martinsandiego
filipino documentary photographer

Homecoming Queen: Valeria

Photos by Martin San Diego
Story by Amanda Lago on Rappler.com

On the front of the door of Nectar’s bathroom, the sign reads “we don’t care.” Behind it, 28-year-old Miggoy is putting on the layers that will transform him into Valeria, just in time for the gay nightclub’s annual Santa Cruzan parade.

Miggoy has come a long way to get to this point. He has been joining pageants since he was in high school – male pageants at first, and eventually, drag competitions, even winning one in 2014.

In 2017, he had to box up the yards of tulle, the sequined bodice, and all the other accoutrements that come with his drag queen life when he moved to Kuwait – a country where cross-dressing and homosexuality are punished by police brutality.

Over the past year, he has been working as a hotel receptionist – while putting on the affectations of a socially-accepted straight man whenever he is in public.

With Kuwait observing Ramadan, Miggoy has managed to take a month off to come home – and, by coincidence or fate, is right in time for the LGBT Santacruzan held by Nectar – BGC’s resident gay nightclub – every year.

By 10:30 pm, Miggoy is still the only Santacruzan reyna getting ready for the parade. Having already come in with a full face of makeup, it doesn’t take long for him to complete his transformation. He slips on a voluminous petticoat, squeezes himself into a skintight bodice, puts on the stiff terno sleeves, and drapes royal blue lace across his neck.

Before long, it’s time for his escort to help him wear his crown, an elaborate pearl-embellished creation. In 7-inch heels, Miggoy is too tall for his escort to reach so he gracefully falls to the floor as his tulle gown fluffs up around him.

Done in the corner of the bathroom, Miggoy’s coronation is perfunctory but also magical, and when he gets back up, he is no longer Miggoy, but Valeria.