The Premiere Of Drag Race Philippines Is Unapologetic Pinoy Drag Excellence

Which queen are you rooting for?

Drag Race Philippines is finally here and if the first two episodes are anything to go by, season one is going to be anything but boring.

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With legends like Ongina and Manila Luzon gracing the Drag Race stage, it was truly only a matter of time before Drag Race would finally make it to the Philippines. Filipino drag is something else and deserves a global spotlight for people to get a taste of the excellence. And after years of waiting in anticipation, Drag Race Philippines has finally premiered with the drop of the first two episodes of season one as 12 queens from around the country vying to the Philippines’ first drag superstar. Even though we are just two episodes in, Drag Race PH may look to live up to the hype and more.

THOSE SHOES

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By episode one, you can tell that the show features many of the same aspects of the original series. There’s the werk room, mini and maxi challenges, RuPaul popping up on screen to give the episode’s mail, the main stage, and LSFYLs (that’s lip sync for your life in case you live under a rock). But the Pinoy touch is steeped in to nearly every aspect of the show. Viñas Deluxe walking into the werk room in the towel with the brush as her mic was already the first gag of the season. Many young kids explored their identity through putting on towels as a dress so her entrance both unique and memorable.

Meanwhile, the queens reaction to seeing Xilhouete enter the werk room was as overly dramatic as when Coco Montrese saw Alyssa Edwards in the beginning of season five. Where Xilhouete and Marina Summers’ beef goes from here may prove to be one of the main plot points of the season. The first mini-challenge of the queens becoming Dragnas (photographed by BJ Pascual, no less) felt so right but we also wouldn’t have minded if the Darna looks was reserved as a mainstage runway theme.

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Episode one’s main challenge had the queens show off their skills in T.I.T.E, the Totally Impressive Talent Extravaganza. The talent show itself was what you’d expect from the hopefuls, except perhaps more diverse in concepts. Queens like Minty Fresh and Turing gave some wonderful performances, but the short one minute time frame for their stages felt too limiting and that there wasn’t enough time to really appreciate what the queens had to offer. The queens also didn’t come to play with their terno looks, with Eva Le Queen’s Marge-Simpson-goes-to-Malacañang look, as well as of Minty Fresh in a Bakunawa-inspired terno by Santi Obcena being a particular standout.

Minty Fresh ended up winning the challenge with her laser lights show and runway look, along with a cash tip of 80,000 pesos and a Ru Badge. Meanwhile, Prince was sent home, which was a bit of a shocker, because going into the competition, there was already that level of polish. But as we’ve learned from years of Drag Race, you may be a great queen, but competing in the Olympics of drag is something else. Her not-so-burlesque burlesque number and underwhelming terno from space look did her in the end. And those shoes.

CAN I GET AN EME

Episode two meanwhile sees the show turn the camp to the next level. For the palo sebo mini-challenge, the queens had to climb a bamboo pole to get the flag at the top, which made for some of the funniest moments ever in the whole franchise. It’s so crazy, but definitely makes sense in the Filipino context of Drag Race. The main challenge, meanwhile, sees the girls give their take on Flores de Mayo with their Sagala-inspired gowns. In the end, Viñas Deluxe continues her gag-worthy streak by giving the best look of the night and pulling it off even if she slipped on the stage. Viñas’ win and Minty’s high placement, as well as their performance in episode one, have made the pair the seasons frontrunners, so far.

Meanwhile, in the bottom, things get heated in judging as Turing, Corazon, and Gigi Era were dragged for their looks. Turing and Corazon in particular were airing their beef on stage as they made it clear that they didn’t have warm feelings towards each other. The tension was real as the judges were blunt about not liking the looks, especially Paolo Ballesteros, Jiggly Caliente, and Kaladkaren. Paolo’s “Oh…Okay” to Corazon’s flowers is prime reality show drama and a meme waiting to happen. In the end, Corazon was sent packing as Turning redeemed herself from her fashion misses by devouring that lip sync. The lip sync assassin lives for another day as she promises to step it up and continue promoting body positivity as a big girl. Let’s just hope then that the show is more mindful of the fat jokes for the rest of the season.

If it wasn’t abundantly clear, Drag Race Philippines is unapologetically gay and Filipino. The jokes, the way the queens and Paolo speak to each other, the references, most if not all are rooted in Filipino culture. International fans can indeed watch and enjoy the show. But Filipinos can fully appreciate the references that the English subtitles don’t give justice to. For example, Paolo describes one of the queens as Maja, a nod to Maja Salvador. But the subtitles change it to dancing queen. It technically makes sense, but you lose the nuance.

The show doesn’t limit how the queens speak or share their important stories of what it’s like being gay in the Philippines. Overall, it’s a great start to season one as Filipino drag queens have a platform to show the world how good Philippine drag is in a show that encourages them to be themselves. And those low budget accusations have definitely been proven wrong. Also, don’t forget to catch Drag Race Philippines Untucked every Friday, which is directed by Ice Seguerra. As they say, if you aren’t watching Untucked, you’re only getting half the story. Now, it’s full throttle for Drag Race Philippines.

See which queen makes it to the end as Drag Race Philippines airs every Wednesdays on Discovery+, HBO Go, and WOW Presents Plus. Untucked, meanwhile, airs in the same channels on Fridays.

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