The Philippine film industry and community have been enriched by the contributions of LGBTQ+, a substantial number of whom are film artists and workers. It has produced two National Artists — Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal — who were openly gay and widely considered as two of the greatest filmmakers the country has ever produced.
The industry is also considered very open and accepting on LGBTQ+ issues, but recent social media posts revealed that homophobia and bigotry still prevail among several individuals.
After the Gretchen Diez incident and the ongoing discussions on the SOGIE Equality Bill, film director William Mayo posted inflammatory statements on his Facebook account on 1 September.
“Sana mag-pass ng bill making homosexual act, a ‘criminal act.’ Like in Malaysia. Where ‘sodomy’ is a crime,” said one post accompanying pictures of Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman, Vice Ganda and Boy Abunda.
Later that day, another post said: “Under apartheid in South Africa, homosexuality was a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison. Sana dito din sa Pinas pairalin ang batas na yan. Ang saya saya.”
After a few days, Directors’ Guild of the Philippines Inc. president Paolo Villaluna called Mayo out: “Your freedom and age, based on your posts, definitely WILL NOT pass off as wisdom when it comes to tolerance and acceptance of sexual freedom.”
“Being a filmmaker requires an awareness of power and influence, more so on social media. You can personally believe what you want, even continue making bad films, that’s really ok — BUT you cannot PUBLICLY call an act of love and identity a crime. As fellow artists, we have to draw the line when you invite vilification: your posts incite others not to accept the diverse spectrum of sexuality. It is also a veiled attempt at unconscious, middle-class status quo powers,” he further said. “I’ve had the blessing of consensually enjoying all genders, emotionally and sexually. BUT in your view, I am a criminal and unnatural.
“In the 100th year of Philippine Cinema, we expect a little more from aging, filmmaker colleagues. But I guess holding on to rancid tradition is more comfortable than understanding evolution and human nature itself,” Villaluna continued. “We are artists. We represent humanity, not our personal, zealous righteousness. Know your power. A mirror always helps. With due respect, direk.”
The National Committee on Cinema of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts released a formal statement “to condemn in the strongest possible terms and language, the public dissemination and declaration, by any and all individuals of sentiments and statements that promote hate, discrimination and bigotry.”
“We are firm believers in our enshrined Freedom of Speech, but will also fully defend others against abuses of that freedom. Mr. Mayo’s statement, both irresponsible and offensive, impinges upon others’ freedom to self-expression and makes towards establishing an unsafe and violent environment for these individuals,” the statement said. “The Philippine Film Industry has been built upon the shoulders of many LGBTQ+ beyond celebrities and stars, the industry is all richer from the contributions of ALL its members, regardless of sexual orientation, beliefs and identities.”
It concluded: “We, in the Committee, are united against all forms of hate, bigotry and intolerance. We support informed, learned, inclusive, and progressive legislation towards creating a country where the rights of ALL are protected and promoted.”
The statement was signed by Teddy Co, head of the committee and commissioner of the Subcommission on the Arts; Jag Garcia, vice head and a professor at the De La Salle University; award-winning filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama; Elvert Banares; producer Vincent Nebrida; Hobart Savior; Art Tibaldo; Rosanni Sarile; and film critic Tito Genova Valiente.