Having a ball with history

The second UnkabogaBall, spearheaded by Vice Ganda, was held in Cebu, with Philippine history as theme

Vice Ganda in Cary Santiago. Photograph courtesy of Ig/aaronmangsat

More than sickening looks, some guests at the second UnkabogaBall on 10 December served gagging statements and political and social commentaries with their fashion.

The event was spearheaded by television host and comedian Vice Ganda, their version of the drag ball, which boasted to be the “grandest and most kavogue gathering of powerhouse LGBTQIA+ personalities,” at the Tambuli Seaside Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

Personalities, mostly from entertainment, fashion, business and social media, were invited to the ball, which was streamed on Vice’s social media accounts and YouTube channel, and they came in looks inspired by the ball category or theme of Philippine history, interpreted by many rather loosely.

The choice of theme followed the recent and heated issue on the distortion of history and its trivialization as “tsismis.”

Actor-singer Markki Stroem hosted the event together with Alex Diaz, wearing a Hanz Coquilla creation.

“Serving Philippine Herstory in my Terno meets S&M fantasy look,” he commented on Facebook.

“Ready to give thanks to our LGBTQIA++ brothers and sisters and everything in between! In fact, serving non-binary realness today!” he added.

V i c e G a n d a appeared in two outfits — one designed by Cary Santiago, incorporating the Meranaw design motif sarimanok, and another by Jaggy Glarino, a multi-tiered tulle gown.

“I work hard to find my star. And this star’s shining light I would like to share with all of you tonight. Lahat tayo nandito ngayon, we’ve let our light shine upon each other dahil pag binabahagi mo ang mundo mo all together, we will shine the brightest,” the It’s Showtime host said to the crowd.

Some came evoking historical figures such as Drag Race Philippines contestant Viñas DeLuxe as Gomburza, the martyred Filipino priests, and Awra Briguela with her version of Princess Urduja.

The most notable looks came with social commentaries such as Marina Summers. The Drag Race Philippines finalist who became the talk of the town because of her bravery and Neric Beltran gown.

She came looking like former First Lady Imelda Marcos, well-coifed and immaculate, in an all-white terno. At the back, the dress was splattered with blood stains and bloody hand prints.

“ The real backstory. This is the part of Philippine History that they are trying to conceal with glamour and misinformation. This is the story that should never be forgotten,” Marina wrote in her Twitter account.

Stylist Paul Sese shared more details in Twitter (@paulxsese): “The GAG is the dress has an attached speaker sa loob tapos while she’s walking down the red carpet may nagpplay sa audio ng mga taong umiiyak. Di lang narinig because of the background music.”

Fellow Drag Race contestant Eva Le Queen added in her account (@eva_lequeen): “To further emphasize her message, y’all probably didn’t know that @marinaxsummers was wearing a real diamond necklace and earring set worth 1.5M for her #UnkabogaBALL2022 lewk. That’s how committed she was. Shuta her mind talaga.”

Marina was hailed as the “Unkabogable Star of the Night.”

On the other hand, Eva wore an all-black gown with butterfly sleeves and covering her entire body including the face, a look inspired by Kim Kardashian’s at the Met Gala. Job Dacon’s dress was completed with a crown resembling the logo of media company ABS-CBN, which the government shut down.

Eva quoted Winston Churchill — “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” — to accompany the pictures she posted on Twitter.

Social media personality AC Soriano satirized the fictitious “Tallano gold,” which is a story frequently used by practitioners of misinformation and believed by many Filipinos.

Transgender woman filmmaker Rod Singh was also notable for bringing up an incident of injustice. She collaborated with designer Mara Chua for her rafflesia look, the Flower of Death.

“The look is my interpretation of rafflesia. It is a visual encapsulation that aims to shed light on the abuse of power and militarized violence deeply rooted in our country,” Chua explained in her Facebook post.

“Flower of Death takes its cue from giant parasitic flowers called rafflesia that’s interestingly characterized by smelling like rotting flesh. I took specific focus in Rafflesia leonardi, an endemic species of rafflesia named after Leonard Co, the foremost authority of ethnobotany in the Philippines who, mistaken for being an insurgent, was murdered by the Philippine Army during his fieldwork in the forests of Leyte,” she said.

Chua further said: “To achieve what I was going for, my team repurposed an existing gown. Cut it up to create the tattered look. We then added cut out giant petals from pleated organza that was distressed, spray painted and burned to depict bullet holes on the petals. We then did a combination of spray paint and airbrush and splash painting to create the effect of blood oozing out of the flower onto the entire garment.”

Singh enthused about her first UnkabogaBall experience, describing it as “surreal” in Instagram (iamrodafrog).

“I looked f o r w a r d attending the ball this year for many reasons but mainly because I like to dress up, party, get drunk, make more friends, and because I can’t and won’t say no to this invitation haha! But never in my wildest dream that I ever thought of going home with an award and a citation from the Unkabogable S u p e r s t a r herself,” she said. “To be surrounded by all the young, up-and-coming, and the brightest queer superstars of this generation felt like a dream where my stars finally aligned. To be recognized by my community, especially by meme @praybeytbenjamin for being an ‘unkabogable’ member of the LGBTQ community in the media industry means so much to me as a filmmaker and as a trans person who just started to live her truth.”

“I decided to do a Rafflesia look because of a beautiful and meaningful story about one of its species that was first discovered in 1800s in Mt. Apo and was believed to be extinct. After 100 years, it was rediscovered again in South Cotabato. This story reminds me of our collective hope last election and our hope for all the young queer kids out there. May this story remind us of a beautiful quote by Lady Bird Johnson — ‘where flowers bloom, so does hope,’” Singh further said.

Inah Evans was one of the few attendees who tackled historical events. “Paying homage to Magellan’s arrival in the island of Cebu in 1521 and introduced Christianity,” the actor said on their Instagram (_atedick).

“The red cape symbolizes the bloody battle of Mactan while the design of the gown symbolizes the paintings in the churches that Catholicism built. One of the most interesting chunks of Philippine History,” they explained.

The galleon headpiece was made by persons deprived of liberty of General Trias City Jail. The gown was designed by Carl Arcusa.

On the other hand, drag queen from Butuan City, Queen Pia Paolo, highlighted an ancient artifact — the pre-colonial Golden Tara — design by Klevin Bartolaba.

“This 21-karat gold statue of a Hindu-Malayan Goddess was found on Wawa River and considered to be one of the most important discoveries in the Philippine history archaeology,” wrote Queen Pia on Facebook. “On my shoulders, you can see the historical Balangay Boat which was uncovered in the land of Butuan. I believe that the history of Butuan must be recognized globally. So I will represent it with pride and honor. Ato ini, kadyawon ta!”

Another popular inspiration for the looks was Philippine heritage and traditions.

Drag Race Philippines contestant Corazon Filipinas, for example, wore a gown by Ehrran Motoya inspired by “Baroque churches in the Philippines and muses of Philippine poems.”

Montoya described: “A custom gold Filipiñana with exaggerated terno sleeves adorned with champagne lace details and beadworks, matched with pair of gloves, hood veil and tone on tone stockings for our pageant queen.”

Vice Ganda first held UnkabogaBall 2021 at Okada Manila in Pasay City and shared photos and videos on his social media accounts in January 2022. He said the ball was a way for queer artists, entertainers celebrities, creatives and social media personalities to get to know each other. The name is a play on his title “Unkabogable Star.”

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