Short film ‘Happy (M)other’s Day’ is a win for queer representation | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

preen happy mothers day film bts

The Manila Film Festival entry champions queer representation as it revolves around a young girl whose school won’t allow her gay dads to attend their mother’s day event


We’ve come a long way for the LGBTQIA+ community to be seen and heard in wider spaces. Government policy, for example, is slowly growing to be more inclusive, providing social and health support for the community. Case in point: the Right to Care ordinance, which allows members of the LGBTQIA+ community to make health decisions for their partners. 

These days, we see more opportunities for representation and openness, especially as more queer artists now take up space in popular media and third spaces. But as we say, “Malayo pa, pero malayo na.” 

Despite the seemingly greater acceptance and visibility of the queer community, there are still many remnants of discrimination, unsafe spaces, and instances of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. (The languishing of the SOGIE Bill or Anti-Discrimination Bill is also quite telling.)

Parts of the community that still experience intolerance and injustice are left to wonder if there is hope of ever experiencing the coveted freedom to be their true selves without fear of judgment or worse, harassment.

“To see is to believe,” for many queers, which is why the constant effort to push for wider representation of the community persists. 

In the Manila Film Festival, which puts the spotlight on short films produced by young filmmakers all over the country, several entries touch on various real queer experiences. One such film, written and directed by University of the Philippines student filmmaker Ronnie Ramos, touches on a specific experience of othering still prevalent in the community.

The film entitled “Happy (M)other’s Day” revolves around a family of two gay dads and their daughter who faces a dilemma as her school gears up for a Mother’s Day event. School regulations and authorities would not accept her queer parents as her companions for the sole reason that they are not female and therefore could not qualify as her “mother.”

* * *

This interview was edited for brevity.

Congratulations on the film! I watched it the other day and it was so heartwarming, and I liked that it ended on quite an optimistic note. Can you share with us the backstory of how the film came about? What inspired this story? 

Ronnie Ramos: Siguro simulan ko muna sa pinakasimpleng eksplanasyon with the story. I had the concept in mind already after senior high school. First year college pa lang ako, parang okay, may naisip akong concept. Pero hindi ko siya ma-put into words. Then habang nagsasagot kami ng form for the application (for The Manila Film Festival), saka ko naisip ‘yong idea of being “others” pagdating sa mga form na sinasagutan natin. Laging may “others, please specify” madalas. So doon umikot ‘yong idea.


Phi, since you’ve already been in different films, TV, and theater, what was the experience like doing this? How did you first get on board? What made you say yes?

Phi Palmos: Actually hindi sina Ronnie ‘yong unang nag-message sakin for a short film. I also loved the concept of that movie, kaya lang, hindi ako puwede doon sa shooting schedule na binigay nila, as in banggang bangga. Meron akong taping—alam mo naman pag TV taping, minsan hindi mo siya malalaman kung iko-call ka or what. Malalaman mo lang 24 hours before. 

And then I think after a few days, nag-message si Yuan, ‘yong producer (of “Happy (M)other’s Day”) sa akin. Tapos nag-message din si Ronnie. Tapos nag-de-decide ako, ‘yong shooting dates nila, sobrang sakto, wala akong gagawin. Ang last na nag-push sakin to accept the role is Precious (Paula Nicole). Kasi nag-message sakin si Precious, sabi niya, “may short film, ‘Happy (M)other’s Day,’ nasabi nila sakin na baka daw gawin mo.”

And I think we had that conversation na “Oh my god, ang ganda no’ng magiging representation, if ever na gagawin nating dalawa.”

preen happy mothers day film bts
Precious Paula Nicole as Dada Dy, Amber Jeshley Gomez as Sabrina, and Phi Palmos as Papa Jim. Photo by Atasha Dasoy

[READ: If you’re Precious Paula Nicole, loving and caring can be a drag queen brand]

Kung experience with them, I think nando’n kasi ako sa point ng career—wow—pero nando’n talaga ako sa point ng buhay ko and career ko na I think it’s also time to give back. Since last year, I really enjoyed working with students, talking to students, be it about theater, film, or TV.

I really loved working with Direk Ronnie and everybody, because ang open lang. We have this notion about Gen Zs na alam mo ‘yon, they’re so arrogant, they know everything. And never in those two days of shooting na naramdaman ko ‘yon. They’re very open. 

It’s those things na alam ko hindi nila ‘yon makukuha kung walang magtuturo sa kanila. Kaya sobra kong na-enjoy ‘yong process na open lang sila for the suggestions. Sobrang collaborative kasi ng process.

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Writer and director Ronnie Ramos with Phi Palmos and Precious Paula Nicole. Photo by Atasha Dasoy

Ang saya lang kasi nabibigyan ng accountability ‘yong mga tao, and also, they get to really partake in the creative process. And since they are students, importante ‘yon, na part sila. Hindi ‘yong, when they are working with professional actors, didiktahan lang sila nang hindi nila naiintindihan kung bakit. 

I really enjoyed working with this bunch of future filmmakers na magiging pag-asa ng industriya. Tsaka feeling ko kasi pag hindi mo sila pinakitaan ng mabuti, ‘pag sila na ang nasa positions of power, wala, gaganti lang ‘yang mga ‘yan. And it’s going to be a cycle of abuse, ng panggigipit, panggagantso. Kasi wala, ‘yong mga professional actors na naka-work nila, kinayan-kayanan sila, dinikta-diktahan sila. We shouldn’t tolerate that.


The story is very real, very true to life—but were there any special preparations you had to do to get into character, of being a parent, and to really embody the story?

Phi: We had a reading with direk, and during that reading, sinabi ko as much as possible, I want to play it as myself. Because importante na makita na paglabas namin do’n sa character, kami pa rin ‘yon. ‘Yong napanood niyo ay mga totoong tao. And I think ‘yon ‘yong importante when we push for representation. 

Yes, may delineation on the character and the actor playing it, pero importante kasi na kapag natapos ang pelikula, at nakita mo ang aktor na nag-play no’n, makikita mo pa rin in a way the character that they portrayed, or at the very least, ah bading siya talaga, hindi siya nagkukunwari. Kasi that’s the problem with when you get straight actors playing gay characters eh, that pushes the idea that queerness can be turned on or off. 

So ako, do’n sa preparation, no’ng magkausap din kami ni Precious no’n, sabi ko, let’s just play ourselves. Kasi importante ‘yon.

Ronnie: In terms of preparation din, na aside from the actors, kami rin po sa crew, nagkaroon din kami ng SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics) orientation sa mga crew. Hindi lang actually sa “(M)other’s Day” eh, I know also another project na nagkaroon ng orientation patungkol sa isyu na gusto nilang talakayin. 

Maganda sana na even ikaw, as crew, as part of the film, na aware ka talaga sa ano ba talaga ang mensahe ng gusto mong gawin. Also we find it very important that we have this discussion, na meron kaming mga batang actors, para mas maintindihan nila ‘yong pinag-uusapan. Kasi minsan may mga pelikula o mga topics na ginagawa sa pelikula na may involvement ‘yong bata, na hindi naman nila rin naiintindihan kung para saan ba, ano ba ‘yong ginagawa nila, anong role. Feel ko nakatulong din ‘yon para mas ma-foster din sa set mismo ‘yong pagiging safe space ng set. Mas aware tayo sa mga pinag-uusapan natin.

“Importante na makita na paglabas namin do’n sa character, kami pa rin ‘yon. ‘Yong napanood niyo ay mga totoong tao. And I think ‘yon ‘yong importante when we push for representation. …Kasi that’s the problem with when you get straight actors playing gay characters eh, that pushes the idea that queerness can be turned on or off,” says Phi Palmos


​​Is there any aspect of the character you portray that resonated with you, or you found relatable? 

Phi: I think ‘yong conversation with the principal, that really resonated with me. Kasi lumaki ako na tanggap ng pamilya ko, ng mga kaibigan ko. And when I found the community, that’s when I felt discriminated. No’ng nahanap ko ‘yong community, do’n ko naramdaman na why am I being discriminated? Ah, because baklang bakla ako, ang soft ko. Pag nakita mo ‘ko agad alam mong bakla ako. 

Nag-resonate sakin ‘yong lines na “You have no idea what you’re doing.” Because it’s really a fight between the new perspective that we’re trying to push, and the old perspective, which is unfortunately, they are the old guards. Ang hirap nilang banggain kasi sila ‘yong nasa posisyon. And I think it has always been my advocacy to really push for it, na these are the things that we deserve, and the only [way] that we can have those things that we deserve is if we speak up and we speak out.

But more than anything, the reason why the story resonated with me, is because I am being given a character in a relationship na may anak sila, and I want to play that character so much because there are people who resonates with me—who supports me—and who sees themselves [thinking na] hindi na mangyayari ‘yon, that having a partner, having a family is not—will never—happen to them. And I want to give them hope, and opportunity, even that ounce of hope na hey, posible. Because that’s how powerful representation is eh.

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Detail on the set of “Happy (M)other’s Day”—family photo of the characters. Photo by Atasha Dasoy

“It has always been my advocacy to really push for it, na these are the things that we deserve, and the only [way] that we can have those things that we deserve is if we speak up and we speak out,” says Phi Palmos


Bago mo maisip na posible ang isang bagay, kailangan mo muna siyang makita. Kailangan munang magpakita sa ‘yo ng possibility na ‘yon, bago mo paniwalaan. Ang simplistic kasi pag sinasabing “Isipin mo lang na mangyayari, mangyayari ‘yan.” Hindi. It’s another thing to visualize it, and it’s another thing to see someone doing it for you. Watching it. Seeing on the big screen. Napaka-importante no’n. That visual cue, that visualization, of something that you want.

Kaya nga representation. Hindi siya puwedeng nasa utak mo lang, na ikaw lang ang nag-iisip. Kailangan mo siyang makita. And that’s the main reason why—I don’t think I told direk about this, but that’s really the reason why [I accepted the role.] Na wow, dito, mag-jowa kami ni Precious, may anak kami. And you know, Precious is really handsome, conventionally attractive. And then I’m here, who’s not conventionally attractive, being with someone who’s so handsome—alam ko at one point napag-usapan namin ‘yon ni Precious eh. Na parang, it breaks the mold of gay stories na p*ta, lagi na lang ‘yong dalawang gwapo! Lagi na lang ang storya pag dalawang gwapo, ‘yon lang ang posible. Makakahanp ka lang ng pagmamahal at pag-ibig, makakahanap ka lang ng pagtanggap kung dalawa kayong gwapo. Tatanggapin kayo ng mundo pag dalawa kayong gwapo. And… hindi eh. We’re not giving spaces, our fight for safe spaces is just a show kung ‘yon lang ang representation na binabato natin at nilalabas natin sa mundo.

Ronnie: Tulad ng nabanggit ni Phi, sobrang powerful talaga na mas makita mo sarili mo sa media kaysa imaginin mo siya. 

Same kay Phi, maagang nalaman ng parents ko, at maaga ko rin na-realize sa sarili ko, ‘yong tungkol sa aking sexuality. Pero they didn’t go out of their way to instill that deep pride in me; wala rin namang nagsabi sakin na sobrang foolish no’n. Pero super exposed kasi ako sa ignorant questions ng mga kaklase ko. 

Madalas nakikita ko pang representation of queer people in media, kung hindi sila katatawanan, kontrabida sila, or tragic plot devices. Laging may kaangkop na krimen o danger. Parang cautionary tale ‘yong pagiging bading sa Pilipinas. So in a way na-feel ko na baka hindi ako meant to be seen talaga, parang ganon. ‘Yon din siguro ‘yong naging aspiration ko talaga to pursue filmmaking. I realized din na, oh, may kapangyarihan ako as a filmmaker, to create the representation na gusto ko. At ‘yong fix na ‘yon is gumawa ng bida o character na kagaya ko.

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Phi Palmos and Precious Paula Nicole on set in “Happy (M)other’s Day.” Photo by Atasha Dasoy

“May kapangyarihan ako as a filmmaker, to create the representation na gusto ko. At ‘yong fix na ‘yon is gumawa ng bida o character na kagaya ko. …To see myself properly represented in media means validation. And to create media is to exercise power,” says Ronnie Ramos


Sinulat ko sa post ko on Facebook: “The world is not a neutral place that equally values various cultures, characteristics, or self-representations. Heteronormativity is revered. Little gay kids all over the world grow up hating themselves as a direct consequence. 

“So to see myself properly represented in media means validation. And to create media is to exercise power.”

Nakakatuwa lang din actually, kung napanood niyo rin ‘yong ibang sets, na ang daming queer stories or queer subplots sa bawat film. Nakakatuwa na may ganitong kalaking platform para sa mga ganoong klaseng kuwento. Napapanood na natin siya in mainstream media, in mainstream cinema. Hindi lang nasa echo chamber ‘yong discussion ng mga representation na ‘to.

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