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Jessica Soho: Setting the bar high

Jessica Soho – the current Vice President for News Programs of GMA Network – is known as a multi-awarded broadcast journalist. But she is also one of the still few journalists to respectfully highlight the issues facing the LGBTQ community in the Philippines.

BAHAGHARI MEDIA AWARDS - Jessica Soho

Having worked for GMA Network for nearly three decades now, Jessica Soho – the current Vice President for News Programs – is a multi-awarded broadcast journalist, being the first Filipino to win the British Fleet Journalism Awardee in 1998 and the George Foster Peabody Award for Investigative Journalism in 1999. She is also the first Filipino to be lauded for her Coverage of a Breaking Story on a hostage crisis in Cagayan Valley in the New York Film Festival; while the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union awarded her the Grand Prize for the coverage of a breaking news story in 1994. She is also a Ka Doroy Valencia Awardee of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). And for the three consecutive years, she was named as the “Most Trusted News Presenter” by Reader’s Digest Asia.

Soho is one of the founders of the investigative news magazine show “Brigada Siete”, and conceptualized documentary series “i-Witness”. She now reports on GMA News TV’s flagship newscast, State of the Nation (SONA), and is also the host of the weekend news magazine program “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” and the weekly public affairs program “Brigada”, also on GMA News TV.

It is worth highlighting that Soho’s feature segments in “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” helped – and continues to help, for that matter – mainstream discussions on intersecting issues on sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in the Philippines.

In 2007, the “Macho Gays” segment featured the more masculine gender expression of gay men in the country in contrast to the pa-girl (i.e. “beauty parlor type” stereotype). In 2010, an all-star cast of gay basketball players in Cebu portrayed an alternative view on the favorite Pinoy sport. Its 2013 episode on the TV series “My Husband’s Lover” highlighted the realities of gay relationships.

There have been segments dealing with transgender issues. In 2007, the feature on the Supreme Court petition for name change of Mely Silverio showed one of the persisting issues affecting the trans community in the country. In 2009, BB Gandanghari was interviewed, the episode sensitively showing BB’s transitioning to her real identity from being the former matinee idol Rustom Padilla. And then in 2012, the success of Kevin Balot for winning Miss International Queen in Thailand was celebrated in a segment that also featured the localized term “transpinay”.

Transgender health issues were also given attention. In 2008, sex reassignment surgeries done in Thailand and how they impact the Filipino transgender community were focused. And then in 2011, the use of contraceptive pills and their impacts on transpinays were given coverage.

Intersex issues were also given consideration, such as with a segment in 2008, after the approval of a Supreme Court petition of a Filipino intersex for recognition as a woman.

The diversity of gender expressions in the country was continually highlighted in the numerous features on the obsession of Filipinos for gay transgender beauty pageants and drag shows. From gay candidates from small town fiestas in Samar in 2009, to the differently-abled contenders in Ms. Gay Kalawakan in Sampaloc, Manila in 2011, and the plus-sized contestants in Bigating Beki in Davao del Norte in 2012. The feature on Drag Queens in 2011 gave the chance to show that gender expression does not always correspond to sexual orientation.

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Similarly, the visibility of the LGBT community in the country was given attention in the 2008 features on gay pride, gay Santacruzan, and local LGBT films. These showed the growing prominence of LGBTs in Filipino society and the general population’s growing levels of tolerance, if not acceptance.

Parenting of LGBT children was also given weight, such as in 2011, when she provided coverage on the unconditional love of a mother for her gay son who was an avid contender in beauty contests. In 2013, shown were psychological perspectives on being gay (i.e. push for acceptance as opposed to pseudo-scientists who would rather “convert” the gays) through presentations of scientific experts and how this can be translated into proper parenting.

With Soho’s long string of achievements and consistent pro-LGBT stance, she certainly sets the high benchmark for quality and inclusive broadcast journalism in the Philippines.

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