‘Gaying’ the Sayamedy: Andrei’s initiation to off-taste humour

(Allow me to share with you this work of Ianree Raquel, my intellectual amiga in the university.  I was there when this “Sayamedy” happened, and I was squirming in my seat.  Right there and then, I decided to write on this outrage.  But Aian wrote about it instead, and I could not have done a better job.  Read on… )

“You want to find yourself? Try humor.”


The author
The author

WITH ANDREI, a four-year-old boy I have come to call my own son, I entered through the side door of the Teatro. Seeing the Teatro filled with students gave me a nostalgic feeling, reminding me of not-so-long-ago when I performed, debated, rehearsed, or simply acted as a good audience in this hall, famed for its egg-tray sound-proofing. “Say, ‘May I pass’,” I told Andrei as we made our way through the crowd. I have earlier asked one of my students to reserve front seats for us. “I’ll be with my son. I need a good view,” I pleaded.

Andrei, perhaps bedazzled by the crowd, grabbed my shirt, as if asking for a fatherly assurance that everything was fine. I held his hand and led him to the front seats.

It was the last day of the Intramurals and the student leaders thought of an innovative concept for the closing event. I learned that each college would present a dance comedy. They called it Sayamedy, a combination of saya and comedy, and I thought, “This has to be funny.”

I felt proud being with Andrei. He has been with me for almost a year already and he has been a good son. I have found in him an assurance that I can be “responsible,” that I can love and be a good father despite my choice not to father biologically.

When I took him under my care, I promised that I would give him the world – letting him experience every bit of it. In that way he will have everything, good or bad, and so he will not grow blind to the realities of this life. I wish for him a good life.

I thought bringing him to the University occasionally would be a bit of experience. After all, the University is where I learned my best lessons, found my long lost “self,” and found a second home. I thought bringing him to events where he could see stage performances would open his eyes to the arts – be a performer himself, or perhaps be a good critic, or at least be a good audience. “You can do a lot of things,” I always tell him.

I eagerly waited for the show to start. I have witnessed countless performances before but I was excited because this was Andrei’s first time to see a show at Teatro. I have been telling him stories of how beautiful dances are in the University.

And so the presentations were staged one after the other. Everybody was laughing. Everybody was happy, I assumed.

Male students, with rouged faces and wigs, came out dancing, teasing the audience into laughter. They gyrated; they cartwheeled; they did acrobatics. With their exaggerated antics they seemed to proclaim victory, freedom from all that was sad. One after the other men in drag came out dancing, lip-synching songs as if belting out all the happiness in world. And indeed, everyone was laughing.

It felt odd.

I found myself between the stage – where the performers seemed to effortlessly make the audience laugh – and the audience – cheering, applauding, and laughing out loud. I looked up the stage and found a part of me. I looked at the crowd and I saw faces as if wearing the thespians’ happy masks.

Andrei, leaning on my lap, timid and already sluggish, asked, “Pa, sino po sila? Estudyante mo po ba sila? Tinuruan mo po sila? Bakla po ba sila?”

Startled by the series of naïve questions, my inner ghosts were awakened. “Bakla po ba sila?”

I found myself silenced amidst all the riot. Andrei, my son, was on my lap, eagerly waiting for my words. “Bakla sila, Pa?”

It was called Sayamedy. It was funny. And they were laughing…at me.


THIS, OF COURSE, is merely fictionalization. More specifically, it is a sketchy attempt to illustrate in narrative how it felt like bringing my foster son to an activity where the “bakla” was once again staged as a “laughable” individual. And, of course, this is not everyone’s story. And, I assume, not everybody might find it appealing not only in form but, more relevantly, in content.

But this is my story. And it is true in all its suggestions. I felt bad being with my son that day. I didn’t know how to teach him not to laugh at “individuals,” especially the bakla, in that afternoon when I found him with me in the middle of a social agreement that the bakla is funny. I want Andrei to have a better idea of fun.

While many believe that the bakla is inherently funny (I grew up with remarks like “You are indeed gay!”), I have struggled teaching my students not to assign certain qualities to individuals: the woman as a mother, the man as strong (physical or emotional), the teacher as always upright and uptight, the priest as holy and virginal. It has been a struggle to fight social constructs. In my case, it has been a struggle to make the world know that we can do better than plain dichotomies, that to be a laughing stock is hurtful, that what the world has been doing is a simplistic underestimation of individuals whose footfalls have resounded in all of human history.

Many scholars have tried to explain why the bakla has been perceived as such. J. Neil Garcia, a renowned Filipino poet and scholar on queer studies, wrote that the present image of the bakla was constructed just recently – in the last three decades or so. His discussions suggest that the media played a significant role in the process. People who lived in the seventies might recall Mars Ravelo and Dolphy characters like Fasifica Falayfay, Fefita Fofonggay and Gorgonya. These, Garcia argues, are the first of many media characters that would build the bakla as an image of laughter, building a stereotype that haunts us up to this day.

Dolphy films are funny, alright. He has played a variety of roles: bakla or not, and he has proven that indeed, he is a good comic. Garcia presents an idea that Doplhy, a straight, masculine man was funny in his portrayals of the bakla because his roles exhibited mimicry, a sense of unbecoming. It must have been thrilling for an audience to watch an “idol” transform into a swishing manicurista, who, in real life, always ended up with the most beautiful women. Also, I have learned that pioneering gay activists during the Facifica Falayfay era found Dolphy movies offensive because they collectively delegated the bakla into a “confused man” who ended up resolving confusion by marrying a real woman, further contending that the Dolphy has relegated, assigned, or perhaps entrapped the bakla into the parlorista occupation. That might also explain why most beauticians are – or, (in common consciousness) must be bakla.

Psychoanalysis offers another view on the sensational comic appeal of the bakla. We all have subversive tendencies. Psychoanalysts say that laughing at things we want to disown is one. “Humor always hits at the unconscious,” my psychology professor once said. Perhaps our greatest fear is that we might be what we are seeing. And so when it is presented to us (like a stammering speaker at a forum), we laugh because laughter dispels, even catharsizes, tension. Perhaps the audience during the Sayamedy feared becoming a bakla (or feared having one as a brother, father, what not). After all, who would want to be stereotyped? Who would want to be part of a minority? Who would want to be laughed at? And so the laughing went on.

This article has been an attempt to explain why many of us have found a sense of “happiness” in the personhood of the bakla. Some “thinkers” might dismiss these thoughts as incomplete, unscientific assumptions but I am wishful that giving myself a chance to express in writing thoughts that have been within me for a long time might enlighten readers to think in a different light about why most of us find in people like me a sense of “happiness.”

I was honestly disappointed with the kind of numbers presented by students during the Sayamedy contest. However, aianI honestly feel that it is not the students’ fault. We are born uninstructed of what to do that is why, sometimes, we wander. That is why we ask our peers for advice. That is why we go to school. That is why we are in the University.

At the end of the day, I still believe in the nobility of the academe. I am here because I have high beliefs in the academe’s rationality, humility, and fairness, including its ability to perform good humour by not assigning individuals to simplistic, stereotypical characters.

I am not proposing that we intellectualize our performances, in effect turning student and faculty presentations during events highly cerebral. What we should always remember is to construct carefully whatever messages we are to convey, especially to a mass audience. It should be our goal as egalitarians to live up to our freedom and make everyone feel that they are treated fairly. If we settle for humour which is demeaning, hurtful and purposeless, then we are doomed. Including our sons and daughters.


Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

31 thoughts on “‘Gaying’ the Sayamedy: Andrei’s initiation to off-taste humour”

  1. A piece both moving and enlightening… nakakapanindig-balahibo in some parts.

    Sana nga magmature na ang approach natin sa comedy. Pero how many actually read a piece like this?

    Sa TV naman, palaging share sa audience ratings ang goal, hindi ang pagmumulat sa mga tao. Kaya puro kababawan pa rin ang ating napapanood… idiot box nga talaga.

  2. Oo nga, hindi lahat ng nakatatawa ay nakatutuwa…

    Magmamature din iyan, unti-unti nga lang, at nakaiinip…

  3. Kung pinagtatawanan man kayo, it’s because loud gays provide the stimulus… Ang problema ay wala sa mga tumatawa kundi sa inyong mga nagpapatawa. Art imitates life kaya wag mong sisihin yung presentation ng mga estudyante.

  4. bakla’s are not laughable….they are just knowledgeable enough to express their selves and make people laugh…

  5. i wonder why gay people are so interested about how they are represented in comedy. hmmm

    art imitates life is plausible if you look at it from a certain perspective.

    simplification and reduction are tools of humor. people cannot laugh at something they are not familiar with and at a rather curious side often find humor in something they completely understand (which is the total opposite of the first assumption).most often, we laugh at things we dont understand. power mechanics —- often you use humor to cope up with complexities. reduction, absurdism, stereotypes and uncommon positioning are general properties and are necessary to create stock characters which initiates the deduction to the speech act. ultimately, humor is difficult and elusive to reduce to a satisfactory general definition.

    gays or whoever the animal is shouldnt be sacrosanct when humor is used. i hate political correctness at some levels especially when it is pitted against humor. i can imagine myself laughing at the comedians too, theyre using a safe and tested idiom. incompetency is shrouded by whats ready from the rack.:)

    be back in ilocos amiga hihi away away tau with suba. hows andrei? pasensiya, walang magawa ang ate sa paglalakad lakad sa session road ng madaling araw. hihi

    1. Wow, arvin. What can I say? Galing mo talaga! That kind of brilliance…

      I was not devastated because the performers were laughing at gays. I was just dismayed because they thought of nothing else funny. You say it’s incompetence, I say it’s immaturity.

      Going beyond imitation, art should should transcend the the horizons of reality, challenge complacent mental constructs, and transform societies. These art can do without being preachy, as comedy can be a cathartic tool.

      But Sayamedy wasted its chance at subversion.

  6. Huh.. Apay ayah ngamin d sayamedy ket mas naka2tkatawa idi nagperform dgijay la2king la2ki ngem dgijay gays.. Tangap t society tau dgita gays ngem parang tangap lang dgita daduma ah pagka2tawaan sudah.. Ang pangit na ang mga machong guy ay magbakla2han para lang magpatawa.. Hindi nakatu2wa in my part..!!

  7. that’s life!!!, may kanya kanya tayong paraan na pagpapatawa pero not to the extent met ah nga super corny, hmmmp!!!,

    hindi lahat ng bakla nkakatuwa at nasisiya sa pagpapatawa nila, may mga bakla na ginagawa lang yun dahil sa pagtatago sa sakit na nararamdaman nila.

    yung mga barako aastang mga bakla?, haaaaay, wala ako masabi!!!

  8. i’ve got two good friends…gay friends actually..both sees pink as cute.both a fanatic of the buzz.both walks more graceful than the way i do.both a die-hard “suitor” of Brad Pitt…Hehehe…

    but there’s this one thing that distinguishes one from the other…
    one loves being laughed at..the other wouldn’t speak to you once you laugh at “her”.

    at some point,gays are different on the way they wanted to be considered in the society..some may want to be labeled the center of humor with “her” funny languages and acts.one may want to beautify the unbeautiful with “her” makeup kit.but consider this,some wants to have their “hidden” contributions be realized in the society…undeniably. many gays are intellectuals, achievers,talented…

    the thing is,we had been oriented since then that gays are just for fun.but hey…gays are different at some point…

  9. actually, i have gay friends and i admire them not because they made me laugh but they are just true to their self… some people sees them they are not belong to the society but if I were to ask we should respect them because they are also human, they have feelings.. Finally, gays are good friends, they have sense of humor that guys do not have, and they have the talent…

  10. Gays are not funny at all. They are serious also. However, its really their personally to make somebody laugh because that’s what they are.
    Maybe sayamedy is gays advocate. It advocates that gays are funny because that is the show intended to be. Behind the show, Im sure they are happy of what they have done. On the same time around, not all of them are gay. Making somebody to laugh is not a talent, it is inborn personality.
    Maybe Andrei at his age, its normal to ask about it. And so as a foster father, i think you should tell him the reality about gays and the show.

  11. Hmmm, ANDREI no doubt, if he gets old, he will be as intellectual as your amiga (Ianree Raquel)… You might be in circumstances that you don’t understand. You don’t see any way out, and yet you believe you can make things work out. You may not be able to figure out the “how’s” and “why’s” but you don’t have to. God is in charge of that.

  12. it’s not bad of becoming a gay unless you know the limitations. they are just happy to be with..mostly pa nga sa mga gays they are intelligent…i admired those gays because they are very talented. i think without them social gathering would be boring..

  13. .Well, i love gays! Why? Because they are easily approach. Like my cousin,everytime he saw me he is shouting my name and makes us happy everytime we saw him. Most gays are talented too, but the worst thing about them is that they are high-tempered or say matataray and i love to see them fighting with people especially if they are in the right track. And also they are “mapagtaggol”. hehehehe!

  14. honestly i really love gays not because they are funny,,,…maybe i can relate myself to them..one characteristic that i like to them is that they are frankly people whom i wanted to be kind of friend. Another is during my high school days i have a lot of friends which are gay thats why i am comfortable to gays,,…jejejeje para naman sa picture nya ok naman……….

  15. in the eyes of God ang mga gays ay hindi katanggap-tanggap dahil bakit pa ba nila pinapalitan ang kanilang pagkatao eh yon na ang ibinigay ni God sa kanila…Pero kahit ganon may mga bagay na maganda rin sa kanila they are artistics,funny and lovable…napatunayan ko yan ng magkaroon ako ng friends na gay…

  16. ,,”gays”..speaking of gays..they are enjoyed with lalo na sa lakaran.,,halos gay na nga lagi kong kasama..gays are really a good friends..but some persons are hated about gays kasi nga daw mang aagaw, if i know they are more brainy and talented,.

  17. HMMMpp Yap true,, they should think first kung makakabuti ba sa ibang tao yong gagagwin nila or yong ipeperform nila,,, kasi hindi naman lahat ng nakakatawa ay mabuting gawain kung minsan nakaka sakit din naman diba?actually im a gay so i can relate sa article na ito anu magagawa nila kung tlagang ganito na na ako,,,

  18. Gays???? happy namn aku pagkzama q cla sometimes…but there is a gay that i do not like their attitudes bec. there is a time that the words they speak out are not in proper way such as pg mdaming tao they speak hurting words.,..

  19. i have gay friends and nephews and i could not ask for more.some are so talented.have their own personality.in fact one of them is my BFF he is a very good photographer he shared with me and one of the not so many he told he was gay.not even his family knows and he was “comfortable to tell me because he trusted me and knows that i am a free thinker and understands.i told him that i donot select my friends and judge them by their sexual orientations and also to make sure that he choose wisely and practice safe sex and be responsible partners and i donot want to see him get hurt because i care for him.he is very open to me[which i like most about him} and although i have not seen him in my last days of vacation he was so apologetic when we talked today and was soooo sorry that we did not say our good byes .he was busy preparing for his sister and husband and a brand new nephew for their homecoming today and upcoming baptismal. he have my love and respect,…the objective ..is do not look down on people gay or no gay treat everyone nicely and not judge people by their covers,sexual preferences and that they are also human beings and not third class citizens…

  20. my departed brother ..rodel’s dad..was a very macho guy..hence he had a hard time admitting that his son is gay.no parents wants this to happen and when they find out they are in denial and high hopes that it is not so…they are angry at first and some of them are able to admit but most of them cannot and will not..my brother at first did not want to accept rodel the way he is now..but before he died he was able to…when rodel was younger he was voted…miss gay ilocos norte? and he got lot of trophies crowns etc…he kept them all where my brothers cannot and will not see them .i had the opportunity to see them when i was vacationing pictures of my nephew rodel [beautiful mayumi ]and i am proud of him not of his gayhood but his personality .the way he carries himself[not maharot}very open and very sure of himself that this is who he is and who he will be the rest of his life no matter what… accept him or not..he is my personal make up person and does my hair..[hot oil treatment trim and the only one that can touch my hair!!!!,have a great sense of humor and a great guy/ gal? thank you rodel for being you.i love you the way you are…marunggay fairy!!!!

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