Walterina Markova: The ‘Comfort Gay’


He had a chance to dash for freedom about a year before U.S. troops came back. He and some friends were aboard a military truck in a trip to another Japanese garrison. The truck had a mechanical trouble forcing the Japanese soldiers to get off to check. At that instance, Markova and his friends made their escape. The soldiers gave a chase toward a grassy field, now Edsa highway, but it was too late.

One day during the “liberation,” Markova saw a captured Japanese soldier tied to the back of a jeep. In an act of revenge, he said, he hit the soldier with an umbrella. Then he took out a safety pin and repeatedly pricked the prisoner.

“You don’t know what the Japanese did to us…they tortured us,” he told the soldier’s American captors when they tried to intervene.

“Pero nahampas ko na ‘yung Hapon…kung saan ko hampasin, sa likod, sa braso, sa ulo, sa mukha, para makaganti ako sa galit ko sa ginawa sa amin.” (I slapped the Japanese then struck his arms, his head and face to avenge what they did to us.)

Markova learned later that his two other gay friends were killed in a raid just before the end of the Japanese occupation, eventually leaving him alone to share this story.

Years after the end of the war, he found himself retiring from cross-dressing and worked as a make-up artist for the film industry. In the film industry, he also found that macho actors having gay lovers and some were into a relationship.

At night, he would stay at the Home for the Golden Gays in Pasay City – where other older gays who have been victims of society’s discrimination also took refuge.

He also became part-time trainer for young Filipinas to work as exotic dancers in Japan.

His story already publicized in print and broadcast, Markova never thought the same story would merit a film. Much more portray his life by no less than the film industry’s comedy king, Dolphy.

Hidden chapter

Shown in 2000, the film, “Markova: Comfort Gay,” brought to light a long-hidden chapter in gay history. It may have focused on the story of one man, but its scope is truly wide-ranging. It recounted the story of a nation’s struggle for self-determination and its own internal battles involving intolerance, conformity and expectation. The film documented the ultraconservatism of the 1930s, the horrors of the occupation, the travails of the Marcos years and the long struggle toward liberation.

The 97-minute film was included in the 2002 Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and 26th San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Markova was thankful that the movie about his life was watched by many people. Asked whether he intended to claim indemnification from the Japanese government for the acts of atrocities committed against him and other gays, Markova said there is no need.

“Sa aming anim, ako lang ang nabuhay…humingi man ako ng claim sa mga Hapon, paniniwalaan ba ako?” (Among the six of us gay people, I was the only survivor…Even if I filed for a claim, who would believe me?), he told this reporter five years ago.

Last June 24, Markova, old and frail at 83, was hit by a racing cyclist in. He never survived.

A fellow gay who also lives at the Home for the Golden Gays, says of Markova: “Hanga kami sa kanya dahil kahit alam naman n’ya kung paano tignan ang mga bakla dito sa atin, may lakas pa rin syang ikwento ang karanasan n’ya”(We admire him for telling his story and for his conviction on how to treat gay people).

“Tayo namang tao ay hindi talaga magtatagal. Kaya ako lumabas ay para magbigay inspirasyon lalo na sa mga baklang hanggang ngayon ay inaalipusta pa rin,” Markova told this writer then. “Dahil dito, naniniwala ako na hindi lang ang sarili ko ang napalaya ko mula sa ganitong pagtingin.” (As humans, we won’t live long. Revealing my own story is my way of inspiring other gays who continue to be oppressed today. By my act, I may have probably given freedom to many other gay people.) (

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