Let’s get a few things out of the way first. Most importantly, I have no doubt that Libertine Amistoso’s life story is true. And I am sure she has the right to tell it, in any way she is able to, and she has—her song, “Titibo-tibo,” has been a pop song hit since 2017, and it is now set to be this Sunday’s featured story on the equally popular Maalala Mo Kaya?.
All the best to “Tine,” who I understand is now a happily married woman in a loving heterosexual partnership. (Congratulations on your marriage, and on the Himig Handog prize you won for “Titibo-Tibo,” and on the upcoming story of your life. Clearly your story resonates in all forms that it’s taken so far.)
To be perfectly honest, I am not one of those people who find the song to be either enjoyable, enlightening, or resonant in any way. There has been some discussion online and off- about the song’s lyrics, and the criticism closely follows the furor around the MMK trailer: it’s problematic, they say; it’s heteronormative; it reinforces the troubling belief that gay women can be “cured” if the right guy comes along.
So what, the other side says. It’s her story, so can’t we recognize the truthfulness in it and, in true MMK fashion, just enjoy it for its cheap thrills?
Tine has told her story, so now let me tell you parts of mine.
It’s her story, so can’t we recognize the truthfulness in it and, in true MMK fashion, just enjoy it for its cheap thrills?
I’m a bisexual woman, and in a committed and loving relationship with another woman. The things that social media calls “problematic” about “Titibo-tibo” has real-world consequences on my life—some of these consequences are merely annoying, others deeply hurtful; in a few other ways, however, they are downright dangerous.
I’ve had to live with the knowledge that there are men out there who subscribe to the fantasy that all I need is the right guy to come along to “save” me from a dickless life. Through the years, I’ve learned to live with a lack of respect for the boundaries of my relationships: I’ve been propositioned by men who know that I’m in a monogamous relationship—because surely it can’t be that serious if you’re with another girl, right? Surely they’re doing me a favor by offering sexual satisfaction that my partner can’t give!
Worse when they proposition my partner (and they have), or ask for a creepy threesome. I mean, what would you do if someone asks your girlfriend out knowing full well that you two were in a relationship? You’d bloody that someone’s nose, probably. Never mind what you’d do to the guy who invited himself over to your house for a threesome with your wife. And yet it would all be unthinkable for these same men to encroach on a heterosexual couple, because that’s different—those relationships are “real.”
Believe it or not, those only count as minor annoyances in my world. More troubling is having to sit in a restaurant on a date with my girlfriend and listening to a Bible study group at the next table proclaim that “babae sa babae” can’t possibly work, because God said so. More hurtful is the knowledge that, while my parents are as supportive and accepting as one could hope for, they still hold up a flicker of hope that this is still a phase that the right man can fix.
But I can probably live with that, as I have all my life. (If you’re a gay person in this society, lemme tell ya, you grow thick skin really fast.) We’re less able to shrug off another aspect of this story, however.
See, my partner has a stalker that she’s been hiding from for years. They’d met at work about ten years ago. She was then in a relationship with a woman (not me; this was before we met), and had been nice to the guy, because that’s what normal people do to their colleagues. I can’t say that he read this friendliness as interest, because she made it abundantly clear that she was not interested in him, seeing as how she was lesbian and in a relationship.
But he kept pressing the issue—first harmlessly, if annoyingly, through text messages, through his constant hovering at work. Then it began to escalate into harassment.
When she left that job, he didn’t stop. He kept sending her text messages, telling her he would find her. She changed her number, but he would occasionally find it, having tricked a friend into passing on the new number to him. He’s even called her father, telling her dad that he intended to find his daughter and marry her. The stalker is blocked on all social media, but sometimes he uses an assumed name or a fake account and a message gets through.
In many ways, it’s the insidiousness of that harmless-sounding song that makes it so dangerous.
What does this have to do with “Titibo-Tibo”? In many ways, it’s the insidiousness of that harmless-sounding song that makes it so dangerous. Sure, Tine’s experience is valid as any other story, but broadcasting that story through pop culture outlets also validates the archaic notion that women in same-sex relationships need saving. At its most benign, this misguided notion fetishizes lesbians and bisexual women, depicting us as sexual beings who are waiting for you guys to walk into our lives (and yes, this counts as the benign end of the spectrum). At its most disturbing, it feeds into the fantasies of sick men who may one day end up harming us.
I'd feel better about this whole issue if we used this moment to truly talk about our perspectives and attitudes about sexuality. But even before the episode has aired, the divisiveness it has engendered proves the flaws of MMK's choice of story. Those who zealously defend “Titibo-Tibo” do so under the guise of inclusivity—it’s about accepting the songwriter’s story for what it is, they shout—but it is telling how that faction, shall we say, suffers from an underrepresentation of the LGBT community.
More telling is the undercurrent of malicious glee that you’ll find in the voices raised in defense of the story; scratch the surface, and you’ll find that what is being passed off as inclusiveness is really homophobia. “Titibo-Tibo,” to be released during Pride Month, has not enlightened anyone; instead, it gives permission for the most backward-thinking of us to stay absolutely the same, to remain as they are. That, I think, is why the defense has been so vociferous from certain quarters—it’s a comforting fiction for dinosaurs to believe that it’s okay not to evolve.
Well, the episode will air, and the world will not end. Let’s face it: This is far from the worst thing to happen to the Filipino LGBT community. It’s not the worst thing to happen to me as a gay woman in the Philippines. As I always have, I take my comfort from the knowledge that even dinosaurs had to evolve or die.
The Unpopular Opinion is Esquire’s space to provide additional insight and introduce new perspectives to issues that we may think have foregone conclusions. These articles don't always reflect our editorial stance, but we publish them here to continue the discourse.