(SPOT.ph) With a shirtless Gabby Concepcion for a profile picture, The '90s Kabaklaan Instagram page is a queer love letter to a nostalgic decade that also serves as a reminder of how far LGBT representation has progressed in Philippine media.
The '90s Kabaklaan page is a throwback to the pre-Internet era and a source of nostalgic comfort online for millennials who can only say "kamiss" as they scroll through a feed filled with photos of shirtless matinee idols, TV show memes, and "Marimar" references.
From photos of the Gwapings trio (who became a foursome with Jao Mapa) to hair clip goddess and fashion icon Jolina Magdangal, The '90s Kabaklaan waxes nostalgic about an iconic decade, forming a shared bond online among millennials reminiscent of their teenage days.
"The thing about the '90s generation is that we’ve been through pre-Internet days. That shared experience kinda creates a bond lalo na sa LGBTQ community because sobrang iba noon. Our sense of nostalgia sa 90s is so strong," Victor, the administrator of the page, who prefers to remain anonymous, told SPOT.ph in an e-mail interview.
Also read: 10 Pinoy Slang Words We Said in the '90s, Translated
The '90s Kabaklaan is a trip down memory lane
For millennials who grew up without social media, television and magazines were the main source of entertainment back then--an experience that The '90s Kabaklaan wants to bring back, especially for queer folks.
"If you’re an eleven-year-old closeted gay, watching TGIS, how do you express na crush mo si Onemig [Bondoc]? How was it like secretly dancing ala Marimar? Or yung feeling na wala kang pambili ng fan magazines? The Instagram account tries to bring back that experience," Victor said.
The '90s Kabaklaan was born in the middle of COVID-19 lockdowns as Victor's way to "escape" the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, and also an effort to save pages of his magazine collection from the era.
The page initially contained only photos of shirtless men from Victor's magazine collection of Chika Chika, Hot Copy, and Valentino. It was later on when Victor started posting about '90s pop culture--fashion, television, ads, and movies--that he noticed the audience growing.
From a feed of shirtless men, the page has evolved to a colorful one filled with memes, movie posters, and iconic ads from the '90s.
"At that time, the pandemic brought a lot of uncertainties. Vaccines weren’t available then. Everyone was scared what would happen next. And so creating and maintaining the account gave me a bit of comfort," he said.
Now with over a thousand nostalgic posts, the page has grown to a community of 49,000 followers, with celebrities such as Ruffa Gutierrez, Alice Dixon, Carlo Aquino, and Marvin Agustin commenting on the photos of their heydays as well.
Most of the photos and magazine scans on the Instagram feed are from Victor's personal collection but nowadays, he has also been receiving help from other '90s magazine collectors who share their scans of prints with him.
"Humor became a huge part of the page. Syempre nakaka-pressure. Nakaka-pressure to be funny, to be always on top of what’s happening," Victor said.
Queer representation: then and now
The 90s Kabaklaan is also a reminder of how far LGBT representation has come in Philippine media from a decade when gays were mostly portrayed as effeminate folks spending all their time lusting over men.
"Well that’s the thing, kaunti lang talaga ang representation ng LGBTQ community noon. Most of what we saw are Roderick Paulate movies so it kinda created a stereoptype ng kabaklaan. We’re expected to be funny, to dress and act very feminine, to be loud, etc. We’ve come a long way from that stereotype. Thank God," Victor said.
Over two decades since the '90s, Victor said LGBT representation in the media has "changed for the better", with the focus now going beyond their sexuality and gender identity.
"LGBTQ is more accepted now in our society. We also have better, more varied, more diverse representations. Noon, sa province namin ha, pag sinabing bakla either hindi nag-aaral o kaya puro kalandian and walang disiplina. Now, we see a lot of successful individuals," he said.
Victor also credits the digital shift for the greater visibility and recognition of the LGBTQ community and its contributions to pop culture all the way from Roderick Paulate of the '90s to Vice Ganda of the '00s.
"Mas na-recognize yung impact and contribution natin sa pop culture. I mean, just look at how big ang reach ni Vice Ganda and all the other openly queer celebrities diba. The influence has always been there. But the difference is, more people are now aware of it which leads to more opportunities for everyone to hear our voice and what we have to say," he said.
"We’re more appreciated sa chosen careers natin. This decade, we should continue fighting and protecting for our rights. Importante 'yun," he added.