WORDS BY: ERWIN ROMULO
ILLUSTRATION BY: WARREN ESPEJO
“Without the admiring presence of a female, mine was a penile tree that fell in the forest: who was to say it ever existed at all”
—Will Self, ‘Perfidious Man’
Before FHM, there was no sex in the Philippines. That might seem like an overstatement—it is, actually—but it is arguably true in some regard, especially for the Pinoy male.
Not withstanding the efforts of Margie Holmes, before FHM Philippines, we really only kissed, held hands, of course we made love, occasionally fucked.
But sex as a topic didn’t enter our cultural lexicon until the magazine hit the stands 10 years ago. Then it hit the mainstream; it was inevitable, part of the times.
It was then that Filipinos acknowledged their genital parts and how they worked in relation to stimulus. This wasn’t poetry after all—salacious metaphors weren’t adequate anymore.
In the West, it’s oft been said that sex was invented in the 1960’s. Although it’s a flippant remark, it’s again not wholly wrong.
Though procreation was there even before it was written that Our Lord called upon us to “go forth and multiply” it bears remembering how, in Victorian England they used to cover up piano legs lest they inspire phallic fever dreams in the imaginations of their genteel society.
That puritanical streak never fully left until the 60’s (although it’s debatable whether it wasn’t just marketed back to them by the end of it). With the invention of the Pill, the rise of Women’s Liberation and all the pervasive din of rock n’ roll, the sexual revolution began.
There’d been a whole lotta-shaking going on since the 50’s, since the kid Elvis shook his pelvis and started to sing like a black man. When Little Richard sang, “Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom” in "Tutti Frutti," he wasn’t talking about just any candy.
Even if the kids knew this, it wasn’t expressed in anything but their frenzied bump and grind on the dance floor. Something was about to happen, and it did.
Over here, things took a little more time. Oh yes, women started wearing bikinis (named after the Bikini Atoll, one of the Micronesian Islands in the Pacific Ocean, part of Republic of the Marshall Islands, which was the site of more than 20 nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958, yet again signifying and defining in as little possible both Eros and Thanatos and that era) but it was mere costume.
All those beauty pageant contestants that occasionally graced the covers of The Philippines Free Press in their swimsuits in 60’s and 70’s wore modest faces—there was no sex in them.
Then came the “bomba films” and “ff” (the latter being short for “fighting fish,” which were pornographic inserts totally unrelated to the film being shown and injected in segments during intermittently during its screening).
But this was mere distraction and novelty to the real bombs and fighting going on in the streets. No matter if these movie-houses held the nation by its balls as Plaza Miranda held its heart.
In the early 70’s, the Marcos government held everything else…in fear. (Although we can also credit the late dictator for perhaps having the first sex tape in the Philippines, when his paramour Dovie Beams released a cassette recording of one of their encounters to the press. Memorable if only for the fact we hear the late President post-coitus singing off-key in Ilocano.)
Sex was trivial. A pun, propaganda, blackmail—not worthy of discussion but only for its effects and aftermath—it wasn’t public as a subject of its own.
But as HBO’s Sex and the City was extolling with such glamour the sexual exploits of four women in New York, giving our local womenfolk archetypes to choose, all the guys got at the time was professional wrestling, hip-hop videos and liquor calendars (excluding the porn at your video rental shop) to express their masculinity.