The days when Boys Love is dominated by Thai and Japanese dramas with worldwide reach are waning. The Philippines is the new entrant to the BL world that “celebrates love in this purest form, beyond the shackles of simple gender or sexuality.” The success of popular Thai series like “TharnType the Series” and “2gether the Series” might have set a precedent, but the fact remains that the Boys Love dimension is witnessing the onset of a major revolution in the form of Pinoy BL. Although Pinoy Boys Love hasn’t yet quite reached the international territory that Thai BL creators enjoy or brought forth the same sensual intimacy they display, Pinoy BL is fast becoming a contender and a global phenomenon in this genre.
—Edited by TheFNGee
So, it is prudent we discuss the intricacies that set them apart from their Thai or Japanese predecessors. With the major competition between various production houses in the Philippines, are we getting content that focuses on quality or quantity? How did a newly introduced concept gain so much attraction so quickly? What makes it unique and relatable? Let’s try to answer these major questions as we take a walk down the memory lane and find love stories that touch your heartstrings!
Gavreel and Cairo (Gameboys the Series)
Kokoy De Santos and Elijah Canlas play the memorable couple Gavreel and Cairo in this new age romance. When Gameboys premiered on the circuit, it surely didn’t have a global presence. It’s a simple story set against the backdrop of the Pandemic that bought two Gamers together: the handsome, self-assured Gav and the seemingly innocent yet prickly Cai. The odds of these two opposing forces finding love should be slim to none. Yet they did, and the tug of war was interesting to watch.
What made this sitcom truly memorable is the dynamic chemistry between the main leads. They are like pieces of puzzles that fit together. Cairo has major trust issues and low self-esteem. To fall in love with such a stubborn character and pursue him endlessly, you need to have loads of patience. Gavreel is surely the right person for this. Gav endured Cai’s mistrust and snide comments, and was Cai’s silent support when needed, and also proved that love truly exists. Their love story is unusual and magical. Kokoy and Elijah make you fall for their character’s flaws and make you realize that everyone has the right to love seamlessly!
Xavier and Mico (Hello Stranger)
Heralded by Philippines leading production ABS-CBN in collaboration with a partner Black Sheep Productions, Hello Stranger was touted as being the next big hit. However, this clichéd, flawed premise was loosely based on the trope of a dumb jock falling for a nerd. This story is used so frequently that it might not strike a major chord with audiences. If it weren’t for the irrepressible chemistry between the main leads Tony Labrusca and JC Alcantara, and their performances, Xavier and Mico’s journey from Strangers to Close Friends to Frenemies would never have overcome those obstacles. This is BL at its best.
The fact that Mico is equal parts exasperated as well as attracted to Xavier makes their romance completely believable. Two different personalities who have nothing in common meet, share their life stories, and ultimately become a part of each other’s existence. But things turn sour when major misunderstandings riddle their blossoming relationship due to a lack of honest communication. Mico’s insecurities and Xavier’s confusion wreck havoc, and they grow distant on the surface. It will be interesting to watch whether the finale either brings them closer or makes them strangers. I’m hoping for the first because they deserve their “Happily Ever After.”
Tau and Otep (In Between The Series)
In Between is probably the first BL series that showcases heartbreak in its truest form with sheer honesty. We always talk about the timeframe that characterizes a couple’s “break up and after.” What about the time “In Between”? This ongoing series answers that major question. What happens when two lifelong friends discover a romantic element to their relationship that later falls apart? As it is rightly pointed out by Tau and Tep’s friend Nicole, it is difficult to maintain the facade of friendship with your ex-lover.
Migs Villasis and Genesis Redido might be newcomers, but their raw emotions portray the real heartbreak that their characters face. While you imagine the various reasons of why Tau would probably break up with Otep, the show draws you closer to their romance. It focuses primarily on the “sacrifice” trope, and it would sound cringeworthy if it weren’t for the way Migs embodies Tau’s pain and emotions.
“Love is a complex thing. And we are allowed to love who we want to love – Sandra Malaya.”
I’m so glad that the show’s producers have not only added tangents that deal with the general perception of various sexualities but are also handling the major issue of parental acceptance. With the introduction of two new characters in the next episode, the popular series will either bring Tau and Tep closer or break their already fragile bond. Tau is not aware that Tep knows the reason behind their break up. Will his guilt drown their relationship, or will Tep manage to salvage the situation?
Farrah and Lara (Chasing Sunsets The Series)
Farrah and Lara might be fictional characters, but their love story is inspiring. Chasing Sunsets was an ambitious attempt to create a unique storyline highlighting mental health issues and single parent representation, interlaced with the delicate romance between the two main characters. Lara has beautiful stories to share but suffers from depression and anxiety. Lara’s innocence draws Farrah closer and piques her curiosity.
Despite the problems flagging her tumultuous relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Farrah never gives up on Lara. This drama put forth the various problems that a person suffering from depression faces. The stigma itself is enough to make them cautious and dissociate themselves from reality.
Chasing Sunsets was indeed a risky experiment because the premise was GL and concentrated on issues that most people avoid. The show’s producers, however, conceptualized an alternate universe with loveable characters and gave each of them a unique storyline. I was drawn to this premise because the main leads Aura Dominique and Donna Erno, portrayed their characters with brutal honesty. Aura is entirely convincing as Lara while she tries hard to disconnect with her past and move forward. Donna, as Farrah, on the other hand, has a strong demeanor and plays off the strong emotions very convincingly. I was both surprised and shocked, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is “Love Conquers All.” Lara and Farrah’s romance symbolizes hope, devotion, and everlasting love!
Bench and Thirdy (Kumusta Bro)
Kumusta Bro by Firestarter Productions and the Filipino Live Streaming Platform, Kumu was an arduous attempt to engage the Kumunity powered by artists, educators, and everyday Filipinos, into sharing their stories as they shape the romance between the main leads Thirdy and Bench. Sky Quizon, as Thirdy and Kristof Garcia as Bench, are radically different characters. Bench is a popular varsity Basketball player, and Sky is famous in the Kumunity. Both meet on the Kumu app’s interface while Thirdy is streaming with his fans, and their interaction gets a spin when one of the ardent fans “Supergirlly” prods them to take up the “Virtual Jowa Challenge.” The initial episode showcases Thirdy’s vulnerable side as he talks about his recent breakup, and Bench sympathizes. What begins as a challenge soon devolves into something deeper as Supergirlly puts them through numerous tasks to judge their compatibility.
Kristof, as Bench, is flirtatious and brings contentious energy to the show. Coupled with the sweet Sky who makes Thirdy quite relatable, Berdy (their online fandom name) is ambiguous. The show is still in the initial stages, and despite the slow start, the introduction of Allen Cecilio as Dean has sped up the wheels. I’m looking forward to watching this love triangle and figuring out Bench’s decision. Will he back off and give up on Thirdy? Or will his possessive side take over? Kristoff is not only hot but also has a quirky sense of humor. Watching him flirt with Thirdy is endlessly amusing, and they make an adorable couple.
Zach and Christian (Sakristan)
Projected as a drama focusing on social stigmas, Vincentiments “Sakristan” was supposed to be a showcase of fragile human emotions. However, the show devolved into unknown territories and got more complicated than anyone could have imagined. Zach and Christian’s relationship changed from “Shepherd-Sheep,” went through a swivel of problems and ended on an unusual note.
Although the series did address some major issues that plague the LGBTQ community, most fans were not pleased with the end result. It was a disappointment.
Zach and Christian’s romance was supposed to be memorable, but one wrong decision sent them toppling back to their prior status. We might question Zach’s imperious decision to kiss Wolf to prove his point, but then this series was plagued with a loosely written script that did a major injustice to this couple. The main leads John Henry and Clifford Pusing’s potential wasn’t fully explored and what acting talents they had were wasted. I’m still in two minds about the finale episode since the show gave them an ambiguous ending. I would have felt better if they were allowed to move on instead of being shackled together. I can understand the strong feelings of guilt, but being in close quarters with the person you once loved will only bring you more grief.
The current crop of Pinoy BL dramas surely has ingenious ideas as well as talents that manage to bring a fresh perspective to the table. Thai BL dramas are getting a little stagnant with their overtly sexual content and same old college romance. In contrast, Pinoy BL portrays characters who are realistic and comparably more mature. The stories present a sensibility that most Thai BL romances fail to deliver. Should the explosive chemistry between the main couple be the only catalyst for a successful show? Shouldn’t the episodes showcase their journey of mutual understanding, and lastly, be the embodiment of their love? If the answer is yes, then surely Pinoy BL has patented this formula and is churning out mass productions of variable content that will break through the old mold.
I’m looking forward to the ongoing dramas as well as the upcoming ones that promise a fresh breath of air and heaps of charming stories.
Join the discussion 3 Comments
As long as shows like 2gether are massive hits- despite lots of tired stuff (though Scrubbs music was great!) I wonder….
What Gameboys and Hello Stranger brought were some reality and being current- also really good acting by leads.
Credit to some of the creative Thai BLs out there though: He’s Coming to Meet Me and Until We Meet Again dealt with things like suicide, ghosts and reincarnation.
3 Will Be Free left the university setting and dealt with polyamory, the underworld and main characters that were complex and flawed.
Perhaps the global BL audience is older and the predictability of School of Engineering antics is wearing thin. Pinoy BL dramas that explore more real-world interactions help advance the positive impact of the BL genera. Hopefully other production studios in pioneering countries will soon follow suit.
Thanks for the review.
You are right. The Thai BL unfortunately keep circling around the same formula. I’m hoping they learn something from the Pinoy BL and change their standards.