Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been vulnerable to discrimination, castigation, and ridicule for the longest time despite telltale advocacies that counter such prejudice. Even as they face hardship in the eyes of many, they are also not exempted from the problems brought by the COVID-19 crisis. These include those flamboyant, graceful, sashaying drag queens mimicking famous female icons, who have since lost their jobs.
At the start of the August 2 episode of Iba ‘Yan, host Angel Locsin met Jan Lamban, a former corporate project manager, HR consultant and freelance makeup artist. He went to Singapore eight years ago to work. There he also decided to pursue a degree in business management, as well as a diploma course in hair and makeup artistry. Jan shared that as soon as he realized his real gender identity and sexuality, he asserted that there is nothing wrong with being gay.
Despite all the discrimination he faced, Jan said his confidence overpowered all those. He has always been proud of his achievements. Although he really never came out formally to his parents, Jan thinks it has long been an open secret since they already had known about it. He felt more relieved when he introduced his partner to his parents and he did not receive any judgment.
Jan started dressing up as a drag artist in Singapore, and he shared that being one really has the power to give joy and hope to other people. He launched Drag Playhouse PH, an advocacy which doesn’t only provide drag content and entertainment to the netizens, but an initiative which gave the opportunity to the drag queens to somehow earn for their everyday living. One of the shows in Drag Playhouse PH even aimed to buy PPEs for the frontliners.
Angel also met Ian Jaurigue who works as a freelance artist and one of the members of Drag Playhouse PH. Ian shared that he is also known as “Mrs. Tan,” a name which was given to him by the members of Babaylan, a student organization in the University of the Philippines.
His orgmates called him such because he resembled a Chinese woman. Ian said his sexuality never became an issue with his family. He shared that it only became an issue when some people from the neighborhood would talk about his sexuality.
When Angel asked if he formally came out to his grandparents, who stood as his parents ever since, Ian said he just kept silent when he was asked about it. And for him, the gesture he showed was already a response of affirmation. As to when or how he first realized that he’s not really into the usual things that guys do, Ian said he became fond of watching and idolizing female characters in television shows. Ian admitted that he’s more attached and affectionate towards his grandparents as his single mom still has her reservations towards his sexuality. But his grandparents have always been very supportive of his endeavors and everything that makes his hearts happy and content. “Sila ‘yung unang nagparamdam sa akin kung anong ibig sabihin ng pagmamahal at pagtanggap,” Ian said.
Ian has been a drag queen for two years already and he admitted you don’t only need to be beautiful to become a drag artist, but also capable in handling financial burdens that go with it. This includes buying gowns, makeup, and costumes, and providing themselves good internet connection for their online shows. He also raised the issue of genuine acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community in the country, saying that if such exists, why doesn’t the Philippines have any law that would protect their rights? Jan said Filipinos only “tolerate” and not really “accept” LGBTQIA+ people.
Ian encouraged people to face their fears and not hide their true selves, saying there is nothing wrong with showing who they really are. He added no one should let other people define their identity.
For the past months, Jan and Ian weren’t able to hold a live show because of the lockdown, but would instead put together an online presentation. That’s why the Iba ‘Yan team gave both each of the two drag artists a ring light, a pocket WIFI, and a cellphone, which they very much appreciated. Ian said gratefully that he became more excited to share with everyone his art of being a drag queen.
Another veteran drag artist from the Drag Playhouse PH, Thammy Gan, used to work at a beauty parlor before he was introduced to the world of drag. He was amazed with all the makeup that they use every time they perform. He said he would always find himself very gorgeous as a drag artist because he’s always dolled up so well, and at the same time, people look up to her every time he performs. He added that before the pandemic happened, he would work every night. But when the whole world stopped because of the virus, he also didn’t know how he could sustain his everyday life, and most especially, how he could provide for the regular maintenance of his mother’s medicines for her Alzheimer’s disease.
He admitted his family had not accepted him warmly at first, especially his father who always got mad at him. He decided to leave his family because he was being forced to become a police officer. But later on, his father asked him to come back home and they reconciled. In the end, his father eventually accepted that he was gay. He then decided to go to Manila, but after that, he received the devastating news that his father had passed away. While this brought much sadness to his life, Thammy was still thankful he had reconciled with his father before he died.
When Angel asked him if he already feels to take a break for good from being a drag artist, he said he was certain he wasn’t retiring any soon. “Gusto ko pang magpasaya ng maraming tao,” he said. He urged up-and-coming drag artists to stay grounded and treat everyone with kindness.
For him to improve the quality of his online show, Angel also gave him a ring light, vitamins for his mother, groceries, ligtas bags, and emergency kits.
During the final day of their rehearsals at the PETA Theater Center for their online benefit concert, Angel gathered them all—Jan, Ian, Thammy, and the rest of the team who completed their performance at the benefit concert. The Iba ‘Yan team finally gave them their final surprise. Each of the drag artists were given a ring light, a pocket WIFI, wigs and gowns, a gift pack, a relief bag, and a ligtas bag. The drag artists couldn’t contain their joy and excitement upon receiving those gifts.
But the biggest surprise that melted their hearts was the message of the King of Talk Boy Abunda for them. The veteran host and a part of the LGBTQIA+ community himself told them how proud he is of their advocacy and their art. He wished all of them the best performance for their concert and pledged that he will be sending all the help that he can give to bring out the best in their project.
It’s Showtime host and Unkabogable Star Vice Ganda also sent them best wishes for their concert and acknowledged that the LGBTQIA+ community has also been suffering the huge challenges brought by the pandemic.
Lastly, the one and only Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasques-Alcasid also gave huge thanks to the LGBTQIA+ community for their unending support for her. The three celebrity stars also congratulated Jan for spearheading the Drag Playhouse PH.
After all the surprises, Angel let the drag artists, except Jan, prepare in the dressing room where the letters from their loved ones were left for them to read. Meanwhile, Angel finally showed Jan the surprise he needed to see the most - a video message from his parents giving him their full support for his project and advocacy. Jan couldn’t contain his emotions as he shed tears of joy and satisfaction.
“Kinang: An Online Benefit Concert for the Displaced LGBTQ Entertainers” was a huge success as netizens, especially members of the community expressed their utmost support and appreciation towards the drag queens. It was hosted by comedian Negi, and featured non-stop performances from drag queens Aries Night, Zsashing, Racing Chat, JCourse, Cherry Pie, and Marina Summers. It was streamed live on the ABS-CBN and Iba ‘Yan official Facebook pages.
Iba ‘Yan is aired Sundays at 6:15pm on the Kapamilya Channel.
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