Gen Z Speaks: Why It’s Important to Have Normalized Queer Representation in Filipino Media

It’s time to take control of the narrative.

With help from Gen Z members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we talk about the importance of diverse, normalized queer narratives in Filipino media.

Related: Sing It Loud, Sing It Proud: These Queer Filipino Musicians Are Unapologetically Raising Their Voices for the LGBQIA+ Community

While the prevalence of queer identities on local screens grows, the fight for diverse, authentic representation in Filipino media is an ongoing struggle. It’s not enough that a queer person is in a show or a movie, but the stories we tell must capture the breadth of queer experience.

It is, of course, important to be able to portray the unique struggles faced by the LGBTQIA+ community, as they are a marginalized community still not afforded the same rights as cisgender heterosexual Filipinos. But as we see the same characteristics and (often upsetting) storylines over and over again, isn’t it also important to tell stories where queerness is not the problem for once?

We reached out to a few queer Gen Z individuals—Jay, Tristan, Rylle, Izzy, Dom, Clara, and Kimiko—to get their takes on why normalized representation matters in the local scene, because time and time again, this generation proves they know what they’re up against, and they know what they’re talking about.


@anothergaymer did you figure out who i referenced? #gay #lgbt #lgbtq #lgbtqia #representation #pride #pridemonth ♬ original sound – J

Countless studies and perspectives have emerged detailing how much the portrayal of queerness on Filipino screens are one-dimensional, stereotypical and often harmful, as they perpetuate rigid ideals about how queerness “should” be like.

Young writer Jay recalls growing up in the 2000s and watching Filipino shows where queer characters were present, but relegated to roles like the main character’s friend or comic relief. “While these are not inherently untrue portrayals,” they share. “[They] diminish the vast and complex tapestry of the queer identity and our representation falls easily into stereotypes—stereotypes that subconsciously affect people’s perception on the LGBTQ+ community, and these stereotypes often lead to harmful rhetoric.”

Given that there still exists oppression and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, authentic, sensitive representation allows queer individuals to envision possibilities and be open to the breaking of boundaries.

Student Tristan shares, “For most of my life, I didn’t get the support system and healthy environment that some queers enjoy.

“The only way that I could get a vague sense of the community that was waiting for me on the other side was by consuming media portraying people like me as real individuals with valid experiences.”

The queer experience is not monolithic—and the stories we tell shouldn’t be, either.


Representing queerness in local media, recent graduate Rylle says, draws attention to the struggles of the queer community. The kicker is—queer people struggle with more than just their genders and sexualities, and presenting those problems alongside the struggle of being queer can paint a more complete, more resonant picture of queerness to the general public. Stories on screen are valued both by the community whose stories are told as well as the people outside those circles.

“Queer representation reaches out to the young people who need to hear and see that it’s more than okay to take up space. It helps us plant our existence in society when we are able to see and relate to stories that are reflective of our own,” Dom remarks.

“Let the gays have their cheesy romcoms!” is a frequent sentiment echoed on social media. Having marginalized identities take up space in predominantly heterosexual contexts brings people on equal ground. So much of queer media focuses on homophobia, coming out narratives, and queer trauma. It’s time those stories stop being the only option and we explore more ways of representing queerness and queer love in media.


Normalizing queer existence, relationships, and love in a story means not treating queerness as the source of conflict or a problem to be solved. In a way, it resists predominant narratives that queerness is inherently tied to suffering and fear, othering and discrimination.

Recent graduate Izzy explains that “normalized queer representation helps overcome heteronormativity.” Shifting focus from gender and sexuality being the main concern in a narrative to acknowledging the complexity of queer experiences replaces “the idea na heterosexual relationships and heteronormative expressions of gender are the norm.” She adds:

“Parang natatanggal yung way of thinking na being queer is being an outsider.”

A paradox lies within this nuance. While the LGBTQIA+ community is inherently “different” by virtue of their identity, their experiences are often set apart from those experienced by cisgender heterosexuals, as if they are incapable of feeling or acting or behaving the way the latter do just because they don’t fit into the perceived standards of what is “normal.”

“Despite queerness defying standards at its core, normalizing queer media offers comfort to the audience,” Clara comments. Pushing for the normalcy of queerness, while still acknowledging the community’s unique struggle, could lead to valuable conversations.

@fundforwomensequality The lack of representation of LGBTQ people in media is still a real issue. By seeing LGBTQ people represented in films, TV shows, and other forms of media, it not only gives encouragement to those struggling to come out but also helps fight outdated stereotypes. #lgbtq #mediarepresentation #lgbtqrights #inclusion #equality #lgbtqvisibility #queerpride ♬ original sound

Because yes, highlighting queer struggle illuminates how difficult it is to exist as a queer person, and could thus spark much-needed change. But stories that don’t focus on the struggles of being queer are important too, as they help queer individuals and audiences nuance their understanding of what it means to be queer, and reassures members of the community that it’s possible to live openly and freely. Jay explains,

“[Stories] of joy and love and success, of pain and confusion, of failures and heartbreaks, aren’t exclusive to straight people.”


Artists and filmmakers like Samantha Lee have championed normalizing queer experience, particularly with her first miniseries Sleep With Me (2022), where the love story between two women is not complicated by their sexualities, but rather other issues and problems. Queerness was a norm itself. The intersectionality of queerness and disability are present, putting forth the value of acknowledging and highlighting such struggle, but queerness is not presented as a problem.

Stories like these set a precedent for young storytellers, producers, and audiences to patronize diverse queer representation in Filipino media.

“In a way,” Rylle muses. “[Filipinos] haven’t really basked in their own unique queerness yet. And it’s still a struggle for some to come to terms with who they are, because they don’t have anything to ‘put’ themselves in yet, especially since most of what they understand of the Filipino environment is prejudice.”

Wouldn’t we love to change that? To foster a change in how the LGBTQIA+ community is perceived? To present more possibilities to people still figuring out who they are? As artist Kimiko notes,

“Normalized queer representation in Filipino media matters because it recognizes that queer people are just people—imperfect and beautiful humans. Queer people have hopes, dreams, and fears [just] like cishet people. We all laugh and we all cry.”

So if you’re an aspiring filmmaker or storyteller, don’t feel as if you have to ascribe to certain formulas or stick to the usual narratives. Diverse stories matter. Your stories matter. The struggle for queer liberation is a blazing fire, and could be further stoked by a simple, bold statement: we are here.

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5 Reactions To The Percy Jackson And The Olympians Trailer That Are A Whole Mood

Move over, Potter.

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians trailer brings Percy and the Greek gods’ story to life in new ways for a generation that’s waited forever.

Related: Percy Jackson is in Its Renaissance Era, and We Love to See It

After wildly successful book-to-screen adaptations like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, it’s time for Percy Jackson to have the spotlight (and no, we don’t talk about the discontinued movie series adaptation). The long-awaited Disney+ adaptation of the book series, this time with author Rick Riordan heavily involved, dropped its series trailer last August 19 and moved its release date to December 20 of this year.

The series, as it was undergoing development, has been the subject of much media coverage and social media virality the past year. Book readers who have been there since the beginning and new fans alike have been buzzing with anticipation for an age-appropriate, faithful adaptation that will do justice to the young demigod hero’s story. Reactions to the new trailer and an earlier release date have been a mix of overjoyed excitement and emotional expressions of wish-fulfillment.

And no, as someone who’s read the books as a pre-teen and is now 22, I definitely didn’t tear up. Not at all. Nope.


Riordan and series fans have sung nothing but praises for the diverse and skills-first casting of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover. Walker Scobell of The Adam Project fame was announced as Percy Jackson last year, and Riordan referred to him as having the “perfect mix of comedic timing, sweetness, rebelliousness, snark and heroism” to embody the demigod hero.

The funny Aryan Simhadri was said to have a “mixture of sweetness, humor and internal toughness” perfect for satyr Grover Underwood. Finally, Leah Sava Jeffries is a “brilliant actor,” the embodiment of the daughter of Athena—smart, strong, and courageous. She could break hearts, make people laugh, and have people cheer on her “all in the same scene.” From the actors’ previous works, social media presence, and behind-the-scenes looks at the series, it is undoubtable they’ll do a fantastic job as the main trio.


Both teaser trailers featured creatures, gods, battles, and Camp Half-Blood come to life. It was fun for fans to notice and call out the series version of something they read in the book, such as Thalia’s tree (spoiler alert: Thalia Grace is a daughter of Zeus that was turned into a tree to save her life), the orange camp t-shirts, the armor, the battle with Ares, and so much more. While book-to-screen adaptations are a mix of hits and misses overall, there is reassurance in Riordan’s involvement and the world-building we’ve seen so far. Plus, it’s always so much fun and excitement in seeing words on a page come to life right in front of you.


In the trailer, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear a line from Vance Joy’s Riptide, making it canon as a Percy Jackson song after years of fans linking the song to the franchise. The song shares a name with Percy’s trusty sword Riptide. This detail means the series was produced with the fans in mind, and more than that, the creators truly realized what it means to fans who have been there forever, like those who made edits to the song way back in 2016. One can only wonder how those editor fans felt after watching the trailer!


Speaking of fans and faith, so many fans of the series who have run stan accounts for the series showed immense elation at the adaptation. I was also part of Percy Jackson Twitter in the early-to-mid 2010s, and I’ve made friends online and offline because of this series. Running a fan account and witnessing all the new releases and developments, from new novels to disappointing movie adaptations, is such a unique, rollercoaster experience. To watch the series, reliving old adventures and seeing new ones as the series goes on, will be a nostalgic, emotional journey that will get us to say, “Hello again, Percy.”


The first book of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, The Lightning Thief (which the first season of the show is based on), was first published in 2005. It’s been almost 20 years since then, but the series has consistently been relevant over the decades, what with new series being published by Rick Riordan still featuring characters and storylines from the original 5 books.

Chalice of the Gods, a standalone sixth novel to the original 5 books, is even being released this September. All that is to say, Percy’s story has lived on for years, accompanying a generation that is now all grown-up. This new Disney+ series will definitely introduce Percy to a whole new audience, and even a whole new generation. Regardless, we’ll all be seated for this renaissance.

Hype and expectations are sky-high for the adaptation, and hopefully, it will let Percy Jackson’s story live on in a new way in longtime fans, and open up new worlds to people who will have just discovered the magic of the series.

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What is Zepotha? Tiktok’s Favorite Film That Doesn’t Even Exist

Did you know you really look like that character in Zepotha?

We’ve been informed that the reason the indie horror movie Zepotha isn’t found on the internet is because it “only exists on DVD and VHS.”

Related: 5 Psychological Horror Movies To Watch On Your Spooky Nights

Have you been scrolling through TikTok in the past 24 hours? Of course, you have. If that’s what’s going on, odds are you’re already familiar with Tiktok’s favorite film, Zepotha. Whether it’s your go-to content creator or a random face in your FYP, everyone’s comment sections are flooded with “You really look like that character in Zepotha” and “I’m glad Zepotha is finally getting recognition it deserves.”

The real question (well, questions): What is Zepotha? Who are all these characters? And why can’t people suddenly stop talking about it? Basically, Zepotha is a horror film from the ’80s with the mother of plot twists: it never even existed.

All About Tiktok’s Favorite Film

@emilyjeffri putting this song forward as the movie’s main theme, i think it has zepotha vibes tbh #80s #nostalgia #horror #horrormovie #80shorror #bit #trickster #moohaha #newmusic #queerartist #spooky #zepotha ♬ DO YOU REMEMBER ME – jeffri

The truth is, Zepotha was the brainchild of an 18-year-old musician and content creator, Emily Jeffri. Just over the weekend, this ingenious mastermind shared a post proposing ‘Zepotha’ and actually getting the entirety of Tiktok believe in its existence.

“OK, so new bit idea: What if we created a fake 80s horror movie called ‘Zepotha’ and started commenting ‘OMG, you look EXACTLY like that one girl from Zepotha’ or ‘Wait, you look exactly like ______ from Zepotha’ on every thirst trap we see,” she wrote. “Together we will witness new lore develop, main characters will emerge, etc., and we can convince thousands of people that this weirdly titled 80s horror film actually exists.”

Even Alex Russo’s Mom is Totally in on The Ruse

@mariacanals_barrera #zepotha 80s horror nightmares! #alaine #spooky #80s #horrormovies ♬ DO YOU REMEMBER ME – jeffri

To say the plan successfully worked would be an understatement. In just a few days, the trend has already amassed 148.5 million views. To top it all off, a quick TikTok search for ‘Zepotha’ uncovers viral videos where the community either decodes the fake film or eagerly joins the bandwagon. And now, you’ve got Zepotha filters, Zepotha montages, and even Zepotha VHS tapes. After the Zepotha official poster, what’s next? Merch?

And as if that wasn’t enough, TikTok introduced new characters to the lore, such as Alaine, Danny, Emma, Maxine, Rita, and Michael. Let’s not forget there are also countless scenes that grabbed attention and garnered applause. ICYDK, the iconic forest scene was hailed as “a standout moment in cinematic history.”

Even Alex Russo’s mom has hopped on the hype. Wizards of Waverly Place fans will be pleased to know that Maria Canals-Barrera posted a Tiktok explaining how she recalls Zepotha from its initial release. Aside from comparing Zepotha to 80s classics, the actress showed her daughter, who looks like ‘Alaine’—you know, to totally sell the story.

It was all a lie? No. the bridge scene though 😭 #zepotha #80smovies #cultclassic #slasherfilm #horrormovies #explained #zepothabridgescene ♬ DO YOU REMEMBER ME – jeffri

Here’s the thing: the fake film isn’t entirely fake. The music playing in the background of Emily’s horror movie is an actual song, DO YOU REMEMBER ME. Yep, it’s her own track taken from her soon-to-drop album SOUNDTRACK FOR AN 80’S HORROR MOVIE, and it’s coming real soon, August 25 to be exact.

So… The summer slasher ends as a mere marketing ploy. For what it’s worth, Zepotha proves that Emily Jeffri is an actual genius. If this isn’t one of the biggest music marketing this year after Barbie, then IDK.

Next Stop, Movie Screens?

@rllyroman Zepotha is definitely my favourite Summer Slasher || #zepotha #zepothaedit #zepothamovie #edit #horror #horrortok #horroredit ♬ original sound – roman

Alright, let’s pause for a sec. We’re definitely giving props to the sheer craziness of the social media community. Imagine how the internet pulls some serious buzz out of thin air. It’s interesting to watch something morph into a massive trend right from an out-of-the-blue idea.

And at this point, I know we’re all lowkey invested in Zepotha turning to reality. I mean, there’s an actual plot, character roster, an ‘official’ teaser, and a soundtrack! Seriously, film producers should start taking notes. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that they somehow create a real-life Maxine.

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Lingua Franca Shows The Importance Of Having Marginalized Voices In Media

The movie offers a different viewpoint on an often overlooked or misrepresented part of society.

The movie is a subtle yet emotional tale of a transgender Filipino immigrant trying to get by in New York City. It also serves as a reminder of why movies and the media, in general, should be more open towards welcoming marginalized and diverse voices.

RELATED: This Pioneering Transwoman Is Speaking Up Against Transphobia And The Delay Of SOGIE Bill

Over the past few years, much has been said about increasing diversity in movies and the media in general. Events such as #OscarsSoWhite and the BLM movement have highlighted the lack of diverse talents and voices in various entertainment fields. There has been this push to elevate creators of various backgrounds and identities to be able to let them tell their own stories. Lingua Franca, which recently became available to stream in the Philippines through TBA Studios’ streaming site, is definitely one of those movies that should be highlighted, not only for its quality but for steps it takes to elevate local transgender stories in cinema even further.

Lingua Franca is a strong yet understated story of someone who wants to be loved and accepted in a time of hate and division. The movie follows Olivia (Isabel Sandoval), a transgender Filipino woman from Cebu working as a caregiver for an elderly woman in New York City. By the first scene, it is made clear that Olivia isn’t living a life of her own. One of the first dialogue spoken is her mother reminding her to send money back home. Her work revolves around the care of an old lady. She lives in constant fear of being deported by ICE. Her staying in the US depends on her getting married to an American citizen. She is trying to live her own life in the US, but is constantly reminded that her life is based and dependent on other people; her mom, the old woman, and a man who doesn’t know that she is transgender.

The movie was directed, written, produced, and starred in by Isabel Sandoval, which is no small feat considering that this is just her third feature film. In the movie, her gender is a topic of discussion in the plot but not in the way that it’s the central theme. The film portrays her gender as something that is part of her, not something that makes her stand out. She is transgender, but the movie does not make it so much of an in-your-face deal and instead, portrays her as a human being going through struggles unique to her situation.

Films sometimes have a tendency to overstate the uniqueness of a certain character, which can make them feel too preachy, but in Lingua Franca, it’s just part of everyday life. Olivia is just as human as any person walking on the street. She just wants to be loved and accepted—both literally and figuratively. As stated in an interview by Lingua Franca’s producer, Jhett Tolentino, “I hope that when Pinoys watch it in the Philippines, that they could somehow put on a blindfold on gender, because we are trying to highlight a different kind of love. Love is love however you put it. But here it’s portrayed by a transwoman and a very homophobic Russian immigrant.”

With that being said though, the movie does highlight certain issues facing the transgender community in the Philippines as the country does not legally recognize trans people and can only have their birth names on their passports. The film shows that these issues have real repercussions for transgender Filipinos living in the US who want a life of their own.

One of the main issues that the movie does tackle is immigration and the unique experiences a transgender Filipino would have living in America under the Trump administration. Multiple times throughout the movie are scenes where the characters hear stories of illegal immigrants being detained by ICE. Olivia is fearful of being deported and talks about how she wants to get married so as to receive a green card and avoid deportation. The love story of Olivia is intertwined with her background as an immigrant and is an integral part of the story.

Movies like Lingua Franca are special because it tells a story of a minority through the lens of a minority. One of the best ways to tell stories of the marginalized in cinema is through creators who come from those marginalized communities. Spaces that were once dominated by a handful of narratives are now slowly opening up to different viewpoints. Media and the arts shine best when it’s open to creators and voices from all walks of life and movies are a big example. Diversity is not a distraction, but a benefit. Movies have long been accused (and rightly so) of portraying certain people and backgrounds in a racist or insensitive manner so it’s important to have different voices be amplified and recognized. We get
more movies that more people can relate to or get educated by.

Isabel Sandoval is the first openly trans woman of color to compete at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival Venice Days program and Lingua Franca has received positive reviews, which shows that there is an appetite for these truths. The movie’s success shows that there is so much potential for marginalized storytellers and creators. That level of understanding is what guides the film’s emotional core, that Olivia wants to be loved and accepted. You don’t have to look far if you want to experience narratives about marginalized communities from people with diverse backgrounds. Philippine cinema has its fair share of movies that highlight
underrepresented voices. From the groundbreaking Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005) which is about a young gay boy falling in love with a policeman, to the more recent Mamu: And a Mother Too (2018), which is about a transgender sex worker who has to take care of her niece.

In the end, Lingua Franca is not here to scream and shout that its star is transgender but to tell a story of a woman who wants to live a good life. It’s great to see movies like Lingua Franca that offer a different viewpoint on an often overlooked or misrepresented part of society. The movie is just the latest example of why diversity matters, especially in the field of media and entertainment.