PRIDE sits down with the cast of the popular web series to chat about LGBTQ+ representation in the Philippines, what “kilig” means, and more!
Despite a worldwide pandemic putting most of the world on hold, in the past few months, the Philippines has seen a big surge in the number of Boys Love (a genre known for centering gay love stories; BL for short) shows being released—and stans are completely hooked.
Hello Stranger, a gay-themed romantic comedy from film and TV from production company Black Sheep, is one of the more popular of these Filipino BL series, and it seems to be taking over the internet.
Filmed remotely through video conference calls, Hello Stranger tells the story of straight-A student Mico (JC Alcantara) and his handsome, jock classmate Xavier (Tony Labrusca) as the two work together on an online school project—and fall in love in the process. Though Mico is somewhat of a high-strung nerd (he and his best friend group call themselves the Young Padawans) and Xavier seems like he is more interested in his social life and his girlfriend than studying and doing work, the two really hit it off, and even though they are physically apart because of quarantine, their chemistry is palpable, and the feelings they have for each other are so real, even viewers can feel them oozing off the screen.
With a dedicated and loyal fanbase and millions of collective views on YouTube, it’s safe to say the formula is a hit with audiences who crave the kind of wholesome, loving representation that queer Filipinos have been wanting and needing to see for years.
PRIDE’s Raffy Ermac sat down for a Zoom chat with the cast of Hello Stranger—including JC Alcantara, Vivoree Esclito, Patrick Quiroz, Gillian Vicencio, and Miguel Almendras—to discuss queer representation in Filipino media, the possibility of a spin-off series, what the Tagalog word “kilig” means, and how the show makes its gay fans feel seen.
“I’m grateful that we have this platform in the Philippines, and slowly, more people are becoming more open-minded and accepting of this kind of genre,” actor JC Alcantara, who plays series lead Mico in Hello Stranger, told PRIDE when asked the emergence of positive, light-hearted queer content and the way Filipino audiences have been slowly but surely embracing the queer content. “We are happy that we are part of this BL series in the Philippines, that we are portraying roles like this, and happy that we are sharing light and happiness.”
“I’m pretty sure that all of us were so happy and we’re very grateful and proud of the community,” Vivoree Esclito, who plays Young Padawan member and Mico’s friend Kookai, added, talking about queer people finally starting to see themselves represented in a positive way on-screen. “Y’all are thriving and I’m just so, so happy! I’m just so happy for the community, that we’re able to portray our characters well and that we can make them feel that they are understood.”
“I agree with Vivoree,” Gillian Vicencio (who plays Xavier’s girlfriend Crystal) said. “Not only the LGBTQ community, but to everyone now. Every character, every person, is given a spotlight in these films, in these series, and I think it’s good because every person is significant and every person has a story to tell.”
“Through storytelling, we are able to expose what you’re telling us right now to a wider reach and audiences who are not familiar with these kinds of things,” Junjun actor Miguel Almendras said of the kind of impact Hello Stranger can have on people. “We are, in some way, helping in breaking these stereotypes and making people more aware that, hey, look, there are other different versions or there’s a diversity found in the LGBTQA+ community.”
“I’m just really grateful for what they gave me and for this opportunity that we’re able to show love and the support to the LGBTQ community and how the LGBTQ community is showing their love back to us, Patrick Quiroz, who plays Kookai’s love interest Seph, added. “It’s just overwhelming, and we were really happy for this. We don’t regret a single thing that we did on this project. All the effort was all worth it because of the support and love, you can really feel it.”
You can watch the Hello Stranger series on Black Sheep’s YouTube channel.
Note: It was announced on Philippine national tv news today( Aug. 17,2020) that a movie is in the offing following the successful run of the series on the internet.