by Jianne Piguing
Pride Month may seem like the perfect time to bring out your rainbow-colored flags, join fun parades, and purchase a new pride-themed merch to add to your collection; but there’s more to it than meets the eye. The month of June is most significant to every individual representing the different colors in the gender spectrum with a common goal in mind: to achieve equality and be genuinely free.
For this year’s celebration, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) is holding the 2nd PelikuLAYA: LGBTQIA+ Film Festival online with free film screenings, rental and subscription titles, film talks and lectures, and special events.
On June 18, Friday, five new PelikuLAYA titles will be added to FDCP Channel (fdcpchannel.ph) — “4 Days,” “Daybreak,” “Muli,” and “Porno” by Adolfo Alix, Jr. and Cinespectra 2019, Cinema One Originals 2019, and Cinemalaya 2020 short “Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert” by Janina Gacosta and Cheska Marfori, which can be accessed for free.
A total of 27 subscription films (11 PelikuLAYA and 16 critically-acclaimed and restored films) will be available for streaming until June 30 for only PHP 99. Five films are also being screened for free throughout the festival while "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" is available for rental. The Closing Film is the restored version of “T-Bird at Ako,” which will be shown on June 30 via a one-time free screening courtesy of ABS-CBN Film Restoration.
1st trans woman to win Best Actress in PH
The Philippine Film Industry has produced award-winning cisgendered actresses for more than a century. Jaclyn Jose, Eugene Domingo, Cherry Pie Picache, Alessandra de Rossi, Vilma Santos, and Nora Aunor are some who have captured the hearts of Filipinos. The rainbow carpet was rolled out when Iyah Mina, a transgender actress, was recognized and hailed as Best Actress in the 2018 Cinema One Originals Film Festival, transforming the history of Philippine Cinema.
"Babae ako!!! True?!”, Mina emotionally closed her acceptance speech upon receiving the Best Actress award in the 2018 CinemaOne Originals for the film “Mamu; and a Mother Too” directed and written by Rod Singh. Mina plays Mamu, the titular character, a middle-aged trans woman sex worker who suddenly becomes a foster mother to her late sister’s gay teenage son Bona, played by EJ Jallorina, who is yet to discover his gender identity.
‘Mamu; and a Mother Too’ was Iyah Mina’s debut film.
Before her debut film, she was a comedienne performing in comedy bars and had cameo appearances on Vice Ganda’s television shows. “Talagang andami kong sinukuan dahil pumasok ako sa bagong mundo. Then after nun, parang sabi nga nila, lahat ng pagtitiyaga ay may kapalit ang lahat,” Mina looked back on her pre-Mamu days in an online interview with FDCP.
She remembers having hesitations about accepting the role. “After noong inaccept ko 'yung project na ‘yun, ilang beses ako nag-isip kasi feeling ko ‘di ko naman kaya. Wala akong proper training, proper workshop. I never attended those activities. So, natakot ako.”
She added, “Then ayun, naging Best Actress, and then after that, of course, mas lalong nag-ingay ang LGBTQIA+ at mas lumakas ang loob.”
Iyah Mina is the first trans woman to win Best Actress in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Cinema One Originals
Being born in Isabela province, young Iyah grew up with strict disciplinarians as parents, particularly her father. She has memories of revealing her true self only in the company of her friends, a huge part of herself that she fears to show her family and relatives. “Tinatago ko, nagtatago ako, minimeet ko ‘yung friends ko just to mailabas ko lang kung sino ako.”
She remembers going back home to her province, fully dressed as a woman, asking for her father’s approval before going to Japan for work. When asked about her homecoming plans after winning the award, Iyah answered: “Hindi pa, hindi pa ako nakabisita. May konting sadness kasi bilang madami akong kaibigan doon na nasa LGBTQIA+ din, and they are proud, yes.”
She continued, “Pero hindi ko naramdaman 'yung attention na puwedeng ibigay ng province, walang kumonek sa amin para to go there sana, to celebrate man lang sana, ‘yung journey ko bilang Ilokano at Isabelino, wala eh.” Nonetheless, she fondly remembers that her father was one of the people who was very proud of her and her success.
Iyah Mina wins Best Actress for ‘Mamu; and a Mother Too.’ Photo courtesy of Cinema One Originals
HERstory of Iyah
On June 12, Independence Day, director Singh, along with other panelists, shared about their coming out stories and how those were incorporated into their art in the PelikuLAYA Film Talk “My Coming Out Story.’’ Mina also shared with us virtually how she found herself and accepted her truth.
“Alam natin konting chismis, malaking bagay sa kanila. Ang apelyido ay napakalaking bagay sa kanila, kasiraan ng pamilya, like ako, tinatago ko 'yung feelings ko kasi gusto ko maging happy,” she explained what it was like growing up in the province with traditional upbringing by her parents and relatives.
Iyah Mina in an online interview with the Film Development Council of the Philippines
Before moving to Manila, she was uninformed about the complexities of gender and sexuality; she was overwhelmed and couldn’t figure out how to label herself. Afraid to go back to her province, she opted to go to Japan to help provide for her family, along with the hopes of getting their acceptance.
“Ang lakas na ng loob ko that time eh, ewan ko kung bakit. Sabi ko lang, ‘Ito 'yung gusto ko, dito ako masaya, mag-a-abroad ako, hahanapin ko 'yung sarili ko,’” she disclosed.
“Wala akong galit o hinanakit sa magulang ko that time, kasi siguro ‘yun 'yung paraan nila para gawing tama 'yung naiisip pa nila before, kase ‘di nila alam kung ano din ba ako before, ‘di pa nila alam,” Mina explained her realizations on her relationship with her parents.
When asked about her current relationship with her father, she said, “Okay na kami ng dad ko. Isa pa siya sa mga proud ngayon, lalo na noong nag-Best Actress ako, siya pa 'yung nagtsitsismis sa mga kumpare niya, ‘‘Yung anak ko artista na!’ Siya na 'yung ganon, siya 'yung proud na proud. Nakakatuwa nga.”
Clockwise, L-R: Iyah Mina speaks with Film Development Council of the Philippines Communications Specialist Jianne Piguing, FDCP Channel Program Supervisor Sed Arce, and Senior Editor Rosy Mina.
Finding yourself and finding the courage to come out is not always easy. For Mina, her sister was the first person to know about her identity and is very supportive of her realizing her true self. “Kasi No. 1, kailangan mo ng kausap, kailan mo ng may mapagsabihan, 'yung alam mong tatayo para sa iyong gustong mangyari.”
As the first trans woman to win the Best Actress accolade in the country, Mina was asked for her opinion on cisgender actors playing transgender roles. “Bakit hindi nalang natin ibigay sa mga trans actors, actresses, 'yung role na ‘yon? Kase sila 'yung magbibigay ng buhay niyan because sila ‘yun,” she recalled emphasizing this in past interviews regarding this issue.
Mina clarified that there is nothing wrong about cisgender actors playing transgender roles, but hoped that there will be more representation for transgender artists. She then advised cisgender actors, “Makipag-usap sa mga kapatid, sa mga kapwa nating trans. Para at least maliwanagan din sila at para alam din nila ang mensahe na gusto nating sabihin lalo na sa LGBTQIA+.”
Stills from ‘Mamu; and a Mother Too.’
More than two years since the film “Mamu; and A Mother Too” was released, it is still being screened for free on the Cinema One YouTube Channel every Pride Month and Mother’s Day to highlight how the film imparts discourse beyond the usual tropes on gender and sexuality, and on womanhood and motherhood from a trans woman's point of view.
Just like her role as Mamu to her foster child Bona, she shared to us how she met her two “nakshies” whom she treats as her own children, “Na-meet ko 'yung mga nakshies ko through friends lang din. And that time, 'yung nameet ko si JP, 'yung pinakaunang-una, gusgusin siya that time. Sabi niya lang sa akin, ‘Puwedeng dito na po ako? Tutulong po ako.’ Iba 'yung naramdaman ko sa kaniya that time, parang, ay iba 'yung attachment niya sa akin, parang ang gaan.”
Iyah Mina in an online interview with Film Development Council of the Philippines Communications Specialist Jianne Piguing
She remembered that when she was cast as Mamu, it was a true ‘life imitates art’ moment for her. “Sabi nga nila ‘pag kung para sa’yo, para sa’yo 'yung movie. Tapos totoong nagkakatotoo nga. May mga pagkakataon kasi 'yung movie nga, totoong buhay naman kasi, lahat naman nangyayari sa lahat.”
Best Actress Iyah Mina is currently working on a series adaptation of the film “A Boy Foretold by the Stars” and producing content for her YouTube Channel. She recently became a member of the Society of Trans Women of the Philippines (STRAP) as an influencer, advocating to educate other members of the community.
“Advocate ako, I am a quiet advocate na isang LGBTQIA+. Pero nag-iingay lang ako ‘pag natatapakan ‘yung komunidad namin,” she concluded.
PelikuLAYA is being hosted on the FDCP Channel until June 30. To watch the PelikuLAYA films and join panel discussions and events, visit and register at the FDCP Channel. For more information and inquiries, visit https://www.facebook.com/fdcpchannel or https://fdcpchannel.ph.
Cover photo is courtesy of Iyah Mina on Facebook
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