Name any past Philippine president since the 1986 Edsa Revolution. All except one went and watched the shows at Club Mwah in Mandaluyong City during their incumbency. They visited the glittery entertainment venue and enjoyed the world-class performance of its stars in colorfully designed costumes and sets.
It was only Rodrigo Duterte who didn’t experience the glitz and glam at the place. Pocholo Malilin, who co-owns Club Mwah with Cris Nicolas, said it was because President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s predecessor did not like gay people: “Ayaw kasi ni Duterte ng mga bading.”
Yes, most of Club Mwah’s dancers and choreographers are gay. But Duterte’s daughter, now Vice President Sara Duterte, had watched the club’s magical spectacle, though not at the main hall on Boni Avenue but in Davao City.
According to Malilin, a friend had spread some good news about the club, which Sara Duterte heard, prompting her to extend an invitation to the cast and crew: “Narinig daw ni Sara na maganda ang show ng Club Mwah kaya inimbitahan kami sa Davao … Dinala naming lahat ang buong produksyon doon. Gustung-gusto ni Sara ang show namin.”
Malilin said that during the Duterte administration, he found out that an impostor had sold a Club Mwah performance in Malacañang without his knowledge and consent. “Inday Sara told me Club Mwah was scheduled in Malacañang but she was wondering why I wasn’t the one negotiating,” he recalled.
It turned out that some persons Malilin thought were his friends were opportunists who thought nothing of dealing shows under the table.
What also piqued him, he said, was that most of his talents were pirated when his club was closed during the three years of the coronavirus pandemic. The talent poacher, who owns a bar, is wealthy, he suggested,
But his new recruits are talented, and getting to be more so, he said: “Magagaling din ang mga bagong recruit, pero pinagagaling pa sila.”
The recruits are being trained by club co-owner Nicolas who, as creative director and hall innovator, takes charge of the concept and content of each nightly production, including stage design, music and dance steps.
Club Mwah reopened with success early last December. “We expected only 150 people because they booked beforehand. But more than 400 showed up,” Malilin said with a smile.
The next show, however, may take some time to mount, for a number of reasons. “Some said members of the visiting groups got sick. Others wanted to re-sched because of emergencies,” he said.
But this year, marketing will be massive, Malilin said. Because of the meticulous preparation of the musical numbers, Club Mwah is scheduling advance bookings.
“It’s better to have a polished production than be sorry for creative faux pas and technical glitches,” Malilin said, pointing out that audiences and guests are the club’s prime assets. (As SOP, habitues and guests alike are included in the photo op after each curtain call, to capture the moment with the performers, Malilin and Nicolas.)
The owners recently invited entertainment writers Art Tapalla, Robert Silverio and myself to watch and enjoy the performance of Follies de Mwah, the club’s official dance group.
“We borrowed P4 million from a bank just to refurbish the theater. Most of the sets are imported. Except for the chandelier at the center, all the props including the lights are new,” said Malilin, who serves as the enterprise’s finance officer.
Malilin and Nicolas don’t rest on their laurels. They make sure they’re abreast of new trends and techniques in the world’s entertainment capitals, particularly Las Vegas. (Club Mwah is Las-Vegas-inspired, as especially reflected in the dynamic terpsichore.)
“I hope you can help us spread the news of our reopening,” Malilin said.