Review: Air Force 1 / Flight 168 – Manila, Philippines
Air Force One is a sort of all-inclusive “gentlemen’s club” that operates near the international airport in the Parañaque section of Manila. In some ways resembling a Macau men’s sauna, the large complex includes a KTV karaoke section, a mediocre cafe and a large massage shop.
Since I don’t imagine that readers of this site are very much interested in finding out where to sing a duet with hired help or grab an over priced coffee I’m going to focus this review on the business’s “168 Spa.”
Air Force One isn’t the easiest place to find, but since Manila isn’t exactly a walkable city most customers will probably access the place by taxi cab or private car. Almost every taxi driver in the city seems to know the place by name even if they don’t necessarily recognize the exact address.
As stated, Air Force One is a large complex just off a major road. There is ample parking and the parking lot itself is manned by male attendants. There is a store front and direct entrance for the 168 Spa but this seems to be perpetually closed. Those looking to access the massage area will have to pass through the police-guarded main entrance of Air Force One, head up an escalator, walk straight through a lobby with an information desk, and finally go down another escalator before they find anything.
After making this trek, which can certainly be confusing for new visitors, the customer will reach the front desk of 168 Spa. There they will select an option for their room. This is similar to selecting a “ticket” at a place like Minh Minh Tam in Saigon. The rates vary depending on the type of room and the time of day, but they average out at about $30 USD for a standard “economy” room and $70 USD for a much better “first class” room. Of course the prices are given in Pesos, not dollars, but I’m writing to a general audience here so I’m using American greenbacks for reference. Gift Certificate books are also available that offer quantity discounts.
After a customer selects a room option they will go around the desk to a curtained off area that resembles a “fish bowl.” I say resembles because there is no glass and all of the masseuses can see the potential customer. The women wear uniforms and small badges with numbers. A few gals may wear regular clothes but this indicates other than that they don’t have a uniform. Not much in the way of conversation between the customer and the women can go on in this environment but some of the service providers may attempt to get a punter’s attention with smiles and other positive body language.
There are many women on staff at Air Force One. At any given time there may be as many as 3 or 4 dozen in total. Most of them are quite good looking though international travelers may still be a little disappointed if they look at the price and expect what would be labeled “models” in Macau saunas. Women can come and go and different hours of the day. Some only work occasionally. A few are students or professionals with day jobs just trying to pick up some extra cash.
Once a customer has found a service provider he likes he heads back to the front desk and notifies the staff. One or two male attendants will then lead the customer to his room. If he has chosen a first class room they may also turn on the hot tub. There are rumors that the male attendants may ask customers who look like they are first time visitors for tips even though this isn’t done with locals or return customers.
The first class rooms are the best quarters available. They are large and spacious with a big bed, modern television, large shower, large whirlpool bath and a full bathroom. They are far being the best put together rooms around however. It’s more like a three star hotel trying to be a four than anything else. Rooms probably don’t matter to many but since they come at an additional charge it’s worth pointing out.
After the customer gets comfortable in the room his chosen service provider will show up with a small kit of supplies. First they will do a bit of conversing to get to break the ice and make things more comfortable. Then they will move the service ahead. Those in first class rooms may be asked if they’d like to be bathed by hand in the hot tub. This option may not be available even for those who want it however since the hot water seems to be rather frequently out of service. A body to body slide in the standing shower is also an option at times. Things depend on the capabilities of the facility, the service provider, the chemistry and perhaps the phase of the moon.
What doesn’t vary much is the services that come after the wet washes. All of the standard aspects of full service are typically provided, though they are safe and covered from beginning to end. In a place like Spa 168 seasoned veterans may come to expect a mechanical kind of service. While that can be the case but it’s definitely not the possibility. There is a real chance at a warmer more intimate kind of service if everything comes together. Of course the mileage of any individual punter will always vary.
After all services are provided a final shower is usually next up. Time and facilities are provided for the customer to get himself ready to head back out into the world. Since the prices for the room don’t include compensation for the service providers, the customer gives a tip of 2000 Pesos ($46 USD) to the service provider before leaving. The customer is then led back to the front desk to settle his bill with the house. Cash and credit cards are excepted.
I’m sure there’s some kind of official company regulation on the amount of time a single room fee grants a customer but I have no idea what it is. There doesn’t seem to be any rush whatsoever. Since the establishment is so large and employes so many people I can’t see why there would be, unless the service provider wanted to get the job over and done with as soon as possible. It may only seem to make sense that a place theoretically set up to help customers relax would have a relaxing atmosphere. The reality at many places is quite the opposite. There is definitely a laid back pace at 168.
Air Force One and its cafe and massage parlor subsections have been around for quite sometime. On June 18 they celebrated their eleventh year in business. Typically that would mean they are doing things right though in a place like the Philippines it could have a number of other meanings. The reviews for the place seem to be generally good both now and in years past and the business certainly seem to have a large number of repeat customers so they do appear to be keeping people happy.
As a large and established facility with an average to good level of service it’s easy to see why the place stays in business. In the hectic city of Manila and the surrounding areas it can be difficult for a guy to find a sure thing. In relation to similar shops that are (and aren’t) available in Manila, Air Force One and company stands out. For that reason I give it three-and-a-half-stars. If the place was located elsewhere it may deserve a higher or lower score.
Air Force One / 168 Spa. 888 Ninoy Aquino Avenue, Parañaque City, Philippines. Open 7 days a week from 12 pm to 5 am. Telephone: 8207250. Website: http://airforceone.thegentlemansclub.com.ph