‘Drag Race PH’ S2E9: Thoughts on the penultimate episode

Drag Race Philippines Season 2 ends tonight. Before we crown the Philippines’ next drag superstar, let’s talk about the top six the franchise has produced.

Let me just get this out of the way so we can focus on the queens and the core of this episode. Why did they jam so many things into one episode?

From the one-on-one interviews with Mama Pao and KaladKaren, the music video shoot (having little airtime for Nunoy Revlon was a crime) and premiere, the queens’ messages to their younger selves, asking why they should win Drag Race Philippines Season 2, to a threeway lip sync and double elimination, Episode 9 felt like three episodes’ worth of streaming. 

However, when I reminded myself that these editing and production choices were a logical result of two non-elimination episodes (which were more than well-deserved, if I may add), I stopped being critical about the whole thing. 

Season 2 has given us some of the most monumental and emotional episodes in the franchise, and it has done a great job of showcasing a top six that’s wholesome, talented, and heartbreaking—that is, I’d be hurt regardless of whoever gets eliminated prior to the top four. 

While we’ve already determined our finalists, I find it appropriate to cast the spotlight on each of the top six queens, as they’ve fought well to secure their places at this point of the show. As usual, there will be spoilers ahead, and I will be foregoing a chronological recap to carry out these insights. 

A great run for Hana Beshie and ØV CÜNT  

The Rusical was a shining moment for Hana Beshie. Photos from Drag Race Philippines.

Hana Beshie lived up to her last name—I want to be her beshie! It was a treat seeing the growth of our CDO queen who entered the competition with camp, energy, and genuine spirit. Even with the harrowing incident with DeeDee (which Hana has implored people to move on from), it was great to see this queen pick herself up from that moment and deliver unadulterated fun. 

Hana Beshie entered the top six without a RuBadge, but that did not stop her from giving it her all in the challenges. Perhaps one of the biggest spark plugs for her was that video from her parents, where they called Hana by her drag name for the first time. It was a significant moment for the Mindanaoan queen, as she used to hide the fact that she did drag from her parents for the longest time. 

With Hana, I think that it wasn’t a case of her doing poorly, but rather a matter of everyone else stepping up their game even more. Her Beshie Beshie commercial was funny, she showcased how good she is at lip-syncing during the Rusical, and she brought her acting chops during the dramarama series challenge. She never strayed from her camp roots, but Hana never gave a boring performance. 

My favorite ØV CÜNT look. I saw this live and it was a stunner.

Speaking of a queen who never compromised their identity, ØV CÜNT was also a force to be reckoned with this season. Coming into the competition as the spooky, alternative, avant-garde queen, ØV initially made me wonder whether her drag would stack up against the high caliber of queens that made it to Season 2. Queens of thier style and stature have won in other franchises (there’s the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4, or the winner of Season 11, Yvie Oddly), so I thought it was possible for her—I just wondered whether Philippine viewers would be as receptive as our American counterparts. 

Nine episodes into the competition, I can safely say that I’ve warmed up to ØV CÜNT enough to root for them. Early on in the season, we’ve seen how they’re not afraid to call out a queen (hello, Verushka Levels), but we’ve also seen how they could break down under pressure and humiliation—an emotional outburst that they have since recovered and redeemed themself from. More importantly, we’ve seen them become so vulnerable, nurturing, and raw, especially during the Golden Gays episode (their relationship with Carmen Dela Rue was the most touching) and their words of encouragement to her fellow queens, especially during Untucked.

ØV was also able to showcase a range of avant-garde looks that weren’t always spooky—just recall the shoes look with the exaggerated boots or the rainbow look that incorporated a variety of colors without looking like a flag fashioned as a dress. What I loved most about ØV was that she wasn’t afraid to put their stamp into everything that they did while fulfilling the challenge briefs satisfactorily.

However, I wasn’t sure if the fight for the top six was the best avenue for them to make a statement with their nonbinary look for the DobleKara runway (the queens had to present two looks in one, with some taking the conventional half-and-half route, while others reinterpreting the idea).

This isn’t a slight toward their SOGIESC and how they artistically translated the idea of breaking binaries, but I wasn’t sure whether sending their strong and relevant message at that juncture of the competition was the right move, given that they were all vying for a place in the finale. Mama Pao did acknowledge and thank ØV for her statement, but when it came down to judging the looks and evaluating their performances, I wonder if the nonbinary look threw a curveball toward the judges in terms of selecting the queens for the top four. 

Regardless, it was great to watch these two queens and how they shared fun, wholesome, and even dramatic moments on Drag Race Philippines. Should the franchise choose to run an All-Stars season in the coming years, I’m quite confident that these two will make the cut. 

Who will be the (power) top?

The time has come for me to make a stand and pen my thoughts and predictions for the finale. Throughout the competition, these four finalists have left a mark on the Drag Race Philippines franchise and fandom, and I’m sure that everybody’s looking forward to the stunts and shenanigans that these queens will dish out in the finale. 

Without further ado, my top four:

Arizona Brandy: shot puno for Cubao!

If Hana embodied unadulterated fun, Arizona Brandy served drunken unadulterated fun. Truth be told, when she introduced herself as a tomador queen during the preview of the season, I half-expected her to be a messy and dramatic character—but man, am I glad that I was proven wrong!

You just can’t take that smile away from your face whenever you watch Arizona Brandy on the show. Her confessionals are frank yet funny, her energy across the challenges is infectious, and she approaches the competition with a great deal of humor and determination. I most especially appreciate her drive to dedicate her Drag Race run to Cubao drag—to Rapture Royalties and drag scenes outside of O Bar and Nectar. It’s a touching gesture to represent a sector of drag that has yet to enjoy more mainstream popularity and attention. 

With her entrance look, you already knew that this queen was going to be a great deal of fun.

However, one distracting thing that I couldn’t help noticing with Arizona are her wig lines! It’s representative of a certain kind of polish that, admittedly, the veteran queens of the season already have. Perhaps this was highlighted best at the penultimate episode prior to the finale, where Arizona’s DobleKara Darna/Captain Barbell look left much to be desired in terms of the hair styling. 

Her lip syncs have also been up and down in terms of their overall impact, with her energetic moves, fierce expressions, and crazy antics (remember when she licked the floor?) getting overshadowed by moments that lacked a bit of refinement. The latest threeway lip sync’s a good example, where the presumably tinsel streaks that were supposed to radiate outward, as if it were an explosion, got tangled over her face. 

If Arizona serves a flawless performance while keeping her signature energy and craziness in the top four, I’m sure that she has a solid chance of making it into the top two. 

The world according to M1ss Jade So

Whatever happens in the finale will not overshadow the fact that M1ss Jade So will forever live rent-free in my mind—and presumably the whole Drag Race Philippines fandom. Proving that she’s more than just a beautiful face, Jade won the hearts of viewers with her display of vulnerability and how she rose against the trauma and hurt to be, in Jade’s words, “The Ultimate One of One; The Baddest Esoteric Power Top na Bratzy.”

Going outside of Jade’s world for a little bit, I wondered at the beginning of the show how Jade’s disposition coming into the competition would help her go far. Across the franchise, we’ve seen queens who showcase a great deal of personality and shenanigans during the preview and the initial episodes, only to have them buckle and succumb to the pressures of the Drag Race competition format. 

I mean, how could you be part-stone and still look gorgeous?

Throughout the season, however, this didn’t become a problem for Jade, even during her low moments: the misunderstanding with Captivating KatKat, falling flat in the Rusical and acting challenge, and getting an automatic bottom placement after going overtime in the commercial challenge. What was amazing about Jade was that her fantasies (read: entertaining delusions) weren’t irritating—when she got into the moment and felt herself as the “ultimate one of one,” she always made sure that she backed it up with 110% effort, whether it paid off or not. 

Besides, Jade didn’t put up a stiff facade and mask her pain behind the glamor that she always served. In fact, her latest DobleKara look was a deeply personal matter for her, drawing from her experience getting denied wearing a gown to prom even if she had already explained her SOGIESC as a trans woman. That Jade was able to share this story on the main stage with a stunning look made the runway even sweeter for the young queen. 

Similarly with Arizona, if Jade gets to deliver a performance that can showcase her talents in the best way possible, she has a good chance of getting even further into the competition. Her lip syncs have shown that she can deliver the moves, the face, and the grit to win, so she just has to bump it up even more if she wants to upstage her fellow finalists. 

Getting captivated by KatKat

It was clear at the beginning of the season that Captivating KatKat was going to get the villain edit, what with the references to her reputation outside of the race and the cutscenes of Bernie and DeeDee Marie Holliday gasping in disbelief when they saw KatKat for the first time in the Werk Room. 

However, this queen had other plans. 

KatKat was a genius for bringing that standee, as she always got airtime in Untucked while the eliminated queens sign on it.

True enough, KatKat got into a scuffle with Jade early in the season, and she had a few confessionals and scenes where she said a few shady remarks toward fellow contestants. But these got overshadowed by a few things: Verushka Level’s delusions and KatKat’s character growth throughout the season. 

In the latest episode of Untucked, KatKat herself stated that she made it a point to go through Drag Race while also learning from her past mistakes and actively changing for the better. She has admitted her faults and acknowledged that she does have a maldita side to her. Even Bernie, her O Bar sister who has worked with KatKat for the past 14 years, wished that people could now start to see KatKat in a different light, especially now that she has been doing what she can to be a better person. 

What remained consistent for KatKat throughout the competition is the flawlessness of her drag. There wasn’t a runway where my jaw didn’t drop to the floor in awe of how gorgeously she paints her face. That mug represents years upon years of drag artistry, showing how KatKat’s reputation as one of the veteran queens of the Philippines is well-deserved. And to keep up with younger queens at 42? You definitely have to hand it to her, thriving in this stacked competition.

Whatever happens to KatKat after the finale, I hope that she continues this change for the better while showcasing what a veteran Filipina drag queen can offer not just locally, but to the world. 

The Bernie that could win

(In case the reference above gets lost, Bernie Sanders conceded twice in the United States presidential election, attempting to take the top seat in 2016 and 2020. In his stead, perhaps our Bernie could win and avenge the Bernies of the world.)

Regal. Radiant. Resplendent. Bernie, we bow to you.

Several years ago, I saw Bernie for the first time at O Bar. Tiny as she was, she commanded the stage with her precise moves, fierce expression, and—and I’m saying this with utmost respect—those coconuts of a bosom resting on a fit, sexy body. Bernie often loves to perform wearing almost nothing, but she goes above and beyond sex appeal to deliver a memorable and “yasssss-ifying” performance.

I couldn’t contain my excitement years after when I learned that Bernie was going to participate in Drag Race Philippines Season 2. I knew that she was going to deliver drag excellence, but I didn’t know that I would fall in love with her even more as the season went on. Even before knowing her story, her struggles, and her triumphs, I already set it in my mind that Bernie will appear in the finale. 

What’s not to like about Bernie? A genuine personality who tells it like it is, but in a way that’s still caring and endearing; a loving soul who is now putting herself first after dedicating most of her life for her family (make no mistake, she still wants to give back); a queen who worked through her handicap (her vision is deteriorating) to deliver show stopping performances; a guardian of the bar chow (she went viral for safeguarding the last stick of barbeque when the other queens took all the pulutan during Untucked); and, by far, the only queen who made me cry because of a meaningful, emotional, and technically excellent lip sync. 

There is that moment where she took the branding and commercial challenge quite literally, and that almost cost her the season, but you have to give it to Bernie for rising up to the challenge and clawing her way back to the competition. If that isn’t a winner’s attitude for you, I don’t know what is. 

Who will win Drag Race Philippines Season 2?  Catch the finale on HBO Go and WOW Presents Plus.

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