16 Queer entrepreneurs & artists to support instead of rainbow capitalism
We shouldn’t have to put a price tag on Pride, here’s how you can support the LGBTQ+ community without giving into rainbow capitalism.
Your timeline may appear more colorful than usual as June marks the celebration of Pride Month. In an online parade of solidarity, brands have also taken it upon themselves to don a rainbow aesthetic— showering their content with ROYGBIV and queer-themed products.
While we all love a pop of color, the problem is that most brands never go beyond that. Are they vocal about LGBTQ+ issues even when it’s not June? Do they donate to worthy causes or charities? Do they amplify queer voices not just for the market but behind the scenes as well? It’s a question of whether they’re just tolerating the community or actually championing for their rights.
Rainbow capitalism or pinkwashing has exploited the very movement of Pride and what it stands for. So rather than feeding into these big corporations, why not directly support those from the community instead?
We’ve compiled a list of queer-owned businesses and LGBTQ+ artists based in the Philippines for you to check out (and hopefully purchase from)! You might just find your next favorite small biz; spanning from delicious food, to trendy apparel, and stunning art prints.
1. Food For The Gays Cafe
Located in Cubao, Quezon City, Food For The Gays Cafe is one of the few safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in the country— providing a home and sense of comfort with their delectable treats clearly made with love.
Nariese Giangan, the owner of FFTG, speaks of their advocacy to open their door to anyone seeking shelter from the cruelty of the world. “[Where] they can be themselves, that they can breathe, that they don’t have to feel guilty, that they don’t have to be afraid,” says Nariese.
Food For The Gays began as an online business in Nariese’s endeavor to save up for a cafe after culinary school. In less than a year, Nariese and her partner were able to expand their business and find a location for what would become FFTG Cafe.
While she admits that their space is small, Nariese reassures their patrons that there will always be a place for them here. “I learn something new everyday mula sa pakikinig sa mga kwento at chikahan na nagaganap dito.”
In line with her advocacy to highlight their community, Food For The Gays Cafe also displays decorations and artworks by LGBTQ+ artists. “We have so many plans for FFTG Cafe! Sana matapos na ang pandemic para ma-push na lahat.”
This online business operating right out of Quezon City aims to serve Asian-fusion food catered to all, regardless of your dietary restrictions. “I want everyone to experience food that has no compromises; that is both filling and delicious,” says Miel, the chef behind Puesto.
Those who frequent the events and initiatives by Metro Manila Pride may be familiar with Puesto as it has become a crowd favorite among their peers. Miel gives thanks to their first customer, an organizer of Metro Manila Pride, kuya Jihad for kickstarting Miel’s dream of selling food. The support from the community was enough to set up stalls in Maginhawa and iAcademy. Sadly, it was short-lived as the pandemic forced Miel to close down their operations.
Miel initially headed to Batangas at the beginning of the lockdown, but decided to return to Manila with not much. Fortunately, they were able to get back on their feet with support from the queer community. “Now, I have 5 on call staff (who are single moms & another queer person) […] and we’re hoping to expand further and open a Karinderya in the first quarter of 2022.”
In observance of Pride Month, Miel speaks of what their food stands for and emphasizes how it is very much political. “The more we get to talk about food, pride and politics, the more we have more place for mutual understanding[;] the more we get to recognize that we are all humans that deserves the right to have access to not just food, but equal rights as well.”
3. NUNÒ Vegan Filipino Kitchen
With its goal of making veganism more accessible, NUNÒ Vegan Filipino Kitchen sells 100% plant based spreads inspired by familiar and beloved flavors— from bagoong, chicken, ham, and liver. Located in Malabon, NUNÒ Vegan Filipino Kitchen delivers all around the metro.
According to the owner, Andrew Salut, he was urged to start the business as he noticed the challenges maintaining a plant based diet in Manila. Andrew, who has been vegan since 2008, wants to “prove that you don’t have to give up anything you love when you choose to adopt a kinder lifestyle.”
He highlights the necessity to extend the fight to equally important causes in the spirit of Pride Month.
“May we reflect on the idea that if we truly want a world free from oppression, we must extend our cause beyond our immediate experiences to other social justice issues that seek to include all genders, race, ethnicities, and species. We must readjust our position and participation in other violent systems and consider veganism as a tool to deconstruct multiple systemic oppressions. Because everybody deserves to live a life free from exploitation, fear, and violence.”
4. Bekirie Shop
Sharing their passion for healthy and cruelty-free food, the brains (and beauty) behind Bekirie Shop aim to unite the world little by little through their baked goods.
Not only do they sell delicious goodies but they even make it a point to take a page out of Pia Wurtzbach’s book. Proving that they are indeed bekis with a heart, they find ways to help others by organizing charity events or by donating to those in need. Just last year, they donated 50% of their sales to Soup Kitchen, which went towards the relief efforts for the victims of Typhoon Ulysses.
“This Pride Month we’re doing the same thing, 50% of our sales [from June] will be donated to Duyan Program – a program of Project Red Ribbon that aims to provide care and support to children with HIV in the Philippines.”
Bekirie Shop intends to foster a positive environment where everyone supports and respects each other, sharing the same sentiments with Catriona Gray. Apart from their love of Miss Universe and their advocacies, they also emphasize the importance of self-love.
“Mapa-beki, babae, lalaki, tombaks, ano mang lahi mo, half Chinese-half garter ka man always love yourself. Sabi nga ni Mama Ru, If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else. And stop eating animals too!”
Baking from Sampaloc Manila, this small bakehouse is committed to making good croissants at an affordable price.
Butterboy began with an architect-doctor couple who wanted to explore the culinary realm to switch up their date nights. They soon realized that their love for food went beyond romance and eventually decided to share that passion with everyone else.
They celebrate the bread-and-butter pastry by experimenting with unique flavors— from sweets like strawberry cheesecake, mango cashew, and chocolate orange; to bold savory ones like caldereta, char siu, and even croissant pizza. Just like their website states, “54 pesos never flaked this good.”
While they may be small, Butterboy stands by their craftsmanship and strongly believes in the value of time. Where time plays an important role in baking, it can most especially do wonders for those still figuring themselves out.
“Coming out is like proofing bread for baking. Croissants proof in an hour, sourdough proofs overnight. Everyone has their own perfect time.”
6. Fraktal Films
Ran by partners, Fraktal Films emerged from their shared interest in photography. “Since we both grew up having most things analog (like most 90s kids do), we decided to relive the process of film photography in today’s modern setting and open up [what we learn] to the community who are on the same journey as us.”
Fraktal Films carries vintage analog cameras, an assortment of film rolls, and other photography-inspired merchandise. With almost 9,000 followers on Instagram, this humble store has built a loyal community of fellow enthusiasts.
“This has also been a creative outlet from our actual work and has since then became our safe space with the friends we created along the way.”
Although they regard their love of film to their childhood, they also reflected on the struggles growing up as queer kids who were still figuring out their identities.
A: “It’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay if you’re still exploring, and it’s okay if you still don’t have the courage to come out to everyone. Mahalin at respetuhin ang sarili. May mga tao pa ring tatanggapin, maiintindihan, at mamahalin ka.”
LA: “There will come difficult days, but you will always get through them because human beings are capable of doing hard things. You will learn that kindness comes from within and you will learn this from the people who are on the same and different boats.”
Maartefacts, as the name suggests, offers unique vintage finds and gorgeous gems fit for your home decor needs. It was created in an endeavor to become more conscious about purchasing mass-produced items. “The irony is I’ve ‘shopped small’ more than I should and I’ve collected glasswares that I probably won’t need,” says shop owner Jose Cervantes.
Inspired by similar IG shops, Jose found that running Maartefacts was the perfect balance of allowing himself to indulge in retail therapy while still being sustainable. He regards the experience as a creative playground where he stretches his capabilities in running a business— with social media marketing, product photography, and even history.
Besides studying his antiques, Jose also wishes to leave an important reminder on the significance of remembering history.
“Let’s not forget that Pride is a protest first and foremost. More than celebrating our identities, at its core it’s about fighting for equality and giving voices to the unheard. #PassSogieBill.”
8. Queer Ears
Have you ever heard of the stereotype that lesbians (or anyone queer for that matter) will wear anything as earrings? For Miya of Queer Ears, it surely rings true for her love of funky accessories over pearls.
Miya makes a statement through her creations “that you don’t always have to follow whatever defines traditional femininity.”
Queer Ears began with a humble number of 30 designs last October, and has since grown with over 300 designs in its catalog. Although it may come as a surprise for some that people would want to wear miniature water dispensers or fake cockroaches on their ears, Miya’s customers beg to differ.
“I still get overwhelmed everytime someone would message me and say that they are so happy to discover a shop that allows them to express themselves.”
She adds a key takeaway in exploring your individuality, “You don’t need anyone’s approval, be what you want, do what you want, wear whatever makes you comfortable, and always have fun.”
9. Tie Diet
Based in Cebu, Shayne Lopez of TieDiet is a veteran when it comes to the IG biz scene. Shayne started back in 2013 with an online thrift shop (@cebuthriftedpicks) where they would bleach, tatter, and tie dye thrifted clothes to give it a personalized edge.
TieDiet then emerged in 2018 once Shayne got the hang of doing tie dye. According to Shayne, they are most drawn to the colors of food, hence the name of the brand. “My products would be called flaming hot Cheetos, fresh water, ube, and etc.”
Their clothing has been featured in multiple publications, and even repped by local celebs like Nadine Lustre, Cristine Reyes, Raymond Gutierrez, and Maris Racal.
As Shayne’s bold vision for TieDiet has taken the brand further than imagined, they impart a few words of motivation for our readers: “Do what makes you happy and be aligned with your true self. It may take time and you may have to heal your inner child. But it’s all worth it in the end. You are loved and worthy.”
10. South Kids Thrift
Cousin duo Khai and Mina Cruzada aim to introduce city natives to a south kid’s way of life— steady and never flashy. “Our family spent most weekends in our province Amadeo, Cavite, just a few minutes away from Tagaytay. We didn’t have wifi & TV but for us cousins, we always looked forward to thrifting.”
South Kids Thrift curated its first collection last September 2020, with almost every drop sold out since then. Thanks to their keen eye as ukay aficionados, this small business offers staple pieces for every wardrobe.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Khai expresses the importance of staying true to yourself. “You’ll have the urge to hide who you really are because you’re afraid that people who love you won’t accept or understand you, but I hope you know that people who truly care for you will do.”
Finding allies among her friends and family like Mina seemed to have helped Khai to find that stability in discovering herself— clearly aligning with their brand’s sentiments.
FADO founders, Matteo and Gabby, envision a future of sustainable fashion and elevated streetwear. As undergraduate students, the co-owners slowly worked towards building their passion project with their respective side hustles until they had enough funds.
In collaboration with Raya Couture, FADO was able to launch their first few pieces using excess fabrics that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Matteo and Gabby also take pride in their partnership with a company that aligns with their ideals. “Raya Couture provides jobs to Marikeño senior citizens, trained former housewives, and disadvantaged women who carefully handcraft their products.”
While their business is a two-man operation, they view it as room for creative freedom. This helped them to establish a logo that best represents FADO: a man dancing like no one’s watching.
As a trans man, Matteo is familiar with the feeling of being confined all too well. He adds that they also started their business with the intention to save up for his top surgery— to finally feel like himself in his own skin.
“It is an absolutely terrible thing being told that your kind of love is wrong, sacrificing who you are for approval,” he shares along with some encouraging words. “I hope you continue fighting because no matter what anybody thinks of you, you’re worth it.”
After years worth of academic load and responsibilities left Isabel Esguerra with zero time to pursue her creative endeavors, the young artist is now taking the chance to explore her creative side.
“For the academic year 2020-2021, I took a leave of absence from med school,” shares Isabel Esguerra of iagepaints. With more time on her hands, she was able to finally pick up her paint brushes once again. Isabel began with creating fanart inspired by her favorite WLW ship, Lumity from Owl House.
“It branched out to me painting all my other favorite WLW pairings in cartoons such as Korrasami (The Legend of Korra), Garnet (Steven Universe), Bubbline (Adventure Time), and Catradora (She-Ra and The Princesses of Power). You can say that the power of lesbians fueled my motivation to keep practicing my painting and honing my craft.”
Since then, Isabel has made prints out of her paintings which she sells on her shop along with stickers. She describes her art as “bright and life-giving,” which she hopes to bring to whoever purchases her pieces. “Art is a way for me to unapologetically express myself, and I hope you find yourself such an avenue as well.”
Best known for his fanart and merch inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, Austeen Manalang of Fauxteen has become a familiar figure in the queer art scene. His creations have even been recognized by the show along with season 12 queens Crystal Methyd and Jackie Cox.
With over 27,000 followers on Instagram, this art director based in Manila is making a name for himself thanks to his distinct cartoon style.
When asked what pushed him to pursue a career in art, Austeen responded by saying “this is the only thing I’m good at and I’m happy when I create art.”
Aside from selling stickers on the side, Austeen also accepts commissions for anyone interested in his illustrations.
Austeen shares a few words to keep in mind in celebration of Pride Month, “I just want you to be your unique self, practice self care, and know your worth!”
“Also if I can say something to my young self, relish the moments you will get the most important people you will meet along the way. Relationships will end, friends will leave you, but this will make you stronger and you will someday finally get the love that you are giving.”
Self-proclaimed ‘freelance procrastinator’ Brian Avecilla began his journey as an artist in high school when he became fascinated with doodle art. He continued on with his craft from there in hopes of proving to people, especially his parents, that art can be a professional job.
Now, under his pseudonym bakonaua, Brian works as a freelance artist in addition to selling prints and stickers.
“I used to work as a graphic artist before this pandemic started until I resigned midway due to some mental health reasons. At first I really didn’t know if I could sell my art because I wasn’t really confident with my ideas. But a friend who has a printing business, approached me for a collaboration since he really liked my work.”
In collaboration with Nimbus HQ, Brian was able to release his own sticker pack called ‘SPITE-YEMBRE’. He describes it as an angry art series inspired by old journal entries, messy relationships, anger issues, stupid mistakes, “and probably a bucket load of self-hatred.”
Despite his angsty art, Brian also imparts a positive message, “I wish everyone who will read this that they deserve every good thing in the world at sana masarap ulam ninyo palagi!”
Iloilo-based freelance illustrator Lou Palomar got her start very early on in life as she recalls taking summer art classes at just five years old. She mentions how she looked up to her mentors as they thrived in their field and fearlessly pursued art. It soon became clear to her that this was something she wanted to do as well.
Known as louquorice in the art scene, this Pinoy artist now spends her days working on commissions and living out her dream. “There are still things I need to work on with myself, but right now, I’m just relieved I got to this point.”
However, it wasn’t exactly a straight shot as Lou shares how she was conflicted between chasing after her passion or being practical. She encourages readers to take the leap because you never know what good might come out of it.
“You either let the opportunity pass you by, or you take the plunge, whether or not it’s clear where it may lead. In my case, forgoing my business degree to pursue art changed the trajectory of my life into one where I’d have lesser regrets.”
16. Zoë Isabela
27-year-old freelancer Zoë Isabela has found a unique niche in the art scene for those in the market for a pet portrait or “an unorthodox display of imaginary aliens.” Regardless of your pick, this designer finds joy in creating for others.
“More than it being a lucrative avenue, it was something I was happy to do for others because it made them happy!”
She owes her creative side to the artistic household she grew up in. “There was no shortage of outlets when I was younger and my parents were always eager to help me explore every avenue[…] I fell hard for it.”
Zoë invites fellow creatives to express themselves no matter what medium it may be. “Your art is inherently YOU and should never be tucked away because of what it might stand for. Be loud, be heard, and always be inspired.”
As someone who used to suppress her sexuality, she proudly stands today as a big believer in love seeing no gender. “Part of me will always wish I were a bit prouder of who I was back then but [I’m looking] forward to how much more accepting and open society will be in the next few years.”
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