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Shameless Pride: Why the Face of Belongingness Lives on in the Streets

There is an ongoing turmoil within the community that needs to be discussed, and so they continue to go out into the streets together. This tells us that they have more stories to tell. Their existence tells us that what the world needs is not to ignite hate but to spread love.

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Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo

It is an inevitable sight: a depiction of a rainbow in several forms—a flag draped over an arm and a wristband fastened on wrists that make up a crowd. Sometimes the details are subtle: a pin attached on a collar and a hint of a dyed layer of hair, perhaps done in the middle of the night, hours before the march. Yet this expressive and riotous aspect of the Pride Month retains its sense of being triumphant through its buoyancy and evocative command. It is the time of the year when the LGBTQIA+ community dismisses every custom that seeks conformity by simply huddling together and being in the moment.

A manifestation of multi-colored resilience

Resiliency is something that is vital to any form of resistance. For Jolo Gonzales, a first-year Economics student from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, the Pride March is not merely a celebration; it is the very embodiment of the LGBTQIA+ community’s tenacity throughout the history.

“Those people who join Pride, it is a choice for them to go out and celebrate or come out as who they really are,” Gonzales shared to TomasinoWeb. “And in this country, that choice is present to those who are courageous enough to accept and to fight for who they are.”

Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo

Gonzales, who identifies as a bisexual, believes that Pride Month is not just about gender and sexuality; it is about being the kind of person who you truly want to be. As a member of the community, he does not condone stereotypes among the other members, for he thinks it is contradictory to what they are fighting for.

There is an underlying issue that often remains undiscussed. According to JV Reyes, a student from the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, there are “threats that seek to falsely sensationalize the community” in regards to the interests that do not exactly concern it. What actually concerns the LGBTQIA+ struggle, he believes, is oftentimes disregarded by many.

“Perhaps one main struggle that, I think, each member of the community has is the conflict with fearing who you are and, eventually, fearing for yourself and the people that you value,” Reyes said. “There is the fear of rejection, which may come from our respective families and loved ones, and as well as the society we live in.”

But the community’s struggle is an intricate matter; it transcends personal battles and affects one’s social status and economic position. There is the fear of securing a stable job, the threat in one’s health condition, and the presence of violence and direct aggression. There is also little representation and recognition.

“And the thing is, despite these vulnerabilities from various threats, we don’t get as [many] rights as heterosexuals do. We don’t get as much protection,” Reyes added.

When asked if he would be able to name at least one place where he feels comfortable with his sexuality, as someone who identifies as queer, he said: “As long as this society disregards that we exist and that we deserve equal and fair treatment, I won’t feel safe of judgment and discrimination from anywhere.”

Overcoming heteronormative barricades

Jeman Malibiran, a senior high school student from the University of Santo Tomas, plans to attend this year’s Pride March. “[It] is a manifestation of resistance,” he said. “It is not merely a statement on who we are, on identity, but more so a statement about our dissatisfaction with the status quo and about how we envision such to change.”

Malibiran went on, “It will be my first time because I only recently have fully confirmed that I identify as pansexual, come out to my mother, and found true people who genuinely support my identity.”

Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo

Gabriel*, a first-year student from De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde who identifies as asexual, believes that acceptance is the true meaning of the community’s struggle. “Giving them a home and a place to express themselves,” he explained.

Because the nature of his identity is rooted in fairly intimate concerns, Gabriel usually struggles when it comes to explaining how his orientation works. “It’s a bit aggravating,” he confessed. “It wasn’t just a ‘phase’ or ‘I haven’t met the one.’”

There is rarely any conversation about asexuality as well. “If there is any, it’s in the fringes,” Gabriel said. “So there really wasn’t a guide to how I felt, or how to put words into feelings. It’s not exactly a point of public discourse at the moment.”

Malibiran emphasizes that this is the reason why LGBTQIA+ members have a hard time expressing affection in public and often face stigma.

“There is still a struggle of being wrongly perceived as sinful, lustful, and disease-carrying among the community due to the dominant patriarchal mindset and the lack of education about gender and sexuality,” he added.

Carving out safe spaces

Protests are not something we should overlook; they must upset us. They are unsettling for a reason. Aurora*, a freshman student from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, has gone to two Metro Manila Pride March—one from 2017 and one last 2018—and plans to do so again this year.

“I went to the Pride March 2017 out of curiosity. I wanted to feel what a Pride march is,” he remarked. “I went to the march again last year because of the people I met. I wanted to meet more amazing people who are just like me. I wanted to experience the rain, the chants, the clothes, the program, and the love all over again.”

“[These] celebrations are for our brothers and sisters who were persecuted and being persecuted for being who they are,” he added. “[The] March is not only parties about our genders and sexualities, [but it also] is a protest for our rights.” The true meaning of being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, for Aurora, is for them to look out for one another. “We fight for them and for those who perished in our battles,” he said.

Jules*, a first-year student taking up International Studies at De La Salle University, believes that the Pride March is, first and foremost, a protest. “We see its roots in the Stonewall riots. Nothing about that was pretty. It was queer people fighting back against the police. They laid their lives on the line so we can have a little bit of safety, a little bit of acceptance, just enough so we can continue the fight,” she said.

Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo

“So when I look back at history, I see Pride March as a protest against the system, against repressive institutions, against hate,” Jules added. “It’s going into the streets to revolt as one, and nowadays we have a lot of things to revolt about as well.”

Aurora believes that coming out is not merely a self-acknowledgment; it is the declaration of one’s willingness to be part of something real and honest. “I want everyone to know that I am a bisexual man,” he said. “Because I want everyone to know that people like me exist.”

For Jules, it is something that has a different meaning for every queer person: for some, it may mean being out and proud; for others, it may mean a select few only. “You define your journey,” she said. “What’s important to remember is that being out to only a few people doesn’t mean that you are less brave. We are all brave for living our truth in ways we’ve made our own.”

Aurora admits being a victim of internalized homophobia, which is still seen in dating applications like Grindr and Blued. These applications, according to him, have a niche of homosexual men who cater Masc4Masc dating scenes, which is when masculine, discreet queer men only date men of their own description. For him, this entails heteronormative narrative of gay acceptance.

Bi-erasure is also often left unspoken within the community. “Bisexuality faces a lot of stigmas still today,” Jules said. “The conversation [between] masculinity and femininity should also be discussed. Why is there a stigma against effeminate gays? How does this stigma feed harmful stereotypes?”

“I remember being bullied for being feminine,” Aurora revealed. “It gave me some kind of trauma that still affects me to this day. I’m still scared walking down a hallway full of men, anxious to be noticed and made fun of.”

The Pride March is not only a symbol of resistance; it is also the overt prompting of the community to seek a safe space. “It’s carving a place in this unforgiving world and sharing the burden of the fight with people who understand,” Jules said.

This is why protests are unsettling—because the way of life the LGBTQIA+ people are succumbed to is unwelcoming. There is an ongoing turmoil within the community that needs to be discussed, and so they continue to go out into the streets together. This tells us that they have more stories to tell. Their existence tells us that what the world needs is not to ignite hate but to spread love.

This is what is truly inevitable about the LGBTQIA+ struggle: the community’s sheer denial to believe what it has been conditioned to think it deserves. It is the community that speaks back and takes a stand, after all—and it will do this with the message of courage and compassion. Do not wonder why they come out into the streets and leave a trace of their vivacity behind. Instead, ask why they must keep doing so.

Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms. Pronouns used in the article are the preferred pronouns of the interviewees.

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Sila-Sila in its spectrum

Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

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Screengrab from Sila-Sila movie trailer

Giancarlo Abrahan’s entry for Cinema One Originals Film Festival Sila-Sila is a groundbreaking film that sprouts a queer narrative molded by queer people. Anchored to the intimate stories of real people, this ghosting film pierces through the lens of post-breakup experiences.

Its lead actors, Gio Gahol and Topper Fabregas had a harmonious rhythm as Gabriel and Jared inside one frame. With Gab being helplessly displaced and Jared as someone who craves settlement, they were in an endless loop of push-and-pull, making every scene burst in different colors of expectations.  

The film revolves around the story of Gab (Gahol), as he tries to reconcile with his friends (Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar) and his ex-boyfriend, Jared (Fabregas) after ‘ghosting’ them for almost a year. Fueled by guilt and regret, the old lovers find themselves igniting a fire that once burned the bridges that connected their lives.

Five minutes in and the sensual relationship between Gab and Topper will cuff the audience with its bare exposure of same-sex actualities. These characters played by both theater artists allow the scenes to flourish with remarkable nuance.

The scenarios in the film allow you to peek at realities that manifest through Gab’s life as a person who fails to find his roots being settled in one place. As his portrayal walks you through the story of uncertainties, the progress of the film lets you trace into a deep contemplation whether or not you may be the Gab or Jared in your own story.

Despite having fragments of scenarios that lowers the momentum of the film, it serves as a breath of fresh air as Gab undergoes the phase of vacillation. Gab’s journey of finding a home in people he once felt was is a cycle anyone can relate to. His doubts linger in trust issues and the feeling of not belonging. It soon uncovers that the quest of settling in places, people, and experiences will be unending unless one finds their sense of home.

Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar’s characters are spices to the story as they portray a decade-long friendship of overcoming tendencies. Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

Sila Sila won the Best Picture Award. Its undeniably well-plated palette satisfies the eye of the audience. A lot of scenes will tickle one’s humor especially if you are used to friendships that blatantly roast each other as a way of showing one’s love language.

Alongside its award-winning cinematography, Sila Sila also received the Audience Choice Award and Best Screenplay by scriptwriter Daniel Saniana. Also, Fabregas was recognized as Best Supporting Actor for his role.

“We’ll always love each other, however it manifests, it’s just always going to be there.”, this line by Jared carves through the hearts of those who had to let go of a person but never the love that they have for them. Gab’s relationship with Jared shows that there is never just one way of loving someone. Every day, with every version of themselves, love prevails. 

Distance can never make things small. It only deceives you from thinking that you’ve escaped your troubles. One way or another, you will find yourself crawling back because time never lets anyone off its claws—Sila-Sila teaches this. Furthermore, sometimes, having no closure is not the closure.

The character of Gab serves as an example that a person will remain trapped in the past unless they find closure from people and from themselves. People are bound to face the naked truth that we need to find our sense of home in this world that is full of broken fragments of imperfect individuals.

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Metamorphosis, a film that challenges the conventional

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu.

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Screengrab from Metamorphosis Trailer

As a coming-of-age film that probes more extensively into the adolescent psychosexual conflict, J.E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis is dangerously daring. The film stirred a wave of controversy when the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) classified it as X-rated for exploring intersexuality, later on, it was reclassified into R-16, permitting its screening in local cinemas. 

It opens with a scene at a waterfall in a 1:1 aspect ratio and ends in the same setting, where we find the protagonist, Adam, exceptionally portrayed by Gold Azeron, no longer irresolute. Supporting actress Iana Bernardez, who plays Angel, complements Azaron almost naturally—Adam isn’t without Angel, vice versa. However, the gorgeous visuals of Metamorphosis overshadow the disarray that’s often ignored in the film.

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu. Apart from the brilliant footwork of Tey Clamor, the film’s cinematographer, the musical score by Divino Dayacap, from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, gave the film its oomph: as if the music understood the complexity of emotions portrayed, and the aesthetics with it.

Tiglao almost easily got away with poor writing by compensating for the other elements in the film. Instead of sustaining its relaxed delicateness, it lost its momentum when Adam’s exploration into his intersexuality was hastily overturned by uncalled-for predatory themes, and sexual awakening was realized by means of harassment.

The film relied heavily on aesthetics while leaving the plot unsustained and undernourished. It undermined the audience’s capacity to understand beyond the script because there was very little depth to it—the metaphors were surface-level and revealed themselves too easily. Some scenes appeared to over-explain themselves because expository writing was brought to an excess. Nevertheless, the film communicated what it sought to: the magnitude of embracing your own uniqueness in pursuit of self-acceptance.

Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in the film was when Adam’s father, a conservative Catholic and a pastor with a strongly-held vision for Adam to reverse his intersexuality – an “Ok, boomer” moment – abandons his unyielding bigoted principles at long last, giving Adam the autonomy to decide on and for his own. Here, the conservative adult matures with the troubled adolescent—and it is this shared acceptance that is unique to Metamorphosis.

Although the film suffers from tacky dialogue and some questionable subplots, it does exactly what a coming-of-age film is supposed to: the audience becomes an echo chamber, where we feel for the protagonist while accompanying him into growth and resolution. 

Metamorphosis, along with its stillness and vulgarity, makes for an ample directorial debut. The “I” in LGBTQIA+ rarely gets talked about, but Tiglao changed that by giving us Metamorphosis: it contests machismo without overemphasizing the feminine, it astounds without unnerving, and most of all it is unrestrained. Metamorphosis, even with its sloppy writing, is sufficiently beautiful—it questions and challenges the conventional, and it does it without fear.

 

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Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo: An Endless Cycle

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose.

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Screengrab from Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo official trailer

Labels. There is a silent debate going on about whether labels are important or a factor for complications. Though there is a need to define relationships to know where to draw the line between friends and lovers, it is often terrifying to know what the truth really is. The word ‘commitment’ may seem an intimidating word for some, but it is also loved by many. 

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo is one of the entries for the Cinema One Originals 2019. Written and directed by Denise O’Hara, who won an award for Best Director in this year’s Gawad Urian for a movie called Mamang, a film about dementia and the struggles of remembering one’s life. 

The film festival ran from November 7 until November 17 in selected malls and microcinemas. Starring Jane Oineza and JC Santos as Alex and Carlo, the story portrays the characters’ struggle in the process of falling in love, falling out, being confused, and being sure at the same time. 

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose. 

Alex, played by Jane Oineza, is a woman with big dreams and ambitions, eager to prove to the world that she is more than just a pretty face. Carlo, played by JC Santos, on the other hand, is your typical go-with-the-flow kind of guy who works in the field of graphic design and freelance work. The story progresses as the two create something that neither of them knows what is and what to call. 

By slowly cracking her shell and breaking down her walls, Carlo manages to see the parts of Alex that no one really sees. Underneath her cold gazes and intimidating aura, lies a sappy and marupok girl. One night, after planning and talking about the design for Alex’s upcoming project, a cockroach scare prompts a rush to the bedroom; ensuing a somewhat emotional conversation that turns the atmosphere into purple and red hazes. 

After that night, awkwardness sits between them in the office. Alex, trying to figure out what happened, asks Carlo directly; as to his reply, along with the words “Masaya pa rin naman ‘diba?” creates a questionable feeling both to the characters and the audience. 

Stemming from the title itself, the movie—from start to finish—draws a problematic and complicated cycle that reflects dating and almost-dating. The dialogues lacked a bit of emotional appeal and the concreteness of thought cannot be easily grasped. The movie has a back and forth sequence, showing the past and the present, how the moments came to be, what arguments were thrown out to get to the scene where they chase each other in the sidewalk with pain and hesitation in their eyes. 

Cinematography-wise, the color palette of the film shifts along with the emotion that is being presented on the screen, making up for the lack of substance in the exchange of dialogues. It is a mess, paralleling to Alex and Carlos’ relationship, the shaky camera angles and the abrupt shift from one scene to another provides support in pulling off the movie’s complicated narrative. It could have had more backstory and fewer gaps in the storyline but it somehow works as it leaves you hanging and still questioning what happened. It keeps you in the cycle even though you have stepped out of the cinema already. 

Filled with contradictions and trouble waiting to happen, O’Hara’s work garners attention from those who are in the same position. The film dwells on complex-minded characters, pretty much like our generation, and their decisions on whether they should leave or keep fighting for something that is vague. It is a ticking time bomb of tears and regret or maybe, just maybe, something magical and worthwhile. 

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