Actor pays homage to ‘Markova’

Photograph courtesy of FB/Ricci Chan Ricci Chan (middle) with his fellow cast members.

The drama Markova: Comfort Gay is among several Filipino films, all restored and remastered, available on the streaming platform Netflix in Southeast Asia since October 2022.

Released in 2000, the film recounts the experiences of Walter Dempster, Jr., a drag performer who took on the name Walterina Markova during the Japanese invasion in the second World War. Dempster related how he and other gay men were used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers. Comedian Dolphy played Markova in the film.

Upon its airing on Netflix, one member of the cast fondly recalled the making of the film. In a Facebook post on 3 November 2022, Ricci Chan said he is glad the youth today may be able to rediscover the film.

“It was a milestone in my career, as it was my very first film, and it was also the film that introduced me to a career in makeup, thanks to the beautiful people of Propaganda who did our faces for the movie and its promos — Jay, Juan, and of course, Marlon (who also served as creative consultant on a lot of things in it),” he wrote.

Chan acknowledged Dolphy and his son Eric Quizon, who played a younger Markova, for this opportunity, surmising that they must have seen him perform in the musical Rent.

He also acknowledged other people he worked with: “I also get tickled fancy when people say that it was cast excellently (save for that one person who was neither an actor nor was she good, and a good person) because these girls I’ve known already for quite some time, Andoy, Melvin, and Raymond, have been sisters in both theater and advertising, and, unbeknownst to most, were already veteran ADs by this time, in commercials and film. They were instrumental not only to how good this film came out, but also to my growth as an actor in this new format of film that I was thrown into, serving as my individual assistant directors (including Eric!) for those scenes that I needed their craft for. They each have a very special place in my heart, and to this day, remain my dearest, dearest siblings.”

The film, directed by Gil M. Portes and written by Clodualdo Del Mundo, Jr., is important to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Markova: Comfort Gay is not just about the story of five gay friends and their war-torn experiences in WWII Manila; it is also the continuing story about our community, and that almost a century on, we still experience the same torture and abuse, albeit with different oppressors,” he said. “It is history living, because we can supplement our current lives to this past, and still get familiar results. It is embracing the original Golden Gays, not as survivors, but as teachers of lessons in the past that we seem to have forgotten or blocked out because if we cannot learn from their lives, then our community now is just a shallow collection of empty souls. It is empathy, courage, love and compassion wrapped up in two hours of beautiful period lace and honest portrayals. I highly encourage you to see this film, or revisit it. At the very least, it is empirical proof that I had abs once.”

“Thank you, Tita Walterina, for sharing with us your story. And big kisses and warm hugs to Anita, Sophie, Carmen and Minerva, wherever you may be. May you continue to be a light to the little LGBTQIA+ ‘nenes’ struggling to find their true and authentic selves. Also a big thank you to Leo and the people behind ABS-CBN Film Restoration for picking this film as important enough to be restored. On behalf of our community, mabuhay kayo ng bonggang bongga!” he ended.

The restored version of Markova: Comfort Gay debuted at the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, which ran from 20 November to 13 December 2020. Aside from Markova, Himala; Oro, Plata, Mata; One More Chance; Now That I Have You; Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo; Feng Shui; and Dubai were also made available on Netflix in their restored versions, made possible by ABS-CBN Film Restoration and its Sagip Pelikula initiative.


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