Our favorite LGBTQIA+ characters in Philippine theater | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

LGBTQIA+ representation in theater

Theater is a platform for representation, and lately we’re seeing more and more LGBTQIA+ characters portrayed on the big stage


It’s not just film and TV where we’re seeing more stories of the LGBTQIA+ experience get told; theater, too, has become a large platform for the community’s representation. On Broadway, we can see so many queer icons and relationships showcased on stage, like those of Angel and Tom Collins, and Maureen and Joanne in Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” powerful characters and stories such as Lola in “Kinky Boots,” Alison in “Fun Home,” and Celie and Shug Avery from “The Color Purple,” among countless others. 

On the local stage, LGBTQIA+ characters have also been getting their equal share of the spotlight. Here are some of our favorite queers from recent original Filipino productions.


Ada/Zsazsa Zaturnnah from “Zsazsa Zaturnnah The Musical… ‘Yun Lang!”

LGBTQIA+ representation in theater Zsazsa Zaturnnah musical
Ateneo Blue Repertory’s “Zsazsa Zaturnnah The Musical… ‘Yun Lang!” Photo by Kyle Venturillo

Ada is the gay parlorista of their small town, who is suddenly bestowed with superpowers (complete with superhero transformation) when he swallows a mysterious rock from outer space a la Darna. He then transforms into the hero “Zsazsa Zaturnnah,” who uses her strength to save their town from monsters and the toxic feminist Amazonista from Planet XXX, Queen Femina. From the comics by Carlo Vergara to the film and its various musical iterations, “Zsazsa Zaturnnah” is an icon in gay literature and media. She has inspired (and continues to inspire) generations of queers, not only in believing in one’s own power but especially in the transformative power of love.


Rosanna from “Mula sa Buwan”

Mula sa Buwan
Rosanna in “Mula sa Buwan.” Photo by Kyle Venturillo

Rosanna is the nurturing head—the “mother,” if you will—of the Kabataang Makulay, a group of young artists, misfits, and dreamers in the world of “Mula sa Buwan.” Ever reliable and with a big heart, Rosanna is one of the many characters audiences feel for in the wartime musical, especially in the many instances they’ve put their loved one’s needs ahead of their own. Pagpaparaya at its finest, but equally an example of the forces of love in “Mula sa Buwan.” Definitely a queer mother to keep in our hearts.

“Mula sa Buwan” runs at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater from Aug. 16 to Sept. 8.


Anthony from “Ang Huling El Bimbo”

LGBTQIA+ representation in theater Ang Huling El Bimbo

One of the plot points of the hit Eraserheads musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” was Anthony’s journey in expressing his sexual orientation, and how the people around him also responded to his coming out (or avoidance thereof). In a patriarchal society, with a culture that still celebrates machismo, Anthony’s journey may be very familiar to many. It’s in the moments of acceptance from his best friend Joy, and later his reconciliation with his other best friends Hector and Emman, that we can glean inspiration. In the (non-verbatim) words of Joy, “kaibigan mo sila, matatanggap ka nila.”


Torran and Atty. Victor Cruz in “Bar Boys: A New Musical”

Bar Boys
Torran in “Bar Boys: A New Musical.” Photo by Kris Rocha

Another musical that touches on matters of gay rights is “Bar Boys: A New Musical,” particularly through the characters of Torran and Atty. Victor Cruz. The first instance we see Atty. Cruz, he makes a point about a ruling on an annulment case, the points of which, have been used to argue for same-sex marriage (lawyers, forgive my oversimplification). While the scene was obviously teaching to the class, we in the audience are learning just as much about the inequality of our current laws towards the LGBTQIA+ community.

In this musical, too (and also through interactions with Atty. Cruz), Torran better understands his own identity, and forms his resolve to come out to his mother—after passing the bar.


The narrator in “Bawat Bonggang Bagay” 

LGBTQIA+ representation in theater Bawat Bonggang Bagay
Jon Santos as the narrator in “Bawat Bonggang Bagay.” Photo courtesy of The Sandbox Collective

The Filipino translation of the inspiring one-man interactive play “Every Brilliant Thing” not only features a Filipino narrator but also one who is gay, thus telling the story with a lens that is more accurate to the LGBTQIA+ community’s experience. The play takes us through the character’s youth, discovering their mother’s struggles with mental health, all the way through the different milestones of their life—including meeting a cute boy in their university library, falling in love, and eventually getting married! Talk about a heartwarming and inspiring piece that transforms the theater into a safe space for one’s mental health and identity.

“Bawat Bonggang Bagay” is on a limited run at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater until June 30.


“Unica Hijas” and “Laro”

LGBTQIA+ representation in theater Pride Plays
“Unica Hijas” and “Laro.” Photos by Kyle Venturillo

The 2023 twin-bill feature of Barefoot Theatre Collaborative, presented collectively as “Pride Plays,” showcases the different facets of the LGBTQIA+ community. In “Laro,” written by the late Floy Quintos, we see the varying (power) dynamics at play in different kinds of gay relationships. (Personal favorite is the Drag Queen finally putting their foot down, setting their boundaries, and choosing themself!) 

Meanwhile, Gawad Buhay-nominated play “Unica Hijas” by Mikaela Regis is lighter in contrast: a giddy, wholesome exploration on two school girls navigating their identities and expressions as well as their views on love, acceptance, and relationships. (Plus, how lovely is it to see lesbian representation on stage!)


Girlie in “Buruguduystunstugudunstuy: Ang Parokya ni Edgar Musical” 

Girlie, a lady guard, in “Buruguduystunstugudunstuy.” Photo courtesy of Newport World Resorts

Girlie is one of the four women who find themselves summoned by a strange drumbeat out of their world and into the colorful, bizarre Parokyaverse in “Buruguduystunstugudunstuy.” Working as a guard at a mall, she seems to have internalized a sense of being invisible—hiding her thoughts, her self, and even her desires and true identity, without realizing it. It is through her journey with Jen in the Parokyaverse that she discovers and transforms into her true self (renaming as Edgar! Shedding the “girlie” Girlie image and dressing up more as a man, as she/he feels like!)

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