Ilonggos turn to Thai ‘BL’ shows to cope amid ECQ

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Ilonggo youth have found a new way to cope amid the anxieties they get during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the city and the province due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Both city and provincial governments in Iloilo have imposed an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which as of this writing, will be extended further to May 15 based on recommendation from the national government.

Life under the ECQ hasn’t been easy for Ilonggos, having to adjust to strict guidelines to stay at home and practice social distancing to avoid crowds.

For several Ilonggos, work and school still continue, with bosses and instructors providing materials and resources to them, and some of them have suggested that these may be taxing on their mental health and family relationships.

Due to the ECQ here as well as in other parts of the country, some streaming services and production studios in the country have made their film and television content available online for free.

Recently, on social media, the hashtags ‘#คั่นกู’ and ‘#2getherTheSeries’, and the terms ‘Tine’ and ‘Sarawat’, have been appearing on the top ranks in the Philippines’ trending lists on Twitter in recent Friday evenings.

These hashtags and terms stem from 2gether: The Series, a Thai ‘Boys’ Love’ drama being premiered live on the YouTube channel of GMM TV every Friday night.

The story revolves around Tine, a freshman Pre-Law student who asks Sarawat, a freshman Political Science student, to pretend to be his boyfriend so he can avoid another guy who was courting him.


Other past Thai dramas such as Hormones, Kiss, Kiss Me Again, 3 Will Be Free, Dark Blue Kiss, 2Moons and Theory of Love have also gained traction on social media.

Dark Blue Kiss

‘Boys’ Love’, or ‘BL’ as enthusiasts call them, is not a new concept in Thai entertainment, but it has gained a steadily-growing following in the past couple of years.


BL dramas and movies have also helped cement Thailand’s reputation as being heavily open to same-sex relationships and transgendered characters, despite not having a same-sex marriage law in place.




Daily Guardian asked several Ilonggos to share what attracted them to watch Thai BL series.


Rea, a Law student from Leganes town who had only started watching BL dramas, said that there was more to these than just the regular ‘eye candy’.


“Aside sa eyecandies, very cute and simple lang ang storyline! Problema bi sa madamo nga shows sa Philippine TV, naging complicated and violent na ang storya. Tama na sa mga kabit kag mga goons please. Kag siyempre, manami siya na inspiration para sa LGBT community. But I won’t go into that as it’s not my story to tell,” she said.


Stephen, a working Law student from Iloilo City, who has been watching these kinds of shows since 2013, said that it helps him fulfill his fantasies as a gay man.


“Aside from visually appealing leads, I could relate to some of the characters and feel good lang sya. And somehow, gina-fulfill ya ang fantasies sang gay people nga bisan sa series na lang, we could have our happy ending,” he said.


Communication Arts student Ivan from Leon town had struck a similar tone, saying that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community can relate to these kinds of dramas.


“I guess on the fact that BL series are new and rare to us here in the Philippines. We, the LGBT community had found a platform nga makarelate kami nga nakakita kami kang content nga naga-mirror sang amon [status quo] and also sang amon fantasies. Although Thai culture and acceptance sang Thai media sang BL series are way different here in PH, I think ang naga-connect sa duwa is ang language of love nga no matter who you are, once you have that feeling of love, everybody understands,” he said.


Thea, another Law student from Barotac Nuevo, has found that BL stories tend to be more appealing than shows with heterosexual couples.


“I think for some, it’s the visual plus the ‘kilig’ BL series offer. Personally, I find BL storylines more appealing than heterosexual plots. Also, Thai BL culture is fun and very entertaining especially during these idle times,” she said.


Michael, a young professional from Tigbauan town, has attributed his newfound attraction towards the visuals.


“Aside from the fact that Thai BL actors are good looking, I think that one of the factors that attracts people to watch it is the way every Boy Love story is presented. It has a very unique presentation that is not only limited to the beautiful places and culture that Thailand has but also how the people around react to situations where 2 boys are starting to build their love story with no judgement and that love and acceptance rise above all,” he said.


Debs, a Foreign Service student from Iloilo City who has been very active in the Thai BL ‘fandom’, had compared Thai BL series to Korean dramas, saying that there is also a cultural factor.


“People really want to explore other cultures, like when they explored K-drama. Thai culture is very unique and beautiful. The way the artists portrays their characters, how the plot of the story goes, the “kilig” moments, the looks of the actors and of course the chemistry that two boys are showing on and off screen, I think those made the people feel attracted to Thai BL series,” she said.


Dr. Renz Argao, Founder and Director of the Argao Center for Psychological Services in Makati City, has seen some of the series and believes that what attracts people to it is that it may be reflective of love stories or heartaches, especially that of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex Plus (LGBTQI+) community.


“For many, especially those in the LGBTQI+ Community, these stories are their own stories. It reflects their experiences, their own love stories or their heartaches. Thru these dramas, there is already that representation in mainstream media that we don’t see, especially here in the Philippines. It is their world that they see represented in the media. It is a way to connect with the characters and their stories. While most plots may be a bit leaning on the “fairy tale” side of things, that also makes them good because you get to see happy gay love stories. Most LGBTQI+ stories we see on media, lalo sa atin dito, are often sad or have bad endings,” Argao said.




The common theme among these Ilonggo youths is that watching Thai BL shows has helped them cope with staying at home, and likewise helped them in detaching from the realities brought about by related news and pronouncements during the ECQ.


Thea and Michael have both stated that watching Thai BL shows combats the boredom they are feeling and the anxiety that may come along with it.


“It’s my main source of entertainment nowadays. Staying at home everyday without other alternatives can be boring and tolling emotionally and mentally as well,” Thea said.


“It helped me in such a way that I have something to watch to combat boredom. Watching Thai BL series during this ECQ period gave me a pinch of joy during this time of pandemic and diverted my attention from all negativity and toxicity that is happening around,” Michael said.


Ivan reiterated the answer to the previous question, saying that him relating to the stories helps him to cope from the mental stress brought about by COVID-19 and the ECQ.


“It was my dose of entertainment because I can relate to the stories and the emotions expressed on BL plots. At this time of crisis where too much negativities are spreading that can affect our mental health, it is one way of diverting our attention once in a while. In short, it keeps me sane while waiting for another episode, which lasts for a week, is one of the challenges. there is something to look forward to,” he said.


Stephen said that watching Thai BL dramas is a good coping mechanism for him but it may not be applicable to everyone.


“It depends on the person. We have different coping mechanisms but for me watching Thai BL dramas is a good way to detach ourselves from this COVID-19 scare and to ease our boredom as well,” he said.


Debs said that as an avid fan, it makes her feel at peace and worry less at this time, even when knowing that COVID-19 cases do go higher in other parts of the country and the world.


“It did help me. It made me feel calm, and feel less stress, it’s like you’re being separated from this world, from this crisis. Every time I open my laptop and watch the series, it made me feel at peace, less worry. The people with [COVID-19] cases are rapidly rising each day, and when I start to watch the series, it’s like your being pulled back from the day when this pandemic was not even here, where everyone is happy, and enjoying life,” she said.


Rea shared her sentiment that she had been frustrated with the slow action of the government and that watching Thai BL shows had helped her find a much-needed break from reality.


“The ECQ hasn’t been great for mental health. Reading the news every day, while important, can be very taxing. But we shouldn’t shoot the messenger. The National Government is failing at handling this health crisis, giving everyone anxiety on how to proceed with their lives, and the President’s late-night addresses aren’t as reassuring as they should be! Instead of focusing on medical solutions, they give us military and disciplinary policies. Dugangan pa sang mental gymnastics sa mga post sa Facebook, makapoy guid! I’m very lucky na amo lang ini ang epekto sa akon sang ECQ. Wala pa ginagutom ang pamilya ko. Wala ako problemahon na galastuson. Hindi ko kilanlan magwa. Ang kilanlan ko lang ubrahon, magpahimunong sa balay kag lingawon ang lawas ko. With that said, it is nice having something to look forward to every week. Watching BL Thai series is a much needed break from reality. For a few hours a week, malipatan mo ang mga problema subong. Kabudlay pa dayun makangita kilig during quarantine, so keri na ni,” she said.


Dr. Argao said that watching these kinds of shows may offer some relief or an escape from the current situation but has cautioned to take this in moderation.


“I think it can be a good coping mechanism since it may offer some relief or an “escape” from the situation we are facing. I see tweets and reactions showing the ‘kilig‘ that the fans have and that helps them feel good or happy amidst the ‘cabin fever’ or isolation we face. And when you also get to talk about them with your friends, the TV shows indirectly connects you to other people. Of course, some degree of moderation is needed din, watch responsibly kasi even if it can help you cope, if it causes you naman to forget your responsibilities, then that can lead to problems din,” he said.


He also encouraged other coping mechanisms to try during the ECQ, such as connecting with friends online and to avoid toxic content on traditional and social media.


“As to other coping, of course nandiyan yung engaging in physical activities like exercise since meron namang mga home workout routines; practicing self-care din such as taking breaks, social media detox, relaxation exercises. Important din yung maintaining social connection kahit online lang. While we may be physically distant or isolated even, it should not prevent us from being connected through communication channels. To take care of your wellbeing, avoid din content on media that can cause you stress or anxiety, so filter din what you read or watch. If you are into arts or crafts, you can also do that. There are websites that now offer din mga printable materials you can use for arts and crafts. While it will be good to be productive during these times, wag din nating pilitin yung sarili natin kasi we are facing a pandemic so it is ok to allow yourself some leniency in dealing with what is at-hand. Engaging in volunteer work, when you can, may also be helpful in coping,” he said.