With a name like “Pride Pasabog Kemelatique,” the “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7” viewing party hosted by “Bekenemen” on Pride March day promised a Saturday night of grand queer joy. To say that it delivered is an understatement: At the safe space they created at Draper Startup House Manila, drag was honored and our local queens revered.
Co-hosting the “Bekenemen” viewing party were podcast partners Baus Rufo and Myx Chanel. Rufo is a content creator who also does improv, stand-up, and sketch comedy. Dressed extra special for Pride, he donned a colorful vest and cargo pants combo with glitter eye makeup. Drag superstar Myx Chanel was in their nonbinary finery, rocking a Mugler-esque sheer leotard paired with a multicolored wig. In the intimate setup where hosts and performers walked amongst the crowd, the audience were able to literally and figuratively touch the stars, with consent.
From podcast to party by drag fans for drag fans
If you happen to find yourself at a “Bekenemen” viewing party, here’s what you can expect. The show opens with its first set of drag performances, where you scream your heart out and tip the queens as they exit (have those bills ready in your wallet!). You then get to watch the latest episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and cheer for your favorite—which was Jinx Monsoon for a lot of people in our crowd.
“Bekenemen” has a rotating cast which includes some of the most formidable names in the Manila drag scene.
Another set of live drag performances follow before you get to see the “Drag Race” queens walk the main stage. The “Untucked!” for the episode, where you can witness the queens’ backstage drama, is also aired. After, audience members get to win prizes when they join lip sync battles and monologue contests. It’s a long affair that—thankfully for the titos and titas—starts at a reasonable 7, 8, or 9 p.m.
“Bekenemen” has a rotating cast which includes some of the most formidable names in the Manila drag scene. O Bar’s Divine Divas—namely Viñas DeLuxe, Precious Paula Nicole, and Brigiding—gave us a taste of some drag performance classics. Viñas DeLuxe schooled us on rainbow transformations during her “I Am Changing” performance. Precious Paula Nicole proved that she is a master of comedic prop use. Blowing on a big leaf during “I Will Always Love You”? Genius. Brigiding gave Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury a run for his money in a rousing “We Are the Champions” performance.
Myx Chanel, who is no stranger to incorporating political messages in drag performance art, seemed to embody a babaylan in their interpretation of Beyoncé’s “Spirit.” Marina Summers’s performance of “Bakit Ako Mahihiya” from underrated ’70s diva Didith Reyes was a love letter to local queer couples. Jade So used Lady Gaga’s “911” to tell her personal journey as a trans woman battling mental illness while undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
At “Bekenemen,” you get to be up close and personal with the queens, tip them, and maybe even get some of their sweat on you.
Holemn Cheque designed the gorgeous magenta mermaid dress that she wore while performing Patti Labelle’s “I Think About You.” “Dancing Queen” Abigaile Montgomery shimmied her way into a costume reveal. The Quezon Queens, Kieffy and Ally Nicole, brought their newcomer flair as they danced to Demi Lovato’s “Confident” and Camila Cabello’s “Don’t Go Yet.”
Before enjoying that solid lineup, I got to sit down with Myx Chanel and Baus Rufo mere minutes before they took the stage. I felt that I was treated to a pre-show where I got to privately enjoy their chemistry and charisma. As soon as they introduced themselves by singing their playful podcast intro together, I was hooked.
The duo told me that “Bekenemen” started as a podcast that was their response to “Race Chaser” and “The Pit Stop.” As nerds who love reality TV competitions and analysis videos, they wanted to consume “Drag Race” using a Pinoy queer lens and to help start these types of conversations in anticipation of “Drag Den” and “Drag Race Philippines.”
For Myx Chanel, drag is a way of living out their inner child. “All the fantasies that I [wanted] as a kid, ’yung [pagkainggit] ko kay ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ and her many, many costumes? That’s what I want my drag to be,” they said. But Myx Chanel’s style isn’t just playful. Like drag queen Nicky Doll’s, it’s giving high fashion runway meets anime. And when it comes to performances, they want to be as theatrical yet thoughtful as Sasha Velour.
Rufo hasn’t done drag… yet. “But what ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ has taught me is to not ask for anybody’s permission to exercise my creativity,” says the aspiring comedian. He describes himself as a baklang maraming hanash and a kalye dorque with that maarte spelling. As expected, he’s drawn to comedy queens like Bob the Drag Queen, Alaska Thunderf*ck, Jinkx Monsoon, and The Vivienne.
When “Bekenemen” grew into a creative space that does drag shows and viewing parties, the challenge for its creators was translating the spirit of their podcast. They did this by keeping it intimate and promoting the culture of tipping drag performers.
“It’s a different experience from the show bars like O Bar and clubs like Nectar,” said Myx Chanel. “It’s taking out the local drag scene from a very alcoholic nightlife setting to something that’s more [focused on] enjoying drag together.”
“The talent was always there. But style-wise, Manila drag is evolving into this very delicious and expensive monster.”
At “Bekenemen,” you get to be up close and personal with the queens, tip them, and maybe even get some of their sweat on you. “On really good nights, the queens would come out, go around the audience, and [parang] nagwi-withdraw lang sila ng pera,” says Myx Chanel. Rufo jokes, “ATM po kami para sa mga drag performers.”
Manila as the next drag capital
So is our country on its way to becoming one of the biggest forces in drag? Myx Chanel describes Manila drag as a very performance-driven scene that’s evolving into something more well-packaged. “The talent was always there. But style-wise, Manila drag is evolving into this very delicious and expensive monster,” they said.
“Drag queens really push the boundaries in different aspects—in our performances, the stories we tell. We just don’t give a f*ck about society rules.”
For Baus, it’s inevitable since drag is born out of a sense of otherness and uses that as a strength. He notes that as a third-world country that has consumed a lot of drag content from first-world markets, this is going to be our queens’ chance to say that they deserve to be on the same stage as some of the global “Drag Race” queens. Both of them are also cognizant of how political outspokenness is a Manila drag nuance that we can show the rest of the world.
Rufo considers the two upcoming local drag shows a win because it’s a chance for more Filipino queer stories to permeate the mainstream. Yes, despite whatever drama will unfold between the contestants. The lineups for both series haven’t been revealed yet, so I couldn’t ask who they were rooting for. But some of their favorite queens right now are Marina Summers, Turing Quinto, and Mrs Tan—not that they don’t have mad respect for all the queens in their roster.
Drag is resistance
But what is it about drag that makes them passionate and what advice can they give queer kids who feel the same?
“I was born male. I’m nonbinary but kind of ‘male-presenting’ in a way but look at me. How is this not a protest of gender, gender expectations, and social norms? Drag queens really push the boundaries in different aspects—in our performances, the stories we tell. We just don’t give a f*ck about society rules,” says Myx Chanel. “It took me about seven years from when I found out about drag [before I was] actually doing drag and trying to make a career out of it. Take any small step if you want to do it. You will get there eventually.
“Katulad ng laging sinasabi ni RuPaul sa kaniyang Emmy promo tour, ‘Drag is about the tenacity of the human spirit.’ And I think that will never go out of style,” says Rufo. “If there’s an inner voice that tells you that you’re different but you’re a superstar, follow that voice. Because that voice is actually very, very correct.”
Of course, nothing beats hanging out with your community. Lucky for us, “Bekenemen” is gearing up for a busy rest of the year since it’s expecting more patrons when the local “Drag Race” drops in August. “We want to keep holding the space for aspiring queer performers,” says Rufo.
Myx Chanel adds that they’re hoping to get more sponsorships because of how important it is to create more queer safe spaces, especially in this political climate. “With the [new] administration, we’re just very much passionate about continuing this so that people have a space to come and celebrate themselves and celebrate drag.”
In Rufo’s words, “Bekenemen” is a space where you can let your hair down, even though you’re wearing a wig.