When We Danced: vintage photos of Manila’s 90s rave scene

In his new book, photographer Eddie Boy Escudero opens up his image archive, shedding new light on the Philippines’ legendary club scene

“Look for the bat signal,” the flyer said. Filipino photographer Eddie Boy Escudero had never been to a rave before, but the piece of paper captured his curiosity. Back then, in 1996 Manila, raves weren’t really a thing – but they were about to spark a new era for the city’s nightlife.

When Escudero pulled up to the location, which was inside the Philippine National Library, there was indeed a bat light on the roof. “I entered and as soon as I heard the beat, I fell in love,” he recalled. “I ended up on the floor with my friends and danced all night.”

That party, thrown by the Consortium collective, is considered the first successful rave in the Philippines. It unleashed a movement that would continue growing for the next decade. Now in his sixties, Escudero captured the era on his trusty Minolta 35mm night after night – much of which has been compiled in a new photo book, When We Dancedreleased on Archive 1984. From stylish misfits to weirdos and cool kids, everyone piled together on the dancefloor in warehouses, unfinished malls, and on the beach – all of them caught in the spell of house, techno, and jungle. International stars like Goldie, Derrick May, and Juan Atkins shared bills alongside a rotating cast of local Filipinos.

Escudero wasn’t interested in electronic music until he set foot in that epochal rave. In fact, he was a rock guy and managed several local bands – his entry into photography grew out of shooting album covers and the crowds of rock club nights. However, when he started raving, he would always be out on the floor, dancing along with everyone else, camera in one hand and flash in the other until he ran out of film.

Eventually, a friend of Escudero’s helped him get his photos published in local newspapers and magazines. “We were publishing rave photos in the society pages,” he says, with a grin. “Usually the people in the society’s pages would be rich and famous. But if you were dressed fashionably at these parties, that’s all you need.” The democratic spirit of the rave was reaching far and wide. The scene embraced non-binary punters as well, and they were home to some of the earliest pride celebrations in the country.

Consortium was the first rave crew, but they would soon be joined by other organizers like The Brady Bunch, Evian, and Lucky Strike. In the beginning, they were always held in non-traditional spaces, until the scene grew more mature. Several clubs opened that catered to the electronic music crowds, and they shunned the strict dress code of the older clubs.

By the early 2000s, it had gotten too big for its own good. The raves became bloated with tens of thousands of people, and mega-clubs, where you had to dress up and spend a fortune on drinks, began to dominate the city. Trance also became the sound of the day. “There were all these people but hardly anyone was dancing. Maybe just a couple of pockets of people having fun,” Escudero said of those final days. “My book is called ‘When We Danced’. I stopped going when we stopped dancing.”

Direct purchases of the book are available from Archivo 1984 via email: [email protected]

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