Ally Gonzalo is reclaiming 'bakla' identity in Winnipeg's Filipinx community

The Winnipeg photographer has assembled a project dear to his own heart: hearing the stories and showing the faces of people from the Filipinx queer community.

'I want to reclaim that term that has been used against us'

(CBC Arts)

In his studio, photographer Ally Gonzalo has set up a space for stark portraits with no extras. As he describes it: "I'm going to do it in black and white and I'm going to get really really close to my subjects. Nothing else — white background, just the person, very stoic, very poetic emotions. There's more beyond that."

Why is Gonzalo focusing so closely on the faces he's photographing? He's zeroing in on what is often referred to in Filipinx culture as "bakla" culture — that is, people assigned male at birth who identify as queer, gay or trans. They have been a strong presence in Filipinx culture, but as Gonzalo points out, "Especially in television, we always have the bakla as the gay best friend, the flamboyant one."

Watch the video:

Photographer Ally Gonzalo opens up about the word "bakla" and what it means to queer Filipinx people. Filmmaker: Jim Agapito, Ryan Nash, Paul Stabell, Matt Purchase, and Aleksandra Osipova 7:43

In this video made by filmmakers Jim Agapito, Ryan Nash, Paul Stabell, Matt Purchase, and Aleksandra Osipova, Gonzalo takes you inside his Bakla! series of portraits, commissioned for CBC Arts and CBC Manitoba as part of CBC's Creator Network. You'll hear the stories — from the triumphant to the tearjerking — of bakla folks about coming out to their families and friends and settling into their own skin and identity. And you'll hear about the relationship Gonzalo himself has had with the term "bakla."

Ally Gonzalo's Bakla! series premiered on September 13. You can read more about it from Gonzalo himself in this CBC Manitoba article. Follow Ally Gonzalo here.

(Ally Gonzalo)
(Ally Gonzalo)
(Ally Gonzalo)

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.

About the Author

Lise Hosein is a producer at CBC Arts. Before that, she was an arts reporter at JazzFM 91, an interview producer at George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. When she's not at her CBC Arts desk she's sometimes an instructor at OCADU and is always quite terrified of bees.