12/30/2016

Scenes from the queer life

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Coming out is a rite of passage for LGBT individuals — it’s a threshold where one takes ownership of his or her identity. It’s a different journey for everyone, and no two coming-out stories are exactly alike. The struggle of coming to terms with one’s sexuality has been portrayed numerous times in the media, but what happens after?

Coming of age and coming-out stories are always certified feel-good tearjerkers — and are important in the narrative of queer folk — but you’ve probably heard it all before: coming to terms with identity, wrestling with acceptance, the works.

Sometimes it’s a happy ending and the person’s life turns out for the better, sometimes it doesn’t end so well. But it’s the so-called “real” world that’s not yet in mainstream consciousness: the mundane, everyday, in-between things that come after defeating the proverbial dragon.

And so Hanging Out was born. A web series created by director Petersen Vargas (Liysun qng Geografia, 2 Cool 2 b 4gotten) and writer Patrick Valencia (How To be Yours, Always be My Maybe), it follows a group of friends living in Manila post-coming out doing just that: hanging out and living their gay lives.

There are ups, downs, boring afternoons and exciting evenings. Vargas, who directs the series, says that the decision to film a series on life post-coming out was brought about by a desire to see something new. In a focus group about the then-proposed series, Vargas recalls how they came to solidify the concept: “We all just sort of ended up agreeing on the fact that for this series to truly provide a refreshing insight on gays, we have to tell their stories in a post-coming out setting.” He adds, “In a way, it immediately normalizes the lives we were going to explore, and positively portrays how it is to be gay without making a big deal out of it.”

The director makes it clear, however, that this effort is not to discount or “discredit that ‘coming out’ still remains a relevant narrative altogether.” The series, which is produced by Team magazine editor-in-chief and former Young STAR editor Paolo Lorenzana, was developed from a number of previous projects between the magazine and director. Vargas shares, “For Team’s fourth issue, Paolo approached me for a fun thought experiment: What if there was a pinoy gay romcom?” Toying with the idea, Vargas wrote an excerpt of a screenplay titled “Shot at the Night,” and shot a short film and took stills for it. One thing led to another, and here we are with the first gay Filipino web series.

Not your usual meet-cute: Adrian (Jox Gonzales) and David (Paulito Del mundo)

The show’s objective is simple and straightforward: demand visibility. Just the fact that a series of this kind exists is an achievement all on its own, but that, of course, comes with a set of difficulties and challenges. Gay lives are gay lives, but Filipino gay lives are unique all on their own, and that’s something we don’t see a lot in mainstream media, if at all. Creating characters that represent the many different personalities of the local gay community is a different beast all on its own. “These characters were versions and revisions of who we were, of the friends that we had and kept, of people we’ve known for most of our lives,” shares Vargas. The characters were then solidified by writer Wanggo Gallaga, who was brought on-board by Lorenzana.

The characters themselves are about as regular as you can get — in a good way. Hanging Out centers on five dudes and a lady: the lead is David (Paulito Del Mundo), the promdi vibes cutie who is a sketch artist for the news; Adrian (Jox Gonzales), the complicated guwapo guy with a boardgame fixation; Fidel (JP Mercado) the token straight guy; Jessie (Eboy Fernandez) and Misha (Sheena Ramos), the group’s sassy cat-and-dog; and the mysterious Kiko who apparently makes good spaghetti (Albert Saspa).

Find your tribe: The web series Hanging Out follows a group of friends living post-coming out lives in Manila.

The first episode titled “Best Hook-up Ever,” which premiered last Dec. 17 at A Space in Makati, starts out with David going on a Grindr hook-up that ends up at the wrong address, which happens to be Adrian’s surprise party — awkward. They invite him to stay, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s definitely not your usual meet-cute, but Hanging Out delivers on its promise of bringing us a gay Filipino rom-com: it’s funny, endearing, and sometimes cringe-worthy just because you know it’s too real and it’s probably happened to you before.

The series is far from being able to cover everything that people need to know about what it means to be gay in Manila — you really can’t please everyone — but it’s definitely a start and a step in the right direction. There are still many things in the fight of the LGBT community, but we find hope in little things like Hanging Out that do their best to tell our story. Vargas says it best: “In (Hanging Out’s) world, where friendships don’t operate on unnecessary labels, and where its people find their place in other people as well — we can only hope that it soon extends to the actual world we live in.”

The first episode of Hanging Out is available on Team magazine’s Facebook page.
The second episode streams on Jan. 2, 2017. Follow Team on Instagram  for updates.

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