By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

TO THE beat of pumping pop music, Martivo’s name appears on the screen, dressed up in rainbow shades and leopard prints. In glittery pink shorts, a coat with a pink bow, and rainbow-printed socks, Martivo steps out on the runway. Martivo isn’t a model. He’s not here to play; he’s here to fight, and he wins. He’s out, loud, and proud — and he can beat you up.

Martivo is the wrestling persona adopted by Earl Santinni Lagman for Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR). Martivo (or Man Doll, as he’s sometimes called) was up for an All-Out Warla match with fellow wrestler Kapitan Juan Tutan.

Martivo twerked for a bit before appearing in the wrestling ring, while a rainbow Pride flag waved behind him. He took the flag and waved it himself while perched on one of the ring’s posts, to the cheers of the crowd. As for the match itself, well: Martivo showed Kap Tutan. Several jokes about the male anatomy were thrown about, with the use of vegetables as props. Martivo eventually whacked a gourd on Kap Tutan’s head, and the various props included a pipe, Kap Tutan’s baseball bat, thumbtacks, a riding crop, and pink feathers. After a raucous match, Martivo came out as the All-Out Warla Champion, holding for himself a silver belt decorated with pink feathers.

Martivo made an appearance in the ring for a second time last Sunday with fellow champions (for different titles) Quatro and Chino Guinto, declaring, “I am now here to prove to everyone that I am the best champion that PWR has. Not just for one month but for 365 days: day-in and day-out, baby!”

After the match, BusinessWorld sat down with Mr. Lagman, sweaty and chugging water and Coca-Cola. Fans approached him and asked for a photo, while thanking him profusely for a good show.

“I honestly can’t remember,” said Mr. Lagman when asked when he started to like wrestling. He does remember that the most memorable were the Diva matches for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Fans remember the names Trish Stratus and Lita, and older fans would recall the appearance of Fabulous Moolah, who became the first WWF Women’s Champion in the 1980s.

“I feel like it’s out of the norm,” he said about his fascination with female wrestling. “When you see men going at it, it’s expected. But when you see women going at it, like [doing] stuff you don’t really expect women to do… I was blown away.”

Mr. Lagman has identified as gay since he was in high school, spending years in an all-boys school. “That’s when I realized that, hey, you know what, I think am gay.”

Members of the gay community are usually stereotyped as theatrical and lovers of the performing arts. Looking at some of the elements of professional wrestling, it’s similar to a drag performance, albeit plugged with gallons of testosterone. “It’s pretty much the same thing. We play a different character. At the end of the day, you go home and take off your gear, your makeup, your whatnot, and just be the real you,” said Mr. Lagman.

Wrestling is traditionally a masculine sport — a hypermasculine sport, even — with muscle-bound men yelling in deep, guttural voices and beating each other up as in a schoolyard. Mr. Lagman injects his own camp flavor to this manly jungle, and saying, “When I started out in PWR, I honestly never felt like I was not treated equally.”

He came up with the character during PWR’s bootcamp, where prospective wrestlers are trained. They were all tasked to come up with a gimmicky persona, and Mr. Lagman came up first with an everyman from the audience who would take up a wrestler’s challenge from the ring. The PWR team shrugged off the idea, and Mr. Lagman came up with the Martivo persona. “I’m just going to use the real me to my advantage.”

Mr. Lagman says that he faced no discrimination at all while training with the masculine roster.

Mr. Lagman says that the Martivo persona has at least three more times as much camp in it than his real self. Unlike in other male-dominated areas, where gay men are usually told to tone it down a bit, the team urged Martivo to amp up the camp for wrestling.

“I was probably a little too manly when I started training,” he said. Martivo’s moves include the Pak! Ganewrn! chops, the Ka-Vogue Kick, and several moves that get an opponent’s face to his butt (demonstrated during his match with Kap Tutan).

There are certain expectations to be fulfilled as an athlete, that is, to make a body perform at its peak, all the time. The stereotype of gay men as weak and unathletic is subverted by Mr. Lagman, and, of course, the pressure is on him to prove the stereotype wrong; not just for him, but for his audience.

“All the time. Every single match — that’s my dilemma. I don’t want people to think that since I’m gay, I’m an inferior athlete.”

The sports world is usually dominated by cisgender heterosexual individuals, and even straight women in the sports world have to fight for a certain visibility. LGBTQ people in the athletic world, therefore, are at an even greater disadvantage when it comes to visibility and inclusion. A few players have come out: there’s Jason Collins from the NBA and David Kopay from the NFL, among a few others. Gay men in the athletic world are then seen mostly as tokens, the lone queer person on a team. Martivo is the only openly gay wrestler in PWR so far. He said, “There should be definitely be room for more. We shouldn’t be taken as tokens. I would like to think that I am as athletic as the rest of the roster.

“There’s room for you — plenty of room for us.”

Waving the Pride flag during Pride Month, on a stage surrounded by people who cheered him on, Mr. Lagman said, “Being given the platform to tell the world — or the universe rather (taking a line from Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach) — that I am for equality for everyone, ‘Love Wins’ and all that… that’s the best part.”

Asked what he feels when he’s in the ring, he said, “Oh my God. I am the proudest.”

“I want people to think that if I can do it, anybody else can. Whatever a straight man or a straight woman can do, everybody else in between can do, if not better.”

Watch out for updates in PWR’s monthly shows at