Love is love. Drama is drama. Comedy is comedy. Representation for the LGBTQ+ community in Philippine entertainment has never been better, thanks to another Filipino boys love (BL) series – Boys’ Lockdown. Starring Ali King, Alec Kevin, Kaloy Tingcungco, Crystal Paras, and Teetin Villanueva, we are never going to miss those days where our experiences remain invalidated due to lack of representation.
Yes, lack of representation. Think of it this way… If you search for Philippine LGBTQ-related television shows, you could count the results with your two hands – which isn’t that many. And, that already includes a noontime variety show that doesn’t even follow a storyline whatsoever. The LGBTQ+ community still struggles for acceptance in conservative Asian countries, including the Philippines.
It’s already 2020. Yet, here we are, still on a battle against the lack of representation for the guys, gals, and non-binary pals.
The making of Key, Chen, Martin, Dev, and Libby
Nobody thought that Filipino creators would go hard for the BL genre. Philippines is serving BL and with Boys’ Lockdown, we are surely serving fast. Village Pipol had the opportunity to get to know the stars and ask them a few questions through an e-mail interview. With that said, let us get to know the stars of this new inspiring series filled with round-the-clock diversity, relentless relatable struggles, and of course, a beautiful blossoming love.
Preparations for the role
Ali King answers in a short and concise manner. He plays Key, a sensitive and sentimental introvert.
“We were lucky enough to have producers and managers who take care of us from day one. They were generous enough to let us have acting workshops with our castmates to build rapport. There were also improv workshops to further exercise our minds to really get in touch with our characters when the moment calls for it.”
Alec Kevin responds positively enthusiastic. He portrays Chen, a fun-loving ambivert who devotes most of his time to social media.
“Aside from memorizing the script, one of the things that helped me a lot was watching films and series that visually allowed me to imagine how to portray the role. I think that this was important so that I could learn apart from my workmates at Boys’ Lockdown – but even from esteemed actors and actresses in Filipino and international films.”
Kaloy Tingcungco expresses his lingering thoughts in a communicative explanation. He plays the role of Martin, Key’s ‘bro bitch best friend.’
“For someone who hasn’t had any background with acting, I attended all of the acting workshops that Ticket2Me provided and made the most out of it. I got into meditation weeks before we started taping, as suggested by our acting coach, to help me ease the tension. When I’m in my room or anywhere else where I can have my alone time, I practice delivering my lines.”
“[Aside from that], I would search clips on YouTube on how to act properly – to determine what can be my source of emotions to make the acting more believable and just to make it as natural as possible. Another thing that I did was to talk to my co-actors who have been in the industry for quite some time. They are the best people to ask for advice. Learn from the best, right?”
Crystal Paras animatedly replies, gleeful and elated. She portrays Dev, a loving, caring, and reliable friend of Key and Martin.
“To prepare for the role of Dev, I took acting workshops under Ms. Ana Feleo. It was such a huge help for me to be mentored by her because without it, I don’t think I would have been close to achieving how I portrayed my role in Boys’ Lockdown. Another important way I prepared for the role was to establish a great foundation of friendship with my co-actors. I am so happy our friendship flourished on and off the set.”
Teetin Villanueva writes back in a descriptive and illustrative way. She plays Libby, Chen’s older sister.
“I was already a fan of Gameboys when I found out that I got cast. So, it was a dream come true to be part of the new show in the same genre. Aside from studying the script and creating my own character sketch, I also observed how other people were coping during this lockdown.”
“Even through social media, you can sense that there is so much frustration and helplessness, especially for those in the working class. I wrote down my own fears and frustrations, as well, and contemplated which ones my character would most likely be able to relate to.”
Being a voice for the LGBTQ+ Community
Huge strides in equality for the LGBTQ+ community definitely existed. However, many people have yet to disclose their gender identity and experiences about their sexuality. Of course, this comes due to fear of discrimination, homophobia, and exclusion. Anyone — regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity — can support the community. A series like Boys’ Lockdown campaigns for accepting LGBTQ+ people, as well as advocating for their equal rights and fear treatment.
Why did you accept the role?
“I accepted the role because I know the show has more than just ‘kilig.’ It is using its platform for good and to spread the story of love between the main characters but, at the same time, hinting subtle jabs on socio-economic issues.”
“Aside from my love for telling stories through acting, being part of something bigger, and having a platform to raise certain issues was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass on. I think, now is the time for all of us to contribute to a better and more loving society. And, it starts with telling these stories through mainstream media.”
“To be honest, I was skeptical at first because of the fear of not being able to fulfill the role due to my lack of experience. But along the way, something hit me and made me realize that this is more than the work, the money, and the exposure that I’m going to get. There’s a greater why, a purpose, and it’s being able to represent a large community and be their voice – by simply being there.”
“Reading my audition script, I felt that she is close to who I am and her character really resonated with me. I always wanted to be accepted for the part of Dev since I am a member of the community and I really wanted to be able to tell her story – especially under Sir Jade Castro’s direction. People usually have negative and/or mixed reactions when they see themes like these on television. But, the whole team created this in good taste and I know people will be amazed when they see how much love and effort were given just to create this series.”
“I’ve always wanted to portray someone close to my age. I always get cast for younger roles on-screen and onstage. Another reason is that I trust the producers a lot because I already worked with them in 2013 for Maxie the Musical. I played the role of Monique, one of the Bekimons, who was half my actual age at the time.”
Young gay love amid a pandemic
The story revolves around Key and Chen finding love in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ali revealed that the story is actually more than that as it divulges in hurdles and problems that each character would face in their daily lives. Alec, on the other hand, pointed out that the show displays how COVID-19 has played a role in the characters’ lives.
Crystal and Teetin mentioned that Boys’ Lockdown also exhibits the complications of being in isolation during COVID-19. Kaloy alluded on that as he disclosed:
“The team has made the plot as fun and light as possible where everybody can relate to it. The setting is during the first quarter of the year when the country was in its earliest stages of lockdown-slash-community quarantine due to the pandemic.”
What does the series represent?
“The series represents how love can conquer anything that might happen. It also showcases the need for us to speak out in the time where the voiceless could not be heard.”
“I believe that the series represents love in all forms – romantic, familial, platonic, and even love for one’s self.”
“It represents the LGBTQIA. It’s a holistic representation of everyone in society. A representation of the current status of people in the Philippines, where we currently are in this pandemic, how strong Filipinos are in coping, and the different struggles that we continue facing.”
“The series represents real people, real stories, real life. I always express how I want to see content or art like this to be normalized. It will make people feel better and more confident about themselves when they see that *their stories* are being told.”
“For me, the series represents our younger selves and the confusing but intoxicatingly exhilarating feelings we *all* felt the first few times that we fell in love.”
Creating Boys’ Lockdown
Challenges you encountered in creating this project
“As a first-time actor, I really had to adjust how I think when it was time for me to act. Being another person when I’m Key seemed off at first. But, eventually, I realized it’s supposed to feel as normal as possible. Everyone also adjusted due to the 10-day locked-in shoot that happened when we were filming the show.”
“Aside from having little experience before this project, having to work with a lot of new people was a challenge for me. Being an introvert hindered me from fully connecting with my co-stars at first. Eventually, it also became the reason why I ended up close to them.”
“First, the brainwork. Lines were my biggest challenges. I had to be good with memorizing – actually not just that but to process and inculcate it in my system because you can’t just spit those lines out when you do the scenes. You have to be with the line, saying it with such meaning to make it as natural as possible when delivering it to your scene partner.”
“Second, being with people from a completely new industry. I had to learn to relate to their topics and roots of acting. There was an adjustment but I didn’t have a hard time doing so. For someone who has been in the customer service industry like me, connecting with people has never been a challenge. We may have different perspectives, thoughts, and ideas but we all agree on something.”
“It was difficult at first because I felt a little rusty in terms of acting and… being social. I was scared that I wouldn’t fit in because I’m an over-thinker. But, the cast and crew made me feel so loved and welcomed. I felt happy, free, and at peace during our locked-in shoot and didn’t have a hard time working with my co-stars at all.”
“I was very concerned with safety because the cases in Metro Manila remained high. The original shooting schedule had to be moved due to Metro Manila being put on a stricter quarantine – Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) – in support of the call from our frontliners.”
“Our whole shooting schedule was replanned as a result of the MECQ period. There’s definitely an additional budget allotted to get everyone in the company tested before and after we started working on location. We also had to be locked-in during the whole duration of the shoot.”
“A pod system was imposed and we had a safety officer who was in charge of making sure we all followed the proper safety protocols. We were advised to be strict with our self-quarantine. Weeks before we started shooting, I made sure I stocked up on my groceries and I just stayed inside the entire time.”
Boys’ Lockdown, a memorable experience
The cast harmonized with each other as they quickly built a foundation of friendship. They grew meaningful relationships on and off-camera. For some reason, they managed to feel comfortable with each other and immediately feeling calm and relaxed. Aside from working together, they also shared laughter and absolute merriment.
Share your experience working with your co-stars
“It was my first time experiencing everything and it was so fun to realize how tiring and exciting everything is. I am so thankful I have castmates and crew members who are so understanding of how I feel given that this is my first-ever acting project.”
“From the onset, the experience was undeniably easy. I’m thankful that we had fan-service shows and workshops before shooting because the foundation of our relationships deepened during the locked-in shoot.”
“Working with them was both an honor and a great pleasure. Surprisingly, we’ve made a deep connection that turned into friendship off-camera which I pray will last long-term.”
“It was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. I know I will always remember it because it happened during a pandemic. Plus, it was my first time to work again after so long. Mahal na mahal ko ang cast ng team ng Boys’ Lockdown and I will always want to keep working with them no matter what.”
“During the first reading of the script, I felt extra nervous because I didn’t know the majority of the people there. Whenever I looked at someone else in the cast, I’d always think, ‘Are you for real?’ I wanted to ask them what their skincare routines were. The biggest bonus for me is that they’re all very nice and easy to get along with… The workshop itself was a riot and even lunchtime was a riot. You can easily tell that we were comfortable with each other.”
BL series in the Philippines
The Philippine entertainment industry fell short in many things — failing to tell same-sex stories in a positive light remains one of them. However, BL continues as an imperfect genre. Sure, it narrates gay feelings, especially the joys and confusion brought about with young gay love. Nevertheless, it could tend to become problematic as it puts the nuances of homosexual life in an unrealistic fashion
Although that remains the case, the fact that people have started telling stories about same-sex relationships evens it out. In the past, gay kids would have to suppress their actual selves to avoid conflict and discrimination from tyrants and tormentors. Now, it would be easier to express how they feel because they watched the same thing happen through a BL series. Nevertheless, the genre has started erasing the fears of yesterday.
Thoughts on the growing popularity of the BL series in the Philippines
“It’s nice to see representation and diversity appearing in the mainstream media in the Philippines. When I saw BL commercials on TV, I felt so thankful that these types of content are being slowly embraced by the people – not as taboo topics but as part of the media – and how people are slowly being in love with the thought of LGBTQ+ representation and acceptance.”
“It’s refreshing to see. Mainly because for a long time, the representation of LGBQ+ characters in mainstream media has been inadequate. There is so much diversity within the community and we hope to be able to at least put a spotlight to the other parts that haven’t been properly shown – whether through the people that take part in the series or the characters portrayed in the story.”
“My heart is pounding knowing that we are taking a step forward as people are being more accepting of this kind of genre. The viewers may or may not be part of the LGBTQIA+ Community but I can see the society embracing the love that should have been widely accepted ever since. I cannot wait for the day that there won’t be a need for labels with whatever kind of story we produce for the people.”
“I couldn’t be happier about the overwhelming popularity of the BL series in our country. One day, they won’t have to label it at all, if you catch my drift… People will just call it a series – a beautiful love story. *Periodt!*”
“I think it’s about time! I’m glad more and more people are getting comfortable talking about the shows that they enjoy watching. The great thing is: there is no specific age group for it. I look forward to the day wherein BL series or shows will be accepted by the mainstream media to the point that there will be no need to call a BL series a ‘BL series.’ But, simply a love story between two people…”
More LGBTQ+ roles, please.
Putting it simply: the Philippines needs more gay roles. These roles in the media light the way for how the country is currently on its way to progress, helping to open more hearts and minds to everyone in society. LGBTQ+ characters would normally be the sidekick. Usually, they would be stereotypical or oversimplified characters who pop up in a recurring capacity for comedic effect. Sometimes, their sexuality becomes downplayed and intimate scenes would remain non-existent.
Importance of producing BL content in this generation
“For me, it’s a step forward in telling our story. I believe that BL can be used as a platform to highlight the stories of the minority and to further shed light and tackle issues we currently face. We understand how before it’s ‘written by women for women’ but now, it has really gathered a massive LGBTQ+ following and it’s time we tell our side of the story.”
“I think that content such as this can be the key to moving forward to a more accepting and loving society. I think that the BL series, in general, can open eyes and hearts to the stories that people often overlook and allow them to understand the LGBTQ+ Community better.”
“It gives the chance and platform for those who have been struggling with their identity to finally express themselves and voice whatever they feel inside. It sends a message that whoever you are, you can be whatever you want to be, and love whoever you want to love – It is never wrong. There will always be judgment and it will never be easy to voice out or speak but what matters is what you’re feeling and it deserves acknowledgment and acceptance – starting from you.”
“It shows the reality of the world we are in. With real stories, we represent, show, and celebrate all kinds of love. We have a long way to go in terms of progressing but I hope we play a big role in paving the way for more BL, more acceptance, and more love.”
“The current generation has to keep in mind that they are paving the way for a new generation of content creators who wouldn’t have been given the chance and the platform to showcase their stories if we all lived many, many years ago. They are pioneers. The content they create can change people’s lives.”
From the Boys’ Lockdown cast to the LGBTQ+ community…
Truthfully, we don’t lack in LGBTQ-related stories to tell. The mainstream media hasn’t offered viewers a huge array of diverse stories. Plus, it has yet to serve a wide spectrum of pop culture interests. Meanwhile, a BL series focuses on a personal approach through self-journey, coming-of-age. The angst that the characters experience comes from sexual confusion and sometimes, even internalized homophobia.
A BL series views love as an individualistic concern. Their characters disregard negativity from others. At the same time, they shine a light on self-discovery and rebuilding one’s self.
What is your message to the LGBTQ+ Community?
“I’m grateful to represent the minority. I’m proud to showcase it using the series that we’ve worked so hard for.”
“I hope that we can represent you guys proudly and faithfully. We will definitely do our best to tell your stories. Open your eyes to the struggles faced by the community. At the same time, show the type of love that everyone should be proud of.”
“I’d like to tell the community that being part of this is never wrong, never different, and perfectly normal. Thank you for paving the way for BLs to be known and embraced in the Philippines… Big thanks for the huge, huge support that you have been giving us – even though we haven’t premiered yet. We appreciate the things that you do for us and the show. It means the world to us.”
“I hope you find happiness in watching Boys’ Lockdown. Along with all the other beautiful BL series made available during the pandemic. I hope you all find light and love; can relate and see yourselves in the story, too. This is just the beginning – here’s to more!”
“This is it! Your stories are finally coming out. I am rejoicing with you because it is about time. Calling all BL fans to put their personal experience into writing. Who knows, you might be the next writer and creator of your own show, featuring your love-slash-life story.”
For more Village Pipol’s LGBTQ+ content, click here.
Photography by Alain Lababit (@alainlababit)
Styling by Keith Angelo (@misskeithmanila)
Makeup by Aldrin Jalandoni (@AldrinJalandoni) and (Nadynne Esguerra)
Hair by Jonas Lucas (@jonaxlucas)