“I’m an art director for a photography company and on the side, I’m a resident DJ for Nectar Nightclub—it’s a gay night club, where I play on Wednesdays and Thursdays. We have a party called Poison Wednesdays playing pop from the 90s to the 2000s," Mike Lavarez, celebrity photographer BJ Pascual's equally popular other half, proudly introduces himself. He's one of the openly gay men in the country now living the life in this day and age of easy transition as he sees it. The Filipino general mindset towards the LGBTQI+ community is slowly gearing towards significant tolerance and acceptance, he relishes in these exciting times.
Yes, Mike is one of those lucky ones who've had a supportive family to back him up in his coming out. “Actually, never akong nagkaroon ng very remarkable coming out (story), yung drama, walang ganun at all. ‘Mom, okay lang if I wear this, ah?’ And she asked, ‘Bading ka ba?’ ‘Yes, I think,’ sabi kong ganon nung high school. 'Tapos yun na. In less than 30 minutes, tapos na, nag-come out na ako, kung coming out man nga yun.""Then, she went to the States with my sister and yung mga family members namin. And they all went to the San Francisco Pride March to support me, so ganung level yung acceptance and yung support sa 'kin."
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Yet, Mike hasn't been spared from what anti-gay prejudices could do unto careers and perspectives. "Being a gay DJ sometimes limits me to play at other venues. But your talent and determination will eventually speak for you. Actually, ako kasi as a person, I always see the good in every situation. I would always be optimistic lang and see kung ano yung good na makikita mo in that problem.”
Social media might have helped shape Mike's status in our present society (he has 28,400 followers and counting!), but he says it's just one side of the coin. “With social media kasi syempre since medyo established naman na out ako—kami ni BJ as a couple—nandyan yung mga comments na di magaganda. Bibigyan ka ng mga Bible verse, di ba medyo nakakaloka yun? Ano ba, kalma lang, guys! Ako, of course, I don’t hate on them, siguro ganun yung pananaw nila because iba yung opinion nila or may very strong religious beliefs sila. Of course, you still have to respect di ba? Ako, laging ganun.”
[related: Love Actually: #LoveWins Gets Cuter And More IG-Perfect With Couple BJ Pascual And Mike Lavarez!]
It is this optimism and general kindness and acceptance toward others that Mike, a visual communications alumnus of the University of the Philippines, operates. "For me it doesn’t mean na kailangan merong stronger, kailangan may weaker, hindi kailangan may black, hindi kailangan may white. For me, I think yung importance ng diversity is kung paano natin gagamitin yun to be able to promote our personal strengths.”
“Actually ngayon, sobrang ganda nung transition. I’ve been a DJ for a long time, siguro may 10 years na. Minority talaga ang tingin sayo kasi kapag bakla ka. Eh, ngayon, ang dami nang mga musical artists, like for example Troye Sivan and Sam Smith na I would say napaka-blissful nung pag-out nila na hindi pilit. And just to add also, sa local scene natin, we also have a local magazine that’s a good representation of our LGBT society. And sa Philippines yun, so ang ganda," he beams.
As a music mixer, Mike considers his music as his contribution to uplifting the LGBTQ community in their efforts to make a mark and be heard. “Hindi naman sa nagpa-plug ako pero since we started kasi yung Nectar on Wednesdays, it’s all about the celebration of being who you are, it is a celebration of being individualistic. If you’re straight, if you’re gay, if you’re lesbian, if you’re queer, or if you wanna go in drag, you’re free to do so and you’re welcome to party with us," he declares. "So, through my music, for example, papasukan ko yung mga mixes ko ng mga very gay anthems like ‘I Will Survive’ na talagang syempre pag narinig ng mga kapatid natin sa LGBT, they would have fun. It makes them feel empowered.”
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Produced by Camille Santiago | Creative direction by Barry Viloria | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Shot by Tin Zabat | Edited by Lui Jimenez | Makeup Patrick lcober, Jinx Agabao, and Maws Diaz of Make Up For Ever | Sam Corbillon of Triple Luck Brow and Nail Salon | Shot on location at City Garden Grand Hotel | Special thanks to Margarette Domingo | Banner image by Lui Jimenez