Filipino queer artists finally take center stage at Komiket Pride, an art market to be held this weekend at Ayala Malls The 30th in Pasig City. This is the first Pride iteration of the popular art and comics convention, featuring over 150 LGBTQ+ creatives and creators.
Young STAR spoke with four up-and-coming queer artists, all tabling at Komiket Pride: Gab (@navyblueart), Marts (@martspng), Jouache (@jouache_) and Jomer (@habunnyart). In our conversations, it became clear that for many LGBTQ+ artists, Komiket Pride is one of the very few platforms where queer art is not sidelined or merely tolerated, but actually celebrated. It’s crucial the market remains as such, and that more events deliberately champion queer art.
YOUNG STAR: How has your identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community impacted your art?
GAB: It shows in the subject matter that I like to draw. When I draw romantic scenes (for example), they tend to be queer because I am bisexual, and I think it’s really important for your art to reflect part of who you are. Queer art can be so personal to your experience. It’s a reflection of the person making it; whether the artist does it consciously or subconsciously, there’s always a part of their queerness in it. That’s also what’s great about having an (art) convention centered on Pride: we get to see a more diverse range of creators and discover different aspects of queerness that aren’t necessarily represented in mainstream Philippine media.
MARTS: There’s freedom in expressing my identity and the struggles of the queer community through my art. Makikita ng mga tao na (queer issues) are worth talking about. Nagb-build din ng relationships (when we) share our experiences with other queer people or allies of the LGBTQ+ community, and we connect through our art.
JOUACHE: Given na conservative country tayo, nagkaroon ako ng authority to grow out of the box na dinidikta kung ano yung klase ng art na gagawin ko. Being queer is meant to challenge yung kinaugalian natin, and it feels rewarding na ma-reclaim natin yung boses and yung space, not only as artists but also individuals.
JOMER: (Kapag) gumagawa ako ng LGBTQ+ art, nilalagay ko talaga yung representation. Kung gagawa ako ng bakla, gagawa rin ako ng tibo. Before, yung mga friends ko gumawa ng zine at doon ko talaga naexplore yung pagiging queer ko. Yung story na nilalabas ko is very personal: it was about me being raised by so many women nung kabataan ko. It eased me into enjoying my femininity and naging easy sa’kin to enjoy yung current identity ko.
For the people who are still figuring themselves out, I’m hoping this event will be a stepping-stone for them to embrace their queerness and say, “This is who I am. I shouldn’t be ashamed and I shouldn’t feel worried that there’s no place for me.” The existence of this event proves that there is a place for you, and that’s really important for young people and queer people to see.
What does Komiket Pride mean to you as a queer artist?
GAB: It’s a step in the right direction. In queer-friendly events and queer spaces, there is a sense of comfort; (you know) there are other people who understand your experiences. People would also be more comfortable creating queer art. I’ve had conversations with people saying, “I don’t know if I should put up this print of two girls kissing,” because Komiket in general isn’t meant to be a Pride thing and people may get weird about it. But since Komiket is specifically for Pride, it feels like a safe space. I think that’s why sign-ups (to join Komiket Pride) were so popular, because so many queer artists are looking for that safe space.
MARTS: Pride exists not just as a celebration of the community, but as a protest against the discrimination that we face. In a way, ang paggawa ng art is a form of protest din. Any kind of art is political. When Komiket does an event for Pride, it’s saying na the art scene here in the Philippines has a lot of queer artists and they deserve the opportunities they get through selling their art, and that they deserve the visibility of selling at cons.
JOUACHE: Nung bata ako, ‘pag (sinabihan ako ng), “Oh artist ‘yan paglaki,” yung pumapasok sa utak ko, magdidisplay ako ng artwork sa museum. Pero not all artists are born for gallery shows, at para sa akin, yung Komiket Pride ang sarili kong gallery. (At kahit na) dumadami na yung spaces na queer-friendly, hindi ganoon kadami yung events na tailored for queer people, kaya I feel seen and valued dito. Also, growing community siya na born out of passion, love and empathy for people na naghahanap ng sense of belongingness.
JOMER: Before, limited yung mga Pride event, so masaya na jinampack nila (yung con)—nagkaroon kasi ng second opening of sign-ups kasi maraming artists na nag-aask (na sumali sa Komiket Pride). Sobrang grateful ko kasi nagpasok sila ng more queer artists. Celebration din siya ng local queer art; kahit magbebenta ako, gusto ko ring (libutin) yung event para ma-inspire.
What are you looking forward to this Komiket Pride?
GAB: For the people who are still figuring themselves out, I’m hoping this event will be a stepping-stone for them to embrace their queerness and say, “This is who I am. I shouldn’t be ashamed and I shouldn’t feel worried that there’s no place for me.” The existence of this event proves that there is a place for you, and that’s really important for young people and queer people to see.
MARTS: Seeing people be visibly excited about the work you produce, (it feels) like your work matters. It’s also somewhat of a protest against AI art and NFTs—some people think artists and writers aren’t necessary because AI can do it for you. (But with) Komiket Pride and the existence of queer artists, we’re saying, “My work matters. No kind of corporate or capitalistic greed can replace the art of a person or something that comes from the soul.”
JOUACHE: I’m looking forward to meeting new friends and my existing convention friends, and honestly, good sales. Basically, just have fun, be gay, and be in the moment.
JOMER: Namimiss ko na yung mga queer art friends ko. Hinihintay ko yung kabaklaan namin at mga pakulo (namin). Pero mostly, more on self siya: gusto ko (gumawa) pa ng art na very queer-centric.