I never expected to see such shenanigans on a stage like TriNoMa’s Activity Center, but I’m all for it.
Yesterday at Drag Den Philippines Season 2’s grand opening night, TriNoMa’s Activity Center was packed with eager fans of Pinoydrag, myself included.
As somebody who’s watched and supported local drag queens at nighttime shows in Manila’s queer bars, it was exciting (and, in a good way, a little bit confusing) to see so many drag queens and fans come together in broad daylight. There was something quite charming with the idea of seeing an art form and lifestyle in such a public spectacle when, historically, drag and queerness have been often confined within secluded spaces at night—both in a literal and figurative sense.
Rod Singh, the show’s creator, summarized it eloquently when she talked about how surreal it was to hold the media conference and opening night in TriNoMa. She recalled how, back in the day, the space functioned only as a meet-up point for her fellow queer folk, presumably prior to their outings elsewhere: in bars, drag shows, and other activities in the night.
“Now, we get to reclaim this part, this [Activity Center],” Rod stressed. “For people like us, finally, masasabi natin na nate-take up natin yung space natin.” (For people like us, finally we can say that we are taking up our rightful space.)
“Taking up space” was an understatement, however; the gays devoured TriNoMa’s Activity Center, what with a showcase of flips, tricks, and dips; energetic dances and tight lip syncs; and an unapologetic display of queer humor and artistry (well, with a little bit of restraint on the jokes, as we were in a public space—not all bar jokes and quips are fit for children!).
What I also found endearing with yesterday’s blue carpet, flawlessly hosted by the winner of Drag Den Season 1, reigning Drag Supreme Naia, was that they casted the spotlight on the local drag queens who attended the premiere to support the show and the contestants of Season 2. Some of these queens also participated in the Dragdagulan lip sync and performance extravaganza that was held prior to the blue carpet, where Edsa Xxtra bested 16 other contestants for twenty thousand pesos and the unofficial Miss Dragdagulan TriNoMa title. In a way, this gesture encapsulated the show’s ethos of “For Filipinos, By Filipinos.”
I have previously written about how it’s a core experience for any queer individual—especially a fan of drag—to attend a live viewing party with fellow queers, fans, and queens. Similarly, it was amazing to see a cinema packed with kindred spirits, all eager to watch their favorite drag artists on the big screen. I recalled my younger self who couldn’t openly watch Drag Race (and other queer shows and content that were deemed “immoral” and “illegal” in our household), and how I had to wait until the wee hours of the morning, when everyone else was asleep, to watch the things I liked on my laptop or smartphone—albeit with lower brightness and volume. That kid would not have thought that he’d get to watch and support Filipino queer artistry and excellence with more people on a bigger and more prominent platform.
I’m just glad that there’s a new show for the gays and allies to look forward to weekly, starting tonight! The first episode of Drag Den Season 2 will be available on Amazon Prime starting January 18, 2024. Onward to queer excellence and more dragdagulan!
Drag Den Season 2 is hosted by celebrated Filipino-American drag queen, Manila Luzon, and co-presented by Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2016 Nicole Cordoves and queer social media personality Sassa Gurl. The show is created by director and writer, Rod Singh. More guest judges and personalities will grace the show as it unfolds on Amazon Prime, so stay tuned for more updates! For more information about Drag Den Philippines, follow the show on Instagram and Facebook.