Dahhhlings, it’s time to put your wigs on. But be ready for the fabulous queens of Drag Race Philippines to snatch them right off.
The local version of the hit global franchise has everything you want in drag—fashion, camp, music, talent, drama (oh, the drama!), comedy, culture, heart—and much more. The race to crown the country’s first-ever drag superstar is full of moments of sisterhood, and rich with fun banter among the queens and varying degrees of shade thrown here and there for good measure.
In all, 12 queens make up the “gaggle” (a term for a group of drag queens used by RuPaul, the show’s creator and host of the American version of the franchise) competing in the highly entertaining and engaging reality television show.
On the surface, the show is full of glamour and glitz, a display of exceptional Filipino talent, with the queens participating in photo shoots, fashion ramp challenges, and lip-sync battles. In a more meaningful and deeper sense, it is a showcase of how progressive and accepting the Philippines is of its LGBTQ+ community, and a celebration of how it celebrates its rainbow brothers and sisters–at least when it comes to entertainment.
Gold mine for memes
Since the show premiered over a week ago, it has dominated online chatter, lighting the conversation on social media. The queens’ top-tier performance, coupled with their antics, is a gold mine for new memes.
Three episodes in (of a total of 10 for the main show, and an additional 10 episodes for the accompanying behind-the-scenes show “Untucked”), Drag Race Philippines is quickly garnering props for its excellent production, strong cast, and unapologetically gay and distinctly Filipino flavor.
The casting of Paolo Ballesteros as host is nothing less than perfect, as he is an avid supporter of the Philippine drag scene way before RuPaul’s Drag Race sashayed its way into mainstream consciousness.
The face of the show, Mama Pao (as he is called in the show) looks like he’ll be turning new slang into iconic catchphrases, much like RuPaul did in the original franchise. There’s the “Mabu-heeeeeey!” line with which Mama Pao often greets the queens—a play on the Filipino “Mabuhay!” greeting, which is bound to be part of local pop culture in no time.
The 12 queens are extremely talented, too, oozing with personality and sass. Rightly so, as all of them have been performing for years in some of the metro’s hippest gay clubs. The opening scene of the pilot episode in particular was a joy to watch. One by one, the queens introduced themselves, none of them the wiser on who would be emerging from backstage next. Most of them have known each other for a while—some as “mothers” and others as “daughters” in the field; others have unresolved personal issues, which is where most of the drama comes from.
But the main show does not dwell too much on melodrama, instead focusing on the actual challenges at hand. That’s a good thing, as that’s what “Untucked” will be for.
Glittering roster of judges
Kudos, too, for the selection of the judges, led by RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Jiggly Caliente and comedian-entertainer KaladKaren. Together, the two make Drag Race Philippines the first international version of the hit show to feature two trans women as permanent judges.
Editorial photographer BJ Pascual, high fashion designer Rajo Laurel, and premier impersonator and actor Jon Santos complete the lineup of rotating judges.
Then there are the sumptuous guest judges. The pilot episode saw singer, entertainer, TV host and actor Pops Fernandez sit on the panel. Comedian and actor Pokwang made an appearance in the second installment. Actor, singer, and dancer Nadine Lustre looked stunning as a guest judge in the third episode.
Other guest judges that fans of the show should look forward to include Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez-Alcasid, and the Unkabogable Phenomenal Star Vice Ganda.
So far, judging has been on point, with judges critiquing the queens’ performance fairly and intelligently. If a queen turns out a less than stellar performance, she’ll find herself in the bottom two and up for elimination, even if she makes for good TV.
Produced by Fullhouse Asia Production Studios, Inc. in conjunction with World of Wonder Productions, Inc., Drag Race Philippines joins existing formats in Thailand, Chile, Canada, Holland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, and Italy. The show exclusively streams on WOW Presents Plus, Discovery+, and HBO Go.
All things said and done, it’s refreshing to hear the word “bading”—unfortunately often used as a derogatory term in entertainment—uttered in a show so casually and in such a positive light. If only for that, the LGBTQ+ community is the true winner of the competition, and Drag Race Philippines is a game-changer in Philippine television.