I come from a third world country – London, where I live now, is a first world. That’s the reality of it. Out here, growing up throughout my teens, self-expression was a bit… extra. It’s a conservative country out here – people are very obsessed with religion, and all our laws here are based off the Bible. Human rules are more-or-less put at the back; it’s like, ‘God first, and everything else after’. That whole idea trickles down to all perspectives.
Dressing up, being the kind of person that I am out here, and wanting to pursue your dreams – that’s a thing which is quite alien. It’s a very Asian trait, but if you come from a family or have a family business, it’s expected that you’d build your legacy instead of pursuing what you want as an individual. My family are all engineers and architects, and me and my brother were the first people in the family to step out of the circle; my father started doing multimedia, and I started following design. For a Filipino family, there was a lot of resistance to that, and a lot of disappointment. It got worse when I started to do music seriously.
I started making music from the age of 12 – I was starting bands and stuff like that. The thing about doing music here is that it’s kind of difficult. If you’re not a celebrity, you won’t get any recognition, even if you’re super talented. Some of my friends in the UK tell me that their parents wanted them to pursue college over music, or whatever, but it’s still a bit more open minded than it is here. It’s a dynasty thing, first and foremost, here.
With music, and the stuff that I do specifically, I’ve been exploring gender fluidity, and standing up for self-expression and stuff like that. Music itself is already like, ‘Yo, don’t get into it man!’. My family told me it was a dumb idea. But the things that I stand for, that made it much worse.
Homophobia is still very rampant here. It’s getting better – people are getting more educated and more used to that, and the idea of additional genders – but while I was growing up, it was really hard.
When I went to college, I surrounded myself with people who were into the same things. My friends were already talking about cultural differences, and the internet, and the whole South-East Asian culture and the rebellion against it – that was beautiful. Moving to London, I met so many people who were on my wavelength. In Manilla, I’d walk into a bar with coloured hair and someone would be like, ‘You crazy, man? Are you trying to get killed out here?’
There’s definitely been progress. I’m back in Manilla this week, and it’s been pretty sick. It’s not been so long since I was here and someone in a bar would try to intimidate me, but you can’t let that get to you. That kind of stuff takes time. But as I realise that I have a platform here, I realise that there’s more than just a few thousand kids looking up to me. I want to be a platform for what they have to say. I’m not a beacon of hope, but I feel like my role out here is to help people be who they want. I want people to think, ‘If he can do it, then I can.’