Performing the Bakla in The Care Divas: Cross-Dressing, Affective Labor and the Glimpse of the Cosmopolitan


This essay is a close reading of The Care Divas, a Filipino musical revolving around the struggle of five Filipino caregivers in Israel who also struggle with their sexual identities as bakla (Filipino homosexual). The analysis is both an affirmation and a critique of the performance. In the affirmation, the musical is argued to present a social reality that is intended for and in need of interrogation: the Filipino bakla. The musical implicitly features the bakla as a cosmopolitan. At the outset, this cosmopolitan disposition comes from the fact that the characters are migrant workers (caregivers). But more importantly, the cosmopolitan character is from a responsibility toward the other anchored within a genuine caring as implicated in the affective labor of these caregiver characters. In the critique, the essay marks some problematic limitations in the treatment of the bakla. In doing so, the musical, despite its attempt to present a social reality, is a problem play, a social drama touching social issues—realistic in approach, but the representation seems like an editorial. In the final analysis, The Care Divas is argued to seemingly fail because artists are not able to see the complexity of their chosen subject in a bigger picture.

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