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On Tuesday, Singapore-based Invisible Photographers Asia, a platform for photography and the arts in Asia, posted “Reyna delas Flores” on its website.
It is an ongoing personal project of photographer and Coconuts Manila contributor Geloy Concepcion, about the community of aging homosexuals who once lived in the Home for the Golden Gays.
Established by Justo Justo, the Home for the Golden Gays took in and took care of aging homosexuals. When Justo Justo passed away in May 2012, it “brought an end to the only thing we’ve long considered our home,” writes Ramon C. Busa, in the accompanying write-up, which was also published in IPA.
“Nameet ko si Mother Leony nung 2011, para sa ‘Storyline’,” Geloy, who used to work for the cable show, says over the phone. In Sep 2014, Geloy found his old photos and decided to visit the home again. He was surprised that it was no longer in Pasay.
“Pagkamatay ni Justo Justo, nawala na pala yung home. So hinanap ko sila kung saan-saan. Sa Facebook ko nahanap si sir Mon (Ramon C. Busa). Sabi niya, puede daw mag-reunion, sabi ko, yung reunion na yung shoot,” the 22-year-old photographer narrates. It took all of October to make the shoot — a first for the Golden Gays community — happen.
Read the rest of the interview below.
How did you find them again?
Nung Sept 2014, nakita ko ulit yung photo at naisip ko bigla yung home. I decided to visit them. Pag dating ko dun, nalaman kong wala na palang home since Justo Justo died. Some of them, napunta sa kalye. Others, kinuha ng mga kamag-anak. Yung iba naman, namumuhay ng sarili. I tried to look for others on social media, which is where I found Ramon Busa. Siya yung parang president ng Golden Gays. I asked him if I could take their photos. Oo daw. That’s why he got them all together, para magkita-kita din sila.
Please give us the lowdown of the shoot.
Kinuhaan ko sila ng portraits sa isang photostudio sa Quezon City. That was last Oct 22, 2014, from 12:00pm to 2pm. Nagpareserve ako for 3 hours and was surprised that we finished in 2.
Did you have a stylist, makeup artist?
None. Some arrived, naka make-up. Yung iba naman, sa studio na nag-make up. They were helping each other with their make-up. Nanghihiraman ng burloloy, pati piluka, pati mga gown.
How difficult was the shoot?
Sobrang smooth. Kabisado nila ang pagkakasunod-sunod, kung sino na ang kukuhaan. Inuna ko yung pinakamatatanda at yung ibang medyo nahihirapan na tumayo. But when it was their turn, ayun. Akala mo, mga dalaga ulit. Kahit may mga rayuma na yung iba, todo pa din. Nakakatuwang tignan. They reminded me of my lola and my lolo at the same time, hehe.
What was most memorable about the shoot?
The owners of the studio were expecting sexy models for the shoot. Nung nakita nila na Golden Gays ang mga modelo ko, nakita ko na nagulat sila, pero hindi naman nila pinahalata. Another is Carmen dela Rue’s session. Dine-direk ko siya: “Tingin sa kaliwa!” “Tingin sa kanan!” “Smile!” “Serious!” Nagtataka ko bakit iisa lang ang pose niya. One of the lolas came up to me and said, pasensya na daw ako dahil bingi na daw si lola Carmen. Pero nung may sumisigaw na lola sa tabi niya at medyo nadidinig na niya, walang mintis! Lahat ng instruction ko ay sinunod niya.
Who was the easiest to direct?
Maruja. Matindi talaga ang mga poses niya. Parang showgirl nung ‘90s. She was first, too, so inangat niya talaga yung energy ng shoot. Kaya salamat sa kanya.
Did you have a difficulty with anyone?
Wala sa kahit isa! Nagkukulitan lang sila, nagtatawanan, asaran. Everybody in the studio was just enjoying and having fun. They were so fun to work with, walang arte. Si nanay Bb.Vice Ganda nga, hindi pa tapos sa eye make-up niya, nung tinawag ko, nagmadali talaga siya. Kahit wala pang make up yung kabilang mata.
Did you learn anything new about homosexuals?
Matagal na akong bilib sa kanila and after the shoot, lalo akong napabilib sa kanila. Parang Pilipino lang: matitindi ang struggle nila pero hindi mo mahahalata. Tuloy-tuloy lang ba. The show must go on and the show really goes on. Di lang sa shoot, pati sa pamumuhay. Nakita ko talaga yun sa kanila. I hope more people can accept and support them. Because what happens often, nakikita lang natin sila kapag nasa spotlight pero pag wala na, nalilimutan na din natin. Tumatanda din ang bading.
What’s next for this project?
It’s an ongoing project so I’ll continue to follow and tell their story. I hope more people will learn of them para matulungan sila. Kung mangangarap ako nang mas malaki, gusto ko sana talaga sila magkaruon ng bagong home. Para magkakasama na ulit sila. Rest in peace: Justo Justo, Walterina Markova, Kuba, birit queen at iba pang members ng Golden Gays na pumanaw na.
June ‘Maruja’ Santos, 58 years old
Al ‘Carmen dela Rue’ Enriquez, 73 years old
Ramon C. Busa, 63 years old
Aton ‘Maricel Soriano’ Libaton, 58 years old
Photos courtesy of Geloy Concepcion. Click here to see the rest of the photos.
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