Maharlika and Khianna discuss the CDO drag scene, their explosive Bekenemen debut, and more!
When you come from a lesser-known community like the CDO drag scene, you often possess a more intense pride in your roots. The motivation derives from a deep-seated thirst to validate and elevate the place and the people that shaped your artistry. It’s a way of saying, “Look over there,” not to distract, but to recognize.
Hana Beshie of Drag Race Philippines Season 2 broadens her spotlight to shine on her sisters from Cagayan de Oro. This instills confidence and encouragement for the young drag community there and, consequently, pushes them to thrive and have more opportunities.
The camp diva introduced two CDO drag queens to a new audience at the Bekenemen Viewing Party for the Drag Race Philippines episode that hit close to home. Let’s get to know Maharlika and Khianna a little better, shall we?
Tell us about your performance. How did you choose the song and your costume?
Maharlika: “I performed the song ‘I Did Something Bad’ by Taylor Swift. I think it speaks to who Maharlika is: a little bit classy, a little bit cunty, and a little bit of sex. When I was choosing what to perform for my first ever live performance in Manila at Bekenemen, I wanted to do something I was already familiar with and knew every word and every beat to. For the costume, I love exaggerated silhouettes and eye-catching garments. Something streamlined but impactful. Also, I made it myself!”
Khianna: “I performed ‘Literal Legend’ by Ayesha Erotica. That piece was suggested to me by Hana Beshie when we did our G-SPOT Anniversary. She told me that the song reminded her of me. I guess because it’s explosive, crazy, and iconic; three words to best describe me! I think that’s the best way to introduce Khianna to a new audience. My CDO sisters helped me complete this outfit—especially Marchella from the House of Supreme, who deserves a shout-out. I love you! Performing in Bekenemen was life-changing. Now they can see that CGY-Y-Y drag is aabangan kahit saan!”
Describe the CDO drag scene. How did it start, and how is it going?
Khianna: “CDO drag is now slowly becoming visible to the people in Cagayan de Oro. Our shows are monthly, featuring different houses every week. We also make sure our shows are one of a kind, which makes our audience look forward to our next shows. We do have an existing drag scene—show gays, stand-up comedians, and drag pageants. However, CDO drag really flourished because of G-SPOT. They hosted drag shows and a competition called G-SPOT Superstar, in which I joined and became the first ever G-SPOT Superstar. Most of the drag queens in CDO have found a home in Superstar KTV Lounge. Now, there are even new bars opening their doors to drag.”
Maharlika: “The drag scene in CDO is constantly growing. It’s all thanks to One Pride Party in 2022 by G-SPOT, founded by Hana Beshie and her partner Chicco, with the help our mutual friends, which became a regular monthly show at Superstar KTV Lounge and Club. Personally, I find it so gratifying that it started with three queens, and now we have [more than] 30 queens. The drag in CDO is so diverse: stunt queens, balladeers, camp, and comedy—you name it, and we have it! Shout out to my sisters from the Haus of LaFeya, House of Drag Lords, Haus of Supreme, and the indie queens!”
Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to your drag?
Maharlika: “My drag is heavily inspired by old Hollywood glamour—think Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Lana Turner. There’s something about the sophistication and classiness of that era that speaks to me. Maharlika is always gonna give you the three S’s: sophistication, sensuality, and sex. On a more personal note, I draw inspiration from my family. I’m so grateful for their support with my drag, and they’re never absent from my gigs.”
Khianna: “I take inspiration from my fellow drag queens in Cagayan de Oro, walang echos ‘yan! I can see that they really put an effort into their craft, which excites me to elevate my drag every time we get to perform.”
What are the challenges and joys of doing drag?
Maharlika: “The most challenging part in doing drag is the expenses. It’s difficult to keep up with the finances when you have to regularly purchase new wigs, outfits, and shoes, especially ako na maarte sa look, kimmy! That’s when I decided to learn how to sew, and girl, everything I wear, I make myself! One of the joys of doing drag is when your vision becomes a reality.”
Khianna: “Having limited resources is a challenge to us drag queens back home. However, it brings out our creativity and really working with what we have. Even with that struggle, it becomes fun and exciting because we come together and help each other. Our sisters who know [how] to sew teach queens who don’t. Creating our costumes, rehearsing, and preparing for our shows became our bonding time.”
How has the art of drag and its community of artists and fans shaped your life?
Khianna: “Drag changed my life in the sense that I have met a lot of new faces along the way. Those new faces became my closest friends. Our community is close-knit, and we treat each other as family.”
Maharlika: “It’s so gratifying! For me, drag is not just about performing and looking good, although that’s a big part of mine, char! It’s also about the message you want to convey with your art form. Having that message and making your audience feel every word, every emotion, and every move is a big part of it. I also love the community we have in CDO. The different houses and queens are extremely close, and our sense of sisterhood is really strong. We’re all always rooting for each other. I think that’s one thing that sets CDO drag apart from other cities.”
Photography KYM LAO