Falling in love with Gameboys
A sweet promise: Gameboys Season 2

Falling in love with Gameboys

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star) - September 18, 2020 - 12:00am

Falling in love is easy. Finding the spark is rare. But to those who fall in love and keep the spark alive, the feeling is divine.

Love is both simple and complex. It brings out the best and the worst in one. It is confidence and insecurity combined. It is a mix of fortitude and negligence. It is the fire under one’s seat. It is also the cold spell. It transcends cultures and genders, beliefs and mores. It is hope. It is despair. Beyond that, it is both a fairy tale and a game. It is the story of Gameboys.

In the time of the pandemic, two young men, Cairo Lazaro and Gavreel Alarcon (played respectively by Elijah Canlas and Kokoy De Santos with believable depth and incandescence), both active in live-streamed computer games, find love in the middle of a game. When Cairo, a master of an online game, loses in a match to his fan, Gavreel, the love story starts and sparks. It is to become a series of winning and losing and winning again in love. Oh, to be in love!

Gameboys, a highly successful Pinoy BL web series on YouTube produced by The IdeaFirst Company, gives dignity to the feelings of two men in love.
Photos courtesy of IdeaFirst Company

But Gameboys is more than just a love story. It is a voice that lends speech to gay love that is no longer in the closet but celebrated right there on center stage. It demystifies the sex-centric narratives of homosexuality in the past. It has the innocence and purity of a newly discovered love, a love that is meant to be kept, applauded, adored, fought for. It also lends a face to what romance is all about between two men — sweet and tender, persevering and yielding, filled with promises of forever and covenants of fidelity. More than that, an equalizer when put side by side with the concept of hetero affairs.

Gameboys is a Boys’ Love (BL) YouTube web series composed of 13 episodes for its first season. BL is a drama genre that tackles a romantic narrative between two men. If you google up the phrase, “Boys’ Love is a relatively new term used to indicate broadly manga, anime, or fan works depicting love between men for a presumed female audience.”

If in the past the story of love between two men was covert and hidden from public for fear of lovers to be ostracized, Gameboys is a brave stance that projects equality in the name of love. It is a kind of romance that is supported by family and friends who believe two men falling in love is as natural as all emotions can be, as normal as a man and a woman falling in love.

If in the past the story of love between two men was filled with seediness, misery and promiscuity, Gameboys breaks the constricting glass of misgivings and out comes a love that is chaste and inspiring. I believe the web series is a fountain of hope, a reservoir of affections, a depot of everything bright and beautiful for two men in love.

Kokoy De Santos as Gavreel Mendoza.

It is an important breakthrough in web series making  because it cleans the spots and specks that have long smudged the perceived taboo in gay love. It also endeavors to discuss the topic of coming out, making it clear that it is the choice of a gay person to either reveal himself or not. After all, it is the right of a gay person to choose to whom he will divulge himself. To divulge one true self is to share the universe of one person — to one or two or to the world.

There’s much sensitivity employed by the web series director Ivan Andrew Payawal from the equally sensitive script of Ash Malanum. Yes, kilig moments are present in every episode (which lasts no more than 22 minutes) but it is also clear that respect and reverence for gay love is the motivation for making Gameboys. After all, real-life couple Perci Intalan and Jun Robles Lana are the executive producers of the series, under the The IdeaFirst Company.

The first nine episodes of the series, shot completely online due to quarantine restrictions, give the audience the perspective that web series making is possible as long as genius is at work. It is a big help that Elijah Canlas and Kokoy De Santos play their part with keenness and genuine love for their craft. The courtship scenes are worthy of a thousand and one swoons, patches of real emotions on reel. These are two young actors who have mastered the very essence of “being” in acting. They will make you laugh and cry. They will make you fall in love with them, with yourself, whether or not you have fallen in love or have fallen out of it. (Elijah starred in Kalel, 15, a film that we gave a grade of A when we reviewed it at the Cinema Evaluation Board. It is a movie that essays the life of a young boy confronted with the malaise of dealing with HIV.)

Special mention goes to Adrianna So, whose recurring presence as Pearl Gatdula in the series is a whiff of fresh air. She’s natural as natural can be. If Gameboys were a Shakespearean opus, the character Pearl is the chorus, foreteller of things to come, the bridge to understanding better and clearer the dimensions of emotions of others.

Elijah Canlas as Cairo Lazaro.

Sue Prado as Leila Lazaro, mother of Cairo, is also a force in her meekness and quiet attack of her role. Her character is an important ingredient of the web series because Leila Lazaro makes it feel normal to have a son who falls in love with another man.

Gameboys, which premiered on May 22 at the height of the lockdown and ended last Sunday, discusses, too, safety protocols to be observed in the time of COVID-19. It narrates the hurts and pains of a family whose one member (father of Cairo) died of COVID-19.

What is also amazing in Gameboys, which promises to air its Season 2 in time (and I heard a movie is in the offing), is its ability to simplify the complex discussion about BL topics. Yes, drama is involved. But beyond the upbeat drama between the protagonists is a restitution of faith in love. And it is presented with simple and sincere gestures in the series the way heterosexual love is celebrated.

Gameboys is a statement. Loud and clear. Watch it. Hear it. And fall in love.

(E-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)

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