01984: The Last Minute Fail of the Bench Billboard

Photo by DLSU Amphiturtle (@Amphigong)

So I got pretty excited when this Style Bible article started making the social media rounds praising Bench's latest billboard ad campaign that featured different kinds of love including Preview's Vince Uy and his partner Nino Gaddi as one of the rare instances of LGBT relationships being featured in local advertising (and not as the punchline).

Of course I never really thought too hard about why Style Bible used a clearly edited photo of the billboards that featured the cleaner high resolution images forced into an existing image of the Guadalupe billboards. At the time I thought that it was just because they didn't have time to catch a clean shot of the billboards in time for posting the article.

But when photos of the actual billboards started to show up last February 11, there was something not quite right about things. And it's maybe only today that more people have had a chance to see the actual billboards that we're all realizing that something's wrong.

If you look at this tweet by Vince Uy celebrating the billboard, there's an odd smear to things that kind of changes the final message:

Photo by lino Cayetano (@linocayetano)
As you can see, there's a part of the billboard that has been sloppily painted over. And it looks like all photos of the actual photos that have been going around social media celebrating the ads feature the same black mark. What's being covered up? Let's go back to the clean images posted by Style Bible:

And there it is - they painted over their hands. Oh yes, obviously two guys holding hands demonstrates morally reprehensible behavior. For some reason they're okay with two women hugging one another (these being girlfriends Ana Paredes and Carla Peña) but not two guys holding hands. I guess it's because this makes it more "obviously" gay or something? Are we still stuck in that mindset where any hint of homosexuality can't be seen in a billboard ad and yet everyone enjoys watching characters like Vince Ganda on TV? Can we only accept members of the LGBT community as jokes or spectacles meant to entertain us instead of just everyday people living out normal lives.

This ad campaign was meant to celebrate all forms of love in an open and accepting way. But that black splotch of paint ruins that message and just goes to show that we have a long way to go in terms of the fight for LGBT rights. Whether it was decided internally by Bench leadership or they received pressure from the Philippine Ad Council or some other quasi-regulatory body, the bottom line is that someone gave in to fear of controversy and censored the ad. So Vince and Nino go from being loving partners to two really close friends. Brilliant.

Ultimately it just reflects how most Filipinos treat members of the LGBT community. It's sort of okay when it's someone else as long as they don't call attention to their being gay or they exaggerate things to the point of comedic spectacle. But when it comes to the people you love, especially within certain family circles, talking about being LGBT is better left as an "open secret" that we all speculate about but never confirm. Don't be too obvious. Better not come out. Just let that part of your life sit there as the white elephant in the room.


  1. To be fair to Stylebible, I actually saw the billboards WITHOUT the black paint. So I guess Stylebible took the photo just before someone painted it black.

  2. "it just reflects how most Filipinos treat members of the LGBT community" CORRECTION: ...reflects how most Filipinos VIEW gay behavior; as an unnatural form of affection, and rightly so!

  3. Talking to an imaginary being in the sky is just as unnatural lol.

  4. and i thought the problem was the preposition "of" which could mean "off" or bad/wrong if you do a little deconstruction.


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