The award-winning photographer Raymund Isaac passed away last September 4, 2021. He left an indellible mark in the luxury publishing industry, in which he was one of the pioneer photographers and creative forces. Few months ago, his last photoshoot project was with The Ideafirst Company for its film Gameboys. This was his last interview.
There is one sub-genre of romantic-comedy or drama series that took a long time for the entertainment industry in the Philippines to fully tap into: Boys' Love, popularly called as BL, which originated in Japan in its manga and animé culture. This is no surprise, knowing that Philippine television and cinema has represented LGBTQ+ characters diminutively ever since. Either they are siblings and best friends to the lead protagonists or confidantes to the scheming villains, homosexual characters have been thrown on the sidelines. Fortunately, we have a number of powerful films in the past that had LGBTQ+ characters in the spotlight like Markova: The Comfort Gay (dir. Gil M. Portes, 2000) and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (dir. Auraeus Solito, 2005), to name a few. But despite their countless awards and critical acclaim, they were not enough to spark a social change about LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream media and genres.
The BL genre is different from the 'gay films' that we used to watch in the past—where promiscuity covers most of the screenplay. The basic formula: two boys meet and suddenly form a deep friendship bond, eventually falling in love not because they are secretly attracted to the same sex but because they truly love the person. It's always about self-honesty and acceptance, that a great love is possible for two straight boys because they admire each other as persons.
More From Tatler: A Deep Dive Into The Development Of The Movement In The Philippines
Over the decades, this sub-genre developed in Japan, China, and most significantly in Thailand and has been well received by their respective markets, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. BL later on had legit LGBTQ+ characters and sometimes even actors, with coming-of-age and/or coming-out storylines. Now, we also see storylines that have stemmed out of teeny-boppy characters to fully grown yuppies. Eventually through the developments of technology, BLs like the Thai series 2gether grew to worldwide success, thanks to the vloggers and video reactors who have indirectly helped the fan bases multiply exponentially.
When 2gether was nearing its final episode for its first season last May 2020, there were talks in the air that the renowned The Ideafirst Company was cooking a BL show for Filipino fans. Given its track record of critically acclaimed LGBTQ+ relevant films like Die Beautiful (2016) and the film/digital series Born Beautiful (2018), the netizens were assured that the Philippines would finally have a BL series that is true to its formula.
On 22 May 2020, the first episode of Gameboys dropped on YouTube and was succeeded by numerous Filipino BL series from various production companies. History has been made.