I WISH there was an Aura when I was growing up.
And when I say “Aura,” I mean the openly gay character in ABS-CBN’s top-rating prime-time series FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano. Aura (pronounced “Awra”) started out as one of the bullies of the main child character Onyok. But then, Aura befriended Onyok because the latter is close to Cardo, the cop played by Coco Martin. Little did everyone know that Aura had been nurturing a major crush on Cardo and since at the time that he wasn’t out, he would make secret funny gestures every time Cardo talked to him.
As the show progressed, Aura came out in a heart wrenching scene where Cardo talked to Aura and said he accepts him for what he is, and that what’s important is his the pureness of his heart.
How I wish a character like Aura was already in the soaps I used to watch. Growing up gay in a province in the 1980s was tough on me. In the Antipolo village I grew up in, the sigas were the cool people and everyone wanted to be them or to be with them. They always looked cool and one of them was my kuya. He was their unspoken leader and as the main siga, he was the instigator of naughty pranks and the tormentor of uncool people.
So I always wanted to be cool. When the sigas listened to New Wave music, I listened to them too. I declared bands, such as The Clash, Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen were the greatest ever, but secretly, I was wishing I could be a lucky star like Madonna or a girl having fun like Cyndi Lauper.
Of course, the sigas were into sports, basketball, in particular. So for the sigas not to pick on me, I tried to play the game. About five times maybe. I can’t exactly remember what happened during these attempts that the number could be counted with the fingers of one hand. I must have slapped the behinds of these sigas or gave them a glance that lingered a second longer, making them too uncomfortable to invite me to play. I tried, I swear.
I even asked my mom to buy me a basketball and tried to practice in the privacy of my home, but after only 10 minutes of that, my kuya laughed at my feeble attempts and took the ball from me. That was the last time I saw it in the house. And that was the last time I held a basketball in my entire life.
Don’t get me wrong. My childhood wasn’t perfect, yes, but I had fun. I really did. I remembered laughing at Herbert Bautista in Jack & Jill. I super loved the scene when he didn’t want to come out from his room when he was called by his real name. He would only respond to “Jill” or “Jillian na Maganda.”
And then there’s Roderick Paulate. My favorite Roderick role at the time was Poy of Jack en Poy. The neighborhood video-rental store had a betamax copy of that movie and I think I was the only one who rented it. Not that it wasn’t popular, but every time it was due, I would return it and then rent it and watch it again. Again and again. In fact, there are a lot of scenes and dialogue in the movie that I can vividly recall still since I must have watched the movie 10 million times. When the video store permanently closed for business, the owner gave me the tape. I felt like I won the grand prize of that week’s sweepstakes.
Jill and Poy gave me hours and hours of fun. It was from them that maybe I learned (some) comic timing, (maybe some) panache, or at least (some) fashion flair with their outlandish outfits. But Jill was played by Herbert Bautista, who we all know is straight. And Roderick Paulate back in the 1980s dated Jackie Aquino and would talk in a deep modulated voice when hosting. Heck, he was even the local Rick Astley.
So imagine if Aura had been in my consciousness back then. I imagine how he could’ve inspired me and a lot of gays just to be ourselves. And to always be fierce like him. In fact, Aura made headlines with international news agencies recently, thanks to a children’s fashion show where he sashayed and posed with so much attitude that Tyra Banks would have cheered wildly.
I am sure Aura is inspiring a lot of gays to be themselves. And a lot of straights to accept gays for what they are. Thanks to his character, Aura teaches us to live and let live and accept diversity and—to paraphrase the great Maya Angelou—to be different from one another, yet be equal.
Salamat, Aura! Um-Aura ka lang palagi!