Pinoy BL or Boys Love is a genre of online media series that revolves around the love story of two Filipino men. It depicts stories of homosexual romances between (mostly) cisgender Filipino males that may eventually lead to same-sex relationships.
Ever since the 2020 pandemic, more than a hundred Pinoy BL series have been produced by small to large production companies and released on online streaming sites, both paid and free. Filipino BL series have gained a dedicated fanbase not only from the Philippines but around the world! GAMEBOYS, Gaya sa Pelikula, and Hello Stranger are just a couple of examples of such queer series with rave reviews from millions of people. This new gay genre has been growing over the past couple of years and slowly entering the Filipino mainstream media.
How did Boys Love Series Start in the Philippines?
The Philippines is known to be majorly a Christian and conservative nation so any display of same-sex physical attraction or queer romance in television or mainstream media gets immediately flagged as inappropriate. Boys Love or BL only started booming in the Philippines during the pandemic of 2020. Like everyone, Filipinos were locked inside their home because of the quarantine and spent most of their days on the internet. It was a surprise during the early months of 2020 that 2gether: The Series, a Thai BL starring Bright Vachirawit and Win Metawin appealed to many fans in the Philippines. 2gether is a light slice-of-life series about two students who form a fake relationship that eventually turns real. I guess there’s something about two attractive and masculine men falling for each other that pulled the Filipino audience, primarily women to the show.
Due to the evident support of the Filipino market to Boys Love, Filipino creators started producing their own BLs featuring Filipino characters. Most BLs also used the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown as the backdrop to their story (GAMESBOYS, Hello Stranger, Quaranthings, etc.) which a lot of the people deeply related to at the time. The Pinoy BL series got millions of views on streaming platforms like YouTube with thousands of fans from around the world. showing their love and appreciation in the comments sections This encouraged more and more production companies and even small YouTube channels to create more Pinoy BLs because of the potential of the growing market. Pinoy BLs are mostly coming-of-age narratives, youthful comedies and modern gay stories.
Because of video streaming platforms and access to free media with the internet, more and more Filipinos were free to explore their curiosity behind closed doors. It is because of the quality and the brilliant storytelling of Pinoy BL series like GAMESBOYS, Gaya sa Pelikula, and others that make Filipinos proud to come out and support this type of genre. Pinoy BL is a great start for more LGBTQIA+ representation in media. Not all Pinoy BLs represent the reality of the Filipino gay culture and there is a lot to improve on. But the more series get produced, and stories told, the more our fellow Filipinos can widen their perspective and understand the needs, struggles, and experiences of our queer community so that we cannot only be tolerated but accepted and celebrated.
Pinoy BL Series to Get You Started
Like all kinds of media: movies and TV shows, there are good BLs and bad BLs. Since more and more creators saw the large number of views Pinoy BL could get, they took advantage and produced as many as they could. YouTube is saturated with so many Pinoy BL series that you would seriously get lost trying to pick which one to start with. You might come across Pinoy BLs on the internet that are low-budget, poorly created, or written in a rush. Of course, we want your first experience with Pinoy BL to be a magical one so we have to recommend only the best.
Cairo (Elijah Canlas), a live-stream gamer, was abruptly challenged to an online game by Gavreel (Kokoy De Santos), a fan and hidden lover who goes by the moniker Angel2000. Gameboys literally tells the story online and is set during the 2020 pandemic when the Philippines was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). We are able to follow Cairo and Gavreel’s narrative as it develops through video conversations, chat messages, and social networking apps despite the separation and confinement of living in their own homes.
Cast: Kokoy De Santos, Elijah Canlas, Adrianna So, Kyle Velino
Produced by: Idea First Company
GAYA SA PELIKULA
The best BL series I’ve seen so far is without a doubt this much-awaited one penned by Filipino actor and spoken-word artist Juan Miguel Severo. Karl (Paolo Pangilinan), a freelance writer and architecture student with a passion for movies, is the focus of the narrative. He is obliged to take in a brazen stranger named Vlad (Ian Pangilinan) and pose as his boyfriend in order to pay the month’s rent after a client leaves without paying.
Cast: Paolo Pangilinan, Ian Pangilinan, Adrienne Vergara, Yesh Bruce
Produced by: Globe Studios
Mico is shocked when Xavier, the school’s star basketball player, participates in the online quiz night he and his barkada had organized and taunts them. Mico has no idea that this is not the last time he will see Xavier.
Cast: Tony Labrusca, JC Alcantara, Vivoree Esclito, Patrick Quiroz, Gillian Vicencio, Miguel Almendras
Network: Black Sheep
Improvements Needed with Pinoy BL Series
As much as we’re happy that we’re finally seeing more and more LGBTQIA+ romance stories being produced in the Philippines, there are still some improvements that need to be made. In the opinion piece from Rappler, the author mentions the underlying issue with Pinoy BL despite its intention of LGBTQIA+ representation. It is wonderful that Pinoy BLs have shifted the representation of gay people as side characters only serving as comic relief to main characters who can have a love story. But if the point of Pinoy BL is inclusivity of the underrepresented, it should include more diverse characters and personalities from the gay community. Pinoy BLs have set a precedent that only attractive, fit, and highly masculine men can find love, still setting the more feminine gay men to the side. This research paper by Gary C. Devilles is an interesting read that talks about how Pinoy BL series “offer safe space or creative appropriations for LGBTQI communities but they are also enablers of the status quo of homophobia, heteronormativity, and toxic masculinity.” It talks about how the genre still enables homophobia and reinforces the heteronormative culture, avoiding the more critical issues that the queer community is facing in society.
In my personal opinion, I also think that a lot of Pinoy BLs are unnecessarily sexual. The Pinoy BL content creators should prioritize writing more compelling stories instead of filming so many gay sex scenes to serve as clickbait. We definitely need more representation of feminine gay men and not just let them serve as comic relief or side characters. We need to represent the diverse groups of people from the gay community and also explore the Filipino gay culture more. There are so many other stories to tell, not just repeating the same old tropes: fake relationship, rich boy poor boy, etc. It would also be great to cast gay actors into the queers leading roles. Let’s offer more opportunities to exemplary queer talents because Pinoy BL and other forms of queer media should properly represent the community and also promote it.
What are your thoughts on Pinoy BL?
I personally love living in a time where Filipino gay men like me can be leading characters in romantic stories that fellow Filipinos of different gender identities enjoy and relate to. Pinoy BLs have definitely opened up the country to more queer content and I’m excited for everything that’s coming. Aside from Pinoy BL series, there’s also Drag Race Philippines, Sparks Camp, and other quality shows that feature LGBTQIA characters and stories.
At the end of the day, we LGBTQIA+ are fighting for our rights, and TV shows and visual media like this allow our fellow Filipinos to understand our stories and look at life from our perspective. I’d like to share this quote from an article from Baguio City Guide that Pinoy BLs “help people understand that love comes in different forms. We might not be able to achieve equality overnight, but every little step counts. By watching these series, we might just be able to take one step closer to achieving equality.“
Listen to this episode of The Linya Linya Show where Ali Sangalang talks to Mela Habijan, Miss Trans Global and Host of Sparks Camp as they talk about queer empowerment through the rise of queer media in the Philippines,