Thursday, June 7, 2007

Not-so-Lilliputian Paraders at ‘Reyna Elena’, Flores de Mayo

The Reigning Reyna Elena

And every year, there are also lots of Reyna Elena (Queen Elena) parades within the Flores de Mayo celebrations … for not-so-Lilliputian persons.

Gays in the Philippines are seen as part of the community rather than apart from it. Which is not to say that gays are necessarily equal here. But queans often have certain specific recognized roles in the social structure. For example, as (often unpaid) workers within political campaigns, and within the Church.

There has recently been an election of the second and third tiers of government – that is, the congress and local councils and their mayors. Patterned after the US system. And the nexus between the gay community and politics was evidenced in the Elena Parade - the escorts of the ‘Beauties’ being new council members. The relationship is reciprocal – gays gain social recognition and councilors involve themselves with the Gay Community for political support.

But this is all the outsiders’ point of view! And, as a local friend rightly tells me, I have missed the essence or spirit of Reyna Elena completely. So I’ll try to capture something of his (positive) criticism. And the local gay point of view on the event.

To be the Elena is the dream of every gay and no-so-gay guy in a provincial community. A dream because it is a great honour to be chosen by your peers – by the old matriarchs, by past Elenas (who on the night endlessly re-live their moment/s of glory), by your peers – the couturiers, make-up artists, and in fact by all the members of gay society. It is an acknowledgment of your popularity and worth, your sexual appeal, your intelligence, and your good looks. Beauty is not enough - you also need grunt in the community. It’s like being Prom Queen – everyone wants to be The Chosen One. It might be seem old-fashioned but it is also a very affirmative image for gays – proud, defiant, putting it out there, not caring what anyone thinks and exhilarating in a distinctive gay identity. And the extraordinary exhilaration for the Reyna of being the focus of the provincial gay calendar!

Preparing for the Pre-Parade Photo-Op:

‘And I too young to do drag?’:

‘No way!’

The Photo Op:

Momentary (but understandable) losses of concentration:

Composure re-gained:

A moments’ relaxation before big parading:

Some repair work:

‘That’s better!’:

Some would-be Elenas:

Final group photo before parading:

On parade with escorts:

‘We lost our escorts!’

The Reyna parading:

‘I’m much prettied - I should’ve been Reyna Elena!’

‘No, it should’ve been me!’

The parade moves on … :

And now we all have to wait for another three years ... for the next parade. Like the Olympics.

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