Rant and Rave: All say mabuheeeey to ‘Drag Race Philippines’

Racers, start your engines and may the best Filipino win! 

Since its premiere in 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) has provided drag its well-deserved reverence as an art form. The extension of the franchise in other territories, like Thailand and the United Kingdom, had further intensified the clamor and demand for a Philippine version. Queer culture has been the backbone of local mainstream pop culture for decades now, yet there hasn’t been much recognition of it,  until recently. In fact, it was only a year ago when drag queens Turing and Eva Le Queen shared with The LaSallian their dreams of a bigger stage to showcase the bedazzling excellence they lovingly call drag.

So when the announcement of the long-time-coming Philippine version of the reality-competition show was released, it was celebrated by the already vibrant local drag scene. Becoming the second Asian country to enter the longstanding international franchise, Drag Race Philippines (DRPH) undoubtedly placed our Philippine talents on the international map of drag eleganza.

Can I get an eme?

DRPH revved up to a wonderful start, paying homage to Filipino comics, games, festivals, and divas while hinting at facets of local queer culture in its mini and maxi challenges. However, localizing the classic Drag Race favorites proved to be a hit or miss. While the likes of Snatch Game, the Sagalamazon design challenge, and the Shake, Rattle, and Rampa runway category proved to be successful, some challenges needed to be polished, particularly the Miss S******a Beauty Pageant and the OPM Divas: The Rusical which can be attributed to their poor execution and occasional dead air on the main stage. 

Of course, it isn’t Drag Race without the Lipsync For Your Life, where the bottom two fight tooth and nail to earn their rightful stay in the competition. The performances were an interesting mix of local classics, modern hits, and RuPaul singles. Unfortunately, gag-worthy moments were a little lacking due to limited song choices; hopefully, future seasons will feature a more diverse melody selection, highlighting songs not only from female pop singers  but perhaps other popular musical hits, such as Bongga Ka Day by Hotdog or The Ordertaker by Parokya ni Edgar.

Another cause for criticism by avid fans of the show was the gaping hole left in the shape of a teleserye acting challenge. There is no question that  quintessential teleserye acting is iconic in our culture. Filipinos’ strong patronage in teleseryes could’ve been deeply reflected in a local acting challenge, and could have been, dare we say, even more opulent than their foreign counterparts.

Dapat pakak; kundi, sapak!

While DRPH was a lot of fun, obvious technical mishaps bogged it down. One could not ignore how the background music overpowered the dialogue or how it would even be inappropriate to the scene; moreover, the saturated lighting in the Champion music video left many viewers squinting at their screens just to see where the queens were. 

Additionally, the manner in which criticisms were communicated was questionable. Although Rajo Laurel’s evaluations on Eva Le Queen’s Divi-Divas look came from a “place of love”, gone are the days when outright insults are an acceptable form of tough love. In an artform that demands artists to build everything from scratch under tight finances, constructive criticism is the most meaningful. On the other end of the spectrum, judges BJ Pascual, Jon Santos, and Pokwang were most commendable for their reasonable critiques.

But when Paolo Ballesteros took on RuPaul’s mantle as the host for DRPH, everyone’s heads turned, eyebrows raised. While “Mamwa Pao” certainly was a more fun, campy, and easygoing character compared to the other Drag Race hosts, he would become extremely rigid when the situation became serious, taking away from the fun and eccentric air the show provided. 

Other minor offenses include clearly reading from the teleprompter in front of him and the seemingly downward ratchet of his energy upon hosting the latter episodes. Nonetheless, Ballesteros satisfyingly fulfilled RuPaul’s hosting position, quipping whimsical punchlines that made even the first evictees of the season memorable. 

The chemistry between RPDR alumna Jiggly Caliente and comedienne Kaladkaren was electrifying, and served to up the ante of the vibrant competition. Even if both made questionable statements about a queen’s size and being able to translate well to international audiences, respectively, they still provided excellent commentary, objective advice, and wacky exchanges. It was quite refreshing to see  the permanent judges jiving really well together, having the same vibrant energy as the judges from Drag Race España

All hail their majesties

Of course, DRPH prides itself on an exceptional roster of drag queens who perfectly represent the opulent, zany, and charming culture of Philippine drag. All the queens certainly have something to prove: to be known outside of clubs and online performances. But as soon as everyone gathered in the Werk Room for the first time, audiences fell in love with each unique character. 

Despite being the season’s early outs, Prince, Corazon, and Gigi Era became icons thanks to their runway presentations. Meanwhile, fan favorites Viñas DeLuxe and Lady Morgana certainly filled the room with laughs—from DeLuxe’s drunken proclamation of the gravity inside the popcorn to Morgana’s thoughtful greetings, they were undoubtedly the camera darlings of the season. Minty Fresh served looks, Brigiding gave star quality, and Turing taught audiences that one should never define themselves by a single slip-up. 

But the crown jewel of DRPH was the final four contenders. Each queen possessed a unique aspect that made them qualified to win. Whether it’s Marina Summer’s versatility, Precious Paula Nicole’s comedic charm, Xilhouete’s upward trajectory in the competition, or Eva Le Queen’s regality, Filipinos certainly had their favorites for the crown.

Nevertheless, only one of these queens could take home the crown. At the end of a particularly entertaining and lavish final episode, Precious Paula Nicole emerged victorious as  the winner of the first season of DRPH. She took home the title, one million pesos, and a year’s supply of Patrick Starr’s ONE/SIZE Beauty Cosmetics. On top of her lipsyncing prowess in the finale, she demonstrated heart throughout the ruthless  competition. Meanwhile, Lady Morgana was awarded the physical crown as the Philippines’ first Miss Congeniality winner, winning her fellow castmates’ hearts with her sweet demeanor and can-do attitude .

Now prance, my queen

Currently, all of the queens have been enjoying success off the show. From booking more gigs at clubs to performing at Globe’s GMusic Fest, the queens have been receiving an endless amount of well-deserved recognition. But given the show’s inconsistent quality, avid fans of the Drag Race franchise were still let down. Sadly, some crew members behind this monumental show resorted to defensiveness and seemed to attack its own fanbase when audiences called to fix the show’s flaws in future seasons. 

At the end of the day, DRPH is not perfect, nor does it strive to be. Regardless of all its faults, DRPH did what it had to do: it celebrated the talent, ingenuity, and determination that Filipino drag queens have etched upon their spirits. Hopefully, more queens from the provinces—especially Visayas and Mindanao—get featured to truly immerse audiences in what Philippine drag can really bring to the table. 

For now, fans should buckle up; this is truly just the beginning of the rest of DRPH

Rating: 3.0/4.0
Magz Chin

By Magz Chin

Bea Cruz

By Bea Cruz

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