what’s inside Sogo (and kulturang motel)*

Motel, Pinoy style

The word “motel” is a Filipinism, a foreign word (e.g. salvage) which, when localized, is given another denotation and connotation. From motel’s American meaning—motorists’ hotel or travelers’ stop-over or overnight place—it has evolved into a public house of private rooms for sexual fun.

Motel, in the Philippines, has been perceived as a sex den for prostitutes, hideaway for couples engaged in hot extra-marital affairs, refuge of forbidden lovers, or just about anyone itching to get laid but could not in the privacy of their homes, for the lack of a legal or socially accepted reason. And in this country, they are emphatically third world—a curious imagery for the filthy and derogatory acts they are infamously known for. Until Sogo came.

Roland Tolentino narrates in his Bulatlat essay “Sogo at Lehitimasyon ng Bawal na Pagnanasa” the development of motels from the cheap “liko biglang yuko” type found in Recto, Pasay, Caloocan, and Ermita to hotel style ones like the now successful Hotel Sogo, which keeps on expanding in the national capital region and nearby provinces (such as Laguna) especially in politico-economic centers (Cebu). Like many other landmarks, these hotels are lined up along commercial establishments which are far from cheap and shabby. Tolentino believes that sex, just like motels, is now as legal (or legalized) as the Arroyo regime.

Now with twenty branches[1] in the Philippines and hundreds of outdoor advertisements, Sogo has also entered the Filipino jokes (“nakita kitang pumasok sa Sogo!”), sexual innuendos (“Sogo naman tayo”), and literary stories (e.g. “Perstaym” in the erotic anthology Kuliti[2]), all of which refer to Sogo as a place where human beings mate, with Catholic guilt.

The place has around three hundred rooms and at night all of them are occupied as evident in the never empty waiting lobby and ever busy monitoring staff—especially every 15th or 30th of the month, as observed by Tolentino during paydays. We even see guests who would start kissing inside the slightly covered seats while in the long wait.

The geisha in Sogo’s logo suggests that the place is for short time pleasure which is not unlike the happy hours sold in such known motel as Anito. On the other hand, the geisha’s covering of her face with a fan is reminiscent of Victoria’s logo: black and white silhouette of a woman with a finger making a shush sign. Both images imply privacy, if not secrecy.

Ironically, the over-all red paint of Sogo screams for attention. And as if to live up to the motel’s original meaning, these hotels are along main highways waiting for the next motorist. Curiously, these hotels are to be found near areas where prostitutes are sighted: foot bridges full of sex workers are near Sogo Cainta, Aurora, and Cubao; Manila pimps are just around the corner of Sogo Recto and Malate; and gay pokpoks abound Quezon Avenue and Banawe.

Apparently Sogo hotels stand on areas where the masses hang around—not in Rockwell Makati but in Guadalupe, not along Roxas Boulevard but Malate, not in Filinvest but Alabang Rotonda.

Sogo hotels’ geographic location is exposed as that of Jollibee, its periphery as peopled as SM, and its operation as busy as 7 Eleven.

On top of all that, what makes Sogo popular nowadays is advertising. Outdoor posters, traffic signs, public service ads, and other transport advertisements with the geisha in them are ubiquitous, while Sogo discount cards are promotional materials easy to come by. Side by side the tagline and the information about the hotel rates in these ads are friendly road reminders, and in marketing, this is a smart add on. PR advertising gives companies a good image and a way to consumers’ heart, i.e. public acceptance.

Sex inside


Guests are usually a man-woman couple, but sometimes there are m2m (men to men) and a pair of women, too.

The lobby is splashed with warm hues, orange and tan. True to the hotel’s name, Sogo’s theme is Japanese: open cubicles that cover the benches are reminiscent of Japanese houses’ sliding doors made of paper—only that the ones in the lobby are made of translucent glass with wooden edges. Seats are for two and their “cover walls,” which are about four feet high, are attached to left, right, and back of the cushioned bench. These cubicles are neatly aligned, facing one direction so waiting guests do not see each other unless one stands to get a number or go to the washroom.

Guests are usually a man-woman couple, but sometimes there are m2m (men to men) and a pair of women, too.

The hotel’s desk is manned by employees garbed in red uniforms with yellow lining. Guests get their number here the moment they enter the place, then wait while seated until their number is called, in other words, until rooms are available. The employee who stands in front of the desk explains the rates while the one behind the desk inputs the length of stay in the corresponding rooms. In the lobby everything is neat. Even with a lot of people during Sogo’s blockbuster nights, people are calm and the ambience cozy.

Once the number is called, one couple may pass the security gate then inside the elevator hall, a tiny room right beside the desk, where one waits for the one and only elevator in the eight-floor building.

The elevator has no mirrors, no attendant, and practically nobody in it. It is quite amazing that guests, by coincidence or sheer plan, do not get a chance to have an eye to eye meeting with other guests. If guests happen to ride with a room attendant, for instance, the employee greets politely without staring at guests, then pushes the button for them.

Unlike hotels, though, Sogo’s hallways are devoid of any decoration nor any attempt to put some style along the narrow ways aligned with rooms tightly shut. No chairs, tables, mirrors, paintings, flower vases, plants, food carts, room service carts or loitering kids are to be found on the way to one’s room, save for the carpet that render the corridors a neat, elegant look.

Once inside the room, the guest is greeted by the anteroom that stores a cabinet, which is empty except for a pair of hangers, and a table below it.

The rooms have a sort of standard design of wallpaper, side tables, vanity desk, lamp shades boarded on the wall, and mirrors, but their proximity vary depending on the type of room since deluxe are more spacious than premiere.

A television set is perched on steel attached to the wall by the side of the bed. Some recommended programs are printed on laminated cards placed by the TV: Channel 110-114 are pornographic channels with description for each (e.g. “Asian” or “Western”).


Some recommended programs are printed on laminated cards placed by the TV: Channel 110-114 are pornographic channels with description for each (e.g. “Asian” or “Western”).

Again, depending on the type of the room the bed is either queen or king size. A thin, white sheet wraps the leather-covered foam bed and two emaciated pillows sit at one corner with one thin, white blanket. The leather bed, commented a friend, is for the “necessary spills”.

The bathroom would rate high for someone like me who is particular with the cleanliness, spaciousness, and daintiness of any baño. Tiles are pristine white. Toilet bowl is immaculate. Shower and faucet have consideration for guests who easily chill with a drop of freezing water. A fresh roll of tissue paper is placed nicely in a stylish holder. And the shower area has room for two persons, three even (no shower curtain though).

Sex in public space

How does Sogo function?

In this conservative society where Catholic beliefs reign even the political arena, motels are taboo, and so the proliferation of Sogo hotels and the profitability of Sogo Cubao are a form of resistance to Catholic stronghold on the Filipinos’ values. Sogo then functions as a reminder that amidst—or in spite of—Catholicism, sex outside marriage is a phenomenon that should be exposed and not hidden, ignored, or euphemized.

It may also be seen as resistance to the exclusivity of hotels or other classy places to the elite or the ruling class. Sogo gives the lower classes an access to such convenience even for three hours. Like the internet that gave the masses an access to knowledge production and manipulation, Sogo allows them to enjoy the luxury of guilty pleasure, which only the rich ones can afford to experience because of power.

Also, Sogo hotels function as a modifier of our sense of sexuality. “As long as there are hindrances to a free and open discussion of [issues on sexuality],” writes Quindoza-Santiago, “there will always be the temptation of an illicit…uninhabited display of the body and of sexual practice that border on the lewd and porn as a mode of protest and resistance” (77). Sogo may have liberated fantasies but more importantly it liberates people from ignorance on Pinoy sexuality. For instance, interviews here show that same-gender intercourse is as normal as male-female intercourse, and that binaries (e.g strong-weak, bell boy-desk girl) are not very healthy.

Tolentino’s biting criticism of Sogo shows another function: space for capitalist and political legitimization.

Sa motel ay pribadong-pribadong aliw ang pinatatamasa: sa pagpasok sa pribadong kwarto maiinternalisa ang pribadong kasiyahan para sa konsyumer na pumiling bumili ng tatlong oras—ang “short-time” na kalikasan ng mga motel. Sa kliyente ang kwarto sa loob ng nirentahang tatlong oras.

Free sex, perverted sex, sex with non-adults na mukha namang adults, extra-marital sex, premarital sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, kahit ano sa pagitan ng dalawang partner, maaari sa motel. Ang kapangyarihan sa kontrol sa panahon at espasyo ng kwarto ay nasa kanila sa loob ng itinakdang tatlong oras o lampas pa rito.

Dito, tulad sa rehimen ni Arroyo, ang halinghing at iri ay sabayang nagsasaad ng pagbulwak ng at pagdisiplina sa bawal. Basta may pera, hindi nabubura, bagkus lalong tumitingkad, ang distinksyon ng bawal at hindi sa mundong ibabaw.

*part of a paper submitted to an Anthropology class (Anthro 292 under Michael Tan)

[1] (1) Alabang Rotonda, (2) Aurora Blvd, Cubao, (3) Avenida, (4) Bacoor, Cavite, (5) Banawe(6) Cainta, (7) Cartimar – Recto (8) Cebu, (9) Edsa Caloocan, (10) Edsa Cubao, (11) Edsa Guadalupe, (12) Kalentong, LRT, (13) Monumento Station, (14) Malate, (15) Novaliches – Bayan, (16) Pasay Edsa/Harrison, (17) Pasay Rotonda, (18) Quezon Avenue, (19) San Pedro, Laguna, (20) Sta. Mesa

[2] Kuliti: Pagtatanggol Sa Pag-Ibig (2008) is an anthology of erotic short stories written by literature professors, UP graduate students, and ABS-CBN writer. Boy Abunda helped them publish this.

REFERENCES

Hotel Sogo website. www.hotelsogo.com

Quindoza-Santiago, Lilia. (2007). Sexuality and the Filipina. QC: University of the Philippines Press.

Tolentino, Roland. (6-12 July 2008). Alipato Media Center Inc. “Sogo at Lehitimasyon ng Komersyal na Bawal na Pagnanasa.”Bulatlat.com vol 8 no.22.

“Who’s Afraid of Philippine Englishes?” Manila Bulletin online 7.11. Retrieved October 2008 from http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2008/05/11/20080511124285.html

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JV Canta
Guest

Ive seen a lot of Sogo’s Ads ,however, I never really got the chance nor intend to enter one (for now). At least now I know how it looks like from the outside. Hahaha! Keep up your fabulous job Madam Ai! ^_^

kat
Guest
kat

i haven’t had this kind of experience yet, but i think i do understand why sogo plays such an important role in Filipino culture. haha. LIBERATING. haha. in a culture where sex is such a taboo, an outlet must be available nga naman. and sogo seems to be the ultimate outlet. haha. great article ai! fun! haha. 🙂

raj deep
Guest
raj deep

i was thinking before that there are really many branches of Sogo. Grabe sila mag-ad eh. Now i know na twenty lang pala.
🙂

Mon
Guest
Mon

There’s a new branch – North ave station, mrt. near Trinoma. Kakaopen lang. HAHAHA. UY, ALAM? 🙂

aimac
Guest

oh, yes, during the time I was writing this, it wasnt open yet, so now, make that 21 braches. 😀

Aids. Aids. Aids.
Guest

ulitin ko yung sinabi ko dati ha:

“so this is what you’ve been up to”. hahaha! 😀

nevertheless it’s an eye opener. i guess bawal talaga kayo kumuha ng pics (and i don’t think you would do such a thing).

aimac
Guest

You want pix of the hotel? I could post another article, perhaps. I did take pictures inside, but not of the guests. that’s the biggest no-no.

touristboy1981
Guest
touristboy1981

inside the sogo hotel i can feel great because inside the sogo i am with my love.

aimac
Guest

good for you..

sogo boy
Guest
sogo boy

Ang mura sa Sogo compare sa mga Victoria Court, Anito Lodge o Gardenia Inn. Pwede nga magbaon ng mirienda at snacks dito kamukha ng ginagawa ko sa mga girlriend ko pag dinedate ko sila. Malinis din at convinient. Sa akin pareparehas lang ang mga motel at ang mga ginagawa ng mga nagpupunta dito. Presyo lang nila ang diprensya.

niknok
Guest
niknok

very informative ang research na gawa ni ms. aimac. hindi ko alam na meron palang short-time dito. buong akala ko 12 hours minimum. Anyways, tama din ang observation na this is a place where the opportunity to express emotions between two restricted persons freely. Next time, try ko ST. 🙂

aimac
Guest

😀 yes, short time perhaps for short time lovers with short lived pleasure

redmike
Guest

cool – parang eto

elleica
Guest

naku buti nabasa ko to.. kala ko dati ang SOGO ay pwede ka mag overnight at matulog lang sa mga okasyon na wala kang mapag oovernightan sa manila.. haha.. 3 hours ka lang pala pwede dun.. ? tsk tsk.

sana po magaling na kayo ngayon.

aimac
Guest

@eleica, of course, you can sleep overnight in this hotel! haha so you didnt get the artic i see. three hours, thats the minimum. it’s not to say that after 3 hours you should be out! haha thats ridiculous!

pedro
Guest
pedro

im 21 yrs old ask ko lng kng pano pumasok sa sogo hotels?
hindi pa kasi ako nakakapasok sa kahit anong motel or hotel, maraming salamat po..

aimac
Guest

@pedro pasok ka lang po. sabihing gusto mong mag check-in. magtanong ng rates, magbayad, at umakyat sa kwarto. kung puno, ikaw ay bibigyan ng number, parang sa banko, tatawagin pag “turn” mo na. sana’y nakatulong. 🙂

pedro
Guest
pedro

maraming salamat po miss aimac, malaking tulong n po ang naibigay nyo, susubukan ko ang payo nyo d2 sa may sogo malapit samin.. (“,)

Rald
Guest
Rald

Hi po,ask ko lng poh sna,f u ever know,.
may nkta po kz akong promo nla na
175php=3hrs,econoroom nla..
ask ko lng sna kung ilan ktao pwde jan?
dlawa po ba?

manu
Guest
manu

do you really have to be 18 and above to enter sogo hotel? cause my girlfriend and i was planning to go check-in at a sogo hotel for maybe 3 hours or something and we wouldn’t want to be rejected so we wanna know if minors are allowed to check-in at sogo hotel alabang? please reply as soon as possible. thank you 😉

aimac
Guest

hahahahahahahahaha this post is getting more interesting. sogo should be paying me for this “forum”

anyway, manu, if you’re still there, waiting for my answer, yes you have to be 18, and I suggest you think first before you do it.

sogo alabang is expensive, and so is the consequence of pre-marital ehem.

smurfy
Guest
smurfy

hmm ang gnda ng pagkasulat ng article. informative and fun:) they should be paying you lol. kidding aside, do you really need to present an i.d. kapag sinita for example yung kasama mo. that she looks like a minor etc etc.? who does it? the guard or the receptionist lol. sorry for my ignorance. im a bit unexperienced for a regular guy with a girlfriend. im actually 18, and my girlfriend is a bit younger. imo she does look young. we’ve never tried to check in and this helped me a lot in my research. hoping for your reply ate… Read more »

G
Guest
G

Hi, I’d like to add an update… Before checking in, the receptionist asks for an id from either of you (who will be checking in) – a proof that you’re 21 years of age. And no, you can’t cheat with your school ID (as some don’t have birth dates on them) because they don’t accept those.

Ms. Aimac did a great job writing this blog post. 🙂

aimac
Guest

@smurfy: haha yeah, i should get paid. good luck on your “research”
but be sure you knowwhat youre doing.

@G: well, they ask those who look like “virgins” in checking in. those who look so clueless.

aimac
Guest

@Rald: usually rooms here are for 2 pax. threesome is beyond the limit of their morality, i mean, capacity. 🙂

nadnad
Guest
nadnad

interesting. haha. my mother would kill me.

aileen
Guest

curiosity killed the cat. hahaha kidding! 🙂 it was an interesting study indeed.

chuckie
Guest
chuckie

ask ko lang if magkanu ung ung 4 hours nila tnx saka any time ba un?

chuckie
Guest
chuckie

la bang mga cam sa mga room hehe?

Rico
Guest
Rico

Makakapasok ba mga teens sa sogo, mga around 16-17 ?:D

aileen
Guest

@Chuckie: no cameras in the room. but i advise you to practice safe sex.
@Rico: i suggest you try the beach, I mean, have fun out in the sun or in the rain. 😀

Rico
Guest
Rico

@Aileen I mean, we need to stay overnight eh. Don’t think about something else. :))

aileen
Guest

@Rico: oh, sincerest apologies. ; ) to be honest though, they wouldnt mind. but some branches do ask for id and ask you to register your name (which is not really necessary). but if you look older than your age, no problem.

aileen
Guest

thank you smoke detectors!

dogg
Guest
dogg

pwede po ba threesome sa sogo?

aileen
Guest

@dogg hahahahahha
oh wait, youre not serious, are you?

curious
Guest
curious

r there hidden cameras sa Sogo? Coz there are posts or articles sa net na sabi mayrun daw. Just curious about 2way mirrors sa Sogo

aileen
Guest

@Curious hmm thats a curious trivia that i have yet to check.

ichigo
Guest
ichigo

hi mam ai. the hidden cam issue’s also a concern of mine since privacy at home’s kinda been a problem. can this be true? how’s the research? thanks in advance.

krista
Guest
krista

haha !! its so funny.. .. because me and my bf deciding 2 go there on valentines but it change my mind after i read this article tnx ai!!! its better 2 give something n lng 2 ur bf than 2 give ur body and make pleasure ..hehe 🙂 sna mbasa toh ng buong madla kc full of learnings eh..

aileen
Guest

thank you so much! 🙂 pero i have seen backpackers naman who were on a look out for affordable hotels, check in here. so maybe there a few people who have other needs of the hotel? haha
owell, happy valentines!

aileen
Guest

@Ichigo naku i had no time to check on that interesting bit. pero you might want to share here what you have researched. 🙂

tom
Guest
tom

There are no hidden cams in A sogo room. when we were there I tried knocking On the mirrors and found nothing behind it. Nbasag p ata ung isa npalakas anv katok ko.

aileen
Guest

@Tom well i guess knocking on the mirror would prove nothing. 🙂

renren
Guest

haha. the 12hrs promo during mon-thurs between 7pm-2am is for all branches of sogo?

aileen
Guest

i dont think so. different braches have different promos, i observed.

Mina
Guest
Mina

i should say i’ve been there. it smells like sperm all over. at di ko na-experience maging elite. hahaha see you around, Ms. Ai. 🙂

aileen
Guest

@Mina where are you now? Definitely it’s not an ‘elite’ experience. and the sperm, ano bang amoy ng sperm? lol

joie
Guest
joie

., pwede bah minors sa banawe branch ng sogo ?

aileen
Guest

hindi

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