Drag in the Philippines could be traced back to the precolonial era. But wasn’t until the late 1900s that drag was first seen in local media, in films such as Ang Tatay Kong Nanay (My Father, My Mother, 1978).
ANG TATAY KONG NANAY (1978)
Dir. Lino Brocka
Coring, a gay beautician, is left with a baby by his former ward, Dennis. The baby grows up thinking that Coring is his real father. Everything seems to be smooth until the kid's mother suddenly shows up to claim her son. pic.twitter.com/Dmv0kUHtqF
— 𝐭𝐞𝐩𝐢👽 (@stepisowild) June 5, 2022
Later, drag found its way into noontime show segments, where contestants dressed one-half of their body in male clothing, and the other half in women’s clothes as they sang a duet with themselves. Sure, these performances may have helped give the drag community a voice, but as these portrayals were mainly for entertainment, they also reduced Philippine drag to but a shallow brand of slapstick comedy.
Sino kaya sa kanila ang magiging Grand Winner ng Doble Kara bukas? pic.twitter.com/Glhxp9Mcfc
— Eat Bulaga! (@EatBulaga) March 6, 2020
It’s been a long time coming, but in 2022, Philippine drag got the breakthrough it so rightfully deserves. Following the arrival of Ru Paul’s Drag Race to the Philippines, drag shows branched out from their usual club venues—drag artists started to perform in bakeshops and cafes, literally taking drag into broad daylight. Filipino drag has crept into new spaces, finding an avenue for the queens to show the world and celebrate the art form that drag truly is.
I have 3 words to say…
POP OFF ATE!
One of the best franchises and best episodes in drag race herstory. 👑🇵🇭🧜🏿♀️#DragRacePhilippines #TeamVinasDeluxe #DRPH #DragRacePH pic.twitter.com/3a9Vgouu6B
— ___adam آدم 🇳🇿🇵🇸🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈🏐🏉 (@___amccarthy) August 24, 2022
THIS CAST LOOK SO GOOD !!! #DragRace #DragRacePH #DragRacePhilippines pic.twitter.com/ZqDNTbUZRl
— its edu (@povdemie) July 20, 2022
THE LADY GAGA DRAG BRUNCH AT BUTTERBOY WAS LITERALLY ONE OF THE BEST DRAG SHOWS I’VE BEEN TO LEGIT. I CRIED AND SCREAMED MY LUNGS OUT AAAHHHH pic.twitter.com/xURTmwxr66
— Maika (@MaikaTiu) March 26, 2023
Drag performers finally got the chance to show that they are more than a comedic relief. Drag is a protest and their performances are a storytelling.
Drag Den with Manila Luzon is one of the shows that led Philippine drag to a major breakthrough last year. Unveiled in 2021 as the “first-ever drag reality show” in the country, Drag Den aimed to make it clear that Philippine drag is not only about showcasing larger-than-life performances by talented artists—but it’s also a sociopolitical commentary.
Nothing, just a reminder that TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN 🏳️⚧️#DragDenPH #PrimeVideoPH #DragDenPinoyPageant pic.twitter.com/aWbs91Pmhw
— Drag Den Philippines (@dragdenph) January 16, 2023
THIS IS PINOY DRAG!!!!!!!!! 👏👏👏#DragDenPinoyPageant pic.twitter.com/w7XEFrCmPI
— miko ♡ #TeamSashaColby (@mikopagaduan) January 12, 2023
Hosted by the Drag Lord, Fil-Am drag queen Manila Luzon, the show had spiels that throw shade at oppressive systems, sketches that involved portraying political stereotypes, and even challenges where performers were pushed to flaunt their advocacy in their best protest couture. Clearly, Drag Den is anything but apolitical.
NAIA Black, who was crowned the competition’s first winner, says: “As drag queens we do command so much attention, and I feel like that attention can be used for the greater good and to further platforms and advocacies that we need in this society. As drag queens, maganda na nga kami, may advocacy pa (we’re not only beautiful, we also have an advocacy).”
Director Rod Singh’s vision is to highlight the nuances of Filipino drag, even going as far as bringing drag to barangays (Filipino districts) in hope of reaching the masses, sharing the experiences of the LGBT community on the ground, and making drag more inclusive.
No one does it like the Philippines!! 😱🤯 https://t.co/6PZHxkGCnN
— Laganja Estranja 🏳️⚧️ (@LaganjaEstranja) January 22, 2023
She says: “It’s been quite a journey for us; the history of Pinoy drag culture is full of unsung heroes, and we’ve come a long way.”
“The show stood for many things, and thanks to our audience, because they, too, stood with us.”
Drag Den is slated for a second season, marking Prime Video’s first time renewing a local show in Southeast Asia.
The show is currently in the process of holding auditions for aspiring queens. This means you still have time to binge watch the first seaon on Prime, get to know the drag cartel, enjoy dragdagulan, and bask in the chaotic world of Filipino drag before the second season launches!