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Entertainment

Mark Bautista reflects on journey since coming out three years ago

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Mark Bautista reflects on journey since coming out three years ago
On advice to young people being pressured to come out: Don’t feel pressured. There’s only one person who will tell you that you’re ready and that’s you. This is not a competition. You will know when is the right time. May kanya-kanyang ways of expressing ourselves. I have a different way of expressing myself, you have a different way of expressing yourself.
STAR / File

Mark Bautista has reflected on his journey since coming out as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in February 2018 by way of writing a memoir.

Although his book Beyond The Mark touched on other important aspects of his life, from his childhood in Cagayan De Oro to his career in showbiz, it became the talk of the town at the time of its release because of his revelation about being bisexual: “I have since made peace with the self-knowledge that I love both sexes and, if given the chance, I would love to have kids and settle down and have a family…”

But since then, he has never spoken about it in subsequent media interviews. Not until he was recently selected by Spotify as one of the featured Filipino artists in its Pride Hub, as part of its international campaign to celebrate Pride all year long. It is the global audio streaming platform’s “safe and meaningful” space for LGBTQIA+ artists, podcasters and themed playlists from around the world.

The 37-year-old singer-actor told The STAR in an exclusive interview: “When I released my book, naisip ko, that’s it kasi I don’t need to explain anything, I’ve already said a lot of things in my book, and it’s for everyone to find out or learn from that experience because it’s out there. And my wish (was) sana marami siyang ma-inspire... and may makukuha silang learnings. And I was just, OK, nandito lang ako, enjoy ko life, I’ll choose to be some kind of private with my personal life after that. But now, I’m learning may mga discussions na kailangan. Sometimes, nakakalimutan ko na ang role ko sa community.”

He added, “At this time, marami akong naiisip: Ang role mo pala di nag-sto-stop dun (sa book). I also need to participate also in terms of awareness. Marami pa rin palang nangangailangan ng tulong in this time, ang dami pa ring hatred... hindi accepting. And I think a lot of people are still out there alone, living in fear and still being threatened by life and, you know, nahirapan pa din.”

And that’s why Mark felt happy and honored to be part of Spotify’s Pride Hub. “It gives me that sense of belonging, parang may family. At the same time, it makes me realize the responsibility of representing the community, which is great and empowering for me.”

Asked about his thoughts on the LGBTQIA+ community’s representation in the music landscape, he said: “Very improving. I think ngayon mas nakikita ko ang representation not just in the society but also in the industry. Marami akong nakikita na pareho sa akin kumbaga. I see a lot of artists releasing songs that focus on the LGBTQ community. There’s support now at maraming discussion sa panahon ngayon, which is good.

He continued, “I think ang kailangan lang i-improve is the support of the community itself. Feeling ko, you’re asking for support from the outside community but may iba na parang, they’re actually not supporting the community itself...

“Sometimes, nakikita ko sa mga comment sections ko, sa social media lang, parang nakikita ko pa rin kung sino pa yung sa community mismo, sila rin yung nam-bu-bully mismo, minsan nampe-pressure, parang uy, yung galaw niya ganyan, bakit ganyan, parang ganyan. So, I think it has to start within us. The support should also start within the community itself.”

Meanwhile, speaking of pride, the Kapuso artist who’s part of the shows All-Out Sundays and Catch Me Out Philippines has certainly made Pinoys proud with musical exploits in his nearly two-decade career in the entertainment business. Last time I saw him perform live was in his February 2020 concert with Christian Bautista and Aicelle Santos, where he just powered through the show sans rehearsals and despite his palpable grief as his father just passed away a few days before.

And if not for the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, he was to headline the musical The Band’s Visit (their opening night also became their closing night because of the ECQ). Early last year, he was also asked (but missed) to audition for the lead role in the Broadway staging of Aladdin. He still hopes to work in international productions once the pandemic is over.

It was while doing the Here Lies Love in West End in 2014 and then its Seattle production in 2017 (where he had a near-death experience of surviving a shooting incident) that he realized life is too short not to embrace who he is and share “the story of my life” through his book.

Here, Mark opened up for the first time what happened after and the learnings along the way.

On how life has been since the release of Beyond The Mark:

“It has been a great journey so far. What I’m seeing now… I think, hindi na major concern if you’re out or you’re accepted already. The audience wants to know kung ano ang next sa’yo. I think they’re more interested in what you have become after and what you will do next. I think yun ang importante, and tina-try ko gawin ngayon, in terms of artistry, sa craft ko — ano pa yung ma-o-offer ko next? Ano ang magiging next sa songs ko, sound ko, what else can I offer? Naramdaman ko lang… ang mga tao naman hindi naman sila, ‘ah ganyan siya’ or ‘ganun siya,’ but ano ang nagawa sa’yo (ng book) after?

“And personally, kung ano next mangyayari sa akin after that book. Ano next madadagdag sa aking story kung meron, if I’m going to fall in love next and marry someone and maybe have kids, or something.”

On his family’s initial reaction to his book:

“Actually, I don’t know kung ang sama ko, pero wala akong sinabihan. Even before, we never discussed about my sexuality or anything. Sinabi ko na lang nung dumating ako sa airport at sinundo ako ng mama at brother ko. Kwentuhan muna about what happened in Seattle and then I said, guess what guys, I wrote a book, an autobiography... Part dun, I told my whole truth about my sexuality and all that. Then na-surprise na sila. Natahimik at first. Tapos, yung brother ko natawa, yung mama ko natahimik.

“Pagdating sa bahay, my mom and I had a private talk. She asked, ‘Are you happy ‘nak?’ She was very supportive. And then my dad was just so quiet. But I’m sure he was very, very happy, wala naman problem sa kanya yun. May sakit siya, alam mo yun? So, dinahan-dahan ko yung pag-story, but I know deep inside, he understood and accepted me. Si Papa pa yung namimigay ng books sa mga friends niya sa probinsya namin. Ako pa yung nahihiya, parang ‘wag na pero nag-l-LBC siya sa mga friends niya.”

On the showbiz community’s reaction to the book:

“It was hard at first. I had friends in showbiz, I don’t know kung umiiwas, pero di na ako kinakausap during the first release. I think, they felt that my intention was not good. Na-misinterpret ka at first, they didn’t understand what I was feeling. But you can only do so much, mahirap rin mag-explain ka ng mag-explain. It’s hard because people will really judge you right away. But I let it be because I know deep in my heart that it was with good intentions. And that’s the best thing with doing something with pure intentions and love because you’re not guilty at all, and you’re confident and secure about yourself.

“But I cannot blame them din. It was really unexpected and di rin sila na-prepare. ‘Pag dumating kasi time na feeling mo tama, you can never be prepared. You just go with the flow, with what you feel... that’s what happened. But now, I’m happy. I know my real friends and people who really support me from Day 1.”

On the impact of his coming-out on his career:

“Ako nahirapan maghanap ng... like, if I want to do TV acting or film, walang role na maibibigay? There’s a perception na, ‘Ay, di pwede mag-straight actor or straight acting,’ or ‘dapat ibibigay lang sa kanya BL (boys’ love) or puro lang guy-to-guy relationships.’ Which is, napapaisip ako na, di na ba pwede or mahirap ba talaga magbigay ng role na isantabi muna yung sexuality or something?...

“But so far, lahat na nangyari sa career ko, I feel like bonus na. I’m already blessed that in my 18 years in the business, I’m still doing things that I love. May binibigay pa rin GMA sa awa ng Diyos. I’m very thankful na kahit papaano may trabaho binigay sa akin and there are people showing support.”

On the kind of freedom his memoir gave him:

“The freedom na hindi ko na-experience before, I think, is the freedom to talk just about anything to your friends. You’re not anymore afraid of expressing yourself to others… Now, di ko na dinidibdib yung mga comments on social media. Di na ako na-a-anxious ‘pag alam mo yun, shucks baka malaman. Wala na akong ganun. In terms with my family, we’re so open now with the question of, ‘So, ano ang plano mo Mark?’ We’re not anymore afraid to talk about the future, yung ano yung chino-choose ko na path, kung ano gusto ko, magkapamilya ba, to meet someone, or gusto ko magkaanak. We get to talk about things we didn’t talk about before, which is liberating and masarap (sa pakiramdam)!”

On advice to young people being pressured to come out:

“Don’t feel pressured. There’s only one person who will tell you that you’re ready and that’s you. This is not a competition. You will know when is the right time. May kanya-kanyang ways of expressing ourselves. I have a different way of expressing myself, you have a different way of expressing yourself. You don’t need to feel pressured na kailangan ganito, kailangan you write a book or kailangan mag-pa-interview. You will feel it when you’re ready. If the amount of courage you have is right, you will feel it. When you’re comfortable with yourself already, I think that’s the right time.”

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