It’s finally out: Drag Race PH has officially announced the queens who will be competing for the crown this August.
The diverse cast is a good mix of seasoned veterans and fresh-faced contestants who’ve recently exploded onto the scene. The full list includes Brigiding, Corazon, Eva Le Queen, Gigi Era, Lady Morgana, Marina Summers, Minty Fresh, Precious Paula Nicole, Prince, Turing, Viñas DeLuxe and Xilhouete.
There are many familiar faces to us: We interviewed Minty Fresh twice (first in 2019 and just last May), and queens Precious Paula Nicole and Brigiding helped out in promoting our donation drive for the lolas of the Golden Gays in 2020. Aside from that, many of the new RuGirls performed at the last Bekenemen show we attended, such as Marina Summers and Viñas DeLuxe. You can take this TikTok as a sneak peek into their lip-synching skills.
While we can’t wait to see the show next month, we’re currently living for the looks on display in their official cast photos and Meet the Queens video. The queens fully served jeepney couture realness. Many of them dressed like a jeepney itself, which is extremely camp. Precious Paula Nicole especially looked like something out of “Voltes V” with the way she channeled the iconic vehicle, which just adds another layer of cultural Filipino references.
Other queens went another route, with Gigi Era and Xilhouete channeling the hand-painted jeepney signages and Turing draping herself with Good Morning towels, which drivers often use to dry their sweat.
References are an important part of drag and queer culture. It’s not just about looking stunning, but about who or what you’re paying homage to and why. It doesn’t always have to be a particularly strong or clear-cut reference (cut to Sasha Velour’s infamous “I’ve taken a classic silhouette and updated it with a commitment to showing women who are strong”), but it’s always good to have.
While it’s great that the show has been reveling in this aspect of Filipino culture, we hope that this new attention on the jeepney will shine a light on the plight of their drivers. Many drivers, who already faced unfair working conditions, became displaced due to the pandemic. In 2020, five drivers from transport group PISTON were arrested for protesting their lost wages. And now, drivers are facing a new threat: the soaring fuel prices. It’s becoming harder and harder for jeepney drivers to make ends meet.
Aside from that, the government is also still on their mission to slowly phase out the traditional jeepney with their Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program. Transport groups like PISTON have criticized the program, with the new vehicles costing ten times the price of traditional jeeps (which the drivers will have to shoulder themselves) and the requirement for owning a franchise for the modern PUVs is to own at least 15 units. This will make them more akin to buses, which are owned by large corporations, rather than jeepneys which are either owned by smaller operators who on average own four units. The design of the new vehicles themselves are more similar to buses, with them largely abandoning the open-air design of the traditional jeepney in favor of air-conditioned units. (The open-air design caused Senator Ralph Recto to point out that in terms of COVID-19, the traditional jeepney is “one of the safest forms of public transportation.”)
Commuter groups have also pointed out that while there is a need to modernize, the implementation of the program itself has affected even commuters. “The PUVM Program under the current DOTR has failed to consider the social costs and it resulted in injustice not just to drivers and operators but to commuters as well,” said commuter group The Passenger Forum.
It’s incredibly heartening that drag queens can make art of a vehicle facing an existential crisis. Jeepneys are an integral part of Filipino culture. If these new RuGirls can pay homage to that in their previews alone, I can only imagine what the show itself is going to look like.