer Filipino landscape (also with terms like “bakla” or “tomboy”) that exists today. 

(More fluid concepts of gender and sexuality in Filipino culture are probably also part of why people are currently so accepting in the country overall.)

That said, while each person has their own experiences of different labels (and the best way to understand is to ask them personally), some terms you may expect to hear in lesbian Filipina circles include: 

  • Tomboy – a masculine-presenting female person; sometimes used as a synonym for “butch” or “lesbian,” sometimes simply a reflection of aesthetic
  • Bakla – this term tends to be associated in the mainstream with gay men, but some Filipina sapphics use it in place of or alongside “queer,” “lesbian,” or a less gender-specific “gay”; originally an insult that since been mightily reclaimed
  • Tibo – synonym of tomboy that sometimes refers to “lesbians” or masculine-presenting women; historically been a derogatory term, but some lesbians are working on reclaiming it now in the way that “bakla” has been
  • paglaladlad ng kapa (or more commonly, paglaladlad) – literally meaning “unfurling the cape” or “unfurling,” this is the Tagalog phrase for coming out

Don’t underestimate wlw online dating in the Philippines

Lesbians in Manila happily celebrating their relationship with supportive community

Source: Filipino Freethinkers

There are several ways to meet cute sapphic singles in Manila and, of course, queer dating apps are one of them! Sometimes, it’s just a matter of finding them… but I know that’s not always so easy. 

Luckily, Manila’s wlw love a good dating app (probably partially because dedicated physical lesbian spaces aren’t really available) and spend a lot of time on them. You’ll fit right in when you log into HER and start swiping, because many of Manila’s cutest ladies are right there alongside you. It’s so effortless, you’ll meet a hottie in no time.

(Don’t believe me? In one Reddit thread I found, one local asked Manila queer women where they met their partners and every single one of at least 35 responses listed a lesbian dating app. Additional research showed surprisingly similar results. Filipinas know their way around dating sites!) 

Are there lesbian bars in Manila? 

To tell you the truth, lesbian Manila relates a little differently to queer nightlife. Many queer women don’t first or predominantly congregate in bars and clubs (perhaps because you’ll be hard pressed to find a sapphic-only space), though there are still a few lesbian-friendly spots on offer. 

As I said before, Manila is actually considered to have a pretty vibrant queer scene relative to much of the rest of the world and although we might have to nudge a few gay boys out of the way sometimes, wlw definitely have space within it.

So don’t be discouraged! You’ll need to get a little creative if you’re looking for a strictly sapphic nightlife experience, but a great inclusive bar is still available to you (and you’re also sure to find some QTs on HER who’d want to join.) 

To aid in your explorations, I’ve picked out a few gems you can visit for a fun night on the town. 

Miss Kon

The masc lesbian hottie dancers posing on stage at Miss Kon in Manila

Source: Facebook

If you identify as butch and/or your attractions come in an androsexual variety, you’re really not going to want to miss this. This smoldering hotspot popped up relatively recently – in 2021 – in an effort to cater to a more exclusively lesbian crowd. From the way people are talking about it, it’s clearly been a smashing success.

Miss Kon prides itself as a premier go-go bar featuring an entirely lesbian/butch and trans masc lineup of dancers. The venue itself is sizable (fitting around 300 people), well lit, and offers abundant opportunities to take in the impressively-masc eye candy. (In case you were worried, there’s also a dedicated TikTok corner for you to document your enthusiasm.) 

The venue is also special in the way that the crowd tends to be a true mix across the wlw spectrum – lesbians, bisexuals, and sapphos of every flavor (butches (soft and stone), lipsticks, trans, and beyond) can all enjoy the spectacle of this extremely queer (and inclusive) space.

Find Miss Kon in the Malate neighborhood. It’s open 7 days a week, from 12am-9am, but it’s best to go on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, or for special event nights.

Á is a space so new, it hasn’t even completed its relaunch at the time of publication. Still, it needs to be on your radar, because it is the first truly dedicated lesbian-only operation in Manila. 

Ámame began as a speakeasy bar in 2019, but had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic and other unforeseen challenges. Now, it’s opening its doors again as not merely a bar, but a sophisticated, all-encompassing wlw community and safe space fueled by a monthly membership.

In total, Ámame will boast a members-only social media app, a female and feminine-focused online shop, and an exclusive Ámame physical lounge that promises high quality sapphic socializing. 

Getting in with Ámame isn’t so easy – prospects will need to complete an online application and screening process (ideally with endorsement from another member) before being accepted – but given the demand for more wlw experiences in Manila, the reward seems to be worth it. 

Learn more about Ámame on their Instagram page


Lesbian-friendly Nectar nightclub in Manila, Philippines preparing for a night of wild partying

Source: Philippine Primer

If there’s one name you’ll quickly find as a pillar of queer nightlife in Manila, it’s Nectar. Nectar luxury parties are some of the biggest, most flamboyant, and generally most popular among the queer club goers, though they’re frequented a bit more often by gay men than lesbians. 

Open three nights a week, the music is hot and the drag performers are hotter. You can find recurring theme nights, like Poison Wednesday or FriGay, to keep things scandalous. There’s even a notorious sapphic event, Girl Nation (see below), that is well-anticipated on a (now bi)monthly basis.  

Come, say you’ve been there, and see what you think about this upscale extravaganza 🙂

Butterfly Manila

Butterfly Manila comes highly recommended as your neighborhood friendly gay bar. Although it might not come up top in your search results, Butterfly is a Manila queer staple and is one of the oldest LGBT establishments in the city (since 1999). For good reason – there’s a lot to love.

Butterfly tends to have a more gay crowd, but you can have faith in the wlw regulars that also call this bar home. Despite mixed queer clientele, it presents itself as wholly inclusive and a safe space for all, a place to grab a drink, kick back, and get lost in conversation with friends new and old… over an inspiring round of karaoke, of course (Filipinos love their karaoke).

Above all else, Manila’s queers and sapphics (and enthusiastic allies) come to Butterfly for a sense of family and to share space with people that love them as they are. It’s not necessarily the wildest or the loudest, but consider this a go-to if you, and your date, are looking for a cozy and familiar vibe.

Butterfly Manila is open 7 nights a week, usually from 6pm-2am (Saturdays until 4am), in Quezon City.

How (else) can I meet lesbians in Manila? 

Given the combined realities of conservative religious beliefs, limited equality legislation, and growing public acceptance of the queer community, local lezzies have shared that meeting other wlw in Manila is not without its hurdles. 

As mentioned, there are few wlw-only bars or dedicated spaces and that’s not every local’s jam anyways. So then, you may be wondering, “What is the lesbian scene in Manila like? Where can I meet the hotties??” 

Fear not! While sapphic spaces might not exist in the way that we generally think of as Westerners, there is a solid (and growing) number of spaces that aren’t exclusively queer but are making a point to call out inclusivity for all, especially wlw. As a result, many of our sapphic Filipina friends have reported delighted success in meeting cute chicks in all of them.

The following events and spaces are a sample of those in this category, but if you’d like even more options, here’s a slightly longer list

Girl Nation @ Nectar Club

Three wlw on a night out at the colorful and bright Girl Nation party in Manila

Source: Philippine Primer

When you’re looking for true wlw nights in Manila, Girl Nation is the event that does fit the bill. Girl Nation was started in 2016 by three lesbians who insisted on having a sapphic space in Manila, and it seems their supply has been well met by high demand until today. 

Girl Nation takes place on Thursdays every two months at Nectar Club. 

Pop-up Katipunan

Pop-up in Katipunan is a cool hangout and party space for lesbians and other queers in Manila

Source: Tribobot x Mom Nessly

Not every desirable sapphic safe space involves alcohol and a hunt for sexual intimacy. Girls just want to have fun… but also hot drinks, great food, and stimulating conversations. 

Pop-up is the answer to exactly this need. A colorful kaleidoscope of open-air shops in Katipunan, Pop-up makes for an ideal space to meet and hang out (with friends and new acquaintances ;D) and luxuriate in the high fashion and drool worthy eats (Santai comes highly recommended). It’s not explicitly queer, but it’s become well known as an inclusive and welcoming venue.

This is a popular student haunt, so the environment tends to be younger and livelier, but don’t let that stop you from coming for the occasional parties and events that are said to be worth the fuss. 

More info on Pop-up’s upcoming events via their Instagram page.


Main chalkboard menu of Commune, a lesbian-friendly cafe in Manila, Philippines

Source: Commune

This cute cafe in Makati is the epitome of neighborhood friendly, and goes out of its way to welcome all people unconditionally. 

The story of how it got started is as cute as the vibe: the owner was a long-time coffee aficionado and had a dream to combine this love with gathering people offline. So she bought and set up her own space to do that, matter of fact. 

At Commune, you can expect top tier coffee (including locally sourced from the Philippines, a matter of great pride) and wholesome (unplugged) connection building. 

Find Commune at 36 Polaris St. in Makati City.

Metro Manila Pride March and Festival

Lesbians march in a large crowd of queer people during the Metro Manila Pride March

Source: UN Women Asia and the Pacific

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the biggest events of them all, the Metro Manila Pride March and Festival. Although it’s not as mammoth as Pride in cities like Sydney or NYC, Manila Pride holds its own significance in Asian LGBTQIA+ history.  

The first Manila Pride took place in 1994 as 30-50 people marched in Quezon City, marking the first such march in all of Southeast Asia. This year, in 2023, an impressive 110,000 people gathered and celebrated, which was not only a mighty show of support for pending equality legislation, but the largest pride march in Southeast Asia to date.

Metro Manila Pride organizers prepare an array of ways to express your queer spirit, like community art creations, exhibits, marches, and parties, as well as gather nearby regional events under the same rainbow flag so that all locales, big and small, are represented.     

The Metro Manila Pride website has everything you need to know about it.  

So, have I piqued your interest? Are you ready to give Manila a try? The wlw scene in the city still has plenty of room for growth, but the community and experiences that do currently exist offer a cozy sense of home and determined support to make visions of a more sapphic future in Manila a reality.

Meanwhile, don’t be shy. Crack open your HER app, match with some cuties, and let yourself be dazzled in this Pearl of the Philippines. Enjoy! 

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Jillian Gogel is a writer and editor living her queer futchy dream life in Berlin. When not writing for clients, she is sharing her poetry and building intimate, creative, queer-celebrating community on her Joy Journeys Substack publication (@jillianjoy). She cares about dogs, yoga, sexual liberation, and holding space for exploring self-intimacy in all ways.

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