Marahuyo Project:
Adrian Lindayag, Neo France Garcia & JP Habac

It’s Pride, so let’s celebrate it. Not just in record-breaking attendances and bigger-than-life stage productions, but in the true essence of Pride Month: community. Because it’s not just in the thousands marching or in the endless counts of shared posts on social media that bring to light the real rallying cry.

 

In its barest form, Pride Month challenges us to strengthen and build on that community. To expand it, to open it, to educate it. And it’s clear from the last few days, as the episodes of Marahuyo Project have dropped, that the community is listening.

Neo is wearing a Brunello Cucinelli corduroy suit

Marahuyo Project, produced by ANIMA Studios and directed by JP Habac, tells the story of King, Ino and the friends they make along the way.

 

King, played by Adrian Lindayag, is an outspoken college student sent to the island of Marahuyo to live with his mom and lola. After getting into hot waters with the dean of his college, “Pinadala siya [sa Marahuyo]. Pinatapon siya dun (They sent him to Marahuyo. They threw him out there),” says Adrian.

 

Nevertheless, King still refuses to be anything but out-and-proud, and he takes it upon himself to found the first LGBTQIA+ student org in the campus of Mariano Soliman University. But before King can try to open the minds of the traditional and conservative residents of Marahuyo, he must first convince the traditional and conservative university student president, Ino—who just happens to be a closeted gay guy—played by Neo France Garcia.

The characters of King and Ino were intentionally crafted. The out-and-proud King versus the closeted and outwardly traditional Ino, according to director JP Habac, mirrors the community. 

 

Sobrang magkaiba ng backgrounds ng characters nina King at Ino. Si King, sobrang tanggap niya sarili niya, pinaglalaban niya kung sino talaga siya; hindi siya natatakot. Si Ino, nasa kanya ang lahat ng takot,” explains JP. “And I think it mirrors the community ngayon, ang pinaglalaban ng community ngayon.” 

 

(“The characters of King and Ino come from different backgrounds. King fully accepts himself; he fights for who he is and he has no fear. Ino has all of the fear,” explains JP. “And I think it mirrors the community now, what the community fights for now.”) 

 

JP went on to make an example of QC Pride 2023, which provided the community with a sense of foundation. “Feeling nila, ‘andyan na tayo, visible na tayo, narrepresent na tayo’ (People feel like ‘we’re here, we’re visible, we’re being represented’),” says JP. But he goes on to explain that, despite the strides, the LGBTQIA+ community is still the minority. He continues: “Marami pa ring takot, takot lumabas, mag-come out, iaccept yung truth nila (There are still people who are afraid, afraid to be out, come out, to accept their truth).”

 

Adrian and Neo share the sentiment, particularly because they can personally resonate with their characters. “I’m very passionate about the work that I do and my advocacies,” shares Adrian. “I’m sure may mga kaibigan ako (I have friends) from the same circles who feel the same way, who resonate with King.”

 

Meanwhile, Neo quips that he himself is just 22 years old and “still exploring life.” Marahuyo Project, shares Neo, helped him know himself a little bit more. “Nadiscover ko yung mga bagay na, before, takot ako malaman sa sarili ko (I’ve discovered things that, before, I was afraid to learn about myself).”

Neo is wearing Uniqlo black and gray knit sweaters and Zara Man pants

Neo’s favorite piece from Marahuyo Project is a phrase that’s been said a thousand times over: “Love will conquer all.” But in its simplicity lies its own complexity. “When you love something, when you love doing something, you’ll do everything for it. You’ll move mountains for it,” explains Neo. “So for me as Neo and as Ino, ngayon talaga ginagawa ko ang gusto ko and walang hesitation (now I really do what I want without hesitation). If I really want to do it, I’ll do it—whatever it takes,” he says.

 

But Adrian’s favorite from Marahuyo Project are words uttered by Baylan Nalundasan, a character we’ll see in the later episodes of the series: “Hindi totoong walang boses ang mga tao. Marami lang ang hindi marunong makinig, kaya ituloy niyo lang ang pag sigaw hanggan sa marinig ka nila (It’s not true that people have no voice. There are just more people who refuse to listen, so continue shouting until they have to hear you).”

 

“It reminds us not to stop fighting, not to stop representing, not to stop taking our space,” explains Adrian.

Videography and Editing Roniel Sanez

Adrian is wearing a Mainstreet black pullover and Mango Man pants

Because it’s these things—the invitation to take up your space, to do and be who you want to be—that make up the core thesis of Marahuyo Project. It invites us, in whatever state we’re in, to explore and then accept the findings of that exploration, to be a little kinder to those who are still figuring things out. But it must be explained in that same breath that there are limits to what we say and the ways in which we choose to be heard.

 

As director JP Habac explains, one of the inspirations for the series was an instance that caused social uproar: A trans woman being refused entry to the female dressing rooms in a popular fast fashion store. At the time of the incident. Louis Marasigan explained that she didn’t want to prolong the experience; she purchased the products after talking to the manager—who admitted being part of the LGBTQIA+ community herself, but offered no additional help—and left.

 

Sharing her experience on social media, Louis’ video gained millions of views and support, and rightfully so. But as JP explains, it’s these types of instances that could also bring out the worst in people. 

 

Marami talagang die hard yung activism to the point na para sa ibang tao, sobra na ata yun,” he explains. “Yun yung isang inspiration ng character ni King, kase parang tumulong ang mga taong para maging mas grounded yung pinaglalaban niya.”

 

(“There are some people who practice die hard activism, to the point that, for others, it’s a little too much,” he explains. “That was one of the inspirations of King’s character, because there are people who help keep him grounded in the fight).”

Adrian is wearing a Baró Label pinstripe oversized suit set and pinstripe oversized long-sleeve

Marahuyo Project is, in a way, a personal love letter from everyone that worked on it—from the cast to the crew, those that worked behind the camera and in front of it—and it’s written directly to the LGBTQIA+ community.

 

Punong-puno talaga ng pagmamahal ang project na ‘to,” shares Adrian. “The odds were against all of us, pero we still pushed through, and sana yun yung mapanood ng mga tao. Sana mag reflect ang puso ng lahat ng taong nagtulungan para mabuo itong series ‘to.”

 

(“This project is so full of love,” shares Adrian. “The odds were against all of us, but we still pushed through, and I hope that’s what people see. I hope the project reflects the heart of everyone who helped put this series together.”)

 

Neo and JP add that Marahuyo Project is for the younger queer generation, too. While Neo hopes that it will impact the younger members of the community, JP lauds the fact that the series will be able to reach a wider audience.

 

Nag-iisip kami ng way: ano yung magandang kwento na gugustuhan ng mga baklita, ng mga batang bakla sa probinsya na walang access sa mainstream media?” recalls JP. “Para ito sa kanila, kaya natutuwa kami na sa YouTube siya ipapalabas.”

 

(“We were thinking: what’s a beautiful story that younger queer individuals who live in the provinces and have no access to mainstream media?” recalls JP. “This is for them, which is why we’re happy that the series will be showing on YouTube.”)

JP, who has sat on the director’s chair of other queer series, provides further context on what makes Marahuyo Project stand out in his filmography.

 

Ang dalas na ginagawa ko, love stories at romantic comedies,” he explains. “This time, [we are] focusing on the friendship of a group of people na may kanya-kanyang kwento.”

 

(“Often, I work on love stories and romantic comedies,” he explains. “This time, [we are] focusing on the friendship of a group of people who each have their own stories.”)

 

The island of Marahuyo, while small and isolated, is full of colorful characters, and these characters have something unique to offer their audiences. There are different backgrounds, different points of view and different narratives to explore. Truth be told, we are in for so much than we bargained for, and we don’t even know it yet.

But producing content—especially if it’s queer content—opens the door for complaints and publicly aired concerns. Because whatever one person does, another person will point out how it could have been done better.

 

Hindi talaga mawawala ang mga opinyon ng tao sa mga gagawin mong kwento for the community,” admits JP. “But I think as long as wala kang tinatapakan mga tao sa ginagawa mo, wala naman dapat ipangamba.”

 

 (“The opinion of people will never disappear when you make stories for the community,” admits JP. “But I think as long as you don’t step on anyone, there isn’t anything to be concerned about.”)

 

As an actor, Adrian says that backlash is the least of his concerns. “Hindi ko alam kung wise or tamang mindset ito. Pero as an actor, hindi yun yung problema mo,” he explains. “Ang problema mo lang is to bring truth to the character and to be able to flesh out the character and make the character human. To make sure that you are staying true to the story, to the script. Lagi ko lang pinaghahawakan na honest yung pagkakaportray ko. Honest yung gawa ko.”

 

(“I don’t know if my mindset is wise or right. But as an actor, that isn’t my problem,” he explains. “My only problem is to bring truth to the character and to be able to flesh out the character and make the character human. To make sure that you are staying true to the story, to the script. I always hold onto the honesty of my portrayal. I’m honest in my work.”)

 

Neo, on the other hand, keeps it simple. He talks about how viewers will always have their own preconceived notions about sexuality and the community in general, but the important thing is that Marahuyo Project has heart. He concludes: “Kapag may puso, malayo mararating (When there is heart, you will get far).”

JP is wearing a COS black longsleeve

Because it all goes back to that sense of community. After all, it isn’t enough for one person to scream at the top of their lungs; other people need to join in on the chorus.

 

“It takes a village to know your truth, to know your identity,” points out JP. “Mas madali, actually, kung may mga taong tutulong sayo makilala mo ang sarili mo. Lalo na yung mga taong you trust so much na hindi kailangan pamilya mo, hindi kailangan birth family mo; pwedeng chosen family. Mga nakilala mo along the way na makakatulong ka to know yourself.”

 

(“It takes a village to know your truth, to know your identity,” points out JP. “It’s easier, actually, when you have people who will help you understand yourself. Especially if it’s people who you trust so much, and they don’t have to be your birth family; they can be from your chosen family. The kind of people who will help you know yourself.”)

JP is wearing a Baró Label oversized trench coat, Zara Man pants and a COS black oversized

So often, we think that “finding ourselves” is an individual experience. We think that it’s only with introspective activities that we can figure out who we are; it’s why we go on solo trips or take solitary walks by the beach. But the truth is that we’ll never figure ourselves out unless we take the chance to step out and meet people beyond our circles, and have experiences beyond our norms.

 

We need a community to understand what’s out there, what suits us and what doesn’t. If we don’t allow ourselves to be moved and inspired by anyone or anything, then we might never be whole. No one can become who they are meant to be without the combined effort of the people around them.

Catch the episodes of “Marahuyo Project” on ANIMA Studios’ YouTube channel.

Marahuyo Project
Credits
Marahuyo Project

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Photography Jerick Sanchez assisted by Roniel Sañez, Karl Rimando and Buddy Reyes

Creative Direction Alexandra Lara

Interview and Cover Story Adie Pieraz

Fashion Direction Nicole Blanco Ramos 

Styling Keith Angelo

Grooming Nadynne Esguerra

Special Thanks ANIMA Studios