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“Por Dios, babae ako!” Get to know Crispulo Luna, the Filipino crossdresser cover girl

“Por Dios, babae ako!” Get to know Crispulo Luna, the Filipino crossdresser cover girl

Before we have prominent LGBTQ+ icons in the media such as Vice Ganda, Paolo Ballesteros, and BB Gandanghari, there was Crispulo Luna. He dressed as a woman in his portraits at Victoria Studios in everything from magnificent baro’t saya to Japanese geisha robes. Consequently, he became iconic for being the cover of “Performing the Self: Occasional Prose” by the award-winning writer J. Neil Garcia. 

But what made Crispulo a gay icon today? Why Crispulo should be portrayed as the gay liberation icon?

Get to know Crispulo Luna, the Filipino crossdresser cover girl

Crispulo’s early life and family

Crispulo Trinidad Luna, often known as Pulong, was born on June 10, 1903 in Sasmuan, Pampanga to parents Pedro Luna and Candelaria Trinidad. He was raised in Orani, Bataan, where his father was a fisherman. When his father passed away, they eventually moved to Paco, Manila.

Pulong was “soft” and “womanish” from a young age with his pale complexion, which gave the impression that he was “mestizo,” and his delicate features. His liberal family didn’t mind his womanly behaviors. Likewise, his siblings or any of his relatives never made a moralizing judgment on him. Nobody in the family was shocked when he chose not to get married like all of his siblings had. When his family members offered to help him find a wife, he would reply, “Pero por Dios, babae ako!” with unwavering elegance.

Crispulo’s iconic portraits

The moment Pulong and his family moved to Manila was also the moment he became himself who is fabulous and phenomenal. Here, he found the Victoria Studios, where he frequently posed for photographs while dressed entirely as a woman. From unique Japanese geisha garments to a fine baro’t says.

The earliest photographs date to late 1920, or the opening years of his 30s. These portraits show him fully clothed and made up in feminine attitudes and fashions that are representative of the era’s fashion. He eventually collected a substantial collection of these depictions of himself that, when chronologically ordered, tell the story of his life.

Pulong isn’t always feminine and isn’t always a transvestite, therefore his effeminacy switched fluidly in distinct ways. From “simple”, acting like a “dalagang Filipina”,  speaking softly; strolling demurely. He alters by donning a woman’s undergarments and accessories and applying makeup. And to “elaborate”, he occasionally engages in full drag in his studio’s privacy. He let his hair down at this point and went all out to accomplish his crossing over. 

Crispulo’s love life

Crispulo Luna became involved with and eventually played as “wife” of Juan, a carpenter five years younger than him. Since both of their family have no problem with their relationship, they agreed of the two of them to live together. Apparently, Juan was Pulong’s first love and the last of his life. 

Pulong and Juan

However, they only had a short-lived romantic relationship. Juan died as a result of an internal injury he suffered when he fell from scaffolding. In actuality, his love story depicts how he leads a carefree life and simply does what seems right.

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Crispulo as a liberated gender-crosser

Pulong played the part of a “gender crosser” by bridging the gap between the male and female. With his unwavering determination, Crispulo Luna created a persona that became genuine and historical. He did it and lived it, so his liberty wasn’t simply something he imagined or just thought about.

Pulong feels liberated by being who he is, despite the fact that no one else is like him. There is no one to aspire to or be inspired by. In a society where no one else is like him, he has just become himself. Actually, we are unsure if he even has a label for what he feels, wants to express himself, or what identity is his identity.

Pulong with sister, Gelay

In May 1970, “Lolo Pulonia,” as they called him, passed away. He was unaware of the legacy he would leave, though. For many queers and trans people, the photos in which he simply acts as himself, without constraints or judgment, could serve as an example of what is possible. His straightforward, purposeful action took on the hallmarks of heroism and sacrifice. 

Even up to this day, there are still discrimination and harassment against trans and queers, especially the feminine ones. But Pulong showed a lot of courage by coming out while we were still constrained by restrictive social norms. These are the things that we should learn from Pulong—just being yourself and doing what makes you happy without worrying about what other people would think. It’s not who we are whose going to adjust to the prejudices of other people. 

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