Influencer mania

•January 31, 2018 • Leave a Comment

And just when I thought having around 900 followers on Twitter and around 800 friends on Facebook are scary enough, here comes the concept of the “social media influencer” persona, the latest media entity in the universe.

Why am I suddenly talking about this? Procrastination, siyempre. Charut!

I was at the heels of finishing my required revisions for my 2014 Media and Information Literacy Kto12 textbook when I thought of adding the concept of the influencer in my discussion of “traditional and social media convergence” examples. What started out as a one-paragraph plan turned out to become 3-4. I first wrote my paragraph and decided that that’s that, when I decided to search online for supporting literature somewhere on the globe. Maybe someone in the Global North has written something about it, which I can look at, and include in my bibliography for teachers’ resources. Ever since I heard of that Logan guy influencer fiasco at the Japanese Suicide Forest, I thought maybe at least North America would have some valuable information, or some enterprising media scholar like myself has already scrutinized this and published the phenomenon on an academic journal somewhere out there.

But when I put “social media influencers of the Philippines” as my search string on Google, just to look for current examples of influencers here to include in my book, I got the surprise of my life when I discovered how vast this mini-universe is! I mean, the first few searches popped up about an Influencer Awards, man! Like there’s a legit Asian organization giving out awards, since 2015, to influencers of varied categories (parenting, lifestyle, travel, beauty, food, etc.). I was floored! And in addition, there now exists an agency — nay, agencies! — that represent pools of influencers according to their influence reach, and partner them up with brands who want to have deals. Panalo!

Who would have thought that doing things and putting them online would later get monetized this way. And this sub-industry seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. (As an aside, nalulurkey akey sa title award na “Breakout Influencer of the Year” kalerks pare).

I guess this is the next progression of things online. Before, when the first few blogs rolled out in the Philippines, talks about monetizing blogs followed suit. There was even a Philippine blogging summit, the first and second one I was able to attend during the early 2000s, but I don’t know if it still exists. My goodness, I didn’t realize that *that* was like around 15 years ago or so. Hanep, kung nagkaanak pala ako nun, haiskul na si bagets anesh. Well, I guess that’s the average age of my blog(s) now. My original was back in 2001, when Blogspot first popped online, and I tried it. But I deleted that first blog, sayang, and picked up another one in 2001-2 in a local platform that dissipated din naman over time, sayang. So I tried another foreign host but that, too, fizzled. So I transferred what I could of those early prototypes and put them in my 2005 blog, which is still running now. Yes, I also tried monetizing that one, because it has a lot of readers actually. But that’s not really my main reason for blogging. I simply wanted to tell my stories and it’s a bonus that some want to read it. So that’s cool.

Anyway, going back to this influencer thing, I guess these old-time bloggers and early YouTube users who grew an audience are now termed as social media influencers, just because they’re being read/watched. Isn’t that interesting? Of course there are also the ham ones, or the influencers who are really out there to monetize to the max, and just put things out there for the sake of the audience. What’s the difference of that kalakaran to the kalakaran of being an artista, singer, showbiz personality, di ba? Wala! Same same. Kaya ayan, nagkaroon na rin ng competition sa larangang iyan. Very interesting indeed.

And to close this thought, yeah, wow, I thought nga that the “big” numbers I have on social media are already big. Actually, for me, they are! Around 900 followers on Twitter and 800 on Facebook, mostly people I know, sure, but some I don’t, personally. And that’s okay. I accept people on my social media accounts so I can have an audience for my writings and advocacy; this has been the objective naman since day 1, lalo na diyan sa FB na ‘yan. They can opt out, of course, walang pilitan ito. But to be an influencer and have at least 5,000 followers! Juskopo, I don’t think I want that. There’s still something about the “anonymity” of the internet that I find discomforting, where people look at your stuff and read your stuff and get to know you without even introducing themselves first. And need I remind myself that having such a (now minute, by influencer standards) following floats my name around in a “bad light” when it comes to dating before. Hahaha I can still remember those days. Ayaw daw ako maka-date kasi I am who I am, report sa akin ng aking “booking agents” hahaha, like they read my works daw kasi online, they know my name sa media etc. Or worse, the biggest criticism-slash-compliment I got was “Sobrang talino niya, kakatakot i-date!” Kakaloka hahaha! Well, good thing that’s not a preoccupation of mine anymore! But that’s for another blog post.

So yeah, I’m here, I exist, I don’t mean to influence anyone out there, but if they are — which led to them being good to others, or being open-minded about sexualities — then that’s the reach I like. The only reach I would still like to do. That’s why we still exist, here, online — and we write.

And thank you for reading, as always.

Because knowledge is power… open a book. Get lost in one. Heavy reading notwithstanding. Cheret! [December 2017 MatildaPH Meralco Theater]

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[Academic Paper] (Mis)Representing Lesbian Desire in Philippine Digital Cinema

•December 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hello again! To continue my effort of sharing resources about queer media in the local context, I’m uploading another unpublished academic paper I wrote back in 2009-2010 for people and researchers looking for materials, and for those students who have been interviewing me for this purpose. This is one important resource for your RRL.

This is a paper I wrote that got selected at the Cinematic Desire: Cinema Studies Conference which was held in New York (March 2010), the reason why I visited America for the first time. Some academic journals wanted me to update and revise this before, which I attempted to do, so I can submit it for publication. But I didn’t finish revising it na, so I’m posting here the version I presented in New York. Even if it was made in 2010, its content is still relevant today, I think, because many of the younger researchers studying these subjects haven’t even heard of the films or even the discourses I touched upon here. So here it is, for your education.

That New York conference was conducted by graduate students of the CUNY Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I presented this paper as part of a 3-paper panel where two of my former UP Film Institute junior faculty colleagues presented with me, under the umbrella panel of analyzing queer issues in Philippine digital cinema. Needless to say, we had a blast being there, listening to other presentations while pondering on how “advanced” our field of studies were compared to some presentations there hehe. UP reprezent bakit ba. Charotera lang talaga ‘pag tubong Peyups (eh kasi they were gushing at the papers we presented and were bewildered na may “queer cinema” at may ganitong “progress” sa aming part ng third world kalerks)

Malamig sa Nooyawk fonyetah! ‘Yung Baguio bonnet/gloves at ukay-ukay trench coat ay nakarampa din sa Manhattan nonetheless hehe. Kurdapya was here. [Fifth Avenue, New York/ March 2010]

Heniways Hemingway, here’s the paper and please, reference it properly via the outright source citation guidelines you’re using, okay? Plagiarism is a crime and a sin, and karma is digital these days. So downloaders beware.

Happy reading!

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(MIS)REPRESENTING LESBIAN DESIRE IN PHILIPPINE DIGITAL CINEMA

By Olivia (Libay) Linsangan Cantor, UP Film Institute

(Paper presented at the Cinema Studies Conference held on 04-05 March 2010 at CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA)

 

Abstract:

With the advent of and advancements in digital filmmaking, the Philippine film scene burgeoned in the latter half of this decade. Thanks mostly to grant-giving institutions seeding feature-length digital film projects, the dying Filipino film industry was somehow revived with the production of new films, spawning a new breed of independent digital filmmakers and film content, in the process inspiring mainstream film production companies to also “go digital.” Previously marginalized voices and taboo topics in the mainstream were given new cinematic life in these spaces, especially in the independent filmmaking scene. This could be clearly seen in the slew of digital films with queer or gay content independently produced by first-time producers. However, only a handful of digital films produced in this timeframe tackled lesbianism in their narratives. And in these narratives, much leaves to be desired when it comes to proper or accurate representation of lesbian desire.

This paper aims to analyze this (mis)representation of lesbian desire in a sampling of three digital feature-length films produced independently (Trabaho), produced through a film grant (Rome and Juliet) and produced by a mainstream company (Tuli). This paper will try to investigate whether woman-to-woman desire continues to be trivialized and whether the filmmakers are continuing to perpetrate prejudiced stereotypical notions concerning Filipino lesbians and lesbianism in general.

 

Paper presentation:

 

Introduction

A fact that might surprise people is that, prior to 2004, the Philippines is always included in the list of the top five movie-producing countries of the world.

The country’s capital, Metro Manila, has always been the center of local cinema production, where different municipalities and cities housed major production studios run as family-owned business ventures, especially during the golden age of Philippine cinema in the 1940s. There were a few independently-produced films over the decades but their distribution still fell within the exhibition network of the major studios.

During the 1990s and up to the early 2000s, Philippine cinema took a nosedive due to circumstances both within and beyond the industry’s control. Outside the industry, the economic downturns within the country and in Asia in general, contributed to the rising costs of film production, making filmmaking an even more expensive venture, and mainstream studio producers became cautious of their investments. This resulted in the proliferation of films with storylines that came from tried and tested storytelling formulas.

However, “tried and tested” already meant “tired and tiresome” for the audiences, who were themselves becoming more sophisticated as viewers, being exposed to the newer and more hi-tech ways of filmmaking from Hollywood plus the more daring television series that ran for months in major channels. The boom of the internet during the turn of the millennium also didn’t help much in reviving viewers’ interests in watching movies in the silver screen as they could easily watch things from all over the world in the small screens of their computer monitors. The proliferation of film piracy also didn’t help during this time, when it was cheaper and more practical for a typical cinema-going family to spend 100 pesos or less to watch one movie bought from a pirate than spend at least 500 pesos or more—popcorn and soda notwithstanding—to watch just one movie at the local mall cinema. And with a country whose 70 percent of its population lives below the poverty line, the 100 peso pirated movie looks more appealing to patronize than the cinema exhibition. These factors all contributed to the decline of mainstream movie-production in the country.

 

From celluloid to digital

In the early 2000s, video technology experienced a hi-tech expansion, with things turning from analog to digital. Newsweek journalist Nick Hayes pointed out that even Hollywood was not turning its back on this technology that will eventually redefine their very existence, as the film world prefers digital to celluloid. Filmmakers in the developing nations would be the ones to benefit largely from this technological change for one crucial factor – budget.

By now, most people agree that digital technology is cheaper; for the struggling filmmaker, using a low-scale digital-camera model can mean a difference of thousands. (Hayes 12)

While filmmaking using video technology has been utilized in the Philippines before 2000, it was only used by hobbyists, documentary filmmakers working with civil society advocacies, film or communication students and short filmmakers who churned out works that were not really viewed by mainstream audiences. Mainstream filmmaking still remained beholden to celluloid – until Cinemalaya.

The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival was conceived as a grant-giving body which chose ten film projects to fund in a given year. It began in 2004 as a multi-stakeholder venture to hopefully help revive the country’s national cinema industry.

The festival was organized by the Cinemalaya Foundation—whose members were composed of longtime Filipino film/media/arts stalwarts—and included the participation of arts-oriented government organizations, namely the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) which facilitated and handled the main operations of the competition and festival. Most of the personalities involved in its inception and facilitation involved longtime film, television and media practitioners and scholars of the country.

First-time feature filmmakers were encouraged to submit their concepts and scripts which were judged and scrutinized until ten final recipients are chosen. These recipients each received half a million pesos or roughly less than USD11,000 to create their films using digital technology, not celluloid, the primary reason for which is to keep the film budget cost down. And since Cinemalaya is a conjoined word of “cinema” and “malaya,” the Filipino word for freedom, the festival encouraged out-of-the-box types of films to be made, challenging mainstream cookie-cutter formulaic stories and trite storytelling techniques. Thus, a new wave of independent cinema[i] was born in the country, the so-called “new indie scene” featuring digital filmmaking technology.

After Cinemalaya was conceived, one of the major TV networks in the country came up with a similar grant-giving competition, ABS-CBN’s Cinema One Originals, initially conceptualized so that, like the American HBO cable channel’s HBO Films ventures, the network’s Cinema One movie cable channel could feature its own produced films. But Cinema One films also enjoyed theatrical exhibition through their own film festival much like the Cinemalaya festival. And like Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals were all digital feature-length films; no celluloid. The participants were also given a production budget to work with (notably higher than Cinemalaya – one million pesos), plus the films were eventually shown in Cinema One cable and released in DVD via the TV network’s media distribution networks.

The digital indie film scene boomed, and soon, some filmmakers started venturing into the field outside the competition set-up. They chose to rent or invest in their own digital film cameras and made movies on their own, with do-it-yourself (DIY) filmmaking techniques and different fund-sourcing strategies reminiscent of avant garde guerilla filmmakers in world cinema history. But without producers or grant-givers breathing down their necks for output, they enjoyed more freedom in creating their films.

Since the indie film scene boomed, one longtime mainstream family-owned film studio, Viva Films, transitioned into a more organized corporation and spawned a Digital Viva outfit. They ran this outfit like they would their mainstream celluloid counterpart, with only three glaring differences: 1) their stories deviated from their previous mainstream formulaic structures they got famous for[ii], 2) they tapped seasoned digital and indie-trained filmmakers, and 3) they shot using digital technology, not celluloid. They thought that they will cut costs but still earn profits by going digital. So far, they are the only longtime mainstream film studio that rode the digital indie bandwagon.

 

Indie queer content

With the advent of the digital feature-length indie film, there was also a boom in gay-oriented feature-length digital indie films in the country. It’s not a conservative estimate to say that at least one of these so-called queer films are made and screened every other month. Anybody who practically had access to equipment, willing strapping lads for talent, and a large enough venue to sell tickets could make an indie gay or queer film.

Foremost Philippine gay writer-critic Dr. Neil Garcia agrees that this latest proliferation of queer films is a major turning point in Philippine cinematic history:

Perhaps the most exciting development in local Filipino filmmaking is the increasing popularity and availability of the digital format, and gay and lesbian films have certainly explored this new technology’s liberating possibilities. Spurred by the moribundity of commercial Philippine cinema, these gay and lesbian digital films have dared to engage with the controversial issues of gay and lesbian promiscuity, alternative domestic partnerships, and even prepubescent desire, all within the purview of the extended Filipino family and the economically depressed national situation. (Garcia 425)

However, there were less lesbian-oriented digital indie films produced, but lesbian desire was still there. As mentioned, stories and techniques became more out-of-the-box in the digital indie film scene, and one previously taboo subject in Philippine cinema was lesbian desire.

This lesbian invisibility in independent filmmaking has earlier been noticed, especially when the rise of the New Queer Cinema of the early 1990s fared well with gay films in the Northern American film festival circuit.

One of the problems for some critics, audiences and filmmakers was the fact that this growing wave of films were located in the boy-zone, where the splintering subjectivities of gay men dominated. (Cunningham 10)

It is often the case that both the gay and the lesbian experience are lumped in the umbrella categorization of queer in local independent queer cinema, as it perpetrates the notion that the universal label of “homosexual”—and now “queer”—brings to the fore a representation of this marginalized population. But it still contributes to this lesbian invisibility as pointed out earlier by Rich:

To equate lesbian existence with male homosexuality because each is stigmatized is to erase female reality once again. Part of the history of lesbian existence is, obviously, to be found where lesbians, lacking a coherent female community, have shared a kind of social life and common cause with homosexual men. (Rich 239)

 

The Latest Lesbian Pitch

Mainstream Filipino films previously carried lesbian storylines but the depictions of lesbians leave much to be desired in Philippine cinema history: if they are not manly-looking macho-wannabes who steal men’s girlfriends or wives, then lesbians are depicted as misguided tomboyish females who only need to experience having sex with a man in order to be “converted” to being heterosexual women again. Or if not, they just die in the end; easier to solve.

Since digital indie films purport this out-of-the-box anti-mainstream formulaic storylines, do these automatically apply to a more enlightened and engendered characterization of lesbians in cinema? An analysis of three sample films that came out of each respective process of the digital indie scene could present scenarios – the Cinema One grant recipient Rome and Juliet, the Digital Viva-produced Tuli and the independently-produced Trabaho.

Rome and Juliet (2006) was awarded a Cinema One grant in 2006 and was directed by ABS-CBN TV director Connie Macatuno. It features the story of two beautiful urban women: Rome, a sexually liberated yet straight wedding planner, and Juliet, a slightly conservative straight bride-to-be. Because of their business transactions, the two women spend more time together, which leads to a physical and romantic attraction, jeopardizing the intended marriage of Juliet to her political aspirant of a fiancé.

Through the course of the film, the two women never identify as openly bisexual, bi-curious or lesbian, but they are passionately attracted to each other nonetheless, passion both translatable into romantic desire and sexual desire. Nor are they seen having a woman-to-woman attraction to other women other than each other. Things get out of hand when their relatives discover the two women’s relationship. In the end, Juliet’s wedding is called off and she figures in a road mishap, leaving her in a coma. Rome continues on with her life while waiting for Juliet to come out of her coma. Because of this incident, Juliet’s previously judgmentally homophobic mother comes to her senses and thanks Rome for loving her daughter. However, when Juliet finally comes out of her coma, it is not clear if she and Rome are still together in the end.

Tuli (2005) translated as “circumcision,” was produced in 2005 by Digital Viva and was directed by theater director Aureus Solito, who previously garnered digital indie film acclaim with his earlier directorial work Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) which won awards at the Berlin, Montreal, and Sundance film festivals. The first half of Tuli features the story of Daisy, a rural girl whose father is the chief circumciser of their bucolic town, and how she is forced to become her father’s assistant during these circumcision procedures done in the town’s picturesque waterfalls-and-clear water stream area. It also highlights Daisy’s friendship with another rural girl, her best friend in the town, and they are seen growing up together in the second half of the film.

During this second half, Daisy’s best friend is seen engaging in heterosexual sex with one of the town’s eligible bachelors whom she thought had impregnated her. When the pregnancy turned out to be false, the bachelor leaves the town, and Daisy presents herself to her best friend as his “replacement.” The two women try living together and engage in sex, until they both genuinely fall in love with each other. Eventually, Daisy’s father dies of alcoholism-induced diseases, leaving her mother sad and lonely. To alleviate the mother’s depression, the two women decided to have a child with the most harmless bachelor in town, the loner boy who never went to get circumcised when they were young. Reluctant at first, the uncircumcised boy is innocently drawn towards Daisy’s strong advances and promises that he will only be a mere sperm donor in this process, relieving him of any parental obligation.

Towards the end, children are getting sick in the town and the townsfolk wanted to do away with Daisy for they believe that her being a “tomboy” brought the illness and bad luck in their area. But they leave her alone when they learn of her pregnancy with the once-ostracized loner boy. The film concludes with Daisy bearing the child, still happily living with her best friend, and the loner boy gets parental visitation rights as a friend.

Trabaho (2005) translated as “job” or “work” is the first independently-made film written and directed by mainstream TV and film scriptwriter Ned Trespeces and produced and managed by Onnah Valera, both graduates of the country’s only film degree course offered at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication’s Film and Audiovisual Department, now known as the UP Film Institute. The story is based on his award-winning stage play which featured the trials and tribulations of different kinds of young twentysomething urbanites and new college graduates from the provinces as they go job-hunting in Metro Manila. The film follows several characters: a Muslim man hiding in Christianity to get a job, a feminine-looking lesbian who recently got dumped by her girlfriend, a rich boy from the province who became a stowaway in Manila to start an independent life, a man who just came out of a drug rehabilitation facility, and a young girl who aspires to migrate to North America in search of greener pastures. The film shows how the lives of these diverse characters parallel each other, sometimes intertwining, when it comes to searching for “job luck” in Metro Manila.

 

Lesbian herstory in Philippine cinema

It is important to note that lesbian desire has always been present in mainstream Philippine cinema, however few and far between in years regarding representation. However, the types of desire these films purport remain questionable, if not suspect as to what kinds of images of lesbianism they actually project, whether they are affirmative or negative.

In Philippine cinema, the most common image of the lesbian is that of the cross-dressing female which characterizes a tomboyish-looking female dressed in jeans, a shirt, men’s polo, sneakers and a cap. She often has long hair but this is tied up to make it look shorter. The tomboy, however, does not necessarily identify as a lesbian, or does not fully declare that the objects of her desires and affection are other women, as the word “tomboy” could be construed as merely an adjective in most cases to describe a boyish-acting girl. But this characterization differed throughout the decades.

We first see the tomboy image in mainstream Philippine cinema as early as 1954 in a film adaptation of a comics-serialized novel entitled Jack en Jill. This tells the story of gender-bending siblings: Jack who is female but is a tomboy and Jill who is male but dresses and acts like a girl. This film was remade in 1987 following the same storyline. Eventually, Jill falls in love with a straight man which solidifies her membership in straight society. Practically the same storyline is carried by several other films featuring tomboyish-acting and tomboyish-looking females such as Nang Mamulat Si Eba Part 2 (1997, translated to When Eva Was Finally Awakened) and Baliktaran: Si Ace at si Daisy (2001, translated as Reversal.

The early part of the 1980s is notable for the number of lesbian characters that appeared in mainstream films. Unlike the earlier boyish-acting tomboys, these lesbians openly declare themselves as lesbians, and part of the storylines involve their romantic and sexual desires towards other women. These films are Manila By Night (1980), Si Malakas Si Mahinhin at Si Maganda (1980, or The Strong, The Meek and The Beautiful) and the quintessential lesbian film of Philippine film history, Ang T-bird at Ako (1982, or T-Bird and Me) featuring two of the top actresses of Philippine cinema, Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor. However, all of these films carried a lesbian character still trapped with the notion of a lesbian being a “man trapped in a woman’s body” and these lesbians’ objects of affection are usually straight-identified women. Not to say that this is a negative aspect, but this has been the only aspect in which Philippine society has viewed lesbians and lesbian relationships since the 1960s.

Clearly, in both Philippine society and Philippine films, a kind of “gender adaptation/assimilation” happens when it comes to negotiating lesbian sexuality within these patriarchal worlds. These negotiations exist in order for the sexual orientation to survive. As Judith Butler pointed out in the discussion of the drag:

…[G]ender is not a performance that a prior subject elects to do, but gender is performative in the sense that it constitutes as an effect the very subject it appears to express. It is a compulsory performance in the sense that acting out of line with heterosexual norms brings with it ostracism, punishment, and violence, not to mention the transgressive pleasures produced by those very prohibitions. (Butler 314-315)

It could be said that these films merely reflect the dominant image of the lesbian, particularly the butch lesbian, visible in Philippine society. Even so, not all lesbians’ stories end up as tragedies as these films depicted. In the critically acclaimed and award-winning film classic Manila By Night, the soft butch lesbian character here is a young charmer who is into drug dealing and gets arrested/killed by the police in the end. Ang T-bird at Ako is about a butch-acting lesbian who fell in love with her destitute straight client, but the desire is never reciprocated and vehemently rejected. In Si Malakas Si Mahinhin at Si Maganda, the lesbian lead character merely dies of cancer in the end.

Another notion these mainstream-produced films perpetrate is that lesbianism is merely a phase in a woman’s life, one in which she will outgrow upon meeting her Mr. Right. Again, that is how the predominantly patriarchal Philippine society views lesbianism even up to this day. This is, yet again, not to say that this is not a reflection of lesbians in Philippine society. However, these negative notions tend to generalize lesbian lives, often suggesting that women who chose to be lesbians are always doomed in the end. Besides, these notions, even if they exist, are more the exceptions rather than the rule when describing Philippine lesbian lives.

This automatic negation of lesbian lives in Philippine society could perhaps be traced to the country’s patriarchal roots where men predominantly ran all societal institutions, putting women on the sidelines. Thus, as Wittig pointed out, this kind of distancing is a heterosexist strategy of survival:

The refusal to become (or to remain) heterosexual always meant to refuse to become a man or a woman, consciously or not. For a lesbian this goes further than the refusal of the role “woman.” It is the refusal of the economic, ideological, and political power of a man. (Wittig 108)

The 1990s introduced a new face of lesbian desire in Philippine cinema, with the advent of the local LGBT advocacy/activist movements in 1994 which continues to this day. The decade presented a different kind of lesbian in mainstream cinema – the femme lesbian, or the feminine-looking lesbian, who clearly identified as a lesbian, and whose desires are geared towards fellow women whether with another femme lesbian, a manly-looking butch lesbian or a straight woman. Tatlo Magkasalo (1998, or Triangle) was the first of these films that depicted a femme lesbian in the lead, who never identified as a “man trapped in a woman’s body” like its earlier counterparts. Another is the psychological drama Sabel (2004) while some films featured femme lesbians in the ensemble, such as the teen-oriented film Trip (2001).

While Tatlo Magkasalo contributed a huge role of lesbian depiction in Philippine cinema, the elements that befell the lesbian characters in the story are not at all that positive. One of the lesbian lovers died of cancer while the other one got married and had a baby with a man despite her vow of never forgetting her deceased ex-partner. Sabel has a good story in it but the treatment of the lesbian characters remains archaic. In the film, the lead character of Sabel, a nun in the beginning, finds herself being dragged to different experiences which eventually lead her to have a man-woman-replicated relationship with a manly-looking butch lesbian (who gets mugged and raped in the film). And because Trip is intended for a Rated-PG13 audience, the lesbian desire is downplayed and is only revealed towards the end as a surprise plot twist for one of the characters, a twist that doesn’t lead much to any other expression of lesbian desire.

Despite these rather negative elements, what’s good about the depiction of lesbianism in the films made in the 1990s and the early 2000s is the verification that lesbian desire is indeed a valid kind of desire, one that lesbians never outgrow, or one that doesn’t get traded in for the comforts of heterosexuality (except sometimes). Finally, as Rich surmised, the unspeakable is now pronounced:

Lesbian existence comprises both the breaking of a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life, it is also a direct or indirect attack on male right of access to women. (Rich 239)

 

The Out-of-the-box Catch

While the advent of digital filmmaking opened up new avenues for queer films, it is important to see whether these newer slew of queer films with lesbian characters continue to perpetrate the old notions about lesbians and lesbianism in Philippine society or whether they present a totally different picture of lesbianism as reflected from the Philippine society of today.

As for the notion of being a “man trapped in a woman’s body,” the digital films Rome and Juliet, Tuli and Trabaho do not overtly carry such notions within the storylines or within the characters that exhibited female-to-female desire when it comes to physical characterization. All of them destroy the notion that lesbians need to look like men, have to act or dress up like men. Hence, we see typically feminine-looking women in these characters whose lesbianism will not be construed unless they openly declare it verbally or through their actions.

However, in the case of Rome and Juliet, the lesbian desire differs in the sense that both women who find desire for each other do not start out as queer-identified women. Both are depicted as straight women with active sex lives and romantic affairs with men. Only when they got to spend quality time together do their desires for each other get recognized and eventually consummated, albeit the disastrous consequences. However, until the film ends, we do not hear or see either character declare themselves as women-loving-women, just women who incidentally fell in love with another woman at a certain point in time.

It could be argued that both women in Rome and Juliet are trapped in their preconceived heterosexual roles, even if both exist in binary opposites of the Filipina identity – on one end ensconcing the sexually liberated option reminiscent of the Filipina urbanite while on the other end ensconcing the conservatively subdued by the male reminiscent of the subordinate and unquestioning rural lass. Thus, the presentation of an alternative to their societal structures gave them a key to unlock a radically new kind of freedom, as described by Wittig:

…(L)esbianism provides for the moment the only social form in which we can live freely. Lesbian is the only concept I know of which is beyond the categories of sex (woman and man), because the designated subject (lesbian) is not a woman, either economically, or politically, or ideologically. For what makes a woman is a specific social relation to a man, a relation that we have previously called servitude, a relation which implies personal and physical obligation as well as economic obligation (“forced residence,” domestic corvée, conjugal duties, unlimited production of children, etc.), a relation which lesbians escape by refusing to become or to stay heterosexual. (Wittig 108)

As for Tuli, at least one of the women couple is depicted as a straight woman having romantic and sexual relations with a man while the other, Daisy the protagonist, declares her being a tomboy openly only upon defending her relationship with her lover best friend. The lead character’s desires, however, are first presented ambiguously, and only when Daisy’s object of affection gets heartbroken by a man does she reveal her true desires for her woman friend. Unlike Rome and Juliet, though, towards the third part of the film, the two women lovers of Tuli already identify as a loving lesbian couple who eventually aim to have a home of their own, a loving home with a child in tow.

Daisy’s expressions of lesbian desire, though, could still be construed as somewhat a parallelism of the “man trapped in a woman’s body” notion in terms of socialization, as she proposed to her would-be lover that “she is willing to present herself as the husband” (“aasawahin kita”) to fill in the shoes of the man who supposedly impregnated her best friend. Since the patriarchal notion that man is only for a woman, the lesbian needs to reorient herself and go with the flow, so to speak, of this notion, articulating her lesbian desires and presenting them as male, not because she wants to but because it is the only way she knows how.

Trabaho also smashes this stereotype as it presents lesbians who look like your average girls on the street or neighborhood dressed like women who prefer wearing jeans and shirts rather than dresses and blouses. It also reflects a reality of the Philippine lesbian scene where the friendly term for a male friend (“pare”) is used to refer to each other, but without meaning to be macho or have that “man trapped in a woman’s body” mindset.

Regarding the notion that lesbians fall in love exclusively with straight women, only Tuli defies this among the three films as it shows the total transformation of both women lovers who eventually become proud of their lesbian desire. Rome and Juliet leaves the audiences with a mere speculation as to what both characters might be thinking and it’s anybody’s guess where they are heading after their tragedy-filled lesbian tryst. Meanwhile, Trabaho still mirrors this old notion of lesbians falling for straight women and is carried on all throughout the film.

While most—if not all—lesbian storylines in mainstream Philippine cinema appear negative, this negativity was also reflected in several tones of the three films. In Rome and Juliet, tragedy after tragedy befell the conservative straight Juliet after she fell for the sultry Rome, as Juliet’s father died, her wedding was called off, and she was hit by a car and ended in a coma. Even if she eventually woke up from the coma, the film leaves a negative impression of what might happen to straight women who become “bi-curious” and enact their woman-to-woman desire.

In Trabaho, there are no big tragedies involving the lesbian character, only the typical heartbreak a lesbian gets from partnering up with a straight-identified woman (who always leaves the lesbian for a man in the end) plus the main dilemma of all the characters in the film regarding their lack of luck in looking for a job.

Of the three, Tuli doesn’t show any huge negative consequences that befell the characters who turned out to be lesbians. In fact, one could say that they were able to muster enough strength to face their detractors in their simple-minded small rural town, and they ended up as the victors of their battles.

 

Implications

With the three films in consideration, it is obvious that a lot has changed after a decade when it comes to portrayals of lesbians and lesbianism in general. Lesbianism is not treated as a device for gender-bending jokes anymore, unlike what was depicted in the Jack and Jill movies. Nor do lesbians have to look like men if they are going to be portrayed on film.

This outright depiction of a multitude of lesbian desire is a welcome change in the landscape of cinema, as it signifies that in the predominantly Catholic society, patriarchy is very much being challenged by artists, especially when it comes to the representation of different facets of desire, constantly redefining what is erotic. As Lorde pointed out:

This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, become a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe. (Lorde 341)

Perhaps the move towards femme lesbians taking the lead in cinema mirrors what was being seen about Philippine lesbians since the early 2000s where a lot of femme-to-femme pairings are slowly starting to come out, aside from the traditional heterosexual mimicry of the butch-femme role-playing pairings that still remains to this day. In fact, the multitude of representations within the LGBT community today could lead us to conclude that sexuality is an ever-evolving facet of human existence, a facet which should not make us judge outright, as pointed out by Innes and Lloyd:

As lesbians, we need to make sure that we don’t create definitions that function to delineate who is a “proper” lesbian and who is not. Articulating what elements make up various queer identities, from the butch to the femme to the queer to the “clone,” is vitally important in order to understand how gender is produced and performed among queers. Exploring the many facets of such images also helps to elucidate the virulent homophobia that some of these individuals, such as butches, experience. (Innes and Lloyd 27)

The notion that lesbians are predators of straight women are already passé as we see straight women crossing that sexuality line themselves, without being forced by lesbian-identified lovers. At least two of the films, Rome and Juliet and Tuli, carry this progressive stance as we see two clearly straight-identified women fall in love in the former while we see a formerly straight-identified woman settle in her lesbian nest comfortably and without prejudice.

Trabaho even brings it up a notch when the femme lesbian character decides to use her femininity to lure a heterosexual man to gather evidence of his infidelity by dressing up “as a babe” (“Wow, bebot ako!”) and seducing the man successfully. This scene indeed implies that femme lesbians could also use their sensualities to lure whoever they want, straight men included, short of becoming a sort of “lesbian femme fatale.”

 

Conclusions and recommendations

Given that the mode of production of these three films are comparatively cheaper than the previous budget practices in the Philippines, one would think that the content—by way of the film’s story, plot and characterization—would be the factors that will be more fully developed, as is often the case with other local independent digital films, some of which, as previously mentioned, won in prestigious international film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and Sundance.

Since Rome and Juliet, Tuli and Trabaho were made within the independent filmmaking scheme, there have been attempts and efforts in redefining lesbian desire in Philippine cinema. While it is clear that their intentions are dramatically well, perhaps some of the filmmakers behind the stories need to research more on several nuances of lesbian desire and lesbianism in general, especially pertaining to lesbian desire in the Philippine context. Rome and Juliet purports that the film was well-researched yet we still see a negative portrayal of a would-be lesbian, which appears more like a cautionary tale for those who want to cross over to the other side. Had the film ended on a positive note, however, there would have been less criticism about it because the lesbian struggle will not be seen as trivialized, which it sadly did.

Tuli is a different case. The whole film suffers much regarding the narrative development but the lesbian desire storyline portrayed here is the most authentic of the three films I studied. And despite the negative setbacks the lesbian characters had, they still ended up as victors in their own right towards the end.

Trabaho also ends up in a negative light as we see a different kind of lesbian predator in its midst – those who seduce men in order to taint a negative image of them, in the hopes that the lesbians would be preferred over men by the straight women they are wooing.

If independent cinema presents itself as an out-of-the-box alternative to mainstream formula fare, then perhaps its practitioners need to redefine the nuances and variations to be considered when it comes to letting out lesbians in their closets. It is still a hit-and-miss venture for non-lesbians to create or approximate an accurate portrayal of lesbians and lesbianism. But not to dismiss the effort altogether, I personally see these representations as digital independent cinema’s baby steps which, hopefully, would lead to the more realized, accurate and engendered affirmative portrayals of lesbians in Philippine cinema. Perhaps filmmakers merely need to realize the political implications of their personal choices when they decide to create lesbian characters for film, as they would be carrying with them some centuries-long discourses of gender and sexuality, especially when it comes to portraying an oppressed sub-population in an already marginalized population such as homosexuals, as pointed by Rich:

…(W)e can say that there is a nascent feminist political content in the act of choosing a woman lover or life partner in the face of institutionalized heterosexuality. But for lesbian existence to realize this political content in an ultimately liberating form, the erotic choice must deepen and expand into conscious woman identification—into lesbian feminism. (Rich 245)

Thus, even if not all lesbians identify as feminists, there is an inherent need to constantly examine and re-examine how lesbians see themselves depicted on the silver screen, especially when the ones doing the depicting are not within their own ranks of sexuality. Filmmakers should be equally conscious of that factor.

Still, not all is lost in this critique of representation. Cinema continues to evolve, thanks to the continuous experimentations and presentations of new strategies of discourse in queer film texts. As articulated by Leung, Philippine queer cinema, especially those made in the independent mode, offers exciting alternatives of discourse as they present realities that have been long existing in society albeit quietly, similar to the projects of queer Asian independent films in general.

Compared to mainstream films, independent films are far more inclined to represent explicit queer sexuality, and they do so in creative, unrestrained and at times humorous ways. Queer indie films from Asia have also moved away from the melodramatic plots more typical of mainstream features, which often dwell on themes like the difficulty of coming out, the tension with family, the tragedy of unrequited love. Instead, indie films are more interested in more abstract and universal; themes such as urban alienation, national identity and histories of injustice. By exploring these questions from the perspectives of queer characters and in a recognizably queer cinematic style, queer indie films have reclaimed some of the grand narratives of cinema for queer audiences. (Leung 14)

Perhaps more lesbians need to step in and film their own stories, in the end. But that is another discussion altogether. //

 

REFERENCES

Cantor, Libay Linsangan. “Lesbiana Lesbiana, Paano Ka Isinapelikula?” Tabi-Tabi

   sa Pagsasantabi: Kritikal na Tala ng mga Lesbiana at Bakla sa Sining, Kultura

   at Wika. Eds. Eugene Y. Evasco, Roselle V. Pineda and Rommel B. Rodriguez.

Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2003.

Cunningham, Daniel Mudie. “Queer Cinema Since 1997.” Bent Lens (Second ed.).

Eds. Lisa Daniel, Claire Jackson. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2003.

Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” The Lesbian and Gay

   Studies Reader. Eds. Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, David M. Halperin.

New York: Routledge, 1993.

Frye, Marilyn. “Separatism and Power.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader.

Eds. Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, David M. Halperin. New York:

Routledge, 1993.

Garcia, J. Neil C. Philippine Gay Culture. Quezon City: University of the Philippines

Press, 2008.

Hayes, Nick. “Death of the Reel.” Newsweek Sept. 2007: 12.

Humm, Maggie. The Dictionary of Feminist Theory (Second Edition). UK: Prentice

Hall-Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1995.

Innes, Sherrie and Michele E. Lloyd. “G.I. Joes in Barbie Land.” Queer Studies:

   A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender Anthology. Eds. Brett Beemyn and

Mickey Eliason. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Leung, Helen Hok-Sze. “Queer Asian Cinemas.” Bent Lens (Second ed.). Eds.

Lisa Daniel, Claire Jackson. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2003.

Lorde, Audre. “The Uses of the Erotic.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader.

Eds. Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, David M. Halperin. New York:

Routledge, 1993.

Rich, Adrienne. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” The Lesbian

   and Gay Studies Reader. Eds. Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, David M.

Halperin. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Wittig, Monique. “One is Not Born a Woman.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader.

Eds. Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, David M. Halperin. New York:

Routledge, 1993.

 

END NOTES:

[i] Prior to Cinemalaya, the Philippines already has a rich tradition of independent filmmaking which run parallel to the development of mainstream studio filmmaking in the country. The earliest full-length celluloid films of Philippine cinema pioneers such as Manuel Conde were independently-produced. Similarly, during the 1980s, filmmakers who participated in the Mowelfund filmmaking workshops produced a veritable body of narrative and experimental short films shot on celluloid (8mm, 16mm and 35mm) which were considered as part of the “alternative cinema” scene of the country. Some of these Mowelfund-honed filmmakers went on to create independently-produced full-length films using celluloid—such as Raymond Red’s Bayani and Sakay—and eventually joined the digital revolution with their own independently-produced digital full-length films, such as the critically-acclaimed works of Lav Diaz.

[ii] During the 1980s, Viva Films flourished with their romantic drama films featuring the most popular celebrity cinematic love teams, featuring them in typical love story plots.

 

[Academic Paper] Tweeting from the closet: (Re)defining the Filipino queer woman via microblogging

•August 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Hello! So I’m back here to fulfill a promise to myself: to blog more! Again! So let’s try it!

In line with an online magazine’s interview about queer life online, I’m posting my 2012 paper here, for scholars who would find this useful. Please feel free to reference, not plagiarize, okay?

This academic paper was written in 2012, polished in 2013, and presented at the 2013 ICSPS or International Conference on Social and Political Sciences with the theme “Media and Globalization: Utopian and Dystopian Views” held at the very Ateneo-looking campus of Universitas Pelita Harapan (or UPH or as the Indonesians call it, “Upeha”) in Tangerang, like a province away from Jakarta. Man, that was such as fun experience, presenting this paper there. I also learned many things about our Indonesian neighbors, especially how oppressive the media situation is in neighboring countries, and also I made new friends in the media teaching world in the region. That was sweet.

The conference proceedings published all of our papers in book format, and no online source of that exists. So I decided to upload this here, in the hopes that more studies like these will happen. I’m presenting it like how academic journal submissions would look like, and how this will look like when published in one. I just updated it to reflect my 2017 professional details.

Thanks, and enjoy!

Tweeting from the closet: (Re)defining the Filipino queer woman via microblogging
By Prof. Libay Linsangan Cantor
Media Educator

About the Contributor:
Cantor holds a BA degree in Film and Audiovisual Communication and an MA degree in English Studies: Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines Diliman. A feminist/queer advocate based in Manila, she is an award-winning fictionist, a former scriptwriter-director of children’s TV programs, a freelance lifestyle/entertainment journalist, and a former assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Film Institute. She currently holds media-related freelance consultancies with international and local organizations in the development sector and the academe, such as UN Women Philippines Project Office, the Dep-Ed attached agency called National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT), and the Thailand-based Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

Abstract:
The proverbial homosexual closet still exists in the digital age and takes on newer forms, especially within various online social networking platforms. This paper would like to do an analysis of one particular “closet” that women-loving-women – however they identify (lesbian, bisexual, queer, etc.) – are utilizing via the microblogging site Twitter.

In a published report, there are about 9.5 million Twitter users in the Philippines as of August 2012, ranking it in the 10th position of the countries that use this microblogging site the most. As a social networking medium, Twitter has contributed to the ongoing democratization of the “publish yourself” platform where traditional media gatekeepers’ heavy-handed participation has lessened dramatically, freeing marginalized netizens to occupy their own respective spaces in the information superhighway. But just how free and democratic could these platforms serve women if they are still being utilized by closeted individuals? Or is the usage of this social media tool redefining the concept of the closet as we know it?

This paper will examine how Twitter is becoming a venue of interaction among lesbians who aren’t out offline but who are tweeting as out and proud netizens online. Using the framework of queer feminist identity politics, it will try to investigate how such interactions happen, what identities are popularly using the platform, and how the woman-loving-woman is being constructed as an entity and identity in such spaces. In particular, lesbian-identified accounts will be followed and examined to trace patterns of interactions among its owners and followers, in the process reexamining how a closet could be used to propagate empowerment in identity-neutral internet spaces while formulating the types of women-loving-women identities being formed and propagated by such interactions.

Tweeting from the closet:
(Re)defining the Filipino queer woman via microblogging
By Prof. Libay Linsangan Cantor
 
Introduction

With the information superhighway expanding to accommodate many global netizens on a daily basis, it is a curiosity to see just how different sets of people utilize different online platforms for their personal communication and self-expression needs. Particularly, with the anonymity that the internet provides users, it is even a bigger curiosity to examine how marginalized individuals who have been kept out of the limelight of traditional communication platforms take charge of this new online realm to their advantage.

It is therefore the purpose of this paper to decipher how a specific population of the marginalized sector of Philippine society utilizes part of the internet for their communication and self-expression needs. Particularly, the paper will focus on self-identified queer women (within the identities of the lesbian, bisexual and non-labeling woman-loving-woman) who use a particular online platform – Twitter.Com. The objective of the study is to see how current users of this platform present themselves as queer women and what kinds of queer women identities are being created online. The rationale of looking at the kinds of identities point to the goal of learning whether Filipino queer women on Twitter are reflecting advocacies that promote queer human rights (particularly of a lesbian feminist strand) or whether the identities being formed and the conversations being made still reflect decades-old struggles around lesbian feminist emancipation from heterosexist societal structures.

The study will focus on the year 2012 when the dominant lesbian Twitter accounts started appearing and gaining popularity. The paper will trace the beginnings of these accounts within the context of other gendered accounts. It will then focus on analyzing posts or tweets and conversations exchanged by the account owners and their followers. Conclusions will be drawn upon the analysis of this information.

The general Filipino internet experience

Different types of social media studies that have been conducted and published from 2010 onwards have always mentioned the Philippines as the “social media capital” of the world (Russell, 2011). Even if there is still a great digital divide in the country – particularly evident in the rural areas and other immediate areas outside of metropolitan city centers – populated by 80 million citizens, about an estimated 29 percent (Montecillo, 2012) of that population still find ways and means to go online and make their presence felt, making Filipinos count as viable drivers and pedestrians in this information superhighway.

Filipinos still access the internet mostly though their own personal computers at home or their office computers at work. Students also take advantage of free Wi-Fi services or free internet in their school libraries’ computers. Tablets like the famous Ipad are also becoming must-have gadgets for many middle and upper class citizens, making mobile access more possible. The less fortunate or less equipped of the lot still rely on a per-hour computer rental in their neighborhood internet cafés for their online surfing needs. The recognized and most favored means of mobile communication of the country – the cellular phone – is also helping the average Filipino find more online time since the cellphone is already a fixture of life for most Filipinos who are so adept at SMS texting and now, web surfing via their prepaid or postpaid mobile internet smartphone subscriptions. Different telecommunications companies have all offered various ways of making unlimited SMS texting and mobile internet surfing affordable for many Filipinos.

Regardless of how Filipinos access the internet, many who go online still share a common purpose: to keep abreast of the latest news (Santos, 2012) and entertainment/pop culture offerings as a form of informing one’s self, to log into their social networking accounts in order to keep in touch with their friends and family in the country or those living or working abroad, and to socialize and share personal information in platforms like the old Friendster, the newer site Facebook and similar platforms.

Indeed, many types of Filipinos subscribe to the internet, follow certain websites and post information that they deem relevant to their own selves according to their various identities. Thus, we see many politically-laden blogs, Facebook pages addressing particular types of communities and sub-communities, and social networking accounts shared by like-minded individuals and groups with common interests and goals.

It is therefore no surprise that the social networking microblogging site Twitter.com will also become one of the favorite platforms of Filipinos to express themselves, to keep in touch with personal and professional people in their circles, and follow certain accounts that they read for entertainment or other personal gratification purposes.

Twitter encapsulated

With the advent of early social networking platforms in 2000, many internet users found different ways to express themselves online. The popularity of the blog further enhanced this form of self-expression as people could now publish themselves online without the typical media gatekeepers present in traditional publishing platforms. With the combination of the blog and social networking, sites that offered this combination became popular in the early 2000s like Friendster (founded in 2002), MySpace (founded in 2003) and Multiply.Com (founded in 2004). Aside from the usual text posts, photos and other audiovisual materials could also be shared in these spaces by people to their followers, subscribers or those people who opted to follow their accounts.

Yet with these information-heavy platforms, perhaps people also found it refreshing to hold accounts in simpler social networking platforms that could still do this information sharing without the complications of maintaining accounts with cumbersome designs. Thus, the microblogging phenomenon erupted, and Twitter (founded in 2006) now leads this short information-sharing phenomenon. Other sites like Tumblr (founded in 2007) and Plurk (founded in 2008) are also considered as microblogging sites – with Plurk mostly resembling Twitter while Tumblr still has a feel of being a blog – while Facebook’s status updates could also be considered as microblogs with its limited character posts. But the most popular of the lot still remains to be Twitter.

With its 140 character-post limit, Twitter was established for the purpose of posting short live updates. Initially designed as a social networking tool to connect a person to his or her immediate circle of friends and family, each post or tweet could be informative or just plain nonsensical, and anything in between. Just like in any social networking platform, anybody could create multiple accounts on Twitter. They can then follow accounts of people in their immediate circles, subscribe to accounts of different establishments they patronize, follow product brands or stores that have Twitter accounts for marketing and promotional purposes, follow famous personalities who tweet personal thoughts on their accounts, and also subscribe to various media outlets that tweet headlines and links to online news pages.

Regardless of how people use and perceive Twitter, the site is still one of the most popular microblogging social networking sites online, especially since reaching half a billion accounts (“Twitter reaches half a billion,” 2012). And with the Filipino’s penchant for trying social networking platforms, it was revealed in a mid-2012 survey that around 9.5 million Filipinos have Twitter accounts, making the Philippines the 10th country in the world to popularly use this social networking platform according to the June 2012 study by Semiocast, the French company that specializes in social media research and data intelligence studies. But a January 2013 update of the study now revealed that the Philippines is in number eight on this list, now surpassing Canada (formerly 8th now 10th) and Spain (still on 9th). Other Asian countries on the top ten list are Japan (3rd), Indonesia (5th) and India (6th) while U.S. (1st), Brazil (2nd) and Mexico (7th) complete the list in their non-changing spots. However, oddly enough, the Philippine capital city of Manila is nowhere on the Semiocast parallel study of the top 20 cities by the number of posted tweets in 2012. Most of the identified cities on this list are from the countries identified in the top 10 list, with Jakarta heading this top 20 cities list.

From this 2012 data alone, one could wonder just how people actually use and integrate Twitter in their daily lives. More importantly, it is also interesting to find out what kinds of sub-populations and sub-cultures are actively being reflected and promoted online in this space. And since social media is a platform of how previously voiceless populations could use the space to air out their issues and concerns, it is but natural perhaps that often marginalized and voiceless citizens of a given population will eventually take to these platforms in order to finally have a voice in some form of media.

One of these previously voiceless people from the margins is queer women.

The humor-based gendered Twitter accounts

Filipinos laugh a lot, and subscribe to humor a lot. This is why social networking sites in the Philippines also reflect this Filipino trait or personality.

In the Philippines, many blogs and online platforms are used as providers of humor. Satirical and humorous blog writers or account holders could already be popular figures in the local entertainment or pop culture scene while some are anonymously-maintained accounts that usually provide sarcastic humor or satirical comedic posts to its followers or subscribers. In Twitter, there are similar accounts that are maintained and followed by many. The accounts could actually pertain to real people but are merely mock accounts. Or some accounts are fictional in nature wherein popular fictional pop culture characters tweet information according to that particular character’s behavior and personality. There are even humorous Twitter accounts of famous people in Philippine history who are obviously dead already, as their account holders tweet tongue-in-cheek observations and humorous or sarcastic commentary on current events that happen in the country, still according to the personality and character of that specific historical figure should he or she be alive today.

Yet these kinds of humorous approaches were not popularized on Twitter first but on Facebook. When Filipinos actively took to Facebook (founded in 2004) by the late 2000s, these kinds of humorous posts and exchanges populated the social networking site and circulated among Filipinos. Several examples could be seen in many western-originated memes that reflected the notion of “if there was Facebook during the time of certain historical events” and the local meme counterparts that also mimicked this humor.

These types of humor were then reflected from Facebook to Twitter. With the penchant for using sarcasm and caustic one-liners in such humorous accounts and posts, there were several Twitter accounts that became popular in 2012 that carried this kind of posts, perhaps starting out as Twitter memes that eventually had a life of its own. There was a particular trend that was also gender-related and humor-laced. In a still predominantly Catholic country which is seemingly always on the cusp of modernity and conservatism, gender roles and gender biases still exist in the predominantly patriarchal country. However, since the exposure to globalization, times are changing quite a bit and that is being reflected slowly in popular culture and mass media. Plus of course it is also still the subject of endless criticism, self-reflection, and humor.

All of these things were reflected in the gendered humorous Twitter accounts that were popular in 2012. Particularly, these gendered humorous accounts – maintained anonymously by obviously witty, learned and intelligent persons based on their kinds of tweets – provided many of its followers the typical Filipino humor that combines self-mocking, mocking others and being lighthearted while critiquing heavy issues. It is thus no wonder that most of these accounts carried the famous Filipino shortened cussword of “tangina” which is derived from “putangina” or loosely translated could either mean “son of a bitch” or “your mother is a whore” or even something close to the American pejorative “motherfucker.” As a shortened version, “tangina” also became a cussword that is nonchalantly spoken by someone who experienced a sudden surge of emotion whether of a negative or positive kind, making it a common interjection of Filipino people of different ages and sexes.

This trend of having cussword-named gendered humor accounts began with the popularity of two particular accounts that primarily poke fun at being a Filipino male or a Filipino female. Sarcastic observations about anything under the sun regarding Philippine society were tweeted to followers of said accounts, of course tailored to fit the embodied person of a specific account. Some tweets sting, some poke fun at being Filipino, and most of the posts are tongue-in-cheek humorous.

Originally, there were two gender-specific accounts that deal with gender-specific thoughts. The two famous accounts are Tangina Mars (@TanginaMars) and Tangina Bro (@TanginaBro). Tangina Mars is a combination of the shortened “tangina” Filipino cussword with the informal term of “mars” included in it. “Mars” pertains to how women call each other as friends, stemming from the word “kumare” which originally pertains to how two female friends could become closely attached like relatives by being the godmothers of one of the women’s child during the child’s Christian/Catholic baptism. The male counterpart of this “kumare” or “mars” term is supposedly “kumpare” or “pars” for short, but the Twitter counterpart of Tangina Mars do not reflect this “pars” term. Instead, its counterpart of Tangina Bro used the term “bro” or short for “brother” which is an American-originated slang term to pertain to a male close friend. “Bro” as an informal slang term for male friends is also popular in middle class university-educated people in the Philippines. It was even made more popular in 2009-2010 by a local television drama series that pertained to a boy calling a Jesus figure as “bro” (Mayol, 2010).

Often, the holders of such accounts also poke fun at the stereotypes identified with their gender identity. This is more evident in Tangina Bro as the tweets often reflect self-criticisms of Filipino machismo, or the macho-laden tweets are being posted by someone who is obviously aware that he is being sexist in nature, making it even funnier and self-deprecating at times. Tangina Bro is the heterosexual male representation in this case. Tangina Mars, meanwhile, pokes fun at the things that supposedly preoccupy heterosexual women, mostly coming from the vantage point of a single urban-dwelling woman always looking for love. Sometimes we hear thoughts and frustrations of being a single Filipina and all things connected with that concern, from finding a date, dealing with family who pressure single women to get married, gushing about male crushes and infatuations, and being snide or catty about criticisms regarding fashion or pop culture. If Tangina Bro is the heterosexual male representation, then Tangina Mars is the heterosexual female representation counterpart.

Again, it’s important to note that all of these accounts have one overt objective: to provide humor. However, as with things in Filipino culture, reality sometimes bites, and the Filipino sense of humor reflects these stings, making it even funnier, as people laugh at themselves and laugh at the society that encases these realities. This is why these types of satirical and sarcastic Twitter accounts are very popular within the Filipino Twitter universe, immediately gathering many followers at the beginning of their creation (see Table 1).

Not to be outdone, the Philippine lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Twitter universe also got into the picture of these satirical gendered accounts. The local LGBTQ Twitter universe became more colorful in 2012 with the creation of several identity-specific accounts that also provided equally witty, sarcastic, downright silly and explicitly engaging tweets pertaining to the local LGBTQ communities where the account holders supposedly belong.

For the gay counterpart following the “tangina” cussword vein, there were about two accounts that started representing a gay man persona in the form of Tangina Beki (@Tanginabeki) and Shutangina Becks (@ShutanginaBecks). “Shutangina” is the gay lingo version of the “tangina” word while “beki” and “becks” are shortened terms that refer to the latest gay lingo term for the Filipino word for “gay” which is “bakla.” However, both these accounts were very short-lived; Tangina Beki’s last tweet was July 24, 2012 while Shutangina Becks’ last tweet was on June 20, 2012.

However, another account emerged during that time which became the most popular of these queered “tangina” accounts, and it also came by the name of Shutangina Beks (@ShutangInaBeks) using “beks” as another variation of the “becks” term. The persona behind this account uses a lot of local slang gay lingo which is predominantly a mixture of the Filipino language, some English words and the current gay lingo version of some Filipino terms or words. This is why followers might not immediately understand the nuances of this fun sub-language, unless one is based in Metro Manila or is exposed to Manila-produced pop culture happenings via mainstream media. This is because this kind of gay lingo is very popular within the entertainment industry (film, television, radio, online sites) and is becoming more familiar to media consumers.

The gay-identifying account holder of Shutangina Beks is very much ensconced in Metro Manila and as a pop culture media consumer via the tweets he posts, even though these posts are about gay observations as seen from a fun gay man’s point of view such as observations from riding jeepneys, comments about the fashion sense of people around, and of course happiness about crushes and frustrations about a hopeful or lost love life or romantic and sexual inclinations. But instead of being alienating, the use of gay lingo actually enhances the humor more and makes the account followers more engaged in it.

Shortly after Shutangina Beks became popular, the lesbian counterpart of this phenomenon was the Tangina Tibs (@TanginaTibs) account, with “tangina” still carrying the same meaning and “tibs” is used as a shortened term for “tibô” or a sometimes pejorative-implied colloquial term for lesbian. Tangina Tibs gained a lot of followers not by also being overtly stand-up comedy-humorous in its posts or tweets like Shutangina Beks but by tweeting specific aspects of lesbian thoughts that one would have to read between the lines if you’re not “in the know” about lesbian life. Like the other “tangina” accounts, most of these double entendre type of tweets pertain to sex but there are also sentimental tweets about love, infatuation and the never-ending struggles that come with finding love, losing love or rebuilding one’s self after the loss of love.

These gendered Twitter accounts were all created since January and/or February 2012. After these four major “tangina” gendered accounts became popular among Filipino Twitter users by the first and second quarter of 2012, other similar gendered accounts not previously represented by the gay spectrum and the lesbian spectrum came out. To represent the bisexual – particularly the bisexual woman – there was a Tangina Silahis (@TanginaSilahis) account, carrying the “tangina” line of humor again and using the old Filipino term for bisexual which is “silahis.” The account holder is obviously female since it creates many allusions to a bisexual woman’s lifestyle and even directly engages the Tangina Tibs account in some posts.

A counterpart bisexual male persona is reflected in another bisexual account in the form of Tangina Confused (@TanginaConfused). Still continuing the “tangina” line of humor, the bisexual male tweets pertain mostly to the state of being bisexual but in that often joked about “confused identity” way, meaning the bisexual person is perceived to be confused in his identity whether he is gay or straight. But like with the self-awareness of the machismo strategy of Tangina Bro, Tangina Confused also carries this underlying self-awareness of this usual “confused bisexual” stereotype.

Account name Date of creation No. of followers

(as of January 2013)

No. of tweets-retweets

(as of January 2013)

Tangina Bro January 17, 2012 170,734 1,093
Tangina Mars January 24, 2012 18,575 3,214
Shutangina Becks January 27, 2012 1,026 481
Tangina Beki January 30, 2012 182 175
Shutangina Beks February 5, 2012 79,104 9,886
Tangina Tibs February 7, 2012 2,838 4,180
Tangina Silahis February 9, 2012 33 12
Tangina Confused February 13, 2012 107 186

Table 1. List of “tangina” gendered accounts and number of followers.

All of the gendered “tangina” accounts are still open and existing as of this writing (January 2013) but both the bisexual accounts mentioned are not active with new posts any longer. Tangina Silahis’ posts actually lasted for two days only, right after its creation on February 9, 2012. Tangina Confused’s last post was April 2012. While there are times that the other four major “tangina” accounts occasionally wane a bit in its maintenance (meaning there are no multiple posts or tweets in a given day, and there are several consecutive days that there are no posts) – probably due to the personal lives of the account holders affecting their social media engagements – their existence still provides the wit and humor that they all maintained from the beginning. Plus their followers are still there.

It is also important to note that these gendered accounts are maintained by people who want to remain anonymous. Sometimes, there are calls from their respective followers to “out” themselves and present who they are. Sometimes the account holders tease their followers by giving clues to their personalities. But all of the accounts have remained true to their anonymous states except Tangina Tibs who actively meets her followers once in a while, prompting her to reveal her true identity to some of them.

The Twitter lesbian representation

Immediately after Tangina Tibs became popular among Filipino lesbian and bisexual women, other lesbian representations came out and opened accounts not within the “tangina” vein but within the vein of being a Filipino woman-loving-woman. And the accounts also pertain to specific nuances of the Filipino woman-loving-woman’s persona of representation that fall within the traditional split identity of the butch and femme lesbian, with the butch persona carrying the more macho identity while the femme persona carrying the more feminine identity – still the predominant identity politics in the Filipino lesbian community (Cantor, 2012). Alongside the masculine-feminine self-expression, the traditional man-woman heterocentric gender roles are also reflected in these butch-femme relationships.

For example, one of these earlier active accounts was called OMG Tomboy (@OMGTomboy) which was handled by a butch persona, with the OMG pertaining to the slang acronym for “Oh my God!” But instead of being anonymous, she actually outed herself one time by showing her picture and her real account, and she encouraged her followers to follow her real account. Most of the tweets and retweets in OMGTomboy’s account always pertain to lesbians grieving about lost loves, or hanging on to love or regretting losing a love, and other things related to matters of the sensitive heart. However, after being obviously active in its first two to three months of existence, the account is no longer active and has already been deleted.

Meanwhile, the Filipino tomboyZ (@ProudtomboyZ) account is another account that came out after the Tangina Tibs explosion. The tweets in this account pertain mostly to lesbian affirmations and other positive posts to uplift the Filipino lesbian spirit, especially those who have been downtrodden by love. Like OMG Tomboy, the nuances of the account owner’s persona, as reflected in her tweets, also pertain to a butch identity. This is also evident in the kinds of conversations the account owner tries to start, with the purpose of engaging the femme followers.

More butch-identified accounts were created but they carried varied tones. One of the most active during this time was Butch Kasi Eh (@ButchKasiEh), with “butch kasi, eh” loosely translated as “hey, it’s butch” or “because it’s butch” which is somehow pertaining to an answer of a question that could be formulated as “Why is the situation/habit/personality/ person like that?” This account waned in its activity and its last post was made on December 23, 2012. Another butch-made account was Sweet Na Tibs (@SweetNaTibs) which carried the premise that only positive-affirming lovelorn-type of tweets will be posted here to reflect the sweetness of lesbians, hence the name “sweet na tibs” or “sweet lesbian.” The account holder is not anonymous as she regularly posts her personal account (and her photo) in the hopes of inviting new followers to subscribe to her. The account was short-lived though, and its last post was made on October 11, 2012.

To add to the mix, a young college-age bisexual girl started the Grabe Bisexual (@GrabeBisexual) account with “grabe” being a Filipino term similar to “gosh” or “grand” depending on the context of its usage, but still pertaining to something spectacular or big. In this case, “grabe” was meant to be used in the similar vein of using the popular slang interjection of “OMG!” or “Oh my gosh!” or “Oh my God!” The account still exists as of this writing, but no new posts have been put out since May 25, 2012.

Other accounts that originally reflected a more genderqueer woman persona (meaning not strictly identifying within the butch and femme dichotomy) are Tomboy Tips (@TomboyTips) and Lez Confessions (@LezConfessions). While the former’s tweets are a random mixture of tips for queer women to cope with their daily life, homophobia or love life, the latter is more of an erotic-laden account that invites its followers to share their “lesbian confessions” meaning their sensual or erotic adventures, activities and fantasies. This account borders on being titillating and teasing but sometimes it also posts tender and romantic tweets about lesbian love. Both are still active as of this writing.

Within the vein of the erotic lesbian persona, a more sexually-direct account was created within the time these accounts also appeared on Twitter. Originally called Sex of Tibs (@SEXofTIBS), this account was very active in its engagement of its followers and tweeted sexually explicit posts in the Filipino language. However, during the last quarter of 2012, it became dormant for a while until its account name was eventually changed. It is now known as Someone To Talk, stripping away all of the queer identification it earlier carried. But with its reincarnation, the account still remained inactive and its last post was made on December 5, 2012.

Other short-lived but notable accounts that came right after the popularity of the gendered Twitter accounts – especially spawned due to Tangina Tibs’ popularity – are Ideal Tomboy (@IdealTomboy, the last post was made on July 5, 2012), Team Tibs (@TeamTibs, the last post was made on April 28, 2012) and Ang Tunay Na Tibo (@Angtunaynatibo) or translated as “The Real Lesbian” (the last post was made on April 13, 2012). They are considered as notable because they were able to carry out engaging posts and hold interesting conversations with their followers during their initially active days.

Account name Date of creation No. of followers

(as of January 2013)

No. of tweets-retweets

(as of January 2013)

ProudTomboyZ January 31, 2012 487 4,093
OMGTomboy February 2012 562 1,105 (as of March 2012)
Ideal Tomboy February 13, 2012 44 63
GrabeBisexual February 25, 2012 505 2,365
Team Tibs March 9, 2012 146 163
TomboyTips March 20, 2012 587 2,044
Ang Tunay Na Tibo March 30, 2012 68 63
SweetNaTibs March 31, 2012 83 346
ButchKasiEh April 4,2012 405 3,843
LezConfessions April 11, 2012 531 3,088
SEXofTIBS/

Someone to talk

May 10, 2012 169 942

Table 2. List of queer women-identified accounts and number of followers.

It is important to note that these accounts also engage with each other as the account owners follow each other, too, creating dialogues and conversations with each other and with the other accounts’ followers as well, creating a dynamic and vibrant queer women transaction and Twitter conversations online. It is also no surprise that many of the followers of these accounts subscribe to these queer women-specific Twitter accounts because they are searching for girlfriends or partners. Some have actually been successful in this endeavor.

It is very interesting to notice that Filipino women-loving-women had this kind of activity on Twitter during this particular timeframe. However, it should be noted that queer women have been active online even before Twitter was created. Filipino queer women, in particular, have been socializing online through various ways and within various platforms.

Filipino Lesbian presence on the internet

Lesbians have always claimed the internet as a viable space to present themselves in a way traditional media often cannot do. While there are several mainstream films and television shows in the country that present women-loving-women storylines, their characterization leaves much to be desired for they are always on the negative and destructive side. The internet, meanwhile, with its freedom to have the world as your audience and to have the freedom to present yourself as you are — without judgments or prejudice — became a space where queer women dialogues happened.

During the late 1990s, gender-specific chat rooms came about in different identity-specific websites that started these online conversations which also transferred offline. A primary example of this is the Gay.Com website (founded in 1997) where LGBTQs signed up for an account so they can access the chat rooms inside. One of the primary chat rooms during that time was the Filipino Lesbian Online or FLO which became popular by 1998 and lasted up to the early 2000s. Chatters soon found another venue to virtually socialize and circulate in when Downelink.Com was created in 2003. A precursor of social networking sites like Friendster and Facebook, Downelink became a very active space for Filipino lesbians to meet other lesbians online and then offline. As the site progressed over time, chat rooms were soon added and the space became more active in creating venues for women-loving-women.

As for reading about Filipino lesbian lives, there were many blogs that began in 2001 and 2002, some of which are still active to this day. Most of these blogs are personal in nature as the owners post details of their life as queer women. Sometimes, there are posts that also pertain to being queer in general, and another kind of dialogue ensued with this type of interaction among the blog owners and readers. The blogs also sometimes become a venue for having lesbians meet each other when the blog owners meet up with the readers (or as popularly called in chat lingo, have “eyeballs” or EBs), and the readers eventually meet each other.

A primary example of such a blog that served that purpose is <firewomyn.blogspot.com> which is maintained by a closeted lesbian corporate worker. Meanwhile, this author’s own personal LGBTQ-specific blog, <leaflens.blogspot.com>, also serves this purpose sometimes but this blog is mostly personal in its narration of Filipino lesbian/queer lives while Firewomyn’s blog makes a very conscious effort of blogging about lesbian-specific happenings, developments and pop culture tidbits in between posting about her personal life as well. Both blogs were created in the early 2000s (Firewomyn’s unmoving blog platform started in 2002 while Leaflens migrated to at least three different platforms from 2001-2004 before resettling back to Blogger.Com in 2005) and are still active these days. Other lesbian bloggers have also appeared online but their content wanes.

Filipinos also love to read, and the obviously middle class queer women have always been hungry to read about queer storylines in any kind of media. There are several lesbian-themed short stories and poetry that have been ingrained in Philippine literature over the decades but they still come few and far between. Online is the next best avenue after literary book anthologies when it comes to finding lesbian-specific print material.

Aside from the personal blogs, there have been several attempts to create queer or lesbian-specific websites full of pop culture, entertainment and lifestyle content that pertains to the Filipino LGBTQ community. One such project was called Weeqender which was started by an openly out twentysomething lesbian advocate to become a travel and lifestyle online magazine. It somehow began during 2009 and was a bit active until 2010 but it was very short-lived and it has since disappeared. Another site named Sapphic Lounge <www.sapphiclounge.com>, meanwhile, tries to become the first online resource of queer-women specific pop culture information online and it came out on November 2011. But majority of Sapphic Lounge’s contents are mainly recaps, reposts or redirections to mostly foreign/American originated pop culture content, with a few local data rehashed and reposted in there as well. The only original articles and writings that it contains are mostly blog-like posts and essays from the site’s owner, who is obviously a closeted young professional lesbian based on her own stories from her posts.

A more formidable source of online queer content is Outrage <www.outragemag.com>, an online magazine spearheaded by an openly out gay man. The magazine features predominantly Filipino content with news items, photos, videos and feature articles and essays pertaining to LGBTQ lives. Unlike Sapphic Lounge, the content of this online magazine are all original writings and photos. It has been up since April 2007. Another website with predominantly queer Filipino-oriented content is the Pinoy LGBT channel of the Philippine Online Chronicles <www.thepoc.net> news and information portal. POC is owned and maintained by Vibal Publishing, a longtime publisher of Filipino textbooks and other educational reading materials. POC was launched in June 2010 and is still very active these days, with the Pinoy LGBT channel producing all-original news items, essays and photos on the Filipino queer life. The channel is managed by an openly out lesbian advocate section editor.

With the typical Filipino queer woman now exposed to such venues and avenues of expression, it is a curiosity as to how they present themselves in terms of identity structure and societal status presentation.

The Filipino queer woman-loving-woman on Twitter

Narrowing down the queer women-specific accounts according to the popularity of their creation and their very active online presence (based on the active tweets of the account owners and the conversations they had with their followers) in the beginning of their creation, this analysis will look at how five accounts – Tangina Tibs, OMG Tomboy, Grabe Bisexual, Tomboy Tips and Lez Confessions – present and construct the Filipino woman-loving-woman identity on Twitter.

Tangina Tibs (@TanginaTibs)

Originally an anonymous account that always teases followers to guess who she is, the Tangina Tibs account started as a fun and humor-laden account that always tweets humorous one-liners pertaining to the lesbian community. Written predominantly in clear, intelligent and wittily structured Filipino or a combination of the colloquial “Taglish” (Tagalog and English, with Tagalog being the basis of the main Filipino language), the posts appear to be created to present fleeting thoughts about women who could be “suspected” or “detected” as lesbians and also tweeted thoughts about how good it is to see many openly out lesbians around. It also tweeted many lesbian-affirming simple observations of a pedestrian nature, as it appears to be an observer of society and then posts thoughts about being lesbian in this midst.

The fun and lively banter in this account began when followers started to engage the account owner and made many types of erotic innuendos and double entendre interjections, making the account holder appear flirtatious but still carrying that wit. Then it also tweeted many posts pertaining to lesbian love, particularly, trying to find a partner. Sometimes the account even gamely “pimped” or promoted some lesbians when their pictures were tweeted with captions saying these women are “single and looking for love” and other similar wordings. All of these were still done in the spirit of humor and fun, making Tangina Tibs more endearing to many of its followers.

Looking closely at the tweets, one would gather that the account owner is a college-educated young lesbian in her late 20s or early 30s. The tone and manner of the tweets reflect a person highly engaged in the local and international (mainly Hollywood/American) pop culture and is an avid media consumer who also tries to find lesbian-specific pop culture tidbits and posts them as well. Sometimes she also tweets university-based thoughts that pertain to the kinds of subcultures reflective of specific lesbians that attend or went to a specific college or university in Metro Manila. For example, there are still female-only secondary and tertiary schools in the Philippines such as Miriam College, St. Scholastica’s College and St. Paul University, mainly private Catholic-run exclusive-for-girls schools. And in these schools, lesbians and bisexual women could be found, and sometimes the students of each school claim to have their own subcultures of lesbianism or bisexuality. These kinds of exchanges are also evident in Tangina Tibs’ posts as she herself confessed that she graduated from one of these schools. This information makes one conclude that the account owner is obviously from Manila’s middle to upper middle class society based on her education, her command of the language, observations about places and areas in Metro Manila, and her general knowledge of media and pop culture information.

Yet by being middle class and college-educated, there is an observation that Tangina Tibs is also advocacy-aware, especially when it came to lesbian feminism, since in a predominantly women-only university, feminism is taught in college courses. Beyond that, young women who came from the aforementioned exclusive schools for girls are also encouraged to become more involved in social issues that concern them, be it environmental issues or women’s rights. This is why there are also very meaningful tweets by Tangina Tibs that critique the lesbian community, specifically criticizing how some lesbians – particularly the macho butch ones – are merely women-crazy or girl-crazy that their mere existence centers solely on finding a girlfriend who will take care of them no matter what. Sometimes, there are also debates when an obviously butch follower replies with sexist implications or espouses patriarchal framings of a girlfriend or a relationship. This is where the different divides in the various identity politics arises, as Tangina Tibs engages some of her followers whenever they espouse these highly sexist macho-laden comments or reactions. The conversation threads usually trail off when the butch stops replying.

Then there are also conversations with other followers where they are trying to decipher whether Tangina Tibs is a butch lesbian or a femme lesbian. But since she is advocacy-aware, this kind of heterosexual butch-femme mimicry is always decried (or downplayed in a kind way) because the butch-femme dichotomy prevalent in Philippine society also carries with it the traditionally oppressive gender roles of the patriarchal man-woman/husband-wife structure that it so emulates. Thus, the account holder and some of her followers also try to express their disdain over such patriarchal leanings and try to espouse a butch-femme dichotomy that is based on gender presentation only, not gender identity, meaning lesbians could dress masculine or feminine because that is their confortable style of fashion and manner of self-presentation, not because they subscribe to the heterocentric man-woman structure. Many of Tangina Tibs’ followers, herself included, subscribe to this kind of specific gender presentation (hers is on the feminine/femme side) while affirming her identity as a lesbian. Then, there are also many who are rather genderqueer whose gender expression could be considered as “in between” the masculine and the feminine, and also identify themselves as lesbian.

Often, the debates in this account reflect social issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community as well, and there are times that the patriarchal butch-femme subscribers would comment on posts that counter homophobia or self-loathing. A particular example is when a butch subscriber mentioned that it is better for her girlfriend to leave her for a man since she cannot compete with that and that lesbians (pertaining to butches) should always expect their girlfriends to eventually leave them anyway since they will “always” look for a man in the end. The butch finds it more “comforting” to be left for a man than to be left for another butch, and in that sense, a kind of competition ensues. Many of Tangina Tibs’ followers, herself included, berated this kind of patriarchal backward thinking and tried to enlighten the butch speaker of the nuances of why her statement is wrong or unacceptable in many counts because of its non-affirmative stance on being a butch or being a lesbian in general.

Thus, from her engagement with her account followers and with the way she uses her language, the identity that Tangina Tibs presents is that of a queer rights-affirmative and intelligent feminine/femme-presenting persona. It is also a valid observation, based on the tweets and self-presentation of her followers, that there is a heavier mix of lesbians who do not subscribe to the patriarchal butch-femme dichotomy but only self-label as lesbians while being comfortable in their way of self-presentation that may sometimes reflect a masculine nature, a feminine nature, or somewhere in between.

OMG Tomboy (@OMGTomboy)

At the other end of the lesbian spectrum opposite Tangina Tibs is the OMG Tomboy account. Ran by a butch persona, hers is of the typical patriarchal-subscribing persona that often reflects a kind of underdog lovelorn persona who is dramatically willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of a woman’s love, yet at the same time acknowledging that her persona of being a butch still pales in comparison with what a “real woman” supposedly wants when it comes to relationships and love – which is a “real man” or, more precisely, a heterosexual man.

In some of her tweets, she even tries to start conversations along this vein, asking her followers – who are also obviously within the butch spectrum like her based on their profile pictures and tweets – whether they still plan to marry a man eventually, obviously hoping to elicit reactions from the femme followers who also subscribe to the patriarchal gender roles affixed to the butch-femme mimicry. There are also many tweets that enumerate the “real behavior/attitude” of women and are framed as a kind of tip or advice similar to how heterosexual men are advised by fellow heterosexual men (colloquially known as “guy’s talk”) on how to understand women based on the premise that men and women are from “different sides of the coin” so to speak – in the process the butch persona identifying with the heterosexual man within this context of framing.

From the way the language of the tweets (predominantly street-slang colloquial Filipino) are presented down to the discussions that are always posted in the account (primarily conversations typical of a group of friends who gather and have drinking sessions, especially the kind of discussions they have when they are heartbroken), the clues lead to a persona of a lower to middle middle class person who sometimes mention that she circulates in the university belt of downtown old Manila where predominantly lower to middle class students study, and where she supposedly studied as well. Here, it is also evident that, unlike the Tangina Tibs tweets and followers, the account holder and its followers are not that caustically or wittily engaging. Their scope and knowledge of lesbian or queer-specific pop culture information are also limited to the local spectrum and not on a foreign or international scale.

However, what it has going for it is the deep honesty reflected in their tweets especially when they tweet deeply angsty and highly personal thoughts about love or being in love. Like with the Twitter community in TanginaTibs’ account, the community here is also of a reaffirming and supportive stance as they try to comfort those who are heartbroken, sad or downtrodden as a result of a failed relationship with a woman. Also, like the Tangina Tibs account, OMG Tomboy’s account also became a venue of flirting. While there are no specific gender expression dominant in the Tangina Tibs flirting sessions, OMGTomboy’s reflect this more since the flirtations happen between butches and femmes.

Grabe Bisexual (@GrabeBisexual)

From the language used in the tweets and the similar flirty beginnings of this account, Grabe Bisexual is obviously trying to become a kind of younger version of the Tangina Tibs account. It is obviously younger because interspersed within her tweets about being a somewhat genderqueer-presented bisexual woman, the account owner always pertains to having schoolwork or going to class in college and also still being “underage” (meaning she’s under 21 years old). While it also maintained anonymity at the beginning, many of the flirtatious exchanges within this account actually led to teasing for the account holder to come out and post her picture, which she eventually did, making it a highlight in her account and her followers. Before and after this revelation, though, there have been many flirtatious exchanges that were blatantly carried out between the account holder and the predominantly female audience of followers, majority of whom identify as bisexual themselves and are more feminine in their self-presentation based on the photos they tweet and their profile pictures.

It is thus safe to conclude that this account holder, while identifying as bisexual, leans more towards having relationships with fellow women. Perhaps on the account of the age or the personality of the account holder, a somewhat problematic notion of bisexuality is obvious in this account as well. This is because the tweets often reflect a somewhat misinformed notion of what bisexuality actually is, as it maintains that bisexuals are generally confused or they are people promiscuously jumping from boys to girls and vice versa. There were even posts that reflect this notion, especially in the beginning where a lot of “confused” posts about wanting a boy but liking a girl at the same time or wanting to break up with a boyfriend because she met this awesome girl peppered the timeline. The tweets also lead readers to the conclusion that bisexual girls are really lesbian girls who actually prefer girls over boys but they merely use boys as their boyfriends to mask their lesbianism or to retain their access to heterosexuality to hide their Sapphic tendencies and preferences. And these kinds of posts are not obviously self-mocking or being self-aware in a critical way like how the other gendered “tangina” accounts are self-reflexive and self-conscious of their critical posts, but Grabe Bisexual’s posts are presented as plain honest-to-goodness daily observations.

While its loquaciousness and youthful banter made it popular in the beginning among lesbians and bisexual women in different age ranges, the Grabe Bisexual account quickly dissipated from being active in expressing random bisexual thoughts since its followers – among them the other gendered accounts like Tangina Tibs and her followers – always countered Grabe Bisexual’s posts because of their problematic nature of representing bisexuality. One obvious instance of this encounter is when Grabe Bisexual tweeted about being confused because she both likes a girl and a boy at the same time, and she was leaning on having a relationship with the both of them at the same time. When a follower replied that bisexuality is not about having both relationships at the same time, Tangina Tibs also replied and agreed with this observation. Many other similar conversations happened during that time.

Eventually, as the months passed, the Grabe Bisexual account holder refrained from posting these kinds of bisexual-information thoughts. But she continued on with her conversations with some of her account holders that still continued to engage her or flirt with her. Eventually, it then became more of a platform for teen and college-age bisexual girls to flirt with each other until it became totally inactive.

Tomboy Tips (@TomboyTips) and Lez Confessions (@Lez Confessions)

Joining the foray of women-loving-women conversations on Twitter, both the account owners of Tomboy Tips and Lez Confessions remained anonymous in the beginning. Eventually, they also introduced themselves and a more genderqueer persona was revealed to be behind each account. While their manner of self-presentation defies being overtly categorized within the butch or the femme spectrum, their androgynous presentation – even if they sometimes cross the border and get near the butch spectrum – was neither a hindrance nor an influence in tweeting messages that could be useful and entertaining to both sides of the spectrum. More so, the tweets were actually general or universal enough that any woman-loving-woman – no matter their sub-identities – could eventually relate to them without being alienating on the account of subscribing to the traditional butch and femme dichotomy.

Another Filipino characteristic of the traditional butch and femme dichotomy is its subscribing to their patriarchal gender roles even in the sexual aspect of the relationship. This means that butch lesbians are “one way” only and they abhor being the recipient of sexual pleasure, just the giver. On the other hand, the femme lesbian is perceived to be merely the receiver of pleasure and she cannot reciprocate this “one way” sexual encounter because her butch lover does not want to be touched in her private parts. Yet many lesbians in the Philippines are already veering away from this “one way” top/bottom-only type of sexual encounter as couples both want to be sexually satisfied. Some lesbians who are butch or femme only in self-presentation do not subscribe to this “one way” transaction as well, as with many genderqueer-presented lesbians and bisexual women.

This latter notion is also evident in the way Tomboy Tips and especially Lez Confessions present their sexual or erotic tweets, leading one to conclude that even though the butch-bordering androgynous personas are behind the accounts, they advocate for equality in sexual encounters by posting two-way sex-related tweets. Most of their tweets get retweeted by their account followers and while they sometimes invite conversations to happen among their followers (by asking them to post their specific tips on specific facets of lesbian lives or to post answers to specific sexual or erotic questions, and the followers’ answers get retweeted in their respective accounts).

The genderqueer persona of these two accounts was evident in the beginning since they both tweeted their photos and outed themselves as androgynous-looking. And while their initial posts and conversations reflected a more equitable view of sexual relations, the tone of the tweets somewhat changed during the last quarter of 2012. Tomboy Tips’ more recent tweets now reflect a more butch personality and its tweets are reflecting a throwback to the traditional masculine butch persona. In some instances, the account owner also mentioned the thought of undergoing a female-to-male (FTM) transition and engaged her followers in conversations about the topic. Lez Confessions also varied in the tone of its posts as a second account moderator outed herself as being femme, thus referring to the previous account moderator as butch. But between the two, Lez Confessions’s tweets somewhat remain a bit closer to its original intention than Tomboy Tips.

Tweet analysis and implications

Based on the kinds of account holders, account followers, kinds of posts and the Twitter conversations happening in these accounts, several observations could be made on how they present or represent part of the identity of a Filipino woman-loving-woman online. Regardless of their educational background and social status, there are also commonalities observed as to how these Filipino queer women understand and process certain issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in general.

Lesbians are still divided according to the kind of personas they carry. In the Twitter world, as presented within this particular timeframe of the study, the Filipino lesbian community is obviously populated and categorized – often by each other – by different personas that make the lesbian identity diverse in the manner of their self-presentation. Three predominant images appear: the very feminine lesbians, the very masculine lesbians, and the androgynous-looking lesbians in between. The people who are aware of such divides in the personas are mostly from more affluent sections of society who had the privilege of experiencing a higher quality of education and exposure to more foreign pop culture influences and queer rights advocacy.

The butch-femme dichotomy based on a heterosexual patriarchal mimicry is still very much alive. While there is still a section of the lesbian population that subscribe to the patriarchal-oriented butch-femme dichotomy, there is also a section of the population that openly self-identify as lesbian but they do not follow the patriarchal butch-femme kind of thinking. Often, the patriarchal butch and femme people (while college-educated in schools that are not considered as stellar or of high quality in Philippine society) also circulate within communities that have similar kinds of patriarchal queer personas. While some of the members of these communities usually have lesser exposure to foreign queer pop culture influences and queer rights advocacy, they still uphold and defend the notion of being a lesbian even if they are quite unconscious that they are already doing a kind of “the personal is political” feminist stance. Yet ironically, while they are unconsciously having this political stance in defending their presence in the margins, they still consciously prefer to remain within their patriarchal butch-femme frameworks.

Bisexuality is still an overlooked and/or misunderstood issue within the LGBTQ community. Even within the lesbian-specific accounts like Tangina Tibs, the issue of a lesbian partnering with a bisexual woman is seen as suspect since self-identifying lesbians often share stories of being “traumatized” by having a relationship with a bisexual woman who eventually left them and paired up with a man. Of course the qualification of trauma differs from one lesbian to another, but the comment stems from a longtime observation (shared by many Filipino lesbians both offline and online) that lesbians prefer to build relationships with fellow women who are sure that these women also prefer women only, that there will be no perceived conflict in the future that will be connected with a man. There are also stories about bisexual women having relationships with lesbians on the side or in secret while their official relationships are with men. In Philippine society, there are indeed bisexual women who marry men but still retain lesbian lovers on the side. These longtime observations and prejudices within the LGBTQ community are obviously reflected in these newer queer-run social networking platforms.

Both concepts of the lesbian as an absolute identity and as a fleeting identity are still very present. Regardless of the advancements of the very active women’s feminist movements in the Philippines for more than 20 years and even with the LGBTQ advocacy movement being slowly visible in mainstream media and pop culture within the last five years (whose queer advocacy roots somewhat parallel that of the women’s movement in terms of decades, perhaps give a year or two in terms of lateness in development), the notion that a lesbian is a valid identity exists in many circles alongside the other notion that lesbianism is merely a phase for some women who will eventually leave their female lovers and end up with men. In effect, both these notions affect the way queer women negotiate relationships with each other. Hence the existence of the lesbians who do not prefer to have relationships with bisexual women and the existence of the patriarchal butch persona reluctantly accepting being abandoned by her female lover for a heterosexual male lover.

Lesbians – regardless of age or generation – are not afraid to claim their stake in newer forms of media. While it has been very difficult to assert a more queer-positive presence of marginalized identities within the Filipino mainstream media, the internet now provides a more democratic platform of representation, even if it entails self-presentation and without the benefit of “quality control” moderation by the usual media gatekeepers – which is sometimes even better since it is more democratic in nature to be self-governed. Plus with the way lesbians engage with each other and do self-checks on themselves and others who “err” in their views, the voice of the lesbian population is doing a kind of self-moderating within their ranks.

Conclusions and recommendations

From these observations, it is safe to conclude that the women-loving-women in Twitter still reflect the issues and concerns that they encounter offline. Yet the most glaring difference is that with the discussions happening online, it is also very refreshing to see that many self-identifying lesbians who do not even declare themselves as feminist, queer rights advocates or human rights activists actually carry queer feminist-type of lenses when framing issues and concerns of the queer community. Perhaps the immediacy and the “anonymity” or the virtual distance that these non-advocates are enjoying from the patriarchal-oriented lesbians is an advantage as the platform gives them a voice to air their opinions and point out homophobia and discrimination within the lesbian community. Without being feminists, perhaps they are not aware that by making a firm stand or tweeting queer-positive affirmations about what a lesbian ought to be or how lesbians ought to be properly treated, they are already being queer feminist in their thought and behavior.

Thus, what Twitter is also doing to help bring the “queer revolution” to a wider audience is giving reluctant or hesitant feminists/queer advocates a space to “practice” their brand of advocacy – by being an active and visible part of online society while affirming and being unapologetic and celebratory of their identities as lesbians in a still predominantly patriarchal society. These account holders – all of them, regardless of their patriarchal leanings or otherwise – should also be commended for bravely putting out these initially anonymous accounts where like-minded individuals could gather together and follow a sub-community of their own liking. It lessens the usual feelings of being alienated and alone as most lesbians who are just coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity are prone to these kinds of self-destructive thoughts.

Furthermore, aside from providing a virtual community, the followers could also slowly engage by briefly replying to tweets (with the very limited 148 character count requirement lessening the pressure of being eloquent or revealing too much information about themselves), retweeting tweets or directly engaging the account holders in private conversations about being queer. And as mentioned beforehand, these virtual anonymous communities could be transformed into offline gatherings that could make self-conscious closeted lesbians feel more confident about having communities of their own. Plus of course there is the obvious option of hopefully finding a romantic partner or girlfriend within these sub-communities.

While it may take the Filipino women’s and queer rights movements and advocates another 20 years of eradicating SOGI-based discrimination and homophobia in society in general, it should be reassuring for them to know that these advocacies are being demonstrated online by an “unlikely or unusual” source of advocates. More importantly, these online “accidental advocates” are trying to smash closets within the community by “monitoring” each other and trying to look out for each other within the woman-loving-woman online community, with the aim of eradicating SOGI-based discrimination and homophobia within their ranks/community first, first and foremost, which then contributes to the overall objectives of the larger queer rights movement.

Thus, instead of formally delineating non-advocates and advocates within society, it is highly recommended that any kind of advocacy being done – consciously or unconsciously – by people within the LGBTQ community should always be welcomed and supported. Another recommendation is not to view these online kind of exchanges as merely an “armchair activist” approach to advocacy since, in informally informing each other and checking each other’s prejudices, women-loving-women on Twitter are trying to deconstruct the closet anew by starting conversations among each other. And it is always an encouraging fact that “revolutions” always start with like-minded individuals coming together via conversations in the hopes of working out differences and advancing positivity.

Seeing how these Twitter conversations start online and get transferred offline eventually, perhaps the Filipino queer woman is on her way of redefining the way queer presence is also being made in society in general. And those kinds of definitions and redefinitions should always be welcomed and supported.  //

REFERENCE LIST

Cantor, O. L. (2012). To Conform or Not To Conform, That is the Genderqueer Question: Re-examining the Lesbian Identity in Bernal’s Manila By Night. Kritika Kultura. No. 19, 93-95.Retrieved from http://kritikakultura.ateneo.net/images/pdf/kk19/genderqueer.pdf.

Mayol, A.V. (2010, January 11). Children told to praise ‘Bro’ through baptism. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://globalnation.inquirer.net

Montecillo, P. (2012, August 9). Philippines has 9.5M Twitter users, ranks 10thPhilippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://technology.inquirer.net

Montecillo, P. (2012, September 24). Only 3 out of 10 Filipinos have access to Internet—report. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://technology.inquirer.net

Russell, J. (2011, May 15). Philippines named social networking capital of the world

Asian Correspondent. Retrieved from http://asiancorrespondent.com

Santos, M. (2012, January 31). More Filipinos now using Internet for news, information–study. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://technology.inquirer.net

Twitter reaches half a billion accounts. (2012). Retrieved January 5, 2013, from

http://semiocast.com/publications/2012_07_30_Twitter_reaches_half_a_billion_accounts_140m_in_the_US

Emerging from the hiatus

•February 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I had some sort of hiatus last year due to the things that happened in  my life, work-wise. But it doesn’t mean that things got stagnant. Will be rebooting this site again (as well as my other sites) really soon. Pramis!

In the meantime, you can still read my latest articles at the Philippine Online Chronicles’ Pinoy LGBT channel. I also started a creative nonfiction space to test this new medium called Medium so feel free to browse that as well. Keribels?

K BRB!

For the POC: Religion, race and media this May

•June 11, 2015 • 1 Comment

It was a busy May for me (still busy this month!) but I was able to submit at least three of my usual four articles for the Philippine Online Chronicles. And so far, I think that month produced the most controversial comment exchanges ever in my history of writing for the POC. 🙂 So thanks for the traffic, you gals.

Anyway I wrote two analysis articles about the latest teleserye of my previous employer GMA-7 because it’s lesbian-themed. Have fun reading the comments in the first one.

Here they are:

#TRMDAnalysis: Top 10 things tungkol sa tomboy the TRMD way, daw – Making my initial critique light and satirical, I decided to do a countdown thing. But I guess some people missed the memo on intelligent writing.

Hmm hard to choose an excerpt to write here since it’s a countdown. So instead, read the whole article na lang by clicking on the title.

#TRMDAnalysis: #longoverdue vis-a-vis #queerdivide – The second article about the show is a thoughtful reflection on the two sides of reactions I’ve been getting/hearing from the community. It’s actually a bit polarized. So I reflect on that.

Religion and Relevance: The Irish vote and the Pinoy non-pride – May 2015 was very interesting because of how Ireland became that Catholic country which voted to support queer marriage. Again, I muse and ponder about that monumental event.

For the POC: Let’s talk about sex, lezzies!

•May 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Because it’s soooo hot in Metro Manila this April, I decided to add on to that hotness with a few hot topics of my own, as part of my monthly writing contributions for the Philippine Online Chronicles’ Pinoy LGBT section.

There are so many sex-related issues that the queer community still needs to tackle and discuss. This is why I thought of writing about them a bit here. Sad to say, I just skimmed the top of the topic here, as there are still lots to ponder on about issues of queer sex. There was one particularly glaring anecdote I got from a transman during a recent Baguio trip, and I think I’ll be expanding that na lang for the June pride month series I’m thinking. Quite controversial, actually, that’s why I’m letting it percolate first this May so it’ll be ripe by June.

In the meantime, enjoy the sex stuff! Click on the titles to read the whole article.

Let’s talk about sex, lezzie: After the love este sex is gone, anuneh?

Mostly an article about women in long-term relationships whose sizzle in the bed somewhat dissipated already. Of course, been there done that! Also about some of my friends and people I know. It’s quite sad that this is a common thing, what they call LBD or lesbian bed death in America. An excerpt:

sex-series1_-1-278x300Will you stay in a sexless relationship, teh?

Dahil isa akong sex-positive feminist, mahalaga sa akin ang sexual expression, dahil healthy ito para sa ating human beings. Pero tulad ng pagsasawalangbahala ng ating lipunan sa mental health, ang sexual health din natin ay dinededma rin kadalasan. Dahil nga sa konserbatibo ang turing ng ilan sa ating lipunan, patago pa rin kadalasan ang pag-uusap tungkol sa sex at sexual needs ng mag-partner, o ng isang tao. Hindi dapat ganun.

Kung ako ang sasagot sa tanong ko, ito ang reply: no. As in no, I will not stay in a sexless relationship.

Let’s talk about sex, lezzie: Wranger sex a.k.a. anatomy anonymity

This is about an ex of mine who introduced the term “wrangler” to me as that’s how they call super-stone butch lesbians in their province. Sadly, these wranglers don’t know much about proper lovemaking with women, as she told me. An excerpt:

sex-series-2_-3-120x300Nadaan sa malas itong ex kong ito na may wrangler na ex, dahil hindi pala alam ng mga wrangler na nakaulayaw niya kung paano magpaligaya ng babae. Nang minsang sinamahan ko siya sa ob-gyne para magpa-check-up, nakita ng doktor na maraming gasgas ang vaginal canal ng ex ko. Ito pala ang dahilan ng kanyang pabalik-balik na infection sa area na ito. Ang dahilan nito ay ang walang pakundangang pagsundot sa kanya ng wrangler niyang ex, na pinapasok-labas-pasok lang ang mga daliri nito na hindi na pinapansin kung natutuyuan na ang ka-sex niya o basa pa rin. At dahil walang pakundangan ang pagsundot niya, nagkaroon ng friction at nasasaktan na pala niya ang ex ko. Pero dahil sa hindi pa rin maalam sa lesbian sex ang ex kong ito noong panahong iyon, inakala na lang niyang ito ang tama at kasama sa sex ang nasasaktan.

Let’s talk about sex, lezzie: Kapa niyo ba ang isa’t isa? (Part 1 of 2)

This was supposed to be one article but during the course of writing it, there are so many issues the popped out so I had to split it into two for proper discourse latag. Patok naman hehehe. It’s basically a 6-point tip/suggestion thingie on helping women analyze if they indeed have the bodies of their partners — and their own — mapped out, for pleasure. An excerpt of the points:

sex-series-3A_4Point number 1: Walang default template ang lesbian sex, mga teh

Walang clear-cut procedure ang woman-to-woman sex, mga ateh. Hindi ito parang sa porn na may Step 1 magtitigan at maghalikan; Step 2 maghubad; Step 3 maghawakan ng body parts; Step 4 give each other head; Step 5 penetrate to the max until climax!

Point number 2: Siguraduhing makukuha mo ang complete attention ng ka-sex mo

NKKLK ito pero may ganito palang kaso sa totoong buhay: na habang tinatrabaho ng isang partner sa baba ang jowa niya, ang jowa ay busy pala sa pagkalikot ng cellphone niya! Ibig sabihin, wala sa present moment ang hitad. Aba, nasaan siya?

Point number 3: Alamin angpatok na paraan para mapa-come ang partner mo

Sigurado ba kayong kapa niyo na ang isa’t isa? May lesbiyana kasing nagreklamo na hindi siya mapa-come ng girlfriend niya, at ang ending ay napapagod ang jowa niya dahil sa tagal ng pagtatrabaho ay walang ganansiya sa dulo.

Let’s talk about sex, lezzie: Kapa niyo ba ang isa’t isa (part 2 of 2)

So we continue:

sex-series-3B_1Point number 4: Pag-usapan ninyo ang kalakarang sex ninyo

Wala nang tatalo pa sa pag-uusap. Para sa ibang couples, sa conversations nagsisimula ang eroticism ng kanilang foreplay. Kung talagang bukas kayo sa isa’t isa, dapat ay napapag-usapan din ninyo ang inyong likes and dislikes hindi lang sa types of music/movies/books etc. kundi pati na rin sa sex and sexual practices/activities.

Point number 5: Tigilan na ang panonood ng porn para gayahin ito

May silbi naman ang porn sa buhay. Puwede itong props sa inyong sexual relationship bilang pasakalye or appetizer o anuman ang nais ninyo. Pero para gawin niyo itong template ng sexual acts ninyong mag-partner, ibang usapan naman iyon.

Point number 6: Huwag matakot mag-discover ng bagong sexual activity 

May mga mag-jowa diyan na nagsisimulang mainit at mapusok ang sex nila noong bago pa lang sila. Pero pagkaraan ng ilang buwan o taon, nawawala na ang init na ito at suwerte na lang kung maambunan paminsan-minsan ang tigang nilang estado.

Let’s talk about sex, lezzie: Sex-positive vs. sex-negative

I was also surprised to discover just how sex-negative some queer women are. And I try to trace that negativity as to where it could have come from. An excerpt:

sex4_-3-177x300Dapat yatang mai-characterize muna kung ano bang uri ng society ang meron tayo. Una, pinapa-guilty tayong lahat ng ating pagiging Katoliko kaya ang sex ay tinitingnan lang natin bilang pang-go forth and multiply at hindi pang-happy happy joy joy na gawain. Bawal ang premarital o non-marital sex at kailangan kang mangumpisal sa pari kapag nakagawa ka nito. Ang sex ay, ideally, ginaganap lang kapag kasal ka na kaya lahat ng uri ng sex sa labas ng basbas ng Katolikong Diyos ay hindi kaaya-aya sa lipunang ito. Kaya malaking eskandalo kapag ang isang babae ay nabuntis out of wedlock at kailangang panagutan ng lalaking nakabuntis ang kanyang ginawa sa pamamagitan ng kasal at kasal lamang.

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Ano, nag-iinit na ba kayo? Choz. Gorabels lang mga beks. Para di laging ulo ang mainit…iba naman ang painitin. Happy reading!

Academic journals or bust!

•April 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Is it still worth it to get published in an academic journal?

I was enjoying my late afternoon coffee while fixing my computer files earlier when I chanced upon this opinion piece on Singapore’s The Strait Times which discusses why the academe needs a major paradigm shift in putting knowledge out there.

Aptly titled “Prof, no one is reading you,” that thought is actually my own thought ever since I became an academic and was forced to churn out those academic articles for academic journals in order to gain some academic traction in my former academic career.

Some papers I created to be presented first in various local and academic conferences, and they have gathered interesting reactions from the people who listened to our panels. The Q&A that comes after such paper presentations were very important to me, the academic paper writer, because I get to listen to feedback from the audience and they also weigh in on the facts, theories and thoughts I presented in my own paper.

One particularly memorable moment I had was about a paper I wrote about how lesbians were being misrepresented in early independent digital full-length films. This paper got accepted in a graduate studies conference in New York, so of course I was ecstatic because I got a free trip to NYC courtesy of the university’s travel fund grant for paper presentations plus I got to hear and interact with fellow film school and cinema studies people in that conference. I traveled with two other young co-faculty in the UP Film Institute who presented similarly-themed papers. The people who listened to our paper presentations were actually in awe that such “things” were happening na pala in Asia, and in the Philippines at that, meaning having a very active independent film movement here, filmmakers doing digital films and presenting queer issues in their stories.

cuny day 031

Siyempre feel na feel lang ng lola mo ang pagiging New Yorker sa pagtawid sa Fifth Avenue in Manhattan where I presented my paper. [March 2010 New York City]

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Happy to be part of this small but significant graduate studies conference full of cinema geeks like me. [March 2010 CUNY NYC]

Another good discussion I had was when I presented in Jakarta this paper I wrote about how Filipino queer women are building their identities in Twitter. The Ateneo-like school that hosted the international conference on media and globalization chenerz was very interested in the openness of queer culture online here in the Philippines, and my fellow attendees were also interested in knowing more about the media situation here in the Philippines since they’ve been having difficulties there in Indonesia and in other parts of Asia. Again, the discourse that stemmed from my paper presentation was very engaging and it was fulfilling for me as a writer and also an academic researching on queer life in the Philippines.

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This was one of the happier conferences I attended, ‘yung tipong gusto mong makinig sa mga interesting paper presentations ng ibang tao. Plus hanging out with the young faculty of UPH was also a hoot! [February 2013 Tangerang, Indonesia]

Now my beef with academic papers is that the academe insists on publishing them in peer-reviewed journals to gain some legitimacy in the academia. But having these journals accessed is another thing. Not everyone reads these journals, let alone being aware of their existence as that Straits op-ed wrote. Sure, students and researchers read them, but wouldn’t it be great to make them available for a wider audience outside of the academe so that we academics could share our knowledge to a wider world? We’re always publishing for our own peers and for people who study things, but aren’t studies supposed to educate more people than this?

Another beef I have with these journals is that their writing style is so high up there that many people who may want to read these articles or papers could get alienated by the heavy academic jargon that is required in these papers. I mean, I myself retch at some academic papers I read in journals because I know they’re just dropping jargon after jargon as a requirement, not as an enhancement to their papers or their thoughts, if ever they had any original ones in the first place.

Like I had this academic friend-colleague who presented a paper in a Hong Kong international conference that I also attended to present a paper, and after another colleague of mine presented her jargon-heavy paper, I turned to my friend-colleague and asked her opinion about it, and she said “Hindi siya nagbabasa masyado, ‘no?” meaning my other colleague just lifted thought after thought from her academic resources and peppered them with jargon after jargon to cook up her paper. I laughed and said “Yeah, siya lang ang nakakaintindi ng paper niya hahaha!” I think it defeats the purpose of writing to share knowledge when the manner of presenting that knowledge is not clear to people you want to educate.

2012-03-17 10.18.57

Tipa-tipa lola mo as I coffice to polish my paper presentation. [March 2012 Starbucks Nathan Road HK]

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Getting ready for my close-up in this conference. [March 2012 HK University]

But I think my main beef about academic writing is that these so-called peers who will review you require you to cite earlier scholars who may have written about an original thought you presented in your paper. It’s like you’re not allowed to write your original thoughts and they think you merely lifted that thought from another source, so they push you or force you even to “Cite your sources!” Okay, granted that we get influenced by what we read but it’s ridiculous to think that we don’t own a single original idea or thought in our heads. And worse, we are required to support our original idea with similar ideas that have been previously published before. Whatever happened to “producing new knowledge” people? I give up.

I’ve always been a writer and I’ve tried many types of writing styles and genres, but admittedly, academic writing is one of my most hated style of writing. I guess this comes from the fact that I’ve always written for popular media as the op-ed suggests academics do, to reach a wider audience and to educate more people. It’s not to say that academics should “lower” their standards in order to have mass appeal. But seriously, who are we educating ba kasi in the first place when we write above the capacity of readers? I mean, even our own students sometimes don’t comprehend much the jargon-heavy papers academics write. What’s the right way to educate?

For me, it’s just simple: be understandable enough to educate more people. I know my professor-colleagues might frown upon this, as they insist on writing using that “higher” level because they want people to step up to reach that level. No harm in that, but also, there’s no humility in that as well. If we insist on being “higher” than the rest of them “lower” folks, what kind of hierarchy are we imposing on knowledge ba?

Ewan ko sa kanila, but I went into teaching with a combined theory+praxis approach to imparting knowledge. That there should be some effort to have the theoretical stuff applied to the practical side of things in life. More importantly,I believe that people should learn new knowledge so they could also use/teach/transfer/share that knowledge to others, so dadami na tayong knowledgeable, di ba dapat? But the thing here is, some academicians just want to be the ones who are on top of that knowledge hierarchy. The so-called ivory tower, doon nila gustong magka-tenure. And it starts with keeping the upper hand of knowledge to themselves. Yes, believe me, there are teachers out there who don’t want to really share their knowledge, and this makes me really sad. Oh well, kanya-kanyang trip na lang siguro ‘yan, kahit sa akademya.

This muni-muni was also so timely since yesterday, I was contemplating on putting my stuff online so that researchers or students could have access to my papers. Now that I’ve ended my 8-year teaching stint, there are still students who ask me to be a resource person on topics that I’ve written about before. I was toying with the idea of polishing my unpublished academic papers yesterday, but I think it’s better for me if I release those papers here in social media where more people could use them. Dedma na sa plagiarists. Karma is always on my side and I believe karma will give these credit-grabbers a swift kick in the butt naman if ever they plagiarize me. I know a bigger percentage of people out there will benefit naman from my materials so I’m cool with that.

So I’m going to create a separate page within this blog where I will post my academic papers, published and unpublished. It’s also a way of archiving my material na rin. Sige abangan na lang iyan soon.

Be well, folks.

 
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