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Just the mirror and me. This is how it started for Wong.
As a young kid, I have always been living two lives, one that I show to the world and the one that I hide yet means the world to me. As the first-born male illegitimate child in the family, being myself was far from easy. I had to conform to the laden life provided to me bound by th
Just the mirror and me. This is how it started for Wong.
As a young kid, I have always been living two lives, one that I show to the world and the one that I hide yet means the world to me. As the first-born male illegitimate child in the family, being myself was far from easy. I had to conform to the laden life provided to me bound by the chains of what is acceptable and considered normal. But like all things in life, what is hidden will be brought to light. My life spun to an unrecognizable future, one where the price of my authenticity is the cost of privilege and family. I needed to suffer the loss of my former self to live a life that is true to who I am. This endeavor taught me what it means to create your own family. I was without a Mom and Dad. But I have Lola, I have me.
From being alone with the mirror in my room to the four sides of the stage, I started living and breathing my truest self through art and entertainment. Beauty pageants paved the way for a multitude of realities that I will live in this lifetime. It opened doors for me to explore other resting passions; makeup artistry, fashion styling, and performance. I have lived as a performer in this life knowing and proudly entertaining as a former female impersonator taking home a measly ₱300 per show. The price tag was as little as its secular worth, but the value it gave me as a person was priceless. I have only ever lived within the four walls of my bedroom but with each performance, I know that I am lifted higher and closer to realizing my full potential. Having limited access to wigs, costumes, accessories, and fineries. I needed to be resourceful, every day was a mission to make something out of nothing. I had no one to teach me the way, I had to learn by myself. But, I was never alone.
I was born into privilege and yet it was taken from me at a young age. It was this experience that made me care more about people and communities that are close to me. We live in the same world. We share the same stage. We are each other’s worlds. When I was 17-year-old I started to help young aspirants to join and win transgender pageants back in 2004. My unwavering passion for celebrating beauty competitions eventually led me to champion my LGBTQ+ and women pageants. Day in and out, this has been my life for three years. Making beautiful memories and creating my own family. This was a phase of my life where I embraced the triumphs and tribulations, and all the beauty and chaos that transpire every single day on the four sides of the pageant stage. I have never stopped working towards my dreams because I know there will be so much more coming my way.
“Magaling ka, Wong.” This has brought me so much joy and tears as I remember Direk Wenn fondly saying this to me. I believe that every day brings its brand of sorrow and regret and these encounters enable us to power through each struggle and carry out the strength to move forward. I am forever grateful but my heart yearns for more. There are more corners to conquer, more stages to set, and more life to live outside of a small town. Seeing all the lights, the fashion, the billboards, the movies, the celebrities. I want to be a part of that world. A world where beauty makes up for the grit, where fame makes up for all the losses, and where fortune favors the bold. I started from the pits of production to be one of the most hardworking costume designers and film stylists with the trust of famed directors and artists. All of the hard work paid off. I went from grit to great. I am proud of what I have achieved. But when I close my eyes, I know there more realities for me to live.
Kristine K Stevens, in her book, said, “If your dream does not scare you, it isn’t big enough.”
On the set at the filming of Past Tense back in 2014, on an encounter only fate can pull off, I saw Olivia Lamasan in action—subbing for Mae Cruz-Alviar to direct a heavy scene with Richard Yap and Ai-Ai Delas Alas. This might be a common occurrence in the filming industry but not for me, this moment with Olivia was meant to happen for a reason. In that short amount of minutes, I was taken aback by Olivia’s precise brilliance on set. Right there and then, I was taken ten years back and I was 17 again dreaming of bringing stories to life on stage through performing and creating costumes. Not knowing that ten years after, a higher calling beckons me to put all the stories to the stage on the screens of cinemas. I have found my ‘why’. Every detail of my past realities has been preparing me for a momentous decision. While most will call it luck that I was in the right place at the right time, I call it God’s work. I strongly believe that He allowed me to be at the exact moment and place as Olivia— this is the time to act.
My point of view and commitment to this calling centers on the beautiful tales of the people that inspired me in all the ways that we walk our lives; the good, the bad, the beauty, the thorned, the triumphs, and the tribulations. This community with its beauty and beasts is an awakening to my lifelong passion for directing and producing my film. My focus is to be able to tell stories of the diverse culture within the mystically misunderstood world of the LGBTQ+ community and thoroughly give it justice. The challenges that we face daily, the rights that we do not get to enjoy, and the judgments carried out by our indulgences are worth sharing. Tell stories of people from all walks of life, in and out of the community, in and out of our differences, because I believe that we all have to walk this earth towards a higher purpose, and how we get there is worth telling.
Filmmaking is a deep-seated passion and as I go through the motions of peaks and lows of learning the craft, I got abandoned by a producer who committed herself to the project and backed out at the last minute. I was charging way too strong and way too fast. There were a lot of ways to accomplish my dreams, but there are also a lot of wrong ways. All of these paved the way for my personal and deep challenges: depression.
I am grateful that I have triumphed over my depression when all of these happened because I learned that while we are all battling with our demons, depression, and disappointments there is also a light at the end of the tunnel when we accept life for what it is and embrace both the beauty and the pain it brings. Coming out of my struggles with depression, I was able to understand myself more, live my truth and mature as my best self, Xilhouete.
On Halloween of 2017, Xilhouete arrived. On a fateful night of costume and fantasy. Once on a drag show, I was asked by close friends to perform for old time’s sake. While I do not have any intention of performing, I ended up competing after being read by another queen. Not to be outshined, Xilhouete took home the crown that evening. Arriving in the depths of the night, inside a nightclub with lights and shadows at play, Xilhouete’s first name was a mere depiction of a filming technique: Silhouette.
The adaptation from 'S' to 'X' happened with a higher consciousness of my identity as non-binary. X is both either and neither. A perceived sense of being that can be freely interpreted by the beholder. While most see alternate identities as secondary, I am Xilhouete, we are each other. Getting to know myself on a deeper level to a degree that I never fathomed and knowing myself through and through. I now have a more profound understanding of telling stories. One that is not limited to films and books and sedentary mediums. My passion as told by stories can be shared from different platforms even the oft-overlooked four corners of the stage. On the confines of the four-stage, I am able to breathe to life the stories of my beloved queens adorned with music, costume, and lights.
As I look back at my 17-year-old self, especially during moments where we are not on stage, and we are just living happy lives, lip-syncing on the streets and being our most authentic selves. I realize that to be able to witness the wonders of life is a truly amazing feat. And, to share these wonders with a vision is a challenge only given to a few. Everyone has a story to tell. Each is far different from the other yet shares the same heart. When you hear stories worth telling, when you see people deserving applause rather than ridicule, you take it upon yourself to tell these stories when everybody else chooses not to.
Xilhouete is not a fragment of my identity, I am Xilhouete.
"My name will tell you my story, not my gender."
The struggles we keep to hide the truth.
What does freedom mean to you?
Drag Artist. Curator. Creative Director. Film Maker.
Matriarch of House Xilhouete
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
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