On screen: An exploration of sexuality

Published May 29, 2021, 3:40 PM

by Jules Vivas

A brief history lesson and a list of must-watch local films and series about LGBT

HERSTORY Pictures of The Lesbian Collective in 1992 marching for gay rights

June is Pride Month. News on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and more (LGBTQ+) pervade the internet during this time. For example, a recent study reveals that in the UK there has been a decrease in those aged 16 and above identifying themselves as heterosexual in 2019. Boy’s Love (BL), a literary or media genre that depicts romance between men, is booming in China. Brands and private organizations everywhere are giving their support to the LGBTQ+ community. Suffice it to say, the world is becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Philippines, in fact, is ranked as the most gay-friendly in Asia and 10th all over the globe in a survey involving 39 countries. In Filipino society LGBTQ+ has been generally tolerated if not accepted way back pre-colonial period.

Before Spain came into the picture, we were a polytheistic nation that worshipped various deities, including a transgender god, Lakapati. Described as an androgynous, intersex goddess, Lakapati is a major deity of fertility and good harvest in Tagalog mythology. Meanwhile, in Suludnon or Panay-Bukidnon mythology, there are accounts of female binukots or well-kept maidens who had powers to transition into male warriors—like Ranma 1/2.

Gender crossing was also practiced prior to colonialization. Take for example the babaylans who were women spiritual leaders in native communities. The position can be taken by males who crossed genders called asog.

HERMAPHRODITE GOD Lakapati (Illustration by Lahi.ph)

Jump to the ‘80s and we have the formation of various movements promoting the LGBTQ+ such as the Home of the Golden Gays (1975) by Justo Justo, the Women’s Movement that focused on the lesbian struggle of Filipinas, the Lesbian Collective that was the first formal lesbian organization in the country, the organization of the first Asia and the Pacific LGBT Pride March by Pro-Gay Philippines and Metropolitan Community Church Manila in 1994.

As a country that dominates the world of beauty pageants, beauty contests are a staple in town fiestas and other barangay level events. There are many kinds, including Miss Gay Philippines, in which all types of gender may join.

In 2016, Filipina journalist Geraldine Roman became a politician and served as the 1st district representative of Bataan, effectively becoming the first transgender to be elected to the Philippine congress.

In law, the House of Representatives on Sept. 20, 2017 approved LGBT Rights. In favor of House Bill 4982, otherwise known as the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality (SOGIE) Bill, 198-0 votes were made. It aims to prohibit any discriminatory act against LBTQ+ individuals by penalizing violators with a fine upward of ₱500,000 and/or imprisonment for one up to six years. Sadly, it has yet to pass muster in the Senate.

Be that as it may, the Filipinos have come a long way with regards to LGBTQ+ culture and acceptance. Of course, there is still much we have to work on. To get a better understanding of the LGBTQ+ community here are local shows and films you could check out:

Hanging Out

This is the first-ever gay web series in the Philippines. This light, slice-of-life mini-series, created by team magazine, aired in 2016.

David accidentally crashes Adrian’s birthday party after his hookup sends him the wrong address. David is allowed inside the apartment as Adrian’s friends mistake him for the guy he is currently dating. This leads to David becoming part of the group, and developing a real relationship with Adrian.


Die Beautiful

A movie that premiered and won at the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival, and an official entry to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival. This Filipino LGBT comedy-drama directed by Jun Robles Lana stars Paolo Ballesteros as Trisha, a trans woman who died after winning a gay beauty pageant. It also dives into her life dealing with problems and successes living as a transgender in the Philippines.


Never Tear Us Apart

This 2018 experimental film was entirely shot with an iPhone X. Originally titled Fisting, the movie follows the life of an aging spy named Q portrayed by Ricky Davao set on hunting down “The Shadow,” a serial killer with a grudge against promiscuous women. The bizarre picture explores human sexuality with scenes of men-to-men intimacy, BDSM, and fisting.


Billie and Emma

A drama film set in the mid-’90s looks into the story of two student girls. Billie was sent to a remote town of St. Isidro to attend a Catholic girls school where she meets Emma. The two fall in love, but Emma learns that she is pregnant with her boyfriend Miguel.

The 2018 feature film written, directed, and produced by Samantha Lee was triggered by a series of anti-LGBT tweets surrounding the legislation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. A particular post called for “No to SOGIE. Yes to family!” roused the Samantha to envision variations of what a family could be, and whether a teen-aged girl could step up as a father.


Game Boys

This 2020 BL series directed by Ivan Andrew Payawal is presented as a computer screen film.

A live streamer played by Elijah Canlas finds another gamer played by Kokoy De Santos online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gavreel (Kokoy) starts out as a gamer and a fan of popular live streamer Cairo (Elijah), becoming acquainted after the former beats the latter in an anonymous game. Despite the competitive nature of their initial interaction, they become fond of each other.


Si Chedeng at Si Apple

Fatrick Tabada, screen writer of Born Beautiful and Patay na si Hesus, directs this 2017 comedy with Rae Red.

In the wake of her husband’s death, 66-year-old Chedeng decides to come out of the closet by announcing over a radio show that she is looking for her ex-girlfriend Lydia Cantillo. Meanwhile, Chedeng’s best friend, 63-year-old Apple accidentally kills her abusive live-in partner. Bound by friendship, the two, with a Louise Vuitton bag in tow, set off to find Lydia in a grand adventure.


2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten

The feature-length directorial debut of Petersen Vargas is written by Jason Paul Laxamana.

This multi-awarded film premiered at Cinema One Originals Film Festival in 2016 and was commercially released a year later.

Set in the period after the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the movie focuses on the sexual awakening of sophomore student Felix. He meets and takes an interest in the half-American transferees, Snyder brothers Magnus and Maxim.



A psychological, erotic, thriller written by Yam Laranas. A naive provincial girl finds a way to get a hold of her independence through the help of her girl best friend. In a remote and barren village, 16-year-old Ellen played by Rhen Escano, is kept locked inside the house by her father. When Ellen learns that she will be trafficked as payment for her father’s debts, she escapes with her best friend Marian, portrayed by Cindy Miranda. Their actions, however, have nerve-shattering consequences.


Gaya sa Pelikula

This web series, which debuted on YouTube in September 2020, has made its way to Netflix early this year. It stars Paolo Pangilinan and Ian Pangilinan in BL romance written by poet Juan Miguel Severo and helmed by JP Habac, in which two teenaged boys make a practical deal to share an apartment, only to find themselves sharing many other things. The series also pays homage to some memorable scenes in Filipino romance films, hence the title.