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‘90s Kabaklaan is a time capsule for Filipino diaspora, plus more tea you probably didn’t know

‘90s Kabaklaan is a time capsule for Filipino diaspora, plus more tea you probably didn’t know

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  • The page has more celebrity tea than Instagram can handle, from ’90s drama to post-2022 election unfollowing kerfuffle. Plus, the whole deal about its admin being anon

“Minsan nag-se-send ang Filipino co-workers ko ng ’90s Kabaklaan posts sa group chat. Hindi lang nila alam na ako ’yon,” Victor, a finance guy working overseas, tells me over Zoom.

His page, @90skabaklaan, catapulted to Instagram fame for its raunchy, dazzling, and intriguing archive of Pinoy pop culture in the ’90s. There were men in skimpy Speedos! Peak Regine Velasquez! Beauty queens! Ruffa Mae Quinto pre-queer icon status! And more recently, meme-ified clips from popular films of the time that reflect our anxieties and joys of late.

Believe it or not, it’s a single gay guy behind this time capsule: a thirty-something magazine collector who goes through each page, relieving the zeitgeist that was and digitizing it for nostalgic baklas near and far.

Now with close to a hundred thousand followers that include artistas from the ’90s, he’s starting to rethink whether or not this is all there is to kabaklaan of that era. Obviously, it isn’t, which is why he’s trying his hardest as a one-gay-man machine to expand the page beyond bare torsos to capturing the struggles of the community at a time when queerness was barely out of the closet. 

In this interview, he dishes out about his archiving process, the page’s appeal to Filipino Americans reliving their youth, going beyond the gloss of magazines, and a look into the next iterations of the pages—2000s Kabaklaan, anyone? 

I’m hitting record ah? You don’t have to turn on your video.

Thank you ah. Puwede palang off-cam. My last interview kasi hindi sinabi na puwede pala so nakita mukha ko doon.

Bakit nga ba never kang nag-face reveal?

Because of work. I don’t think I have something to gain, I have something to lose pa sa work. 

How do you juggle having a 9-5 and being a one-man team managing the page?

When everything opened in late 2022, nag-resume ’yong work. I started posting fewer. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even post for two days.

I really wanted to do it by myself because I want it to be my point of view. For practical reasons din. If I share the account, makikita yong mga DMs e puro kalokohan yong mga nandun: mga chismis, kung anu-ano. 

Chika Chika magazine August 1996 issue with actor Matthew Mendoza. Photo from ’90s Kabaklaan Instagram
You started collecting magazines in your youth and were hiding them in odd places because it was a different time. What titles were you buying then?

My first exposure was really noong bumibili ako ng Funny Comics. 8 or 9 years old ako noon. Katabi niya kasi ’yong mga magazines na showbiz and then nakikita ko na yong Chika Chika. I would buy those along with Solid Gold/song hits.

May iba kasi like ’yong original Valentino in 1998 and Extra Extra pero medyo hindi ko na nagustuhan kasi sobrang laswa na. Chika Chika kasi there’s a hint of sensual lang tapos kilala ’yong actors. 

Last bili ko ng Chika Chika was 2000, 2001. Nag-resurface na lang ulit sa back issues noong nag-high school ako. And then 2005 to 2008, nagkaroon ulit ako ng interest with the new generation titles like Icon, Generation Pink, Cosmo Men, Elle, ’yong mga Coco Martin era. 

’90s Kabaklaan’s point of view is gay awakening like this is a love letter to my childhood.

Ilang magazines ang meron ka now?

Last check ko, I have 150 unique Chika Chika covers, not including the duplicates. Showbiz magazines, probably about 300. Yong iba binaklas ko na kasi it’s really taking a lot of space in my flat. ’90s pa lang yon ha! Yong mga fashion magazines, those are rare, mahirap silang hanapin. They are really collector’s item. I have mga 30 to 40 pieces.  

From storage, how do you go about choosing what to post?

Minsan I take a long leave, so what I do is pinicturan ko na sila and I will just find the right time to post them. Then yong mga napicturan ko na, titignan ko kung worth keeping pa ba or tapon na kasi they served their purpose.

[READ: Let IG page The ’90s Kabaklaan take you on a queer, sexy trip down memory lane via]
In one interview, you said when the page grew you would also get submissions from other collectors. 
Victor has a collection of hundreds of magazine titles from the ’90s that he keeps in storage and scans for content for his Instagram page.

Noong lumaki yong page, third or fourth month, nakaka-receive ako either photos or donations. There was this one, binenta niya collection ng ex niya who died. Kakaloka. Pinapa-pickup ko lang kasi baka sabihin nila magbibigay sila pero in exchange pakita ko mukha ko ganon. Okay naman sa kanila.

And then ’yong iba, send lang ng photos kasi they don’t want to part ways with their collection. I mean it’s their kabaklaan. Ayoko namang pilitin na “Ay ang ganda ng issue na ’yon, I wish I had it.” 

…chronicling what’s really ’90s Kabaklaan life, it has to be with footage, hindi lang magazines because magazines exist as an escape. 

Also part of the page’s community—nalaman ko lang ‘to kay Jodi Aguillon ng Glorious Dias—are LGBTQIA+ folks who go to your account because they do not have access to the culture they grew up with after mangibang bansa so their connection back is your page. At what point did you realize that?

I think si Jodi ’yong unang naka-notice sa page. ’Yong audience kasi niya diaspora Filipino creatives from US and Canada. They would find the page amusing noong una kasi puro hubad lang na lalaki and then when I started to post about memes, print ads, fashion other pop culture, movies, dumami siya lalo. 

Then tinignan ko yong demographic ko, a quarter don’t even live in the Philippines. Out of that, 20 percent are Americans. I would get messages like, “Uy, uuwi ako, magbabakasyon ako. I would love to meet you.”

Others wouldn’t even DM, they would comment directly sa posts, like, “This photo reminds me of my days in Manila.” 

Heartwarming na may mga iba who would say na ito yong iniwan nila na Pilipinas and it reminds them of home kasi they left in the late 1990s to migrate sa US. They wouldn’t know what life was like in the 2000s sa Pilipinas so parang it’s a way for them to reminisce about the good old days.

There was a time when you used to do a Pride series. Can you tell us more about this side project on the page?

It started with self-awareness, to be honest, because the page started out as—I wouldn’t say shallow, but it was something sobrang direct lang siya. Walang point of view at all. Then naisip ko kasi yong handle is Kabaklaan. There’s so much more you can explore. So I thought of ’yong Pride series, an archive of videos and what life is for a bakla in the ’90s. It’s just a few videos from the Associated Press archive chronicling the Pride parades in the ’90s and the roots of SOGIE, Justo Justo, AIDS Week. 

Hanggang sa inalok na ako ng Probe archive, the documentary program hosted by Cheche Lazaro. Sabi nila, “We’re willing to collab with you. We’ll loan you our archive and then you can make a small [project] about it.” 

Last year, I had the Pride Series ulit: Pride parade, Malate lifestyle, drag queens in Malate. 

They wouldn’t know what life was like in the 2000s sa Pilipinas so parang it’s a way for them to reminisce about the good old days.

When I see the page, naisip ko na I wish I can do more pero sobrang limited kasi ng collection ko. I guess that’s the reason I keep buying more. Kasi kung hindi ako bibili, wala, eto na lang ’yong page, hindi mag-go-grow sa substance.

I actively sought out that partnership with Probe kasi if gusto talaga nila ng documentary feel na chronicling what’s really ’90s Kabaklaan life, it has to be with footage, hindi lang magazines because magazines exist as an escape. 

Yeah, like you can celebrate its glory days while also being critical of it or honoring that movement that brought us to this moment.

I also wanted it to be a reflection of who follows the page. Nagstart doon sa diaspora community and then ’yong grupo ni Mike Lavarez—siya kasi ’yong [nagspread ng word about 90s Kabaklaan] sa mga friends nya and then creatives, and then lumawak na to fashion to showbiz. That’s why I added music, memes, showbiz, and print ads kasi andaming nagpafollow na ahensyang bakla.

I know that there are some artistas who follow you. Can you namedrop some and ano yong level of engagement nila?

I think ang pinakaunang nag-react was Donna Cruz. Noong una akala nila fanpage. Nakakaloka. So una, dedma pa sila. Hindi naman ako nag-ta-tag. ’Yong mga nag-ko-comment na lang ang nag-ta-tag. Parang nainis ako kasi nakikita ng mga artista tapos ginagrab nila, they would post with their own watermark without crediting me. Siguro kasi takot silang ma-associate kasi nga yong name kabaklaan.

’90s stars are usually very gracious. Like si Donna Cruz, they would say, “Thanks for featuring.” 

Hindi naman talaga ito para mag-feature ng sikat, I don’t care kung sikat ba sila or hindi. When I see people bashing, “Ay laos na ‘to,” I would delete it kasi that’s not the point of the page. That’s really disrespectful. I’m just so happy when artistas see themselves from the ’90s.  

Madami noong una e kaso nag-unfollow sila noong election. 

Oh? Like who?

Si Carla Estrada, Aiko Melendez, si Cristina Gonzales, nag-unfollow sila. E charot charot lang naman kasi noong una. [May mga magcocomment na,] “Siya yong Ellen Adarna, Ivana Alawi noong panahon niya.” So okay sila noon, e noong naging medyo overt na yong election posts ko, nag-unfollow sila. 

In fairness dito kay Ruffa Gutierrez ha, ang tibay! Dedma si bakla! ‘Di siya nag-unfollow. Talagang nag-ko-comment pa!

There was one time pinost ko siya, mega attack ang mga bakla! As in, borderline below the belt. Someone commented [something about her alleged past] and then sinabi nong person na ’yon sa akin na nag-DM daw sa kaniya si Ruffa na, “Hey, you shouldn’t say that. I can sue you.” Nag-di-DM sya! Kasi siyempre that’s not fair kasi, hello? You could bash her for her politics, hindi ko i-di-delete for sure. Pero to go that low really affects someone.

Siguro that’s just her na talagang dedma, and some parang ‘di kaya so they would unfollow and I respect that.

Si Isko Moreno noong election period, nag-post ako ng hubad niya na photo.

Ah, this was his photo in Speedos when he was modeling?

Oo. I’m not sure if siya talaga ’yon ha but it’s his biggest account. Shinare tapos akala niya yata sinisiraan ko sya. Parang, “Okay, ishashare ko ‘to sa story ko kasi akala niyo maaapektuhan ako.” Keber, ganon.

Another one is—this is the most liked photo sa page: Gretchen Barreto at Dawn Zulueta Metro cover that I posted December last year. That was a loaned cover from a friend’s collection. It’s one of the holy grails ng magazine collectors. I don’t have it yet.

Sobrang ingay nito at the time because pareho silang [supporters ni then Presidential candidate] Bongbong Marcos and kasi nagkaaway sila sa isang Pantene commercial [in 2006] and up until now. 

Nag-comment pa si Claudine Barreto oh, “Ang ganda ng ate ko.”

Nag-comment din si Iza Calzado tapos binash siya. Nakakatawa ‘tong post na ‘to kasi it’s blurring the line about what you can post and what you can comment on. That’s something na hindi ako sanay. Noong election, sobrang curated ng posts ko. Naka-Excel sheet ‘to lahat. This is planned. But iniisip ko “Ah hindi ko siya mapopost kasi [my followers are mostly Leni Robredo supporters].”

[READ: Filipinos again: Reconnecting with those with a different opinion]

It’s so hard nowadays. But someone told me, “People should take the page not as a representation of what’s now but what’s before.” Maybe there are limits, you have to draw the line. 

I asked Jodi to collab post on it kasi natatakot ako baka mabash ako.

 If the ’90s is gay awakening, the 2000s is acting on your intuition, your desires.

Your latest project—again with Jodi—is an exhibit of magazine memorabilia from your collection in Escolta. How did that come about?

Two weeks before the event sabi ni Jodi, he wants me to be part of it, una kasi vintage ’90s. Most of the stuff in the event kasi are from the ’80s, ’70s, and sabi niya most are for cis-gendered men and women. Walang mag-ke-cater that much sa kabaklaan. Although I told him I wouldn’t sell anything, I don’t have any merch.

Siya lahat nagisip. It was just timing lang if uuwi ba ako or ipapadala ko. I mean si Jodi naman ’yon, hello? I have a debt of gratitude to him. He always supports the page. 

When the page exploded, people started speculating about who was behind the page. Who were the usual suspects? 

Number one si Mike Lavarez. I don’t know him personally, but I guess ganon yong humor niya or interests niya: mga Pinoy kabaklaan vintage, kaya siguro akala nila ako siya. But I guess they got tired of it. At this point hindi na nila ako tinatanong. 

Ikaw? Were you asked kung ikaw si ’90s Kabaklaan?

Hindi. *Laughs* Parang I was too… young. Charot.

Parang pang-Y2K Kabaklaan ka. 

Yes, mid-2000s to 2010s Kabaklaan na ako.

Katya Santos ka na, mga ganon. 

Viva Hot Babes, Sexbomb.

Uy, that’s my dream! ’90s Kabaklaan’s point of view is gay awakening like this is a love letter to my childhood. But you know, Y2K is really something I want to do in the future. If the ’90s is gay awakening, the 2000s is acting on your intuition, your desires. Maybe next month kung topakin ako or something. I would love to do it. Sana nandoon pa kayo.

David Licauco by Shaira Luna for Scout magazine
If after Y2K Kabaklaan magkaroon ng 2020s Kabaklaan, who do you think among the heartrobs now would front it? Who has longevity?

In terms of impact ha, for me, sa mga nakikita kong shine-share ng mga nag-fo-follow sa page, it’s Derrick Monasterio or David Licauco. If they play their cards right. If they get big breaks. 

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