In between the notes and staves, the queer Filipino shines

Love songs have always sung to the heteronormative society—but queer narratives in OPM are slowly but powerfully turning the tide.

Serendipitous meetings, your beloved becoming your whole world—the depiction of love through music is infinite.

Original Pilipino Music (OPM) has never failed to illustrate the profound emotional range of human experiences, seen in songs like Parokya ni Edgar’s Harana and Side A’s Forevermore. Filipino musicians never run dry in crafting melodies laden with sentimentality and heartstring-tugging lyrics that cater to audiences of all kinds: from teenagers falling in love for the first time to old couples celebrating years together.

However, amid countless renditions of requited feelings, seldom do we encounter the queer narrative in local love songs, even with such a vibrant LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines. “Most [OPM] songs I listened to growing up were about heterosexual relationships,” Amelia Clarissa Monasterial (I, LIM-CW) mentions. “Even if they were about homosexual relationships, I didn’t really relate to them as I am [an] asexual panromantic.”

But all hope is not lost—more and more OPM artists are creating music that celebrates all kinds of sexuality on the spectrum. One such example is up-and-coming artist Paul Pablo, who is making leaps in the industry by integrating his sexuality in his songs, “It shows how I see the world through [my experience] being gay, through my identity.”

Here marks the new wave of Filipino compositions that’ll illuminate every heart of every color, because everyone deserves a song that sings their story.

In the shadows

Tales of the queer community are not something that sprouted out of the blue. Echoes of queer narratives can be traced back to the popular folk song Paru-parong Bukid, wherein the alluring dance of a man dressed as a woman is compared to a butterfly. The true meaning of the song was erased due to the colonial perceptions enforced by the Spanish, as elaborated by Michael Andrada—director of the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino at the University of the Philippines Diliman. “Dati pa manmay expressions ‘yung mga Filipino men about their sexuality kagaya [ng Paru-parong Bukid],” he attests.

(Even before, Filipino men or queer have been open with their sexualities, just like in the said song.)

Fast forward to today, queer artists encounter the same hurdles but in different forms. With Moira dela Torre’s Titibo-tibo portraying the narrative of queerness being a phase and Abra’s Gayuma expressing how he’d abominably treat transwomen—these songs have perpetuated society’s denial of the queer community. But beyond the looming presence of queerphobia beset in our culture, LGBTQ+ artists persist to shine.

Monasterial herself writes about emotions as a central theme. While she doesn’t write about her own queer history yet, she appreciates how other queer artists make their experiences the central topic to connect with their audience. “I think what makes music based on the queer experiences different is that you get a lot of perspectives about how people present themselves,” she declares.

Pablo, on the other hand, is keen on writing and singing about love—the kind of love everybody will relate to. His newly released single, ‘Di Inakala, is about how the love yearned for is finally realized and felt. “When I think about it deeply, I realized na [being gay is] actually not a disadvantage, it’s actually an edge. The more I hide it, the more I’m not being myself,” he recounts.

The secret ingredient

But above queerphobia and stereotyping, queer music isn’t widely distributed for one main reason: it doesn’t make for a “good” business model. “It will be easier to market [heteronormative themes] than to invest on something na hindi pa ‘tried and tested,’” Andrada remarks. He expounds that only when queer-themed content garners viewership and traction would media moguls be willing to invest.

Baka…masyadong bago ‘yung ginagawa pa nila,” Pablo admits, sharing similar sentiments on artists’ hesitancy to explore different music styles. “[Baka] magiging subject pa sila for a meme or pagtatawanan pa ng people.”

(Maybe what they’re doing is too new. Maybe they’ll even become the subject of a meme or people will laugh at them.)

The ostracization of the queer community normalized in the country’s culture has always been the root of the problem. “There’s really a need for a cultural revolution, even doon sa loob [ng queer community],” Andrada posits. “Lahat ng mga backward notions should be shunned and changed…we have to resist and [to] rectify [these notions] in order for us to move forward.” He further emphasizes this change could entail unlearning what was unfairly imposed on society.

(There’s really a need for a cultural revolution, even inside of the queer community. All the backward notions should be shunned and changed.)

The professor discloses that courage is the key: courage to be open, to share, and to revolutionize. Pablo admitted it took much to decide to be open about his identity, thinking it’d be disadvantageous to his career. However, he details, “Na-discover ko [ang ibang queer artists] nung nag-start na ‘ko sa career ko, kasi a lot them of them approached me…doon ko [nalaman] na I’m not alone.”

(I discovered other queer artists when I started my career because a lot of them approached me. That’s when I knew that I’m not alone).

Every single hue

Though allyship is always welcome, the stories of the LGBTQ+ community should be told by the members themselves. Andrada propounds that the unique queer experience of understanding their sexuality and expressing their love can only be properly depicted on all possible platforms by those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. “‘Yun lang ‘yung paraan na maa-appreciate kami ng marami kasi pinaka-powerful talaga ‘yung media representation [para] sa amin,” Pablo stresses.

(That’s the only way we can be appreciated more because media representation is really the most powerful for us.)

After all, at the root of it all, music and love are genderless. It belongs to everyone regardless of who they love and how they show it. “Music is not just for listeners; it’s also for all types of creators and artists,” Monasterial furthers. “Why should music only be about straight people?” she challenges.

Love can only truly win when every version of it is proudly celebrated. As it’s perfectly natural for songs to have rhythm and rhyme, so is being queer. The times may change but humanity’s capacity to love every being will always remain. It’s high time the world learns to sing along to the melodies of boundless hearts—of endless love.

Clarisse Bernal

By Clarisse Bernal

Angela Carla Ramos

By Angela Carla Ramos

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