The year 2023, wrongly and widely regarded as the post-COVID era, has been nothing short of insane. We’re smack dab in the middle of financial, climate, transport, geopolitical crises but a lot of us still managed to go “f*ck it, we ball.” Despite everything, we still found moments to laugh, dance, love, and post really weird content. And that’s beautiful, kinda.
To celebrate this mess of a year and the times humanity came together to struggle, rejoice, or simply mag-chismisan (that’s on Pinoy culture), Team Preen gathered 20 biggest moments of 2023 for us to look back on together.
1. The ongoing genocide in Palestine and the #FreePalestine movement
Amrie: Let’s start with a serious entry. The Palestinian people’s ongoing struggle against genocide under the occupation of settler-colonialist Israel has inspired a global #FreePalestine movement of internationalist solidarity. Mass protests around the world are attended by hundreds of thousands of people asserting human rights and condemning world leaders and institutions for allowing the genocide to continue. There are boycotts and blockades against the funding of the Israel Defense Forces. People have been amplifying the voices of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The struggle for justice and liberation persists.
Andrea: Filipino Swifties saw a new pop culture icon in Taylor Sheesh, who emerged this year as the country’s preeminent Taylor Swift impersonator. Sheesh found freedom, ambition, and pride in her drag performances as she brought Swift’s Eras Tour to the Philippines this year. As Preen’s December cover girl, Sheesh took inspiration from the pop star’s reclamations of her music and artistry in her own meteoric rise to stardom.
3. PUV franchise consolidation and the #NoToPUVPhaseout campaign
Amrie: The Department of Transportation and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) has been a threat to small-time operators and drivers for years. Leading up to the Dec. 31 deadline of the PUVMP’s mandatory franchise consolidation, several national strikes have been waged by transport workers to fight for the livelihood of an estimated 64,000 drivers and 25,000 operators. Commuters have also gotten a taste of the horrific state of public mass transport if the PUV phaseout pushes through.
Amrie: It’s the year of big celebrity breakups and hookups. They shouldn’t really be national concerns but, alas, they were. None brought as much buzz as the KathNiel real-life breakup and the alleged third party grooming that led to it. While the breakup attracted a lot of comments that reek of misogyny, it’s nice to see Kathryn Bernardo now living her best single life. Other big celebrity relationships that were part of the news cycle are Ariana Grande-Dalton Gomez-Ethan Slater, Taylor Swift-Joe Alwyn-Travis Kelce, Ricci Rivero-Andrea Brillantes-Leren Bautista. There’s plenty more but I’d be here all day if I listed them all.
Amrie: The Philippine Women’s National Football Team had us all shouting “Laban, Filipinas!” when they made their historic first-ever entry at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Our July cover girls, defender Hali Long and keeper Inna Palacios, gave us a glimpse into their journey together on and off the field. Filipinas’ win against New Zealand was an icing on the cake which proved that funding women in sport matters.
Amrie: Our June cover girl KaladKaren also had a successful year. Hailed as the Best Supporting Actress for “Here Comes The Groom” at the Summer Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), she’s the second trans woman to win an acting award in the country. She also became the country’s first trans news anchor when she joined TV5’s “Frontline Pilipinas.” We can’t wait to see what next year holds for the trailblazer.
Amrie: Another trans Pinay who made her mark this year is our March cover girl, independent filmmaker and “Drag Den” showrunner Rodina Singh. An alternative drag reality TV competition that’s not afraid to get really political and not interested in “sanitizing” the Filipino queer experience is a gift. To see the likes of drag artists like Pura Luka Vega and Barbie-Q be given platforms and serve unique runway looks was a joy. We wouldn’t have been able to get it if it weren’t for the unshakeable Singh.
Our January cover girl, the inaugural season’s first runner-up Shewarma was a brightly burning star in the series finale. Watching her go head-to-head with Naia at the coronation night was exhilarating—truly exemplifying the dynamic and dramatic spirit of Pinoy drag. Once you get a taste of Shewarma, babalik-balikan mo talaga.
Andrea: The spotlight continued to shine on the Philippine drag scene as “Drag Race Philippines” gave us an unforgettable second season. Every challenge, runway, and werk room clash was nothing short of iconic. The series even ended with a celebration of trans excellence through M1ss Jade So’s memorable exit lines and Captivating KatKat’s win.
Amrie: As a long-time ARMY, BTS enlisting together was something I’ve been expecting for years. While I’m looking forward to their return as a group in 2025 and to find out how they’ll grow sonically, I still can’t help but mourn the end of an era. It feels like I’m leaving a chapter of my youth along with them, except I didn’t get a mandatory buzzcut.
10. Asia Artist Awards 2023 in the Philippines
Amrie: Watching some of the biggest stars of South Korea and Japan sharing a stage and getting recognized alongside Filipino artists at the 2023 Asia Artist Awards brought us pride. It was also a win for local K-pop fans who witnessed award show stages from the likes of NewJeans, Stray Kids, and Le Sserafim for the first time on Philippine soil. Ultra-viral comedienne Melai Cantiveros-Francisco, classy queen Kathryn Bernardo, and powerful performers SB19 all made big impressions—proving that Filipinos are truly world-class.
11. SB19’s “Pagtatag” album drop and tour
Amrie: Speaking of SB19, the P-pop supergroup had their most successful year yet. From the release of the “Pagtatag” album with its tracks like mega hit “Gento” to their world tour which had them performing on US live TV again, the boys have been busy. Now self-managed, there has been talk of the group also renaming themselves soon which bodes another big change.
12. A great year for WLW films with “Rookie” and “Bottoms”
Andrea: Sapphics had a year full of yearning and “delulu” moments thanks to Samantha Lee’s “Rookie” and Emma Seligman’s “Bottoms,” WLW films that left lasting impressions on viewers. Whether you’re a Jana looking for her Ace or a Josie admiring her Isabel from afar, both movies are definitely worth a rewatch to kick off your love life manifestations in 2024.
13. “A Very Good Girl,” “Iti Mapukpukaw,” and the continued dominations of Dolly De Leon
Andrea: How can you talk about this year’s highlights without bringing up the Dolly de Leon renaissance? After she made headlines in 2022 with “Triangle of Sadness,” the actress made her mark this year with daring films that showcased her versatility and cemented her mother status. De Leon first teamed up with Kathryn Bernardo for “A Very Good Girl” in September. She then took on the role of Rosalinda in Cinemalaya 2023’s Best Picture “Iti Mapukpukaw,” which became the Philippines’ submission to the 2024 Academy Awards’ Best International Feature Film category.
14. ABS-CBN and GMA partnership
Andrea: An abrupt close to the country’s seemingly endless network war wasn’t on our 2023 Bingo cards, but we digress. ABS-CBN and GMA ended their long-term rivalry in a “historic” partnership as co-producers for their romantic drama “Unbreak My Heart.” The deal made way for more collaborations between the networks this year, such as GMA becoming a new home to “It’s Showtime” last July.
Amrie: Elon Musk may have rebranded the app he’s pretty much holding hostage as X but we’re still calling it Twitter. As if to combat the rise of crypto bros and (porn) bots with checkmarks due to changes in the app’s verification system, it now has community notes which help add context which are not always helpful. Messy.
18. Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz facing red-tagging lawsuits and SMNI’s suspension
Amrie: Speaking of fake content, the Philippines did have a significant win against fake news and red-tagging before the year ended. Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) television program “Laban Kasama Ang Bayan” anchors, former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz, were recently detained after they were cited in contempt by the House Committee on Legislative Franchise. Then, the National Telecommunications Commission issued a 30-day suspension against SMNI’s operations—heeding the call of the House. ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro describes, “SMNI itself is a threat to press freedom with its advocacy of violence, disinformation (fake news) and intolerance (hate speech).” Badoy and Celiz are also facing multiple civil suits over their rampant red-tagging.
19. Sky-high inflation
Amrie: Apart from SMNI, this year’s sky-high inflation rates have been a pain in Filipinos’ necks. We can’t even buy ourselves enough little treats to survive the horrors in this economy. The struggle is too real.
Andrea: Summer birthed a wide range of musings on girlhood, science, history, and feminism thanks to two of this year’s most-watched films, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” Premiering on the same day, the movies’ stark contrasts made “Barbenheimer” a memorable buzz word that brought every theater to life.