The Filipino word “bakla” used to be synonymous with male homosexual. That was back in the day when the stereotypical homosexual male was effeminate and silly-looking. Philippine cinema in the 1960s and 1970s (and even as recent as the 1980s and 1990s) almost always characterised male homosexuals that way. To be fair, even today, they suffer an unfair characterisation — because celebrities like Vice Ganda who rose to fame on the back of low-brow and crass comedy continue to be symbols of male homosexuality.
Vice Ganda and his ilk continue to propagate the bakla stereotype — caricatures of male homosexuality that prosper with immunity from crticism (thanks to the prevailing political correctness that rules “liberal democracies”). It is therefore important to redefine the word “bakla” to fit today’s reality — that there are gay men who are anything but this caricature portrayed by celebrities like Vice Ganda. These non-bakla gay men are actually real men in the sense that the old Ateneo slogan “men for others” once meant (before political correctness killed that meaning). They are (like what Ateneans used to be) well-bred modern gentlemen who intelligently think things through and not go into emotional shrieking fits when confronted with something they do not understand or grasp fully.
In short, the word “bakla” no longer describes sexual orientation. Rather, it describes an acute weakness of character that predisposes one to seek attention using loud, annoying, and crass means. Vice Ganda, is an example of the quintessential bakla who just happens to be gay. Perhaps this is the reason people with bakla characteristics dominate social media cliques where chatter is loudest and where unsubstantiated information is most likely to spread and “go viral” — because social media has long been recognised as a medium that both exacerbates narcissism and allows narcissists to thrive. This is understandable in chatter surrounding showbiz and entertainment where chismis (gossip) holds currency.
What is disturbing today is how bakla chatter has made inroads into political discourse. The same loud and crass narcissism once reserved for showbiz talk shows have become the new format for political “debate” as well. Screaming faggotry (a particularly annoying flavour of bakla behaviour) can be seen in many homemade videos and comment threads that purport to be exploring serious political topics. Small wonder that nothing ever gets resolved — because when the objective becomes seeking attention and speaking the loudest rather than speaking in turn and seeking the truth, intelligent conversation cannot take root.
I’ve found that bakla-types are responsible for most of the unfounded and nonsensical opinions — and even supposedly foregone conclusions — that have come to define many “political movements” today. Many bakla slogans surrounding the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (“Heroes’ Cemetery), for example, continue to be shouted out. These shout-outs come across as bakla because they are loud (their shrillness hurts the brain) and crass (many talk about digging human remains off their resting place). Many are downright unethical — bakla folk who outright wish death upon people they hate or make speculate on and fun of people’s health issues or medical conditions. Others have become religious in nature by habuitually deifying “heroes” of the moment and demonising “evil” antagonists.
The 1986 people power “revolution” for example had become a Philippine national mythological edifice of biblical proportions thanks to the bakla mentality that sought both messianic and demonic characters and symbols to rally around. To this day, even as the “people power” mythology declines in relevance, the cliques who remain associated with that mass hypnosis continue to desperately seek new (or cling even more tightly to old) gods and demons. This is the reason why the Opposition cannot unite — because the different factions cannot agree amongst themselves which gods are tops and which demons are the most vile. Some believe the Aquinos still reign supreme on Mount Olympus even as others believe the G20 governments are the prime sources of humankind’s ideological validation. Others remain convinced the Marcos’s are the vilest denizens of the underworld even while some of their partisan “allies” would rather spit on their country’s armed forces in memory of Martial Law “victims” of yore.
It’s a confused society indeed — because Filipinos still believe in personal destinies controlled by elves and fairies rather than in the power of the scientific method where facts are woven together by threads of logic to form robust and testable ideas.
Gay people enjoy more recognition today in the Philippines. The community owes this to many unnamed scientists who had proven using the scientific method that being gay is not a “sin” but, rather, a natural sexual orientation controlled by genes and not by personal choice. it is ironic, though, that a sad relic of the cultural heritage of their community — the stigma of the bakla — continues to stain their profile in mainstream society. But the more important thing to focus on is to rid the country’s political discourse of bakla approaches to “debate”. The future of the nation is too important to leave to shills who are in the habit of going into shrieking fits over unsubstantiated outrage fads.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.