MANILA — The swift response of the Office of the Vice President, led by Leni Robredo, gave drag artist Thomas Cipriano, also known as Aries Night, a glimmer of hope that good governance is still possible with electing the right leaders.
Even though her mother passed away because of cancer, Aries Night made sure to use her craft when Robredo announced her bid for the presidency in the 2022 elections.
“Naging hulog ng langit ‘yung OVP kasi na-assist nila kami when it came to expenses. Hindi siya ganoon ka-hassle compared sa mga nakikita kong pumipila sa PCSO, 2 a.m. pa lang nakapila na,” Aries Night told ABS-CBN News.
“‘Yun ‘yung nag-urge sa akin na mas maging active to join sa pag-campaign kay VP Leni… Nag-pass away na kasi siya (mom) two years ago… pero at least alam kong nakatulong siya kahit papaano,” she added.
Like Aries Night, several members of the queer community, led by LGBTQIA+ for Leni, have lent their spaces and platforms to the bid of Robredo in the hopes of attaining gender equality and rights in the future.
“Bilang bahagi po ng LGBT community, marami po sa atin ay sanay na i-exclude, i-isolate, hindi nakakapagtamasa ng mga karapatan na natatamasa ng ibang pangkaraniwang mamamayan at nasanay tayo na bumubuo tayo ng sarili nating communities out of that exclusion pero napakahalaga ngayon na once and for all sabihin na natin na tama na, sobra na,” Bahaghari chairperson Rey Valmores-Salinas told ABS-CBN News.
“Napakalaking bagay ang pagkilos ngayon ng LGBT community, ang pag-practice natin ng ating democratic rights para matapos ang deka-dekada na isinasantabi tayo, maipakita natin na nandirito tayo at hinding-hindi tayo mabubura,” she added.
‘ART THAT COMFORTS THE DISTURBED’
Despite having limited reach, several queer artists have offered their talents to campaign for Robredo in the 2022 elections.
With drag as the source of her daily income, Aries Night made sure that she can convey a political message with her performances.
“When I get the chance to perform pinapasok ko ‘yung ‘low-key’ campaign kay VP Leni kahit hindi siya required… I firmly believe kasi na drag is political. Bukod sa I see myself as an art form, I also see it as a political statement as simple as performing political stuff sa mga bar. Nakikita ko kasi siya as a perfect opportunity kasi siyempre malay ba natin kung sino ‘yung audience,” the drag artist said.
“As much as possible, kahit saan naman kasi may mari-reach at mari-reach ka kumbaga at saka andun din kasi ‘yung proud ka lalong alam mong nasa tama ka, wala kang dapat ikahiya… Kahit hindi ganoon kalawak ‘yung reach ko, alam mo ‘yung happy na ako sa at least kahit papaano mayroon na akong na-relay na message kasi naniniwala naman ako na kahit maliit ‘yung ambag mo at least ambag pa rin ‘yun,” she added.
DJ for queer artists, Ayel Mari, has also incorporated his mixes with content from Robredo’s campaign as a way to introduce underground movements like the ballroom and whacking scene and give them a platform.
“I believe na kahit hindi mo siya i-super in your face sa mga tao… I think that it’s important for people to see who we’re supporting. iIt’s less than two months so we really have to work hard to push for the platforms and to campaign,” Ayel Mari said.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community to show what it’s really all about and ‘yung mga struggles para marinig siya ng mga politicians. And what I love about VP Leni is she’s really, really willing to listen, super open siya sa discussion. Kailangan marinig ng mga tao eh, ‘yung pinagdadaanan ng LGBT community,” he added.
After going viral with the Miss Universe 2010 parody for “Commander” by Kelly Rowland, Siklab Buhi Inc, an LGBT group in Camarines Sur, took the opportunity to create a choreography for Robredo’s campaign jingle “Kay Leni Tayo” led by “Mamu: And a Mother Too” director Rod Singh.
“Nung nag-trending ‘yung Commander, ‘yung nag-udyok sa akin para among the other candidates si VP Leni is, what if gamitin namin ‘yung talent namin kasi nandun na eh. Kapag nagbo-volunteer ka, lahat pati pawis, oras, efforts mo parang ang gaan-gaan lang niyang gawin kasi unang-una, hindi bayad, tapos pangalawa ikaw mismo i-o-offer mo ‘yung sarili mo sa kanya,” Jomel Mike Oliva, public relations officer of the organization’s Poblacion sector said.
“It is time na lumabas ka na sa comfort zone mo and ipakita mo ‘yung talento mo kasi once na nagsimula ka sa sarili mo, mai-inspire mo ‘yung iba, dadami at dadami ‘yung kasamahan mo na magpu-push na ipaglalaban natin ‘to, ipaglalaban ‘yung kasarian na pagiging LGBTQ,” she added.
It may be an unpopular for content creators to be vocal on political issues but social media stars Pipay and Tita Krissy Achino have also dedicated their social media platforms to Robredo’s campaign.
Known for doing satirical content, Pipay, 20, said it was her dream to join the campaign as a first-time voter and that everyone’s efforts are important to echo their bets’ bid.
“This is something that I wanted to do before. This is something na ikakasama ng loob ko kung ‘di ko gagawin. Parang labag sa loob ko kung hindi ako magsasalita at lahat talaga kami nakikinig talaga,” Pipay said.
“Important na mayroon tayong actors, artists at saka social media influencers na nagbo-volunteer for VP Leni kasi alam nila na kailangan ng mga ‘to ng mas maraming tao, mas maraming sakop na tutulong sa kanila,” she added.
Beyond campaigning for Robredo, it’s important for Tita Krissy Achino to educate her fans and help them make the right choices in the upcoming elections.
“It’s important because I have a wider reach and if sabihin natin, mine is not that huge compared to other content creators but ‘pag pinagsama-sama natin, mas marami tayong mata-tap na mga tao,” Tita Krissy Achino said.
“Personally, I do share my platform with the Leni-Kiko tandem and all the Tropang Angat not only because I supported them but because I wanted to share information and education to a lot of voters na might be undecided up until now or maybe biktima ng fake news,” she added.
BEYOND COMIC RELIEF
Queer artists have been subjected to scrutiny with their craft for being a minority in the entertainment industry but for Pipay, it was her way of knowing the supporters who identify with her ideals in life.
“Aanhin ko ‘tong mga taong ‘to kung hindi mo kasundo, hindi mo same ng pag-iisip. Kumbaga susuportahan ka lang to the good time tapos ibabato ka na lang to the bad times,” Pipay said.
“Hindi na ako manghihinayang kasi itong mga naiwan na ’to, which is kung titignan mo is mas malaki talaga, way more than ‘yung natira na followers ko na alam mo ‘yun, mas may sense mas may pag-iintindi, may respect doon masaya na ako,” she added.
Pipay said consumers of media should recognize that queer artists may go beyond their comedic banters and have political quips as issues faced by the public are also experienced by the LGBT community.
“Hindi nila ma-take ‘yung ibang side mo, hindi nila ma-take na may isang bakla na, hindi lang nakakatawa kasi ang bet ng masa parang ‘pag bakla ka, nakakatawa ka lang, dapat pangit ka lang pero ‘pag ang bakla kasi is lumaban, bakla is may talino, ayaw na nila ‘yan kapag lumalaban, ayaw na nila ‘yan kapag opposition mo ang isang bading,” Pipay said.
“Doon naisip ko na kung si VP Leni nga ang daming may ayaw sa kanya and everyday bumabangon siya nang maaga, 18 hours a day, lumalaban siya, nagka-campaign siya, na para siya sa tao, paano naman ako? Sino ba naman ako? Siya ‘yung naging inspiration ko na kahit ang daming maraming may ayaw sa’yo, mayroon at mayroon talagang naka-support sa’yo and ‘yun ‘yung mas mahalaga,” she added.
Tita Krissy Achino echoed Pipay's sentiment, noting that having a big platform is a responsibility, citing music hitmakers who have used their voice for causes to help the needy.
“Tinitingala natin ang ibang bansa, tinitingala natin ang (South) Korea ang US and the Koreans. BTS went to the (United Nations) sa Amerika, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé they stand up whenever there are campaigns that feeling nila ito. I don’t know why in the Philippines it’s taboo, na bawal kang sumali sa pulitika. Kaya nade-develop din ang fear ng mga creators to be vocal with their emotions and their support kasi alam nila, ang mga tao this is a taboo (topic) huwag mong puntahan. You tackle comedy, science and all but not politics. And it’s wrong because sa atin din nakasalalay eh,” Tita Krissy Achino said.
“We work hard kasi gusto namin at ginusto namin ito na maging content creators. Ginusto ko 5 years ago to do a vlog and give happiness and good vibes but because the platform has gone bigger and wider, mayroon ka nang sense of responsibility na with anything, political or not political, you have to make a stand,” she added.
“We’re doing this because we want a more sustainable and more progressive Philippines for the next six years. LGBT people are ‘yung mangilang-ngilang hindi napapakinggan. Marami rin kami like may katutubo, may mga manggagawa, walang pinagkaiba ‘yan sa LGBT kasi we fight for what we think is right and kailangan sa labang ito may leader na matapang din na sasamahan kami sa laban na ito."
Valmores-Salinas said the fact that queer artists are speaking up is a testament that the LGBT community is fed up with the government’s lack of action to their concerns, noting how queer people across sectors have been campaigning for the Leni-Kiko tandem.
“Nakikita natin ngayon na wave -- halimbawa nga, nabanggit natin sa entertainment industry, drag queens speaking out, artists speaking out na mga bahagi rin ng LGBT community in support of VP Leni, beyond pa nga sa entertainment industry eh, mga karaniwang bakla, mga parlorista, mga kabataan na LGBT going out in support of VP Leni,” Valmores-Salinas said.
“The fact na napakarami na sa atin ngayon ay energized, lumalabas, it shows na we are tired of this system and gusto na nating baguhin and gusto na nating isulong ang ating mga karapatan and I think ‘yun po ang nakikita natin sa bahagi ng LGBT community all across sectors mula pa sa mga drag queens, artists, mula pa sa mga kabataang estudyante, mga parlorista, informal workers, going out at nagiging politically active. Many of us being politically active for the first time, it says something about how much we really, really want change at nakikita natin na malaki ang posibilidad ang pagbabagong iyon sa pamamaraan ng pamumuno ni VP Leni,” she added.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration's actions towards the queer community may be characterized with two words, according to the groups from LGBTQIA+ for Leni: misogynistic and discriminatory.
Despite his supposed support of the LGBT community, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill and same-sex marriage are still on hold in Congress.
Duterte’s administration has also witnessed sexists remarks towards women, pardoning US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton after the death of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, the arrest of #Pride20 in a battlecry for LGBT people locked in their homes with their abusers, and queers spaces closing their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nung nakaupo na siya, that never happened. Hanggang ngayon wala pa ring SOGIE Equality Bill, wala pa rin marriage equality. Marami tayong nakitang cases ng karahasan, discrimination at dumulo pa ito sa hate crimes... Talagang when it comes to social issues talaga second-class citizens ang LGBT community,” Valmores-Salinas said.
For the first time, the LGBTQIA+ for Leni crafted a national agenda with various groups to push for several policies to attain gender equality and rights.
The national agenda includes the passage of a marriage equality bill, SOGIE Equality Bill, physical and mental support for the LGBT community, among others, the alliance’s national convenor Amber Quiban said.
It was signed by Robredo to seal her promise to be one with the LGBT community and being passed to various groups and individuals to echo the campaign.
“We really tried to engage as many people from local chapters as possible. We engage with them through their provincial ambassadors, basically the heads of their provincial chapter. We encourage the provincial ambassador to really talk to people from the grassroots, ‘yung mga nasa bara-barangay, barrio-barrio kasi those are the narratives na hindi mo masyadong napapakinggan,” Quiban told ABS-CBN News.
“The covenant is a contract that ikaw mismo as a signatory, you are holding yourself responsible in making sure that these things will happen, that these things will materialize and that starts by number one, electing VP Leni Robredo, and number two if she is elected, to actively participate in engagements to fulfill the contents of this agenda,” she added.
“It’s an opportunity for us para paingayin ‘yung agenda na ‘yung mga placards na dadalhin nung mga bakla ay ‘yung mga agenda namin para kapag nagmartsa sila, nag-rally kami, kitang-kita ng mga tao na, uy ito ‘yung natin, ito ‘yung hinihingi namin.”
While there may be points of unity, Valmores-Salinas said that they will continue to challenge Robredo to meet the demands of the LGBT community should she win the elections.
“Malaking hakbang ito para sa amin na nagkaroon ng aspiring na pangulo na nagkaroon ng commitment na i-pursue ang LGBT right … There are definitely points of unity where there are also points kung saan maaari pa nating iangat ang diskurso at i-encourage si VP Leni na i-espouse ang mga demands na ito,” she said.
“Ang paglahok natin sa Halalan 2022, hindi po ito pangkaraniwang panahon. Nire-resist po natin ang Marcos restoration na may human rights violations at ang extension ng nakaraang anim na taon na napakatindi na ang pagpapahirap sa LGBT community. Hindi po ito pangkaraniwang panahon so more than ever kailangan talaga ang ating sama-samang pagkilos.”
Given the chance that Robredo wins, Aries Night said that she will not stop fighting for LGBT rights as the community’s battle goes beyond elections.
She is determined that the next 6 years under Robredo is still another battle to conquer for gender rights and equality.
“Kaya namin ‘to ginagawa kasi naniniwala kaming para sa ’tin ‘to, para rin ‘to sa kinabukasan natin. Mas priority ko ‘yung magiging efforts ni VP Leni para sa community natin kasi it’s long overdue," she said.
"Hindi tayo mapapagod na ipaglaban ‘yung karapatan natin as a community kasi hindi natatapos doon. Marami pa tayong kailangang gawin. Marami pa tayong kailangang baguhin, kung ano na ‘yung ginagawa ko before ganoon na rin ‘yung gagawin ko after kasi marami pa tayong dapat ipaglaban hindi siya natatapos doon."
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