Filipinos for Equality

For the month of August, we’re featuring four Filipinos who are standing for equality over on our Instagram. Get to know BJ Pascual, Jose Antonio Vargas, Vico Sotto, and Christian Bables.

BJ Pascual

Fashion and Celebrity Photographer & LGBTQ+ Advocate

BJ Pascual is a renowned Filipino fashion photographer. His work has been featured on the cover of multiple magazines, he has shot famous international celebrities like Noah Centineo and Troye Sivan, and he also has his own book titled Push: Muses, Mischief, and How to Make it in Manila. Last year, he shot a campaign as an ambassador for the fashion brand Calvin Klein. And most recently, he launched his YouTube channel.

On Instagram, BJ has almost half a million followers. While most of his posts are related to fashion and his work as a photographer, he is also using his platform to talk about the country’s problems. He has been very outspoken about the injustices that are happening, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, and has urged his followers and other celebrities to become more actively involved in sociopolitical conversations and movements. BJ also makes use of his position as a public figure to bring light to fundraising efforts for less privileged Filipinos and to support small local businesses during these trying times.

Of course, BJ is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community as well. Speaking to Metro Style, he talked about how he “advocates for the freedom to be one’s full self.” Through his style, BJ embraces both his femininity and masculinity because he “want[s] people to hear a strong and proud expression of my gender and who I am as a human being.”

Jose Antonio Vargas

Journalist, Filmmaker, Producer, Founder of Define American, and Immigration Rights Advocate

Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist, filmmaker, and co-producer of the Broadway Play Constitution. He is also the founder of Define American, a platform that aims to use “the power of story to transcend and shift the conversation” about immigrants and marginalized groups in America. For his articles about the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 for the Washington Post, he won the Pulitzer prize.

In addition, Jose is the author of Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. Born in Antipolo, he moved to America when he was 12 years old to live with his grandparents who were naturalized citizens. Jose, however, is undocumented. His status is what inspired him to become an advocate for immigrant rights.

Through Define American, Jose is initiating important dialogues about immigration and race. He has also worked with organizations from different sectors to further push these conversations into the mainstream. He has produced several documentaries immigration laws in the United States and has worked with Hollywood producers (particularly, of the NBC show Superstore) to create accurate depictions of the stories of immigrants.

Though not immune to problematic statements—like his controversial tweet from 2018 (“This is what happens when a government believes people are ‘illegal.’ Kids in cages.”) featuring an image of a boy in a cage, which was apparently taken at a staged rally and not an actual detention center—we still believe that Jose is doing important work for his community.

Vico Sotto

Pasig City Mayor

In this pandemic, Pasig city mayor Vico Sotto has been in many headlines due to his proactive response for the Pasig people. Mayor Vico led various efforts like free transportation for frontliners and patients via Pasig Transport and preparation for resumption of online classes through improved internet connection. In a tweet, he also announced that they are looking for funds to provide students with laptops, tablets, and the like.

Probably the best unprecedented thing he did so far for Filipinos was to grant aid to queer households during this pandemic. Recognizing that LGBTQ+ couples who live together as a family, through inclusive aid, is something that we haven’t seen before from a man in this country.

According to an Inquirer article, Vico also challenged the current procurement process in Pasig. He did this by imposing stricter bidding guidelines and outright refusing grease money “to speed up approval of permits” which saved them up to P154.7 Million in 2019 and up to P260 Million in just the first half of 2020. Part of these savings were then reallocated to relief services for last year’s “Pamaskong Handog” as well as relief goods for Pasig citizens who stayed quarantined for more than 3 months.

Most citizens tend to elect older people in government offices because they believe older people have more experience and can do more. Contrary to this, Vico proves that his younger age is not stopping him from making Pasig a better city, maybe even one of the best ones in the country.

Christian Bables

Award-Winning Actor, LGBTQ+ Ally

You may recognize him for his astounding performances as Sam in Panti Sisters and Barb in Die Beautiful (and also in its sequel, Born Beautiful). In these movies, the characters belong to the LGBTQIA+ community, with Sam as a gay man and Barb as a transgender woman. He also landed gay roles in the series Halik and in the short film Love in the Time of HIV.

This millennial actor is no other than Christian Bables. Like most actors who play these kinds of roles so well, his sexual orientation is always questioned. Instead of getting offended or giving a vague answer, in his interview Christian reveals that he is a straight ally and that he learns a lot with each of the queer roles he portray. Thankful for the opportunity to play these roles, Christian realizes how difficult it is for LGBQIA+ folks in the real world.

“I believe in equality. Members of the LGBT community should have rights that straight people have, because they’re humans, too.” - Christian Bables

We love how Christian is open to talk about the fight for SOGIE equality and how he uses his privileges as a straight guy to shed a light on the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community, both in movies and in real life.

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