Mar 2, 2013

The Blossoming of Maximo Olivares

The Philippines has produced a surprising number of gay-themed films, perhaps more than any other country outside the U.S.  The Internet Movie Database lists over 100, dating back to 1954.  Many are available in the U.S.: Macho Dancer (1988), Sibak (1994), Burlesk King (1999), The Blossoming of Maximo Olivares (2005), and Twilight Dancers (2006).

Maximo Olivares transcends the Euro-American model of gay teen movies, in which: 1. The teen believes that there are no other gay people in the universe; 2. Everyone is horrifically homophobic; 3. Everyone is horribly depressed.

Maxi (Nathan Lopez) is a 12-year old gay boy living in the slums of Manila with his father and brothers, who are thieves.  He actually behaves more like the Filipino third gender, bakla or "ladyboy": he has feminine mannerisms, wears makeup and jewelry, takes on feminine-coded jobs like cooking and childcare, and calls himself a "girl."  But who cares how he's defined when his family and friends are perfectly accepting, and Maxi is perfectly at home in his world?

When Maxi gets s a crush on Victor (J.R. Valentin), the police officer assigned to investigate his father, Victor responds as any adult would to a flirtatious 12-year old: he is flattered by the attention, and tries to nurture and big-brother the boy, but he resists or ignores Maxi's attempts to frame himself as a "girlfriend."

But then Maxi begins showing up at work, causing teasing and taunts from Victor's fellow officers, and Maxi's Dad (Ping Medina) thinks that Victor has been sleeping with him, so Victor backs off.  Maxi is devastated.

Events take a tragic turn when Victor's boss kills Maxi's Dad.  Later Victor tries to renew the friendship, but Maxi ignores him and walks off alone.

Nathan Lopez, who is actually heterosexual in real life, also played a gay teen in the Filipino soap opera Sana Maulit Muli (2007), and currently stars in the soap Be Careful with My Heart.  JR Valentin got his start as a model, and was named winner of the Bodyshots modeling competition in 2000.   He has appeared in several movies and tv programs in the Philippines.

The Blossoming of Maximo Olivares is #8 on my list of 10 Gay Movies I Loved.


  1. I had seeing the film of Maximo many time when I was 16yo with my first Laptop in 2006. I don't know if you know the word "Baklita" for yng gay boy and young teen living in Philipinnes ?

    I learnt these yng teen who like be dressed like a girl with make-up in their face and flower in their hair exactly like Maximo and her friends who make show with umbrella etc...

    I have around 100 pics of them. No nudity only boys who want be girls like Maximo.

    Tell me thi is it an Urban Legend or it's true ????

    JeZ 23 years

  2. Bakla originally referred to the third genders that were common across the Pacific. We find other examples in Indonesia, Vietnam, and in the South Pacific (Samoa, Fiji). With the rise of the LGBT movement in the 1970s, many cultures began looking for words for people with exclusive same-sex interests. Some adopted "gay," but when that sounded too Western, they appropriating local words for third genders as an equivalent for gay/lesbian. Or they adopted both, and using one or the other would be a marker of your region or social class. 

  3. An excellent book on the subject of third and changing genders in world cultures is Gilbert Herdt's "Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History." It's a little hefty, 700 pages, so I usually suggest Serenda Nanda's "Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations"


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