From past posts here in Discreet Manila, you should already know where Epitome is (and how to get there), how the bathhouse is laid out (so you won’t get lost or look lost), and what are its themed nights. So now I’ll explain how things work in Epitome and what norms, procedures and things that you can expect there so that you won’t go around looking clueless (and therefore prey to others).
Epitome’s entrance, manned by a friendly security guard, is just a doorway leading straight to a stairway. On the second floor landing is a bulletin board where you can check out the posted promos and events. To the left is a door which leads to yet another stairway on top of which is the registration booth, which is usually manned by a hunky guy.
If this is your first time to go to Epitome or you are renewing your membership, the attendant will give you a registration form that you need to fill up and you need to provide him with an ID. I think you can get away with providing minimal information in the form, but the name you write must match the one on the ID. The attendant may also have you sign the back of a membership card that he will provide you (or later before you leave). You also need to pay the membership fee which I think is P280. The membership fee also serves as your entrance fee for that night.
If you are already a member, then you only need to provide the attendant with your membership card and an ID and you need to pay the entrance fee, which varies with the time you arrive (the earlier, the cheaper) and the day of the week (weekends are more expensive). The average price you will shell out is around P200.
After everything is in order, the registration attendant will give you a padlock and a pair of keys. If you brought a bag, the attendant will also claim it for deposit there. In addition, depending also on the time, you may be given a drink stub that you can redeem for a free drink. The attendant will then ring a bell (of sorts) where you will be ushered into the left door. Inside, a waiting attendant will get all your valuables and deposit them in one of the safety deposit boxes using one of the keys given to you (the box’s number matches your padlock’s). You have to leave everything valuable: cellphone, wallet, keys, wristwatch, etc. The attendant will then frisk you to check that you have left nothing else.
From there you can proceed to the lounge area. During Fridays and Saturdays, there is usually a show on the lounge’s stage, usually a gay comedy show with karaoke singing—basically your typical bar program that you can see elsewhere. You can opt to stay and watch the show (and sing if you want) and drink at the bar there, or proceed to the bathhouse proper.
The bathhouse proper’s entrance can be found from the back of the lounge going outside the back and down a steep set of stairs. After entering the door, you will find yourself in the locker room where a waiting attendant will give you a towel and a pair of slippers. He may also ask you your padlock number and point you to the matching locker where you will deposit your clothes. You have to change into the towel and slippers before you can proceed to the other areas. The keys are attached to a wrist band which you can then wear while inside the bathhouse proper.
From then on, it’s pretty much up to you. I suggest you go and explore. Try to familiarize yourself with the floor plans I provided so that you won’t get lost. In addition, you can also get your drinks at the bar on the ground floor. When ordering your drink, you can give your drink stub if you have one. Additional drinks will be charged to your number which the bartender will ask every time you order a drink. The payment will be conducted at the registration booth when you leave. (Surprisingly, the bartender rarely checks your keys to confirm the locker number. So theoretically, you can charge your drinks to somebody else.) You can also order food if you want; just ask the bartender.
Once you’ve had your fill of, uh, men and want to leave, just change back to your clothes at the locker room then give the attendant your towel and slippers. You can also freshen up using the provided toiletries at the dresser there. Then, retrace your steps back to the safety deposit boxes where the attendant will get your stuff and hand it back to you. From there, you go to the registration booth (via a different hallway) where you give the registration attendant your padlock and keys. You then have to pay for any additional drinks you ordered. The attendant will then give you your ID and your membership card, and your bag if you brought one. Finally, you can leave the premises and come back another day.
Shown above is a photo of the back of the membership card, which is just a piece of cardboard. There’s a bar code, an ID number, and a space for your signature. The front of the card just depicts Epitome’s logo. They used to have the card laminated but now no longer.
Trivia: Epitome's official name is Epitome Cafe and Fitness Center and the corporation behind it is named Hedoniste Inc. How do I know the corporation? I’ve seen the business permit posted at the registration booth. I’ve also learned that Epitome is registered in the City of Manila as a restaurant, would you believe?