Reflections on GBV in Pop Culture: Gaya Sa Pelikula

I used to color the world in grey. It started in childhood, when I chose to hide parts of my self after realizing I was gay. Color only had a place in the closet, in spaces hidden from the world. Living in grey helped me survive. It let me finish my studies, find a stable job, and be at peace with my family. But it also came at the cost. It has been suffocating to live in a coffin I have painted in black and white. 

These days are especially bleak because the pandemic has cast a shadow over us. I have never felt more trapped and frustrated with my situation. I am unable to come out literally and figuratively, so I can only find solace in the vast world of stories and spaces online. These are the stories and spaces that have been painted by others like me, for those like me. They promise me that the world is better in rainbow. Through my online adventures, I eventually encountered Gaya Sa Pelikula—a boys’ love (BL) television series about a boy like me, and another boy who could love the boy like me.

I remember watching the show in parts. A few episodes. Pause. Another few episodes. Pause. I then binged the last set of episodes until the finale. I had to take breaks in between because the show was too much. My heart was being filled with so much color and emotions that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the show in a single go, for fear that I would explode and impulsively come out to the world even though I am not yet ready. 

There were so many scenes and characters that I could relate to. Their stories resonated with me, and I found myself at home in the story’s setting and with the family of fictional characters. I felt like I really knew them, and it felt that they really knew me. I fell in love with them as they fell in love with each other, and I even cried for them at times when they were too overwhelmed to even cry. The show was a reflection of my life that was projected onto the screen. Loneliness to hope to despair, acceptance, and waiting. Gaya Sa Pelikula indeed.

Though I live in a grey world, I have found hope for a rainbow-filled future in the stories such as Gaya Sa Pelikula. Yet, I have also found despair in the contrast between my life and the screen: in my unreadiness to come out in a violent and grey world and in the promise of a colorful and better tomorrow. I can only wait until I am ready. The show ends in a pause. There is heartbreak, but there is no finality. It gives us an empty canvas where we are free to paint our own colors about what happens next. I know that I did not choose grey.

For weeks after I watched the show, my dark and grey world was cast with a warm tone. Actually, my world is not as grey as it used to be, for I have been slowly opening myself up. So many stories have given me the strength and courage to be vulnerable, and Gaya Sa Pelikula has been one of them. I have been vocal about the show to friends who are willing to hear about it, and I have actively consumed media that surrounds it and the possibility of its second season.

Alas, my search for hope led to the discovery of despair. Juan Miguel Severo, the creator and writer of the BL series I love so much, has been accused of sexual harassment by a member of the cast—the boy who played the part of a boy like me. I was devastated. I felt betrayed. I did not know how to reconcile these two things: a show that I love so dearly and a creator whose actions bring about utter disgust.

I can only accept so much. I can accept that I have to be ready and comfortable with myself before coming out to the world. I can accept that I live in a world where being queer means that I am at risk of violence. I can accept that I have to deal with the violence that is already in my life, but I cannot accept any more especially when I am in a position to say no. I cannot accept violence that is inflicted upon me, and I cannot accept violence that is inflicted to others like me. How then can I accept this show which I love so much when its creator has acted in ways I cannot accept?

I keep asking myself this question, and I still cannot find an answer. Gaya Sa Pelikula has given me so much joy, love, and hope. It has made dark times bearable, and it has put color into my grey world. I cannot just leave it behind. The violence of its creator is another matter. I can never, and I will never accept the violence that he has enacted. Now, I can only wait. I can only wait until justice comes to light. I can only wait until I find a way to reconcile these two truths. I can only wait until there comes a future where rainbows are bereft of shadows underneath. Until then, the canvas is blank, and I get to choose the colors I will let into the world.

About the author

The author is a candidate for a master’s degree in Sociology whose thesis is on queer space. They are a proud member of Time’s Up Ateneo. He is gay, but they also identify as queer because gender is a construct. He is figuratively in the closet, but he is sometimes literally inside as well. He will probably come out once he gets a steady source of reliable income.

Time’s Up Ateneo will hold a public lecture called “Confronting GBV in Pop Culture,” which will explore similar questions as the above piece, about our responsibilities as consumers of problematic media, and of media by problematic creators. The event, happening on at Oct. 30 at 8pm to 9:30pm via Zoom, will feature speakers Dr. Ninotchka Mumtaj “Taz” Albano and Ms. Bee Leung.

Dr. Albano will draw attention to gender-based violence implied by the objectifying gaze in pop culture in “The Look of Lust: On the violence of the gaze,” while Ms. Leung will examine the possibilities of a transformative community readership beyond the poles of cancel culture and separating the art from the artist in “Cancel Your Darlings: Towards a shared reckoning with fraught art.” These lectures will be followed by breakout kapihan sessions where audience members can have an interactive discussion with the speakers.

To join our event, please register at

Published by Time's Up Ateneo

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