Have you been to any editorial or commercial photo shoot? If yes, you’d know how the atmosphere could get a little intimidating and full of tension with at least two passionate creatives in one room. Yet, with shared interests and social circles binding them, it’s still common for two people with a penchant for the arts become friends in the end, or, better yet, partners. Just think John and Yoko. For artsy-fartsy young couple BJ Pascual and Mike Lavarez, who have been both immersed in the creative industry for some time now, it wasn’t really as dramatic as that. It just took a little longer, though—say, 10 years since first knowing each other, before they actually got together. The sought-after celebrity photographer and art director-DJ’s story? Just enough to spread some good vibes!
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Hmm. 10 years… Why did it take so long for each of you to make a move on each other?
Mike: I was a young designer and he was starting his career as a photographer. I don’t remember how we got introduced but we’d always bump into each other at parties or events. A lot of times he would invite me to his birthday parties pero nahihiya ako even if our common friends are going!
BJ: I’ve had a crush on him for the longest time—back when he was still super skinny and wore torn up clothes that he designed himself. I never really talk to my crushes cause I get shy, so it took 10 years before anything ever materialized! (Laughs)
B: I always thought he was super masungit. He has a resting b*tch face and I never saw him smile.
M: I get that all the time! (Laughs) My first impression of him was high maintenance sya, but I proved myself wrong when he took me to a goto place after my gig. That’s was technically our first-ever date!
B: Actually, medyo high-maintenance nga ako, na may halong jeje! (Laughs). When I’m at his gigs, he always plays “Uptown Girl” cause song daw nya yon sakin. (Laughs) But Mike is actually the nicest guy you’ll meet. But sometimes he can be really masungit, especially 'pag kinukulit ko sya!
What do you guys love to do?
B: We like to eat a lot, and watch movies usually in bed. He has a huge collection of classic Filipino movies on DVD that I’ve yet to dig into. Oh, and he also likes making playlists for me! Currently addicted to the Italo Disco playlist he gave me!
M: If it’s not yet too obvious, mahilig kami mag-photo shoot! (Laughs) Kidding aside, as visual individuals it really is one of the things we enjoy doing together. Taking photos, just capturing moments… I would always give him personalized gifts like artworks of us together. He knows I love Pilita Corrales so he took me to her concert and gave me a signed copy of her vinyl. For our anniversary, I gave him a set of Polaroids with couple selfies per month. Pa-cute lang!
…and talk about?
B: Seventies and 80s Pinoy pop culture. Mike likes to talk like he’s in a campy Pinoy 80s movie.
M: Art, fashion, and photography! Oh, and 90s pop culture! I actually learned from him that Shaina Magdayao once released a song called “Chicharon!”
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You guys are always Instagram-ready! Especially on your trips together!
B: We haven’t been on many trips yet but we went to Japan for his birthday. It was our first out of the country trip together. We spent a few days getting lost in Osaka, eating and vintage shopping—mostly me. On his birthday, we found a random bar in a random alley with a really friendly bartender and drank sake and whiskey. We spent the next few days in Kyoto. It was magical! Also, we ate a lot!
M: Nara was memorable because it was nearing sunset—the scenery was calming- ang zen! I felt that BJ wasn’t too keen on going because malayo and he’s scared of deer! But he knew I really wanted to visit so we went anyway. He took photos of me with the deer—as usual, maganda. I went home blushing.
B: Bangkok was also amazing!
M: We went to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Bangkok with two other couples who were friends. Aside from visiting the usual tourist spots, I asked a friend of mine who lives there to take us to some interesting bars. Our last stop was at a neighborhood karaoke place where BJ and I sang our hearts out to a few Jessa Zaragozas—everyone in the room was Thai and had no clue of what the crazy-singing was all about! We had a blast!
B: That night was so much fun, we literally did it again! Plus dinagdagan pa namin ng Aegis the following night! But I usually travel a lot for work and so I’d like to travel more with Mike this year! Hopefully, somewhere in Europe? We’ll see!
M: With our busy and erratic schedules, we hope to make more time for each other. To travel more and to sing more OPM in bars of places we’ve never been to! Hah!
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It can be said you’re a power couple with your art and social media influence combined. This is especially the case for the LGBTQ+ crowd. How do you support the idea of #LoveWins and in your own ways?
B: I’ve been very vocal about LGBT issues and I always say representation matters. I think simply by being visible as a couple, even by just posting photos, we can help “normalize” same-sex couples in the public eye.
M: I’m a resident DJ every Wednesday at Nectar Club. Each night is packed and we typically end around 5 AM. It’s very pro LGBT as we host a month-end drag competition and absolutely everyone is free to be themselves—the straights, the gays. And I’m very family oriented and I believe that everything starts inside at home. My mom, sis, and aunts joined the annual Pride March in San Fransisco last year not only for me and BJ. But it was also to display their support for the community and equal and unconditional love.
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Banner image by Lui Jimenez | Photographs by Mike Lavarez and BJ Pascual