COMMENTARY: What MMK did right in "Ukelele" episode of Maris Racal

by Mark Angelo Ching
Jun 21, 2018
MMK presents the complexities of gender identity through its "Ukelele" episode starring Maris Racal (left) and Jameson Blake.

There were plenty of negative reactions when the teaser for this controversial Maalaala Mo Kaya episode dropped last week.

In this episode, Maris Racal portrayed the story of Libertine "Tin" Amistoso, the songwriter behind "Titibo-Tibo,” which won in the Himig Handog 2017 competition.

Many Filipino netizens said the trailer of the June 16 episode of MMK was insensitive to the plight of the LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community.

This reaction was valid, because the teaser used the tagline “Ang Pusong Tibo, Titibok sa Guwapo.” This is controversial, because it perpetuates the stereotype that the tibo, or the lesbian, only likes women because she has not yet found the right man.

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This belief is false, because it robs lesbians of their own identity—they are portrayed as women who are broken and need fixing by a real man. More extreme versions of this idea, moreover, state that lesbians will turn into feminine women once they have sex with men. This harmful thinking has resulted into cases of rape of lesbians all over the world.

The teaser also used the song, which the community already marked in the past as problematic, for the same reasons stated above.

For this reason, I had a bit of trepidation as I watched the MMK episode itself on June 16, Saturday night. Will the criticisms against the teaser reflect onto the episode?

I tried to keep an open mind while watching, and I was pleasantly surprised. The MMK episode titled “Ukelele” was much more complex than how the teaser portrayed it to be.

“Ukelele” told the story of a young woman named Tin (Maris Racal), who at a young age realized that she’s attracted to women. She acted butch and had girlfriends, much to the disdain of her parents.

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Later on, she got to know Andrew (Neil Coleta), a kind young man who offered to teach her how to play the guitar. Tin becomes attracted to Andrew, but she’s surprised. Wasn’t she a lesbian? Why was she falling for a member of the opposite sex?

MMK should be praised for answering these questions with sensitivity. It presents the answers slowly, so that viewers—who might have trouble following the complications of Tin’s real identity—would easily understand.

Tin is bisexual. She could fall in love with both men and women. Tin was initially presented as a lesbian, the L in LGBT+, but she’s actually the B (bisexual). And yes, they exist.

We discover the complexities of gender identity through the eyes of Tin. At first, we sympathize with her struggles when she thought she was lesbian. Then we slowly discover that she’s actually bisexual.

Tin even describes herself as such in the episode, when she talks about her gender to Boom (Jameson Blake), the guy whom she eventually ends up with.

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What the episode did right was to keep the story personal. Not once in the episode does it hint that it is an advocacy piece for LGBT+ rights or other issues. Keeping the story at a personal level made it relatable, particularly for viewers who are not accustomed to such identities.

In the end, ABS-CBN must learn to be more sensitive in its presentation of stories that are tinged with gender issues, not just in the episode itself but also in the teasers.

Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.

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MMK presents the complexities of gender identity through its "Ukelele" episode starring Maris Racal (left) and Jameson Blake.
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