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Lex Bonife: The Effectual Writer

Meet Lex Bonife, screenwriter of Ang Lalaki sa Parola and Ang Lihim ni Antonio.

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Screen (and blog) writer Lex Bonife proves that the pen – err, writing – is an effective weapon in promoting GLBTQIA issues.
PHOTO BY PATRICK KING PASCUAL

In 1999, when Lex Bonife was 19 years old, moving from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) to the University of the Philippines, he met writer R.J. Nuevas, “one of the most established writers for soap opera (In the Philippines),” he recalls.  “He invited me to send a resume to Viva.  I have always wanted to work for television when I was young; I have always felt I was cut for a career in the entertainment industry, so even without a college degree and with zero experience, armed with a simple résumé, I met with Viva’s Veronique Del Rosario, and to my surprise, I was hired.”

Bonife adds: “Back then, I was a dean’s lister and an active student from UST at the Institute of Physical Therapy, but I felt I was cut out do something more creative, so I made a big decision to stop enrolling and find my way in the industry.”
Obviously, “when you’re starting in any industry, money is never easy. Good thing my parents supported me financially, (and) I was never forced to find other work outside of showbusiness. When there’s no project, there’a always my mom and dad to ask money from.”

Thus, even if he found TV to be stressful (“It requires you to take long nights, and I don’t like sacrificing sleep,” Bonife says), he wanted to pursue the path the people he admires have taken. “I have always been a fan of Lino Brocka, and I admired the films of Carlitos Siguion Reyna. And most especially, I enjoyed watching bold films – the Rosanna Roces, Aya Medel, et cetera films,” he says.

Bonife believes the film industry can help promote GLBTQIA issues.

“The media is very powerful in promoting change within our society. I write for the gay audience – films, my blog, and I make sure that whatever I do, it must be empowering to our sector. Media helps in public awareness of our concerns. And little by little, media transforms the public perspective on who the gay man is.”

And this (introduce change) is what Bonife has been attempting to do, having written for the screen the scripts of, among others, gay-themed Joselito Altarejos’ Ang Lalake sa Parola and Ang Lihim ni Antonio.

METAMORPOSIS SCRUTINIZED

When asked when he knew he’s gay, Bonife smiles: “When Madonna sang Like a Virgin live on MTV, I knew I want to be like her. Does that make me gay?”

Fortunately for him, though, “I was lucky. I never had to come out. As a young boy, my interests were very gay – theater, music, dancing, et cetera. My family enrolled me in all sorts of performing arts workshops. I was quite effeminate as a young boy. And never did they ask for a girl friend from me. All my friends who visited me at home were gays. For goodness’ sake, do I still have to come out?” Bonife laughs.

Times have changed – especially for the GLBTQIA community – according to Bonife. “When I was young, the only role models for media were Petrang Kabayo, Facifica Falayfay, and Babet Villaruel. For a gay man to be accepted, one had to be funny. That was the message that I perceived,” he says. “But now, with many respectable people coming out as gay men, things have definitely changed.”

The one challenge for the GLBTQIA community, however, is in “social integration. I am all for gay marriage. As long as the rights of adults to be in a domestic partnership are denied by the state, I don’t think we could ever claim acceptance from Filipino society.”

ALL ENCOMPASSING

Bonife isn’t a fan of closely identifying showbusiness with the GLBTQIAs. “I hate it when people say that one is creative because one is gay,” he says. “Creativity lies on everyone else regardless of sexual preference. (It’s just that) the entertainment industry has been very open to gay people.”

And while he doesn’t have disappointment, per se, in the industry, he is pained that “independent cinema is a growing industry, (and it is still) undergoing a lot of birth pains. It is just now that many commercial cinemas are opening their doors to independent films. I just wish that more Filipinos will be mature enough to entertain a different variety of narratives,” Bonife says. “I don’t have any disappointments. I just enjoy witnessing the evolution of Filipino films and (their) audiences.”

Having written two of the biggest earning independent films (Parola and Antonio) in the Philippines, interestingly, “although most people recognize me as the screenwriter for Parola and Antonio, for me, my being a certified yoga teacher in my late 20s was a bigger personal achievement. I never saw myself as physically strong. And I never saw myself as athletic. It was a surprise that I am able to do many physical stuff that I never thought was possible for me,” Bonife says, adding with mischief: “Now, I can always bring my both feet at the back of my head, to the pleasant surprise of many men!”

Among the major influences in his writing is Armando “Bing” Lao, “who has been an inspiration in my craft. He has transformed the way I see sreenwriting,” he says.

Bonife also “admires the works of Bibeth Orteza and Pete Lacaba.”

HAPPINESS FOUND

“Whenever people question me with the kind of ‘unsecure’ work that I am in, I always tell them. That happiness is measured with every second of our lives. So, every moment must be devoted to the things that we value most, and to the things that make us happy,” Bonife says.

If there’s one “regret” for Bonife, it would have to be “dropping out from a ‘financially promising’ course in UST to transfer and study Theater Arts in UP. I thought that’s a brave decision for me. It’s hard to survive with art. It’s hard to survive simply by doing the things that you love to do. But the wisdom of ‘following your heart’ is something that I will never question,” he says.

Bonife is currently working on getting a degree, though. “I was lucky to be drifted and recognized in my career even without a college degree. But It is my dream to teach in college someday, so, I really have to get a degree on whichever way possible,” he says.

Getting a degree is but one of the many things he still wants to achieve, though. “I still want to do a lot – I want to become a teacher, write a book, make my own movies…” he says. And to the latter’s end, “my boyfriend and I have been toying with a simple gay love story. I promised him that this will be my debut as a director. If I don’t find a financer for it, he should produce it for me,” he laughs.

Thus far, though, “at 25, I left a good paying regular job from a publicly listed company, to pursue the things that mattered to me – writing and doing yoga. It wasn’t a very easy financial decision. But after two years, I could say it was well worth it.”

And for that decision, the better for the Filipino GLBTQIA community.

For more information, visit http://lexbonife.blogspot.com or http://lexbonife.wordpress.com.

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VP Robredo extolls LGBTQIA community’s spirit; recognizes a lot of work still needs to be done

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

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Screencap from the Facebook-uploaded message of VP Leni Robredo to the LGBTQIA community

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that even as the LGBTQIA community marks June as Pride month, a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

In a messages posted on her Facebook page, Robredo noted the uncertain times. “many of the things we once cherished and held on to are now being questioned and challenged,” she said in mixed Filipino and English. “Sa kabila nito, marami pa ring bagay ang di nagbabago at nagpapatuloy: tulad ng ating laban para sa patas na karapatan, dignidad at kalayaan.

Robredo noted that “for many decades, the LGBTQIA+ community has been tirelessly fighting for equal rights and representation at the frontlines. It has provided a shelter to the oppressed, a voice to the marginalized, and a family to those who have been abandoned by their own communities. Ito ang dakilang ambag ng LGBTQIA+ community sa ating (b)ayan.

She added: “Sa bawat Pride March na inyong inoorganisa, isang teenager ang mas nagiging proud na yakapin kung sino siya. Sa bawat awareness campaign na inyong sinisimulan, isang komunidad ang mas nagiging bukas ang isipan. At sa bawat pagpiglas ninyo sa tangkang pag-agaw ng ating mga kalayaan, isang bayan ang mas natututong lumaban.

There are – nonetheless – members of the LGBTQIA community “who hold positions of power in our society”, such as lawyers, executives, doctors, educators, artists, policymakers and public servants. The VP hopes that they will “use your influence to change mindsets, promote acceptance, and push for reforms on the ground. Now more than ever, we need to set an example to the younger generation. Ipakita natin sa kanila, na wala silang dapat ipangamba at na malaya silang maging kung ano at sino sila,” Robredo said.

The VP similarly recognized that teaching people to open their minds may be challenging, but “huwag sana kayong panghinaan ng loob.”

She suggested doing small steps to push for Pride, including forming support groups; reaching out to the needy; and introducing concepts re SOGIESC to relatives who may not be well-versed on the same.

Darating din ang araw na babalikan natin ang lahat ng ito at sasabihing, everything was worth the effort. Everything was worth the sacrifice. Everything worth the fight. Push lang ng push, mga besh,” Robredo added.

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Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voices support for LGBTQIA community

Pia Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

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Screencap from the Instagram account of Pia Wurtzbach

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voiced her support for the LGBTQIA community.

Via an Instagram post, Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

She added: “We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity.”

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Learning is always a two-way process.. we listen as we understand each other’s points of view. This #PrideMonth, we stand for the rights and advocacies of the LGBTQIA+ community. 🏳️‍🌈 Being an ally is someone who gives a sense of a safe and affirming space for our loving community… Let’s provide higher platforms for community members to openly discuss issues and concerns that affect us. 🙏 Here we can discuss our differences and remind ourselves that we are together on this journey, and achieve our shared goals for equality. ❤ . I know we may differ in opinions today.. but our constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better. This will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen. . Let me just make a stand that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA+ community have the right to take up space in our society…that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women. We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences.. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity. 😊🙏❤ Happy Pride! 🥰🏳️‍🌈

A post shared by Pia Wurtzbach (@piawurtzbach) on

Wurtzbach’s statement of support came after she co-hosted an online discussion involving Kevin Balot, who was crowned Miss International Queen in 2012. Balot reiterated her segregationist perspective, saying that when transgender women ask to join beauty pageants traditionally only for those assigned female at birth, “hindi na siya equality eh, parang asking too much na (this is no longer about equality; it’s already asking too much).”

In her Instagram post, Wurtzbach said that even if people had different opinions, it’s still important to provide platforms for community members to openly discuss “issues and concerns that affect us.”

For Wurtzbach, “this will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen… [O]ur constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better.”

This isn’t the first time Wurtzbach expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community.

In 2017, for instance, she called out the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following a drug bust involving 11 men in Bonifacio Global City. “Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It’s ridiculous,” she said then.

In 2018, she urged decision makers to address the causes that put young people at risk of HIV.

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‘Riverdale’ actress Lili Reinhart comes out as bisexual

Lili Reinhart – from “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

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Screencap from Instagram

Lili Reinhart – who plays Betty Cooper in “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

Reinhart’s revelation was linked with her post that she would be attending an “LGBTQ+ for Black Lives Matter” protest in West Hollywood in the US. Underneath a poster for the march, she wrote: “Although I’ve never announced it publicly before, I am a proud bisexual woman. And I will be joining this protest today. Come join.”

Reinhart dated co-star and onscreen partner Cole Sprouse, who played Jughead in “Riverdale.” The two had recently split.

Visibility, obviously, matters.

Earlier in June 2020, a study noted that those who have seen LGBTQIA representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%). They are also more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%), and of non-binary people (41% to 30%).

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Emma Watson speaks out for trans rights after J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned.”

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Screen capture from the Instagram account of emmawatson

Emma Watson – who played Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series – is the latest actor to speak out in support of transgender rights after author J.K. Rowling made controversial comments on Twitter that were deemed transphobic.

On June 6, Rowling posted a tweet equating womanhood with being able to menstruate.

When called out, she seemed to own up to the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or women who claim to be feminist but do not believe transgender women are female). She also backed her perspective via a lengthy post that cited a study criticized for its transphobic bias.

Claiming to have read “all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive,” Rowling wrote. “Women (are told they) must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves… But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume.”

Watson appeared in all eight of the big-screen adaptations of the books by Rowling. By expressing her support for transgender rights, she joins former costar Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter), and “Fantastic Beasts” star Eddie Redmayne who also voiced their disagreement to Rowling’s warped thinking and defense.

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” Watson tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet, she added that she wants “my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

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Eddie Redmayne joins Daniel Radcliffe in opposing J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans comments

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people. “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

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Screencap from "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people.

In a statement, Redmayne said: “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

Rowling wrote the “Harry Potter” series that starred Radcliffe, and the “Fantastic Beasts” series that starred Redmayne. In a series of tweets starting June 6, where she actually owned the TERF tag (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

Redmayne – who similarly starred in “The Danish Girl”, the 2015 biopic of Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery – said: “As someone who has worked with both JK Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and nonbinary identities are valid.”

Redmayne continued that “I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”

Radcliffe said as much earlier, when he wrote for The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations, who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

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Transgender women are women – Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe

“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations.”

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Screencap from "What If" (2013)

Following the backlash the “Harry Potter” author, J.K. Rowling, got for statements deemed transphobic, Daniel Radcliffe wrote on The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women.”

On June 6, Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

In response, Radcliffe said: “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo (i.e. J.K. Rowling) or I.”

He added that with 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reporting being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity, “it’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

Radcliffe stressed that while certain press outlets may paint his statement as proof of infighting between J.K. Rowling and himself, “that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now.”

In closing, Radcliffe said: “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you.”

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