saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

‘Saan Ako Pinaglihi?’ Filmmakers On Film As A Safe Queer Space And The Different Forms of Love

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"Sa tingin niyo ba, pinaglihi talaga 'ko sa tomboy?"

The creators of ‘Saan Ako Pinaglihi’ share all about the making of the sapphic family short film and the power of the many forms of queer love in cinema.

Related: What The Viral Success of ‘A Catholic Schoolgirl’ Means To Student Filmmaker Myra Soriaso

The trailer of sapphic short film Saan Ako Pinaglihi? made the rounds on social media recently, and its lighthearted and heartwarming premise is yet another sign that Filipino queer cinema is diversifying into something quite lovely.

Saan Ako Pinaglihi? is a short film about Chinky (Zoey Madison Lim), a curious young girl with two lesbian moms trying to find out how she was conceived.

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

Written and directed by student filmmaker Rafaela Abucejo along with her co-writers Sean Romero and Pola Basaya, and produced by Joshua de Vera of SBSG Pictures, Saan Ako Pinaglihi is an entry for the Student Short Film Category at the Puregold Cinepanalo Film Festival.

NYLON Manila got a chance to hear from the team all about how the film came to be, their perspectives on queer Filipino cinema, and embracing stories with pride.

EXPLORING AND INFORMING

In the trailer, the film introduces two central concepts: the Filipino idea of “paglilihi” and an exploration of a non-traditional family through the eyes of a child with two lesbian mothers.

Not many queer films, local or international for that matter, explore queer love through the perspective of an eight-year old. Certain people even perceive the idea of queerness as something that we shouldn’t “expose our children to”, as if it was something so immoral or dangerous.

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

Rafaela believes the opposite. “The script was actually inspired by my personal goal of writing a children’s book that simplifies the concept of SOGIESC for young people.” Exploring sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics is already a pretty difficult task to navigate on one’s own, and it doesn’t help that society still deems those topics taboo.

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

Growing up “very confused” about her sexuality, the writer and director reveals she always wished that there were people who helped her figure things out, and that’s where her advocacy shines through in her filmmaking.

THE WARMTH OF A QUEER FAMILY

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

Charming, comedic, and quirky, Saan Ako Pinaglihi? promises a unique take on queer love in a local context. “At its heart,” Rafaela shared. “The film is a story of a queer family.” The story integrates the concept of “lihi,” which is when a pregnant woman craves for something. It’s believed that that craving has an influence on the physical and character attributes of the child.

“Kung pinaglihi ka sa tomboy,” a child in the film asks. “Edi, tomboy ka din?” The question itself, a representation of the entire film, packs a punch, intertwining a very Filipino belief with a hint of discourse about the “influence” of queer exposure to children.

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

Rafaela hopes that the larger public continues to normalize having queer parents, and for them to realize that queer people can raise and love children just as straight people do. “We want audiences to experience the love, safety, and warmth of a queer family.”

AN INTERSECTIONAL PERSPECTIVE

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

Putting not just queer individuals but queer women, and a young girl at the center of the story, is a statement in and of itself. Less media have put women front and center compared to men, but it seems, as more diverse stories are being told, the landscape is changing. But of course, not without challenge.

“Nabanggit ko ‘yung word na lesbian while I was explaining the film, sexual na agad ‘yung naging tingin niya,” Rafaela says about a man she was once talking to. “Sobrang uncomfortable na experience ‘yon and it was really a challenge for me.”

The short film is inherently intersectional, what with the compounding of struggle as a Filipino, as a queer individual or couple, and as a girl or a woman.

Plenty of people immediately perceive the love between two women with a sexual lens, and it’s a gross, reductive way to perceive queerness. Queerness exists in many forms, and Saan Ako Pinaglihi weaves their interpretation of it into the inner workings of a Filipino family with a daughter and her two moms in a refreshing, warm tale of love, growth and learning.

DIVERSIFYING QUEER LOCAL CINEMA

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

“People tend to cherish rare moments like this,” producer Joshua reflects on the scarcity of sapphic films. “There is such yearning for queer stories that are grounded with our own culture and experiences that I think people saw with Saan Ako Pinaglihi.”

The viral success of the short film on social media, as well as other queer films in recent times, indicates a yearning and clamor for more diverse local films. “It’s wonderful to see, and it’s a sign of hope and progress,” as Pola notes. Additionally, co-writer Sean thinks it’s “Because may mga taong willing umintindi, at may mga taong gusto makitang narerepresent ang mga sarili nila sa pelikula.”

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

As we witness the birth of more and more diverse, earnest stories told through film (told by young, diverse filmmakers, no less!) and a growing appreciation for them, it seems the future of Filipino cinema is moving towards something beautiful. A “significant cultural shift”, if you will, as Rafaela comments. Sean observes that each release gets more progressive, too. “Mas matapang, mas inventive, mas inclusive.”

Lastly, Pola remarks that there is still a long journey towards total acceptance, but the call to see these kinds of stories told is a sign of hope and progress. “It’s a testament to the importance of occupying our space and embracing our stories with pride.”

saan ako pinaglihi queer film sapphic film sbsg productions rafaela abucejo

Saan Ako Pinaglihi will be screened at Gateway Cineplex in Cubao from March 15 to 17. Check out the screening schedule here.

Images courtesy of Rafaela Abucejo and SBSG Productions.

Continue Reading: Why It’s Important to Have Normalized Queer Representation in Filipino Media