Today Elska Magazine releases its latest issue, made in Manila, Philippines. Inside a selecQon of local gay and queer men are introduced, who readers are encouraged to get to know through a combinaQon of honest and inQmate photography and personal stories.
Each Elska issue is made in a different city and ‘Elska Manila’ is the publicaQon’s twenty-fi[h. It also marks their sixth feature in Asia, following Taipei (Taiwan), Yokohama (Japan), Mumbai (India), Seoul (Korea), and Dhaka (Bangladesh). This is a region that has been seeing its LGBTQ communiQes emerge and flourish — from India’s decriminalisaQon of homosexuality last September, to Taiwan’s legalisaQon of same-sex marriage last May, to the Philippines’s honour of hosQng the largest Pride parade to ever take place in Asia last June. There’s sQll a long way to go for LGBTQ rights and queer society throughout, but while other parts of the world are seeing measurably lowering levels of acceptance, Asia seems to be becoming a new queer beacon for the world.
“I really hadn’t considered Manila as a desQnaQon for us before,” admits Elska editor and chief photographer Liam Campbell. “Unfortunately most of the media I’d seen previously about the city focused on slums, Trumpian poliQcians, and eccentric old ladies with shoe feQshes. However, over the years we’ve received so many requests from Filipino readers to visit and feature their country that eventually we had to pay agenQon and meet them. What I discovered was a vibrant Southeast-Asian metropolis with an especially proud and friendly community that really wanted and deserved a bigger spotlight on their city.“
Perhaps surprising for a predominantly Catholic country, the men we met in Manila were anything but conservaQve. Each parQcipant in Elska has the opQon to include nudity in their photoshoots and is welcome to write about any subject as long as the story they tell is true. The Manileños turned out to be parQcularly open and unabashed by sex or sexuality, being uninhibited in their pictorials and o[en explicit in their tales. InteresQngly Elska’s three issues with the most nudity are ‘Elska Guadalajara’, ‘Elska Bogotá’, and ‘Elska Manila’ — all largely Catholic countries and all former Spanish colonies.
The stories contributed by the Manila parQcipants suggest a few potenQal agributes of the gay Filipino character. There’s a good deal of humour, a strong sense of being proudly out, and also a someQmes worrying amount of over-modesty and a tendency to be self-effacing. Some of the stories shared in ‘Elska Manila’ include: Paolo D’s piece about his struggle to find his own light in spite of the demons of mental illness; Bryill B’s tale of a lusmul encounter on a very crowded rush- hour commuter train; Rej T’s story of going to a provincial family wedding and trying to escape the agenQon of bridesmaids hunQng for a single man; Anton L’s text that admits how Qred he is of hookup apps yet how he keeps using them anyway; and Jeff M’s story about trying unsuccessfully to stop loving a man who clearly doesn’t return his love.
‘Elska Manila’ is 192 pages. It is available in a collecQble print ‚bookazine‘ or in a downloadable e- version. A companion zine called ‚Elska Ekstra Manila’ containing ougakes, behind the scenes tales, and other bonus content is also available. A list of stockists and details of how to order online can be found on the Elska website: www.elskamagazine.com.