WORDS BY: ERWIN ROMULO
ILLUSTRATION BY: WARREN ESPEJO
Unlike the girls, we couldn’t get silly and giggle about it—although we desperately wanted to. And make no mistake; it was starting to feel as one writer put it, “the human male sex has become a rust bowl.”
For Filipino men, it had become so parlous that we started to read women’s magazines to just to be able to ogle at Filipinas we liked.
Then FHM Philippines started up, the first of its kind: a glossy, lad’s magazine. Now, of course, all magazines sell sex in one form or another—just like about everything else in the media.
But the coming of FHM Philippines gave us not only new topics to talk about; it gave a focal point that masculinity could be discussed at or, perhaps even better, be giggled at. Because a men’s magazine should be about men, even if we only see a majority of girls in it.
One need only mention that landmark cover of Dina Bonnevie and maybe you can see what we mean. That was nothing less than a breakthrough. Not only did it set records in sales, it also exposed the fact that men found older women hot or even hotter than their younger counterparts.
It introduced the concept of the MILF in Philippine culture as much as it did the “cougar” tag that would attach itself to those who followed Ms. D such as Eula Valdez, Pops Fernandez and Jean Garcia as subjects of male desire.
On the other end of that spectrum, it was FHM that plucked a young Angel Locsin and put her on its cover, kick-starting her ascent into showbiz superstardom. She remains one of the country’s most popular actresses.
This wasn’t just any newsprint tabloid that teenage boys would use to make stalactites on their bedroom ceilings. These were cultural events and the magazines themselves artifacts in pop culture.
It would be the subject of bills filed in congress, the rhetoric of the pastoral community and just about anywhere where men meet in a common area for drinks or coffee. Even just for water.
In an era where nothing really happens anymore and—with apologies to Nick de Ocampo—revolutions are declared as frequent as the taglines in commercial adverts than refrains in a song—it was liberating, if not revolutionary to have it out in public. (Not just the tits, mind you.)
Sex had finally arrived and it was ok. Everything was fine.
If anything, the closest comparison we could make in pop culture in terms of impact would be the Eraserheads. What the latter group did for OPM is perhaps the closest comparison to what the magazine has accomplished in local publishing.
Far-fetched? Consider that the success of both hinged on borrowing a template established abroad and remolding it in the Filipino vernacular.
FHM Philippines was pioneering not so much in form but in that the magazine gave us an image of Filipinas that lay hidden under the skirt of Maria Clara.
It was there all along. It rang true. It rang in the changes that took place. It’s still ringing in the changes that are still taking place. Men and women can talk now about these things.
After all, it wouldn’t be that fun alone and without a little chitchat, would it?
Erwin Romulo is the associate editor of The Philippine Press. He is also an FHM Philippines contributor.