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Queer pop stans are breaking the local hetero-podcast ceiling

2020 is the year when LGBTQ+ people lost their safe spaces. So far, we’ve said our painful goodbyes to Today x Future and 20:20. We will no longer dance to pop divas spun by queer DJs or have drunken chats over their relevance and impact after the plague. 

To combat this loss, we turn to the virtual realm. We mount virtual dance parties, numerous stan GCs and even online drag shows. They don’t live up to the real thing though but as queer people, we’ve learned how to relocate and build our own spaces once they’ve been taken away from us. 

We’ve all tried finding our own safe spaces online or me, it’s little queer podcast called Pop Emergency.

Pop Emergency is the brainchild of Alwyn Mancio and Adrian de Guzman. By day, Alwyn and Adrian are just your average workers in the Makati corporate scene, but by night they’re the bad bitches from Quezon City and Baklang Kanal ng Cavite spitting facts and spilling the truest teas on present and future pop icons. 

For us LGBTQ+ people, pop music helps us discover who we are and even empowers us to be stronger than we think.”

“It was one afternoon in a coffee shop after our shifts from our corporate job, the usual conversations of catching up on pop music that made us think ‘what if we can share what we enjoy talking about?’” says Alwyn. “Pero never [siya] nag-materialize until Miss ’Rona happened,” Adrian chimes in.

Their collective idea wasn’t executed until a year later. At a time when social lives screeched to a halt and safe spaces were shut down, Pop Emergency became a virtual haven for queer Filipinos. That, and it’s a haven for pop music stans out there. 

Dropping 21 episodes so far, this young podcast is doing quite well. They’ve done guest features with the likes of voice-over darling Inka Magnaye, represent Filipino queer culture in an overtly hetero local podcasting community and even caught the attention of Asia’s hyper pop princess Rina Sawayama. Yes, that iconic Rina.

Wanting the no holds barred facts on facts about these queer podcasters, we did a virtual kiki on what goes on behind a Pop Emergency episode, why pop music is so important to the queer community and how pop is thriving and surviving regardless of the plague.

If you’re going to convince a non-podcast fan to listen to Pop Emergency, what will your elevator pitch sound like?
Alwyn: *Introduction of Runaway With Me by Carly Rae Jepsen*  you know it’s a good time when you hear that!

Adrian: Tara na sa dating ikaw! – “Beauty in a Bottle” (2014)

If Pop Emergency consisted of three existing podcasts, what would they be?
Alwyn: Dissect, Legends Only and Switched On Pop by Vox. These were our inspirations in doing Pop Emergency, depth and entertainment together!

Adrian: Biggest influence ko talaga ’yung Legends Only and It’s Britney, Bitch podcast nila T. Kyle and Bradley Stern, sunod naman ’yung Switched on Pop ng Vox for their ability to dissect anything music. And last would be Song Exploder kasi they were able to interview high-profile artists?! Sana all. 

Out of all the interests in the sphere of the LGBTQ+ zeitgeist, why zero in on the community’s love for pop music?
Alwyn: Pop music is everywhere. We live in that bubble, it serves as a soundtrack of our lives. For us LGBTQ+ people, pop music helps us discover who we are and even empowers us to be stronger than we think. These queens serve as an inspiration to every queer individual. 

Adrian: Every queer person has their pop icon because there was this unimaginable connection between them and the LGBTQ+ community. In a way, we feel seen and heard, and they relate to our struggles because basically, their music is omnipresent. We never feel alone because their music never left us.

Kahit na si LEGENDtina Aguilera man ‘yan or si Lyca GODranod, as long as we feel ‘that’ connection, we have no choice but to stan.

Alwyn Mancio of Pop Emergency

Let’s get down to it. Who are the top three pop icons you’d fight for if someone drags them on your TL?
Alwyn: Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Mariah Carey. These three hold a fucking grip in my being. I would let them know to stay on their lanes if they drag them.

Adrian: Tangina, magkamatayan na tayo rito. It’s Britney (BITCH), kumekendeng na ako sa mga kanta niya bata pa lang ako. Carly Rae Jepsen, Iglesia ni Carly ako. I’ve met her once and her music is something I will always relate to when it comes to love.

Last would be my queer Icons, my queeroes Tegan and Sara. I discovered them when I started exploring my sexuality and my internal music library, and they helped me cope with my kind of struggles, tapos cool pa sila mag-banter onstage.

“We wanted to veer away from the toxicity of stan culture, we wanted to celebrate one another and to validate their passion, their enthusiasm and their love for music.”

What’s planning a Pop Emergency episode like?
Alwyn: For a Pop 911 Episode, which is our main offering for Pop Emergency, it takes a lot of brainstorming in outlining what we want to say. We go from the surface level of what we want to talk about and dig deeper into what other dimensions we have not touched or what we want our listeners to know after this.

Right now, our first season aims to lay out the blueprint of pop music. We both decide on what to talk about and what sparks joy to both of us. You can’t fake authenticity.

Adrian: Speed Dial is our opportunity to further geek out. Solo namin ‘yun ginagawa and we can discuss anything we’re more passionate about: from Alwyn’s Mariah Carey fascination to my Indie Pop and 5 years of E•MO•TION.

#KwentongStan was born after our first-ever major giveaway where we handed out our most prized album possessions to lucky stans. All they had to do was share why they stanned that pop star.

And there was this one listener, Clark, a Swiftie, and he shared this super long entry about how Taylor Swift’s music saved him, and it made me tear up big time! That triggered us na, “You know what, hindi dapat natatapos sa giveaway itong platform na ginawa natin for their voices to be heard. We need to continue doing this.”

Kaya kung mapapansin ninyo, the Unholy Trinity of Pop Emergency is complete—Code Red is 911, Code Yellow is Speed Dial and our Code Green is #KwentongStan. PAG-ASA is shaking, MMDA is quaking.

While listening to your episodes, I felt like I was transported to a convo outside TodayxFuture or 20:20. Do you consider your podcast a virtual safe space?
Alwyn: Yes. We wanted to veer away from the toxicity of stan culture, we wanted to celebrate one another and to validate their passion, their enthusiasm and their love for music. TxF was that place and so is Pop Emergency.

Adrian: ’Yun talaga ’yung objective namin for Pop Emergency, to become that safe space our LGBTQ+ kapitbahays can go to. To be honest, lahat ng mga topics namin ay for sure alam na nila, it’s just that kailangan lang nila ng POV ng isa pang tao to further validate and support their very thought.

Also, it’s not an easy pair of shoes to fill, but we are humbled by your statement that you were transported to queer spaces in Manila because we always mention TxF. We always go there at totoo ‘to—kapag pinatugtog na ’yung song ng mga pop stars nila, papasok lahat to sing and dance. Isn’t that wonderful?

As you’ve both said, the gays are being fed this year (despite the audacity of 2020 to be that bitch). Why is it an exciting time to be a pop music stan in 2020?
Alwyn:  2020 is just the right time. The two decades are enough for us to pivot on what has happened and what will be the future of pop. Ang dami na naming baong kwento kasi lumaki kami kasama ’to. And it’s also interesting to go even further before the 2000s.

Adrian: Lagi naming sinasabi ni Alwyn na kapag even numbers ang taon sa kalendaryo, ’matic ‘yan, queens of all colors and sizes and genres will save pop music. Pero kapag odd numbers, eni-eni lang ang release that’s why the gays need to stan harder because (come on, guys) it’s 2020!

Adrian de Guzman of Pop Emergency

Pop music this year isn’t purely Western anymore with K-pop’s growing traction. What are your thoughts on this continuous K-pop boom so far?
Alwyn: The way K-pop opened doors and broke barriers, I believe this is an exciting time for everyone to be reminded that music knows no language. I hope we go from Korea, Africa and the Philippines in shaping music.

Adrian: We couldn’t have been prouder that Asians are getting more recognition. Remember during the Oscars back in February when it was a landslide win for Bong Joon-Ho? Rumor has it that BTS submitted their smash hit “Dynamite” for the 2021 Grammys. If they win Record of the Year (biggest award of the night), history will be made once again!

When I think of Filipino podcasts, I barely see any LGBTQ+ representation on Spotify’s local charts. Does this bother the both of you venturing into the local podcast scene?
Alwyn: There are a lot of people in the community who are also geeks, gamers, book and film lovers and even conspiracy theory enthusiasts. I want everyone to break our stereotypes as people. Beyond who they are, we must accept what they deliver and I believe just like Gia Gunn said, “there’s just room for everybody.”

With the industry booming, I believe that the void on diversity will soon be filled with colors. Ang daming pwedeng pag-usapan, at iba ang LGBTQIA+ mag-deliver. Alam mo ’yan!

Adrian: Tama ’yung kakaunti lang ang local podcasts for queer people. And even sa category where we belong, kami lang yata ’yung queer show. There’s this one podcast for our lesbian sisters called ‘LezTibo’ run by CJ, an OFW in Singapore telling the story of being a lesbian in the Philippines pero other than that, wala na ako alam? 

Charting man or hindi, kailangan mas marami pa sanang ma-put up and maging visible na queer shows kasi there’s a lot to be celebrated about us—our stories, our struggles, our hardships and our existence.

Recently, you’ve gained traction from Miss Rina Sawayama herself. Can you walk us through your reaction when she picked up your casual shoutout?
Adrian: It was a normal work day when I Googled Rina Sawayama’s name because I’m curious about her fate at the Grammys, tapos nakita ko na meme ’yung official photo niya. I took a screenshot and just uploaded it on Twitter. Wala nga masyadong kumagat until na-QRT ni Rina!

Alwyn: I thought Adrian edited that photo pero ‘yun talaga siya. Ang saya! Dati nung si Sexbomb Aira nag-like, napa-woah na kami. Blackpink baka naman. 

Let’s say Pop Emergency blew the fuck up more than ever. If you reach that level of podcast stardom, what are your podcast’s forever goals no matter what happens?
Alwyn: Stay pop. Deliver Music 911 to every stan—those are our non-negotiables. We need to keep the essence of it. Go where music flows. That’s where the party is.

Adrian: From pop we came to pop we shall return. Pop is ever-changing. As long as we know ourselves and we know our show and our brand, Pop Emergency will always stay and will still be a safe space for our kapitbahays.

“Charting man or hindi, kailangan mas marami pa sanang ma-put up and maging visible na queer shows kasi there’s a lot to be celebrated about us—our stories, our struggles, our hardships and our existence.”

With 21 episodes uploaded, where is Pop Emergency going?
Alwyn: With the community expanding, these also allow us to explore our horizons in pop music and culture. Kumbaga, we all can have a give and take relationship, a conversation where everyone is heard and validated.

God Save the Queens as a game show? Bakit hindi? We dream of being queens who will open doors to others and serve as their sign to do things. This is just the beginning.

Adrian: Pop Emergency will not end if we become queens. Pop is ever changing. And Pop Emergency will always reinvent for our kapitbahays. STONYOYOIN DE BA.

Read more:
This young, queer Davaoeño photographer shoots your dreams and nightmares
‘PLUS.MINUS’ is a student short on growing up queer as a baby drag queen
Meet the musicians leading the new wave of local queer rep

Art by Yel Sayo
Photos from Pop Emergency

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Rogin Losa
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