A former college cheerleader, and someone who would rather choose to fly domestic as a flight attendant to enjoy more free time for herself, has publicly come out as bisexual during the pageant’s preliminary interview rounds currently being held in Baguio City.
Kimberly “Billie” Hakenson, Miss Universe Philippines Cavite, is the first national-pageant contestant in the Philippines to come out as LGBTQduring the contest. Previously, Beatrice Luigi Gomez came out as gay during the Q and A portion of Binibining Cebu 2020. Coincidentally, Hakenson is also Cebu-based, although she is representing her hometown of Cavite.
“I am Billie Hakenson, and I am bisexual, and I’m proud to be here,” Hakenson proudly declared in front of a judges panel and while being filmed for the Episode 6 of the Ring Light Series of the Miss Universe Philippines.
I was commissioned to write the scripts of the 5-episode documentary primer for the Miss Universe Philippines in December 2019. As early as that – a month before the first COVID case in the Philippines was tested positive, I had already started writing preliminaries and outlines for what would become the Ring Light Series, which officially premieres tonight at 8pm-ish on www.empire.ph .
By January, I have finished writing spiels for what supposed to have been the first episode, the runway challenge, which would culminate on February 2020 by the sidewalks of Uptown Mall in BGC, Taguig City. The coronation night was originally intended to be held in May. It was also my last time before the lockdown to socialize in Manila, or anywhere. Two weeks later, one of the strictest pandemic lockdowns in the world happened in our midst for at least 3 months, and now six months later – we are on the verge of reopening the business centers to the new normal.
Technically, as I share this, I am still supplying some cells on the script of the last episode, which would all have been uploaded and streamed by October 11 and the weeks after that. If writing and story producing for the Ring Light seemed a tough endeavor to accomplish during the pandemic – given how scarce and limited the exchange of contents there have been – filming the actual clips for the episodes have been extra-challenging for the contestants and the filmmakers themselves. At least a few runs before the lockdown, the contestants have already retreated to their provincial bases. Only about two dozen are based in the NCR – and they could only be scheduled a few times, with all health safety protocols strictly monitored, on the Empire BGC headquarters of the Miss Universe Philippines. The girls who are in the provinces as far as Zamboanga and Batanes have been teamed up with their local videographers to finish their submissions.
The contestants will be featured proportionately in at least 3 episodes, the remaining two will also be participated in without as much sound-bytes compared to those who are assigned for their special episodes. One episode is devoted for each girl for their on-camera spiels, 2 questions each for the sit-down interviews, and a substantial amount of camera sessions that would feature them beyond the usual pageant core drills. Indeed, the Ring Light series is about their combined personal and MUP journeys. We can see them in their earlier pageant training, at home doing other activities, aside from doing workouts and participating in online training sessions and workshops.
While it’s greatly apparent that the exciting proliferations of gay-themed stories on digital screens, via boys love (BL) series, have renewed our burning interests on LGBTQIA issues and experiences – we may have to analyze how things have been since its original inception, at least in the dawning periods of digital cinema in the Philippines.
Cris Pablo’s Duda/Doubt, for the record, was the first longform narrative feature in digital format – which happened to be an interweaving tale of gay sex, love, and relationships – quite in extent made it all seem possible for all independent filmmakers to literally shoot the stars and achieve a sense of goal and aspirations that filmmaking can be democratized beyond the dictums of the old and mainstream studio system. While Pablo’s Duda interestingly seeded the cloud and rained profusely over a period of at least 7 years with the explosion of gay soft core Indies – they weren’t exactly focused on the experience of young love and coming of age. They were, in all straight-talk, a spa and splash of sex parades – which in turn became a hotbed of welcomed nudity and other unapologetic physicality on screen. Duda/Doubt was no BL. The first true-gay feature in Asia, South Korea’s Road Movie (2002) is about the experiences and confusions brought upon by the Asian Market Crash, and indeed was no BL. The harangue of criticisms later on to Pablo’s prolific churn-outs, although featuring younger characters, was more directed towards the lower-class experiences; and somewhat the highlighted centering on psychosexual fixations. When Senedy Que’s Dose tested the censorship to its core a few years later– it had a chilling effect on which particular age-group to sidestep, if the trend had to remain and survive. Even the unsolicited fetishism on visual soldering features becomes tamed and oblique. It had officially folded up as the film industry was entirely eaten up once and again by the commercial escapism of the mainstream market.
This pandemic has proven very challenging to live entertainment artists, including musicians and stage comedians. Their usual incomes have been reduced to virtually zero and economic survival has been a great cause of anxieties and depression. It is a good thing that live streaming platforms have given them a space and a new home to exhibit their performances on a much different plane. They’ve also made them much closer to their fans and supporters.
One of the best and most accessible live stream platforms is Kumu. It’s a social media mobile application that allows performers to share their contents live and interactive. And the most important part is the open-access opportunity for them to earn as much as what they could in their actual in-person gigs. Except now, they don’t need to leave their homes anymore and shell out for their usual spendable, like paying for PAs, transportation, meals, and costumes.
When a fan or an impressed audience to the live stream show gives them virtual gifts – a performer can rack up at least 2,000 to 5,000 “diamonds “on a single user. When a performer earns at least 50,000 diamonds, they can exchange it for at least 2,500 pesos. One live stream artist can have a minimum low of 25 audiences per minute, and they can have a peak audience of at least 50-100 and on “special occasions” one can impress from 1000 to 10,000 audiences/users. Singer Kris Lawrence during his recent birthday show gained 3.4 million diamonds; which meant he earned at least 170,000 pesos on one night. This is on top of what he earned from previous live streams. Even his close friend/co-performer JayR averages to 100,000 to 300,000 diamonds on a drop. A short ordinary fan-supported live show can still augment their idol’s digital income enough to buy a week’s worth of groceries. This month’s Top Earner is Mark Michael Garcia, a Tawag ng Tanghalan finalist who earned a cumulative amount of 18.5 million diamonds (roughly 900,000 pesos – if – KUMU actually converts that to the actual purchase amount. We actually would like to account that we had no first-hand knowledge of the conversion rates given to earners, except of course, merely referencing the 2000 diamonds to 100 pesos rate).
This year’s Gawad Urian is headlined by internationally acclaimed films and performers. Leading the pack is Kalel, 15 with nine nominations. The film previously won the Best Director award for Jun Lana at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and a Best Actor award for Elijah Canlas at the Asian Film Festival held in Rome. Babae at Baril, also with nine nominations, was previously awarded the Best Director and Best Actress awards for Rae Red and Janine Gutierez respectively at the QCinema Film Festival.
Cinemalaya Best Picture John Denver Trending has six nominations. It was previously awarded the Critics and Audience awards at the 26th Vesoul International Film festival in France. Another Cinemalaya feature, Edward, has eight nominations including one for Louise Abuel who previously won the Best Actor award at the Dhaka International Film festival. Finally Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Awardee, Lav Diaz, was nominated for Best Director for Ang Hupa at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. He is nominated for the same film at the Urian for Best Director.
Update: 9/22/2020. Ruby Ruiz, nominated for Best Actress for Iska, won at the Harlem International Film Festival in New York for the same role. She perviously bagged the Best Actress award at the 2019 Cinemalaya FIlm Festival.
The 43rd Gawad Urian is set on October 2020. Check the complete list of nominees below.
Having been in the industry as a multi-hyphenated filmmaker for almost a decade and a half, Joselito Altarejos finally receives his first Gawad Urian nomination that victoriously coincides with his perennial “muse” – actor Oliver Aquino’s Best Actor nomination as well.
Altarejos and Aquino worked on their fourth film together, Jino to Mari, a year before its festival release. Originally titled “Death by Gokkun,” it had been intended to be the festival opener of Sinag Maynila when it was postponed in its 2016 edition due to failing to secure a permit to exhibit for its highly sexual content The film is about two young sex workers who are hired to do a pornographic film on a remote island. Altarejos and Aquino’s next film, Walang Kasarian Ang Digmang Bayan, would also be pulled out by the same festival for its supposedly highly-charged political stance against the current government.
Entrepreneur and producer Dr. Carl Balita is actively campaigning for the public to stay home during the start of the quarantine until today not just to contain the virus but to also to help the health and service professionals who are the frontrunners in the field. Among the many strategies he launched was the “Video Home Festival(VHF)”, a short filmmaking competition anchored on the theme “lockdown.” The challenge of the competition is to create films based on the theme while observing quarantine guidelines using immediate technology, space, and casts available for the filmmakers.
“I knew that the filmmakers were oozing with creativity in the new normal and were itching to express their craft even with all the limitations of a quarantine experience,” says Dr. Carl. “We were surprised when after more than a month from our launch, entries came in from professionals, film students, and enthusiasts.”
Dr. Carl expounded the festival to raise funds for the industry workers through the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (Mowelfund). Being a film producer himself and within the circle of show business, heis aware of the current plight of the industry players. Mowelfund Board Member Boots Anson-Rodrigo and President RezCortez welcome the idea and are exploring new partnership opportunities with Dr. Carl and his company, Dr. Carl Balita Review Center (CBRC) on how to bring the collaboration to a more productive level. Festival Director Jek David notes that some of the entries have international caliber, highlighting the quarantine experience of the filmmakers.