'We will fight back and end your toxic masculinity.'
Last week, the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) announced its roster of films for its first ever digital showcase. While there are the usual Pinoy favorite comedies and romantic flicks, there are also some interesting picks that make the selection fresh, giving a sense that the festival is keeping up with the times. Sadly, this isn’t true for all of the films selected.
Trans actress and writer Mela Habijan calls out one of the MMFF 2020 featured films, PakBoys: Takusa, and describes it as insulting due to its transphobic scene and toxic masculinity plot. The crowned Miss Trans Global 2020 demands the attention of its director Al Tantay, production giant Viva Films, the people behind the movie, and the festival through an Instagram post.
“I just saw the trailer of your movie. Honestly, basing from the title, I already had an idea of what it would be about—toxic masculinity. True enough, the first 10 seconds of your trailer presents a trans woman peeing… while standing. And then Dennis Padilla is seen bothered and feeling victimized by sleeping with her.” Mela posted. “Nakakapanliit kasi ginagawa niyo na namang katatawanan ang pag-ihi namin! Nakakainsulto kasi ginagawa ninyong katatawanan ang katawan namin. Nakakagalit dahil pinagtatawanan ninyo ang pagiging trans woman namin (It’s very demeaning, how you make fun of how we pee! It’s insulting that you make fun of our body. It makes me angry that you make fun of us as trans women).”
Pakboys: Takusa features comedy actors Andrew E, Janno Gibbs, Dennis Padilla, and Jerald Napoles, and tells a story of a group of middle-aged men, their infidelities, and how they try to earn back their wives’ trust. Hence, the term takusa, meaning “takot sa asawa.”
With its backward and clichè premise, as seen in its trailer, it seems like many people are on the same boat with Mela. They find the film problematic, filling its Youtube post with comments about misogyny, it being offensive, and how it’s glorifying cheating—that “men will be men” notion.
Toward the end of her post, the trans activist challenges the MMFF to disqualify the film as it can send a wrong message to viewers, one that she and her community are working hard to rewrite.
"I hope the MMFF upholds their criteria on gender inclusivity. Given the transphobic scene, they will be sending a wrong message to the audience about us," she said. "Thus this film must be disqualified from the festival."
Since 2013, the MMFF honors the Most Gender-Sensitive Award to a motion picture that best depicts gender equality. Films such as Homecoming (2003), Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita (2004), Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo (2006), and Thy Womb (2012) took home the award. The last movie to bring it home was Brillante Mendoza’s Mindanao (2019) after the award has not been presented from 2014 to 2018.
As the community that’s unfairly represented on TV and film over the past years, the trans community is stepping up and taking charge over how their stories should be witnessed, both on small or big screens.
Even Filipina trans women such as filmmakers and actresses Isabel Sandoval and Rain Valdez are leading the pack in transforming the norm in the global stage—that trans people are not just comic relief, that they too can be seen as a loving parent, a respectable family member, a hero, and someone deserving of love. Unfortunately, more work still needs to be done.