A transgender drama goes mainstream

Stars (from left) Jason Abalos, Rayver Cruz and Kris Bernal

MANILA, Philippines — Media create spaces for public to look into issues. And the upcoming GMAAfternoon Prime series titled AsawaKo, KaribalKo contributes to the LGBT narrative by telling a transgender life starting Oct. 22. This is a shift of focus from the usual gay and lesbian tales. Mainstreaming such drama will hopefully make people understand transgender people.

“I’m an advocate of this type of material,” said Mark, who helms the drama series, in an interview that followed the roundtable with members of media. “Mas masaya, I have wholeheartedly given what I know. You know, the idea of me being able to put across my message to a wider audience (thrills me).” His works as then film and audio visual communication student also revolved around the lived experiences of LGBT. So, it’s safe to say that Mark has the know-how to handle the subject.

“In real life, the transgender issue (has) a bigger scope,” he added. “This show is the start that will open public consciousness about it.” Drama, the genre when seen beyond its entertainment value, will tell more.
“It will not only focus on transgender (people), it will also focus on family, (exploring the repercussions of living a transgender life),” Mark said.
At the center of the story is the character named Nathan, portrayed by Jason Abalos, who resorts to marriage in concealing his true identity and saving his family reputation from an impending controversy. “The idea behind Nathan is he uses Rachel (played by Kris Bernal) to cover up his homosexuality,” Mark shared. Following the wisdom of a popular saying — walanglihimnahindinabubunyag (no secrets can be kept for long), Nathan lives a double life. And an unfortunate event will lead Nathan to that transgender life, complete with new identity. This engenders more twists and turns in the story.

Mark has made real-life references to make Nathan’s narrative firm and real. “I know a gay blogger, who is marrying a woman,” he said. “I would go to this person who has just transitioned from being gay to trans. Sa kanyakopotinatanonglahat ng questions ko. Ganitobakumilos? Ganitobamagsalita? Ganitoba mag-isip? If ever someone asks me (about our bases for the trans character), masasabikona may katotohananyungsinasabiko (I can say that the show is based on some truth). Being gay is different from that of trans.” Aside from that, the creative team also consulted an expert for proper and sensitive depiction.

Mark Sicatdela Cruz, director of AsawaKo, KaribalKo: An advocate of this type of material

Asked if the show is palatable to most audiences, Mark answered, “I think it can be watched by high school students. What about kids? Mapapanoodnaman… Tinginkopo mas naniniwalapoakona mas magandangmapanoodnila. Bakit? Dahilbata pa posila (mas bukaspo) angisipannilanatanggapinangganoongkonsepto… Walakamingsobrangsenswalnaginawa.”

As for Jason’s cameo (brief) but pivotal closet gay role, which will be “reincarnated” as Catriona (Thea Tolentino), Mark said: “His character was designed to have a short appearance. We want to show the process a transgender (person) goes through. Kung akopoyungtatanunginninyo at pahahabainang (appearance) ng character niJason at hindimagiging Thea, bakasabihin ng mga audience nawala (itong) pinagkaibasa Destiny Rose.”
So what’s the line that separates AsawaKo, KaribalKo from previously done transgender dramas likeDestiny Rose?

“Its difference from Destiny Rose is the latter is about the saga of Destiny Rose (the character played by Ken Chan). The (AsawaKo, KaribalKo) drama (also includes the) family and how it (the life of a transgender person) will affect the family. Iba din itosa My Husband’s Lover na may dalawang bisexuals… There’s family involvement (in the main AsawaKo, KaribalKo narrative).”
With that, drama is the right genre to tell the Nathan-Catriona story.
“Kasiponaniniwalapoakonasimula’tsapulanglitrato ng LGBT ay purokatatawanan (I think ever since, LGBT is always portrayed in a funny way). So I guess this is the right time to look at LGBT (community) with seriousnessnahinditampulan ng katatawanan (not some butt of a joke), na ‘di tampulan ng slapstick kasimayroon pa tayongkayangipakita. Of course, it should be given the respect it deserves. Hindi kominamaliitang comedy dahilgaling din ako ng comedy pero para mas magingrespetadoang LGBT community.”

Regardless of genre through which a narrative can be told, and the gender of its subject, everyone’s story should be handled with respect.
(AsawaKo, KaribalKo also stars Rayver Cruz, Lotlot de Leon, Jean Saburit, Ricardo Cepeda, Devon Seron, Maricris Garcia, Matthias Rhoads, Phil Noble, AnnalynBarro and Caprice Cayetano. It can be seen on GMA Pinoy TV, GMA Life TV and GMA News TV International. For details, visit www.gmapinoytv.com.)