Sparks Camp is a fresh and promising reality dating show from the Philippines. The series features gay (or bisexual) men.
Sparks Camp is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Theodore Boborol. Produced by Black Sheep Productions, the reality dating show cast includes Justin Macapallag, Nat Magbitang, Stanley Bawalan, Dan Galman, Nick Deocampo, Gabe Balita, Karl Bautista, Aaron Maniego, Alex De Ungria, and Bong Gonzales. The show’s host is Miss Mela Habijan (winner of Miss Trans Global 2020).
BL Reality Show – A Backgrounder
Black Sheep Production is the same content producer which did Hello Stranger, starring Tony Labrusca and JC Alcantara as a couple. Series director Theodore Boborol is also the writer of the popular Philippine reality show Pinoy Big Brother.
There is an impressive reputation behind the launching of this series, given the credentials of the producer and director.
Note that the show came at the heels of the Thai BL reality series called The Hidden Character, released April 2023, and produced by the controversial Be On Cloud (KinnPorsche series) before that, the South Korean BL dating show entitled His Man (Two seasons already) which was released in 2022.
Western shows that promote queer content started to realize the potential for a gay dating show and gay portal Out recently featured its “16 LGBTQ+ Reality Dating Shows & Where to Watch Them” article.
Episode 3: Review
This is my favorite episode so far! And I’m giving it 5 stars!
Initial Impressions: Episodes 1 and 2
As a BL (Boys Love) reviewer for many years, I was a bit surprised that the Philippines would launch a BL reality dating show. Except for one or two production companies, we have witnessed plenty of content producers involved in questionable practices. Overall, Pinoy BL series is either a noteworthy hit or a horrible flop. But Black Sheep, which is under ABS CBN is a remarkably successful outfit, not marred by any scandal at all.
So how did the first 2 episodes fare?
- Miss Mela Habijan is a competent and energetic show host. Her appearance on the show is a major attraction, given that she’s a popular Filipino actress, content creator, and the winner of Miss Trans Global in 2022. She also serves as the participants’ mentor and confidant. Miss Mela (in a recent interview) explained that she initiated communications with members of the LGBTQA+ community about their reactions to the show’s diversity.
- Sparks did fly during the initial episode. The cast is composed of attractive guys with different personalities and attitudes. It’s noteworthy that it features a wide spectrum of Pinoys with unique stories to tell. It’s the telling of their tales that is the show’s main attraction. And catching your dream date!
- How to become a winner? The way to get your man is through competition and all the participants need to be resourceful and shrewd and not gentle or kind! They can show their charm and tenderness when they catch a date!
- The pacing is fine. There are very few dull moments. Compared to Thailand’s The Hidden Character – which basically wasted the attractive cast – Sparks Camp fares well with their main competition, South Korea’s His Man, which impresses aplenty!
- Most of the highlights for the first 2 episodes involved the double date of Justin and Karl, Nat and Dan. It was a switching of partners, where the declared winners of the game select the guy they want to be with on a date. I enjoyed this part of the episode a lot.
Both Episodes 1 and 2 gave viewers a glimpse of what was to come and what to expect. The more meaty and intimate parts may come after that.
At this point, there are already certain distinctions among the participants. I’m particularly attracted to Justin Macapallag and his story. Yet, there is so much to know about the whole cast – Nat Magbitang, Stanley Bawalan, Dan Galman, Nick Deocampo, Gabe Balita, Karl Bau, Aaron Maniego, Alex De Ungria, and Bong Gonzales.
The Sparks Camp Participants
Controversy and Expectations
A recent Rappler article about Sparks Camp raised certain controversial ‘declarations’ from the LGBTQA+ community, where many of the sentiments were negative. I’m not surprised. The Philippines has one of the most vocal and critical (outrageous even) audiences in the Asia Pacific.
The country has a reputation of claiming as ‘theirs’ when a local made it abroad. Success stories from Hollywood, the UK (especially the theaters), France (Cannes Film Festival), and Italy (Venice International Film Festival) are often celebrated. Note that these are places where artists are honored for sheer talent and less for their looks. That’s the time when most Pinoys give that particular local artist their personal validation.
But aren’t we talking about male beauty in a BL context as a major selling point? “Not one is even attractive to me,” says a commenter. “Mga pangit (ugly) naman lahat” says another.
If Sparks Camp becomes a huge hit outside the Philippines and eventually gets listed on either Netflix or Amazon Prime, that may be the time when the locals will declare their love for it.
Diversity appears to be the red flag or trigger point that is currently being employed to bring down the reality dating series. Some say they should have cast certain sectors of the LGBTQA+ community who are ‘marginalized’ or often regarded with a certain level of discrimination. Perhaps the producers should have asked permission from certain people to use “diversity” in describing the show.
A reality show depends largely on the collaborative and artistic prerogative of the producers and the cast and crew. Just like any successful BL series in South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan, there is an acceptable, time-tested, and proven formula.
Right now, it’s the time to throw flak when the show is not even at the halfway mark.
Selected images from the first two episodes are featured in this gallery. We will upload more photos as the show progresses.
Collaborative Review Effort
Our Sparks Camp review and feature is a collaboration between Psycho Weird and The BL Express. We are both in the process of featuring exclusive content that puts the spotlight on Sparks Camp’s director, host, and participants.
The BL Express review of Episodes 1 and 2 has just been launched.
Now coming to the contestants (despite the hoopla regarding lack of diversity), I did find them interesting. We have a regular mix of students and working men; while some have a strong media presence, others don’t. I like how this show throws different permutations and combinations with each challenge.sparks camp review by krisHna naidu, the bl express
You can read the full article here.
Psycho Weird features articles promoting particular Pinoy BL shows. You may be interested in our Pinoy BL Hitlist or our article About Us but Not About Us (featuring top-notch actors Romnick Sarmenta and Elijah Canlas).
An old-timer BL fan way back in 2007. I started out loving BL after watching the Takumi-kun series from Japan, went on collecting BL manga, and watched old BL anime such as Junjou Romantica and the likes. Love of Siam allow me to transition into Thai, while Amphetamine gave me glimpses of Taiwanese BL magic. I love to write reviews and I’m one of the administrators of Psycho Weird.