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Rant & Rave: Gaya sa Pelikula

We often daydream about living in the magical worlds promised by childhood fairy tales. There was always something so reassuring about the fantasy of a true love’s kiss and the certainty that in the end, all will be well. While some fairy tales do come true, more often than not, we take a sharp nosedive back to reality once we find ourselves on the precipice of adulthood. 

This is where the meticulously crafted fantasies woven by films come into play, where people of all ages get to relive the fairy tales of their youth once more. Immersion, however, halts when the characters and narratives one sees on screen fails to reflect the realities that one continues to face—such as the plight of the members of the  LGBTQ+ community.

The recent rise of Filipino boys’ love (BL) series aims to correct this misrepresentation. Although there is plenty of content to choose from across many streaming platforms, Gaya sa Pelikula (GSP) stands out in the crowd. Written and created by the eloquent Juan Miguel  Severo and directed by the tenacious JP Habac, GSP follows the classic love story archetype where two strangers—Karl and Vlad—meet and fall head over heels with each other. 

Gaya Sa Pelikula is an intimate tale filled with warmth and fervor. No longer will the members of the Filipino LGBTQ+ community have to wonder what it’s like to be young and carefree when queer love in all its glory is authentically depicted in a series such as this.

No euphemisms

What makes Gaya Sa Pelikula stand out from the rest is its advocacy that’s carefully woven into its narrative. Marketed as a romantic comedy (rom-com) first and foremost, this is the showrunners’ attempt to help normalize queer narratives in the said genre. Moreover, this is the show’s means of helping the queer community—especially those who are still coming to terms with their identity or have yet to ponder on such matters—take to heart that non-heteronormative love is natural.

Queer love stories don’t necessarily need to be marred by trauma. Like the community itself, queer narratives are diverse, and to see Karl and Vlad experience the same domesticity and struggles that cinematic straight couples are allowed to do, is nothing short of liberating. This is by no means to discredit the atrocities and unfortunate circumstances that other people of the community face. It just aims to widen the spectrum of queer narratives—an invitation that you can love who you want to love.

The show dives deep into the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community and what it means to be a true ally. It is an unfettered glimpse into the coming out struggle, the journey of coming to terms with one’s identity in a society only just beginning to accept the community. Karl is the very representation of the countless queer youth growing up in the closet, in fear of being shunned by those close to their hearts. The same fear has led many of us to deny ourselves the liberty and right to be authentic.  

For some, there is the added pressure to live up to the labels imposed upon them. And when faced with the possibility of having to live up to another—particularly one so grossly misconstrued by society’s narrow minded views and euphemisms—the pressure becomes overwhelming, and it’s easier to suppress one’s identity for a time. But the truth is, we are more than what society defines us to be, and we see this narrative play out through Karl. 

The show goes to great lengths to ensure the authentic representation of the very people it portrays. It presents the characters as they are—real, full of depth, complex, and each with a story of their own. Lead actors Paolo Pangilinan and Ian Pangilinan, who play Karl and Vlad respectively, were appropriately cognizant of their characters’ struggles, adding a palpable sense of authenticity, realness, and sensitivity to Karl and Vlad’s stories.

The supporting characters are no exception. For instance, there’s Adrienne Vergara’s Ate Judit (no H!)—Vlad’s overbearing but well-meaning older sister—who is the representation of an individual learning the ropes of what it means to be an ally.

Breaking the mold

Translating the brilliance of Severo’s masterful storytelling is JP’s prowess as the director. JP, notable for directing the 2017 rom-com I’m Drunk, I Love You, strikes an effective balance of originality and classic techniques. JP and the rest of the production team pulled no punches in crafting beautiful, eye-catching visuals, all cohesively stitched together by editor Kent Limbaga. 

Among the best aspects of GSP is undoubtedly its official soundtrack. Boasting an all-OPM lineup with the likes of Up Dharma Down, Kakie, and Ben&Ben, GSP makes brilliant use of music to fill in the nuances of every scene, adding depth and emotion to every tiny utterance and every look of longing. 

To a happy beginning

Gaya sa Pelikula is, unapologetically, a protest against the discrimination that has resulted in all the life and love lost through decades of fear and anxiety. Without compromising its advocacy, GSP effectively blends function and purpose. This creates a convincing and relatable rom-com series that appropriately celebrates the Filipino LGBTQ+ community.

Apart from being a powerful force for representation, GSP is simply a masterfully written, cleverly crafted piece of contemporary literature brimming with symbolism. The story itself is both a striking commentary on the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face. However, more than just a romantic story between two persons, GSP is an appeal to learn to love and accept oneself. Coming to terms with one’s identity takes time, time that is in the hands of those who are ready to venture that path but it doesn’t have to be a solitary journey. 

As the show emphatically declares, “Babawiin natin ang ating kuwento”—a clear invitation for the Filipino LGBTQ+ community to fearlessly reclaim and wholeheartedly cry out the narratives that have been repressed for so long. Here’s to hoping that Gaya sa Pelikula springboards the queer community to greater, previously uncharted heights—undaunted and unashamed. 

(Let’s reclaim our story.)

Rating: 4/4

By Gerome Minerva

By Evan Ramos

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