MANILA, Philippines – “It’s not that we’re non-conformists. We’re just being ourselves,” Paulo Castro says, opening the conversation on the Panty Monsters.
Clad in a yellow oversized sando, black tights and disco-ball like heel-less shoes — along with his tattoo-laden bod and pink hair — there is no doubt that Paulo is indeed, unafraid of standing out in a world where boring is the norm.
“Gusto lang namin ng place where we can be ourselves nang walang judgment (We just want a place where we can be ourselves without being judged),” he relays, referring to certain clubs and places that are not open to the eccentric and unconventional.
The “mother monster”
While on the subject of the avant-garde, who better to have as an icon of individuality and unique style than the one and only Lady Gaga?
“I love Lady Gaga!” he exclaims, referring to himself and his long-time partner, Jujiin Samonte, as her “super fans.”
Paulo shares that Lady Gaga’s personal style is what draws him to her.
He adds, “I grew up to Michael Jackson. Mahilig ako sa artists na meron talagang own sense of style at may tapang sa self-expression (I really love artists with their own sense of style and who are unafraid when it comes to self-expression).”
He sees Lady Gaga not just as a mere artist or singer, but as an image and representation of strength of character and personality amidst backlash and criticism.
On the subject of religious beliefs, he notes that both he and his partner do not believe in religion; rather, they believe in God.
He continues, “Religion is the banana peel, but spirituality is the banana,” he says thoughtfully.
“Religion, instead of uniting people, tends to separate.”
A lover and a fighter
Beyond fighting for freedom and self-expression, Paulo is also an active LGBT rights advocate, who won’t back down in the face of hate and insult against the community.
Along with Jujin, he aims to show the world that “a gay relationship isn’t all about sex. It’s not all about one guy being gay and one guy being straight.”
Pulo and Jujiin have been together for 6 years. Their secret? Happiness.
“Jujiin and I are very happy,” he declares. What helps their relationship grow stronger is surrounding themselves with friends who are open-minded.
He adds, “I think kailangan mo lang talagang magsalita at lumaban ‘pag natatapakan ka na. Other than that, just be happy at ipakita mo na lang sa tao na hindi ikaw ang pini-perceive nila na ‘lie of the devil’ (I think one needs to speak up and fight when he is already being trampled upon. Other than that, just be happy and show others that you are not what they perceive to be the ‘lie of the devil.’)”
Paulo adds that the disparity between moral beliefs and values should not hinder individuals from co-existing and living in harmony.
“Let’s not push our beliefs down each other’s throats,” he says with a peaceful smile.
Paulo and Jujiin look forward to the day when they will be able to say their wedding vows without prying eyes and judgment. For now, they are content with a home full of love and acceptance.
On a lighter note
Apart from being a freedom fighter and a loving partner to Jujiin, Paulo is also a freelance fashion stylist and a budding singer.
In fact, he joined the X Factor auditions, and notes that the judges were surprised at his extravagant outfit choice.
Despite the many controversies the LGBT community continues to face, Paulo remains positive and hopeful.
For the Panty Monsters, he looks forward to seeing it grow bigger albeit with the same spirit of community.
“Kahit ‘di kayo magkakilala, ‘pag andon na kayo, merong oneness. I belong here, ang saya. (Even if you don’t know each other, when you’re there, there is oneness. I belong here and I’m happy.)” – Rappler.com
(The PANTY MONSTERS are a renegade group of fashion, music and art practitioners and lovers. They advocate equality and respect for all, regardless of sexual orientation or clothing size. They have strong personalities but also have the biggest hearts; their minds a bottomless trove of ideas. They live and love beyond the norm because, for them, to not be normal does not equate to being evil — there is nothing wrong with being different. The PANTY MONSTERS are all about keeping it real, because “real” is the new sexy.)