MANILA -- Director Rod Singh is grateful for the support of the fans of "Drag Den Philippines" after its first season concluded last week.
"I am very, very grateful to all of you because you were to able to translate the messages that I would really want to say in 'Drag Den.' You are the messengers of this show," Singh said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
Singh admitted that it was a long and a bumpy ride but they were able to showcase their vision for the series.
"Sa puso ko at sa isip ko, ito na lang 'yung aking gagawin. 'Yung malapit sa puso ko, ever since. A game that I feel if drag queen pa rin ako, I would have given the fair chance kahit na hindi ako lubog sa 'Drag Race' culture," Singh said. "It was a long bumpy road but in the end it paid off."
"Nag-exceed ka roon sa expectations namin and I'm very very happy to be able to do something different but also brave," the director added.
"Ako naman kasi I take notes from valid criticisms kasi sa perspective ko we may have siguro sa estimate ko parang 1/3 lang ng popularity ni 'Drag Race' ang nakuha namin. Sa akin, hindi na 'yun masama for a first season of a new show, because we were able to solidify our base, in terms of like supporters and fans," she explained.
"We may have only few reviews and tweets about us pero ang gaganda ng mga chika ng mga tao. Something that I don't normally see when I just watch an ordinary show. So for me to be able to have such unique, solid, smart, and charming fanbase or support system, ang laki-laki ng napalanunan ko."
Singh reiterated that they were not replicating a show and that they were able to prove it in "Drag Den."
"Ang hirap gumawa ng career as a trans person na kailangan mong magpatumba ng mga members ng mga community mo to finally reach for your dreams na you just can't reach your dreams alone without actually fighting for it. Fighting against a member of your community, it's the saddest part," Singh said.
"I don't intent to defeat 'Drag Race.' I made 'Drag Den' to make a point at simple lang naman 'yung point ko, we have our own drag culture and queer culture and we should celebrate it and more importantly, we can't separate drag, queer from politics," she added.
"Kasi these people can actually talk about the show kahit saang aspect mo siya dalhin. They will argue with nuance, they will argue with politics, they will argue with knowledge. Kumbaga kasi they watched the show, get what we're trying to say, they understand what's happening, and it feels good."
Singh is hopeful that there will be a second season as she called on their fans to support local drag queens.
"I remain hopeful but I am also confident that there's a season 2 of 'Drag Den' with Manila Luzon. I just really hope that you continue to support local drag queens whether they're 'Drag Den' queens or not or those who are aspiring to be part of any of the existing drag competitions here. I got you," Singh said.
"Thank you, everyone for the support and the love. It gave me more reason to do what I really wanna do, to push further, hindi namin kayo bibiguin. That's for sure," she added.
While there might be a few things that she wants to ponder on like the no-elimination format, fight scenes, and lip-sync performances, Singh hopes that she would still capture the essence of drag in the Philippines.
"I think it's about damn time that we get to enjoy our own culture, get entertainment from it while also reminding ourselves that the fight isn't over. We should allow politics to flourish in entertainment scene because I think the lack of politics and entertainment dumbed down majority of the Filipinos," Singh said.
"Gusto ko 'yung away nila more like misunderstanding, mainit ulo ng mga tao, wrong timing, ganoon lang. Hindi dahil kasi ganito ka, ganyan ka. I don't want the show to be an avenue to ruin someone kasi once you've been villainized on TV, wala na 'yun, 'yun na 'yun," she added.
"We are not the judiciary, the end all be all of drag, that if you don't flourish here, you won't flourish anywhere. No, 'Drag Den' is just that space that will allow you to showcase your drag and to celebrate drag with your fellow drag queens in a competition setting kasi 'yun naman talaga kami before. Magkakalaban kami sa contest pero ang mga kalaban ko sa contest ang nagbubuo ng drag ko."
Naia was crowned the first winner of "Drag Den Philippines," after six rounds of challenges and runway presentations.
The show had been billed "first-ever drag reality show" in the country when it was first unveiled in July 2021. By August that year, it held its auditions for aspiring queens.
However, it was "Drag Race Philippines," the local version of the wildly popular "RuPaul's Drag Race," that first aired in August 2022, with Precious Paula Nicole winning the title.
Manila Luzon made their international breakthrough via "RuPaul's Drag Race" in 2011. They then appeared in two "All Stars" editions of the show, in 2012 then in 2018.