I always feel uncomfortable when noontime shows tackle anything LGBTQ+. In our household, our unspoken TV station of choice is GMA. I grew up waiting for “Anime sa Hapon” and “Heart of Asia” primetime shows. Of course, “Eat Bulaga” was my de facto lunchtime background noise.
“Eat Bulaga” has always been your kooky, run-of-the-mill variety show. That, and it has a track record of thinking of the LGBTQ+ as mere entertainment.
The heart of “Eat Bulaga” will always be Tito, Vic and Joey. They’re not exactly the tito trio you’d go for when it comes to activism and social justice. In fact, they have a track record of normalizing politically incorrect jokes: from Joey De Leon once saying that depression was made up to that time the trio appropriated wearing keffiyeh for Halloween and basically everything Tito Sotto says on this show.
Segments like “Super Sireyna” were intended to raise awareness on the transgender community, but instead it turned sireyna into a slur when straights try to clock transwomen or people in drag’s gender. And of course, men are placed in drag for comedic purposes in this show. The LGBTQ+ community’s purpose in “Eat Bulaga” is for crass, slapstick comedy to be enjoyed by families nationwide.
Then, something changed when they aired an episode of “Bawal Judgmental.”
“Bawal Judgmental” is a fairly new segment on “Eat Bulaga.” The concept is simple: From a seemingly random lineup of people, guest celebrities will have to figure out what they all have in common. After assuming the right category, they will then choose who doesn’t belong in the group. Their composition of participants so far have included young fathers, people living with HIV, dancers with doctorate degrees and the most viral one so far, LGBTQ+ folk who are not yet out to their parents.
“’Yung nagiging hindrance sa kanila ay hiya, takot at pagaalinlangan. We can educate [people] naman that [if you are] gay, walang magbabago sa pagkatao nila.”
As someone who isn’t out to their family, coming out is a sensitive topic to me. My knee-jerk reaction with a variety show tackling this topic was: Wow, they’re really out there trivializing closeted queer people for entertainment. It made me anxious for the participants. But when I learned that they saw this as an opportunity to live their truths, I kept watching and gave it a shot.
Former beauty queen Melanie Martinez was the guest celebrity and even the parents of these closeted queer contestants, oblivious to what was about to happen, were present in the studio. They also invited clinical psychologist Dr. Dawnie Dela Cruz to explain to the audience the consequences of coming out and why it is never an easy task.
“’Yung nagiging hindrance sa kanila ay hiya, takot at pagaalinlangan. We can educate [people] naman that [if you are] gay, walang magbabago sa pagkatao nila,” says Dela Cruz during the segment.
Expectedly, there were a lot of tearjerker moments. Not only in the studio, but in different households across the country as well. For the first time, “Eat Bulaga” didn’t place the community as a running joke. They let them tell their stories. Our stories are humanized in front of an audience.
Of course, this doesn’t mean “Eat Bulaga” will stop making fun of queer people. It’s their bread and butter at this point. If I’m being frank, it still makes me uncomfortable that coming out somehow became a form of entertainment since the contestants chose to do it in front of a live audience.
Coming out is always hard. Most of the time, it’s dealt within the four corners of our homes. But it also means that we do it on our own terms. And that’s what the brave souls did on national television.
For the first time, “Eat Bulaga” didn’t place the community as a running joke. They let them tell their stories. Our stories are humanized in front of an audience.
Although this execution wasn’t perfect, it certainly did the community a solid by normalizing coming out. And it matters more since this was done on a huge platform that homophobic conservatives often watch.
We all have a long way to go to become an LGBTQ+ inclusive country. But with the reaction on how straight parents cried during this moment in “Eat Bulaga” and how they empathized with the contestants, maybe, just maybe, there’s a sliver of hope that coming out will be easier in the future.
Watch the full episode below:
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Art by Zaila Mae Urmeneta