Reyna Delas Flores: Manila’s Golden Gays, by Geloy Concepcion

IPA Photography, PROJECTS 6 Comments

Al "Carmen Dela Rue" Enriquez, 73 yrs old.
Frederico "Celia Rodriguez" Ramasamy, 60 yrs old.
Virgilio "Doctora Virgie" Garcia, 70 yrs old.
June "Maruja" Santoks, 58 yrs old.
Aton "Maricel Soriano" Libaton, 58 yrs old.
Myla "Evangeline Pascual" Montelibano, 63 yrs old.
Fred "Gloria Manila" Fernandez, 68 yrs old.
Semmy "Pepsi Paloma" Baesa, 64 yrs old.
Semmy "Pepsi Paloma" Baesa, 64 yrs old.
Caloy "Jennifer Lopez" Gatmalin, 63 yrs old.
Vic "Bb. Vice Ganda" Celeridad, 59 yrs old.
Greg "Greta Amor" Valles, 74 yrs old.
Jose "Mother Leony" Abada, 87 yrs old.
Markova, Kuba, Birit Queen, Justo Justo.
You might have come across some of us amidst the stream of people that are out and about in the streets of Pasay Manila, Philippines – We are the Golden Gays.

We are a group of vibrant people who were although forced to disband, in our hearts remain a spirit of togetherness and a sense of belonging – separated, but one. Justo Justo, the founder of the Home for the Golden Gays passed away in May 2012, which brought an end to the only thing of that we’ve long considered our home. While some of us have been lucky enough to be taken in by relatives and other good-hearted people, the rest were diffused on the streets without shelter or with little to no money. It is one thing to be alone, but what we would consider the greatest poverty is the feeling of being unwanted.

Despite the hardships that we encounter in our daily lives, there is one thing that never failed to bring genuine happiness amongst us. It’s the activities, the pageants, and the parties, which brings us all together. That’s why we’re grateful and delighted to have been invited for this photo shoot! In fact, this is our first time being shot in a studio. At the same time, we can’t also hide the fact that we are fast approaching old age. Who knows? This could be the last time for some of us. May it be a pageant or a photo shoot, we always make sure that we give it our best shot. We get to bring our bright long gowns that we practically borrow from each other, accessories that were lent to us, sets of wig to cover our receding hairlines, layers of make-up to accentuate our features and a little hint of perfume for a finishing touch. While the things that we don are important, the preparation is just as crucial; and this is also where the reminiscences come in. We recollect the days when we were much younger, share stories of what we’ve been doing – but as always, in a humorous manner. The vibrancy of our different personalities is undeniable. Old age doesn’t seem to have an effect on us; we are group of people who have forgotten how to grow old. Inch by inch during the transformation, we turn into our characters (aliases). There’s Mother Leony, now 87, who glides just as similarly as she used to do on stage sixty years ago. Then there’s Carmen dela Rue, who is now 73 and has some trouble hearing, but in a minute struck poses in bursts once the camera started flashing. It’s without question that our flare is as present as ever. But flowers need nourishment to bloom.

We are the Golden Gays.  We’ve come across odds in life, things that seem unsurvivable. We’ve endured not having a home and diseases that would normally hold one back. The thing that is most important to us is that our drive in inspiring other people to pursue the desires of their heart continues, especially the young gay people. We gain strength not only from each other but also from people who continue to support us. It is not important how little or how much support the community could offer us, it is the reassurance that we’re not cut off or brushed aside in this community that we hold dear to our hearts.

Thank you for your thoughts of the Golden Gays. With this, the Reyna delas Flores will continue to flourish.

As our late member Walterina Markova always said, “The show must go on.”

Ramon C. Busa,
Golden Gay

Photographs: Geloy Concepcion | Text: Ramon C. Busa | Website:



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