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Entertainment

Out and proud of it

JP Mitog - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - In 2013, GMA Network aired the phenomenal primetime program My Husband’s Lover (MHL), a provocative drama series that tackled real-life relationships and centered on a family man who turned out to be a closeted gay. The series defied conventions on traditional drama soaps and revealed that love is not defined by sexual preference.

But this is not the first time that GMA Network presented a creative program with an edgy theme that challenges the social norms. Ten years ago, GMA News and Public Affairs launched Out!, the first-ever gay-lesbian themed program that made a mark in the Philippine broadcasting history.

This year, the group behind Out! picks up where they left off through Out and Proud, a special documentary that explores what happened a decade after Out! first premiered and tackles the relevant social issues that the Filipino Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community is still facing today. It airs tonight on GMA 7’s Sunday Night Box Office (SNBO).

“Out was about awareness on the LGBT issues, introducing to the people the plight of the gay-lesbian people. Out and Proud, meanwhile, is a celebration, acknowledging the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTs,” says GMA 7 senior program manager JM Cobarrubias who is one of the former hosts of Out.

Along with fellow Out! hosts Jigs Mayuga and Avi Siwa, Cobarrubias recognizes the various changes in LGBT community.

“Nowadays, many closeted people have come out in the open. International Filipino singer Charice Pempengco made the headline for revealing her true self. Singer-actress Aiza Seguerra even proposed to her girlfriend, thespian Liza Diño, and plans to have a wedding abroad, which was done by newlywed couple award-winning director Jun Lana and former TV executive Perci Intalan,” says Cobarrubias who acknowledges that there are many gay celebrities who make blockbuster movies and TV programs and who even become trusted product endorsers.

 â€œWhen GMA 7’s My Husband’s Lover became a phenomenal hit on TV, it indicated somehow that people are more open-minded now,” he adds.

Model-host Siwa shares: “The Philippines is now named as the most gay-friendly country in Asia, and that somehow indicates about our openness to homosexuality. We consider it normal to hear straight people incorporate gay lingo into their own language. But with almost 100 million people in the Philippines and 7,107 islands, it is really still hard to say.”

Celebrity makeup artist Mayuga, on the other hand, feels thrilled that “gay youths can now openly come out to friends and family earlier in life as compared to a decade or two ago.”  He appreciates that “They are much more accepted and have tons of support from their peers.”

However, as much as they see these events as a good indication that the LGBT community has somehow made a great stride in the past decades, they also admit that there are still unresolved issues that need to be addressed.

“Discrimination is still our biggest concern nowadays, particularly in the workplace and especially for the transgender people,” says Mayuga, adding “The Philippines is more tolerant, but not yet fully accepting. I believe that acceptance is the only solution against discrimination. LGBT rights are also human rights.”

Another challenge that LGBT has to overcome is the prevalent social misconceptions about gay people. “Most people think we are different or we should put labels on each other. Gender and sexuality is not the total make up of our being,” says Cobarrubias.

Mayuga adds that some people think they can tell if someone is gay or straight just by observing them. But he clarifies that LGBT is as diverse as the heterosexual community. “Stereotyping is a thing of the past,” he explicates.

Meanwhile, Siwa sheds light on the misconception that heterosexual relationships are better than same-sex relationships. “I believe it doesn’t matter what is the gender of the person you are with. People can find a long-term partner and live happily ever after. And this happens to both communities.”

Behind the stories of struggles and challenges, the three believe that there are also tales about their victories and how fun it is to be gay. They urge people to not be afraid to come out because there is freedom in being true to themselves.

But Cobarrubias advises to come out “only when you are ready — ready for any reaction, ready to go to a direction where there is no turning back.”

Asked on the perfect time to come out, Mayuga shares “No day but today. Being true to myself and coming out has shaped me into the LGBT advocate I am today. I am stronger and wiser because of my experiences on and off the show.”

Siwa concludes: “You don’t need to come out to everyone. Just come out to people you love and who love you because at the end of the day, it is them who matters.”

Vicky Morales hosts Out and Proud.

AIZA SEGUERRA

COBARRUBIAS

GAY

LGBT

MAYUGA

MY HUSBAND

OUT AND PROUD

PEOPLE

SIWA

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