Read Time: 6 minutes

For BenxJim’s Teejay Marquez, Love Is The Word

While we’re yet to hit the one-year mark in quarantine, it certainly feels like we’ve lived lifetimes in the past 11 months—and it has taken a toll on relationships the world over.  Some of us have broken ties altogether, others are at their breaking point and holding on for dear life.

 

But no matter what your current status is, there is one shining light we can all get behind and celebrate this love month: We’ve come a long way, especially in actually living out the tired saying that love is love is love. Or as we like to say it: Love Is The Word.

 

If you need any proof of the same, then look at our growing local library of BL content. Front and center for us right now is BenxJim and its second season, BenxJim Forever, which premieres this month on UPSTREAM.

 

We sat down with one of its stars, Teejay Marquez, to discuss the series’ popularity, the kind of support it’s received and whether or not society’s readiness had anything to do with it.

BENCH/ button-down shirt, Eyeful trenchcoat.

Our conversation with Teejay started with a flashback. When asked how he first reacted to the project, and whether or not he had any hesitations, his answer was simple: he didn’t have any. 

 

“When I first heard that I would be playing Ben, I felt so happy and excited,” he says, smiling. “This [was] actually the first time I would be playing a full gay role, and I [didn’t] have any hesitations at all because I [knew I would] be working with a good production [team], with Regal Entertainment and a good friend of mine, the director, Easy Ferrer.” He goes on to say he knew from the beginning that he would be in good hands, which in itself is a comfort we’re hopefully all familiar with. 

 

Despite this excitement, Teejay knew he owed the community his due diligence. With support from the team behind BenxJim, Teejay had SOGIE orientation courses and took his time watching and investing himself in other BL series, including 2gether and Dark Blue Kiss—everything he could get his hands on in order to understand his character better. 

Without a doubt, Teejay is grateful for the success of BenxJim and the opportunity to have worked on it at all. But what stuck out in our conversation is his admittance that the show’s fan base hit larger than their initial target. “People love our story. It’s not just the LGBTQ community,” he shares. “But even straight peopleparents or even straight guys…So it’s like, wow, people are getting more open about these kinds of stories.”

 

But what is it about BenxJim that has hit home with so many of us? No matter our SOGIE or the generation we were born into, why has this show such a hold on everyone?

 

According to Teejay, it’s all about the story.

Paul Smith printed shorts, BENCH/ denim trousers, MAZEE necklace, Veró Valentīne platform boots

“The story of BenxJim is actually for everybody, for all generations,” he states matter-of-factly. “People can easily relate to it; the story is light and people can really connect to it and understand. It’s a lighthearted story.” Teejay goes on to say that if the show had any sexual scenes, then it might not have been so well received—if it premiered ten years ago. But it’s the simplicity of the story and the love that they portray that has made it something for everyone, no matter where you come from. 

 

And it’s this stepping stone that BenxJim is comfortable holding down. The narrative of the series is doing so well in its job of helping set the landscape of what is and—maybe more importantly—what is considered normal. 

Bershka knitted shrug and cropped top, Paul Smith chinos and leather belt, Timberland hiking boots

Because what is a show if society is not ready to see it? After all, there have been several films and shows that highlight LGBTQIA+ love stories before, some of which were well acclaimed, but we cannot say for sure were palatable to millions the world over. Even now, we hear stories of people refusing to put on Brokeback Mountain because of its main characters, because the love between two grown men is something they are uncomfortable seeing. But Teejay argues the idea, saying that he thinks society is always ready, and that they only need that push. 

 

“We just need to have a voice to stand up for what we believe in. Like someone who [will] really push it forward, and the rest will just follow,” he says, making an example of BenxJim. “Change is good, we all grow, we all evolve. We just need someone to really to do [that] first thing, to [be the] voice, to represent.”

 

We don’t know about you, but we’re loving all the proper representation we’ve been seeing thus far. As Teejay shares: “This BL genre is one good platform for the people, the society, to understand the things that they don’t understand before because no one is telling them. “

Videography and Editing Ian Francisco

In reflection of his own personal journey, Teejay also admits that portraying Ben helped him fully understand how Love Is The Word indeed. He lets us know that it was in telling this fictional story that he came to the firm conclusion that heterosexual love stories and LGBTQIA+ love stories are one and the same

“How straight people love each other, how they court each other, how they show their love is the same as [any] LBGTQIA love story…Kahit sino, pwede natin mahalin (No matter who they are, we can love them).”

And just like that, we’re all one step closer to collectively understanding this.

There was a lot of mention of generations in our conversation, about how the younger ones are so much more accepting and seemingly more open minded. We discussed how an older audience might not have taken kindly to a piece like BenxJim if it was shown to them earlier. But Teejay is set in his belief that it was a matter of situation; that people need only the opportunity to have their eyes opened. 

 

After all, we’re shaped by our past. And no matter how much wisdom we have in hindsight, it’s important to remember that we only have this wisdom because of the actions and risks taken by those before us. If not for them, then there’s no saying where or what we’d be. 

Jhay Layson hot pink suit and powder pink blazer, Paul Smith striped silk blouse, MAZEE chain necklace and ear cuff, AXEL ARIGATO trainers

There was a lot of mention of generations in our conversation, about how the younger ones are so much more accepting and seemingly more open minded. We discussed how an older audience might not have taken kindly to a piece like BenxJim if it was shown to them earlier. But Teejay is set in his belief that it was a matter of situation; that people need only the opportunity to have their eyes opened. 

 

After all, we’re shaped by our past. And no matter how much wisdom we have in hindsight, it’s important to remember that we only have this wisdom because of the actions and risks taken by those before us. If not for them, then there’s no saying where or what we’d be. 

#BxJForever premieres on UPSTREAM this February 12. 

Photography Renzo Navarro

Art Direction and Art Alexandra Lara

Interview and Cover Story Adie Pieraz

Fashion Direction and Styling Nicole Blanco Ramos

Beauty Direction Cessi Treñas

Beauty and Grooming Ida Siasoco

Production Wonder

Special thanks to Regal Entertainment

Shot at Chroma Studio 

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