|A CONVERSATION WITH SHANNON PACAOANby Oliver Saria
This Sunday, June 2nd@ 1pm & 4pm, Bindlestiff Studio will present special DVD screenings of the beloved The Bakla Show 2: Myths Retold, Realities Unfold. As an ongoing production, The Bakla Show (for those that don’t know, “bakla” means gay in Tagalog) has always attracted a strong fan base within the Filipino LGBTQ community and beyond. I spoke with the show’s Producer/Co-Creator, Shannon Pacaoan, about the inspiration for the production, its impact, and where she sees the show going in the future.
The Bakla Show first debuted in 2007. What inspired you to do the show?I remember being with some friends back in ’02, and we were playing JEOPARDY on the Playstation, and there was this one guy who took forever-and-a-half to write out his name. He had written out in alibata, “ba” – “ka” – and “la.” And that was the first time “bakla” was ever broken down for me [in alibata, the word combines masculine and feminine characters]. I remember in that moment – and mind you, again, I had, to a certain extent, come out to myself, like, accepted that I was queer – but I didn’t realize how much I was negotiating all these identities of being Filipino and queer. And I remember everything stopping. The world became silent, and I felt overwhelmed, because I stopped hating myself in that moment. I belonged. I was okay. There wasn’t anything wrong with me. And after that moment passed, I knew I wanted to help create that moment for other people to feel that. For a while, I kept talking about this until Kat [Evasco, producer/comedienne extraordinaire] was like, “Let’s put on a show!”What do you feel are some issues particular to the Filipino LGBTQ community?
Religion. Immigration is a big thing. Having all these identities that you have to negotiate and almost have to defend.
My aunts and my cousins they love watching this show on TFC, it’s called “Be Careful with My Heart” – it’s very popular; it’s kind of addicting. And it has some gay characters – one is a lesbian, a “tomboy.” My friends and relatives will watch and say it’s funny, but they’ll say, “Oh, I don’t like her because she’s a tomboy.” But then I’ll bring up that I heard her singing and they’ll like be, “Yes! She has a beautiful voice. She’s good.” So it’s a weird, strange thing. “I don’t like who they are because they’re gay.” But then they’re celebrated for a talent in a certain area. [Family] may seem accepting, but are they really? Accepting enough for you to entertain them like a jester does? That’s not good enough.
Is there any topic that is especially taboo?
One thing I’ve been concerned about is the suicides and the bullying. We have a culture of silence and of shame where we don’t talk. I feel sometimes in our culture we’re told not to talk; we’re told not to share what our problems are and we just have to suck it up. How do we create more dialogue where we don’t feel shame for how we’re feeling?
I believe in the transformative power of art – both for the artist and the audience. There’s something about telling your story as well as someone else playing out the story of your life that helps with community-building and with healing. That’s one of our big missions – to create visibility so people can talk more.
Have you seen any changes in the community since the first production?
Hmm…There’s something in the air. I don’t know how explain it, but there’s a hunger and there’s more communication between organizations, I feel, because they’re feeling that fire. They’re feeling the necessity of people coming together. So I’m not sure, per se, about the larger Filipino community in accepting LGBTQ people, but I do know that people who identity as Queer and Filipino, there’s an amazing energy right now.
Speaking of that energy, there are rumors that a big announcement will be made at the screenings regarding future plans for The Bakla Show. Care to elaborate?
Well, I will say this. The show has had staying power, but not just that – growth! There are exciting new developments, and some of them extend beyond the Bay Area. So the journey definitely continues. If you want to hear more, come through to the screening on June 2nd!
Tickets for the screening are on-sale now and can also be purchased at the box-office one hour before showtime.
For more info visit:
The Bakla Show 2: Myths Retold, Realities Unfold