At Large

Men in briefs



Those of you who miss the sight of the Volcanoes, the members of the Philippine rugby team, in all their glory on the banks of the Pasig near the Guadalupe Bridge just have to visit any mall where there’s a Bench store. I stepped into Robinson’s Galleria last week and almost fell smack on the crotch of a Volcano, whose bigger-than-life image, albeit much smaller than the one displayed on the torn-down billboard, is displayed on the store’s shop window.

In many ways, the sight of the men in briefs so up close and personal can even be more nerve-wracking than the sight of them dominating the Mandaluyong skyline. But I wondered just who the billboards and window displays were targeting. Was it the female of the species? We are certainly attracted to the hot bods and rippling abs, but then we have no need for briefs or desire to buy them. The marketing mavens may be counting on the “aspirational” desires of ordinary men, who may buy Bench briefs in the (mistaken) belief that they could turn into ripped and muscled versions of manhood. But would any straight man spend more than a second eyeing these magnificent specimens? My conclusion is that the Bench ads, and much of the men’s underwear advertising in the past and the future, are designed to appeal to a narrow segment of consumers: gay men. And I suspect that this is so because the ads are conceptualized, created and paid for by other gay men.

No matter their sexual orientation or lifestyle choice, gay men are still men. And men—straight or gay—are “visual” by nature, turned on by the sight of a shapely figure of whatever gender they fancy. Women tend to be more “emotional” or “aspirational,” seeing in, say ads for sexy lingerie, their own images transmuted into more desirable and alluring forms.

Rajo Laurel, a noted fashion designer, admitted as much when, interviewed by a TV reporter for his reaction to the order to tear down the humongous Volcanoes billboard, he pleaded: “Sana naman intindihin nila ang pangangailangan ng mga tulad namin (I hope they understand the needs of people like us).”

* * *

Anyway, all of a sudden, after the billboards of the Volcanoes were torn down, the Mandaluyong city government and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority went on a frenzy going after other billboards that showed actors, actresses, models and other such folk in revealing poses.

Actress Anne Curtis protested that her billboards for a real estate company were counted among the “offensive” structures. “I was endorsing a condominium and I was wearing a gown,” she told the media. But the MMDA clarified that some billboards were ordered torn down not just because of racy content but also because they violated standards pertaining to size, location and safety.

We still have to see where this current obsession with billboards—which surfaces every few months or so—will lead. After every campaign, some billboards disappear only to re-appear in other sites and in even bigger versions.

I must confess to being of two minds on this issue. The billboards do relieve boredom in the face of traffic jams, and can even provoke laughs and jokes aplenty. But in some areas, especially along expressways that cut through the countryside, billboards are a blight, marring the natural scenery and obscuring the otherwise restful vistas.

* * *

What I can’t understand, though, is why we need to go on periodic binges of moralistic umbrage against the billboards resulting in a frenzy of destruction when in the first place they should be governed by rules and standards maintained by local governments and the MMDA.

In the first place, any proposed design or content of a billboard has to pass through the AdBoard or some other self-policing body of the advertising industry. It is the AdBoard, after all, that should rule on the propriety of certain images as well as on the accuracy of any claims made. A spokesman for the AdBoard went on TV to clarify that the Volcanoes billboard passed their own standards, explaining that it was only right to show men clad only in briefs because that was the item being marketed. “If you’re selling a car, you show a car…” he said by way of comparison. But I guess the public can accept seeing a car on a billboard (even with a scantily clad woman sprawled across it) but not an entire team of rugby players in all their macho glory.

* * *

In the second place, don’t billboard advertisers need to get a permit from the local government before they can put up these structures? And don’t the applications contain the dimensions, the location, and the construction materials to be used?

It’s really a puzzle why the MMDA and the city governments express surprise at certain offensive billboards when these supposedly go through a rigid process of clearances and licenses. It would also be very difficult to ignore or miss these structures. They are certainly meant to be eye-catching and while they compete with so many other billboards, each is meant to send a specific message to everyone driving through, riding through or passing through the thoroughfares.

What the current frenzy against billboards shows us is a failure of regulation, a function that should have been exercised by both government and the so-called self-regulatory agencies long before the Volcanoes bared it all on Guadalupe.

It would serve us well to see a drastic cut in the number of billboards along Edsa, along the stretch of C-5, the South and North Expressways, and other major roads in the metropolis. Our eyes and our attentions could use a breather. Maybe authorities could use the time to draft firm standards, and then form task forces to enforce these standards.

Those who still have a hankering for the sight of brief-clad men can meanwhile ogle them in shop windows.

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  • Anonymous

    haha, good assessment Rina. desire across all genders even of the third sex, are to be respected, but it must have its proper space.

    give these Volcanoes quality sponsorship they deserve as winners for our country, like Power drinks or real sports wear and not publicly displayed, obviously, as objects of the third sex.

    They need sponsorships but they also deserve respect as national athletes.

  • rexandre delos reyes

    Well… women, buy makeups and/or cosmetics in the (mistaken) belief that they too could turn to look ravishing.  

    • Anonymous

      Too much makeup makes a woman look like a transvestite.

      • Andy Dufresne

        and too much milk makes a woman look like nanay D.

        i mean…………”strong and healthy” looking.

  • jared dalman

    What makes her think gay people belong to the “narrow segment” of consumers? 

  • isko daya


    And those posted elsewhere containing the same volcanic pictures must also be confiscated. What morality are we teaching our children? Those that caters to the need of the gays? Its time for the church to lecture those whose moral codes are becoming rude. The church time can become precious teaching morality than go to the Senate to prop political grandstanding.

    • Anonymous

      Ang ibang mga pari at obispo mga pedophile, babaero, at closet bakla.

  • Vincent

    personally the only men who enjoyed those billboards were of the fairer kind.

    i mean seriously who is the target market there? whats the point of marketing briefs if a small demographic of men actually want to look.

  • Anonymous

    Do these advertizers honestly believe that such giant billboards will really result in increase sales of the branded brief or whatever product for that matter? The only positive thing about giant billboards is that they sustain the jobs of creative and graphic artists, personnel of ad agencies, and the construction workers who raise the billboards. Everything else about these bill boards is bad: they pose deadly hazards, distract motorist driving focus, and can cause accidents, expose kids to premature adult visual experience, ruin the once open sky beauty of an avenue, and provide a place for the desperate and demented to jump to death. How about art for art’s sake? Baloney. The artist who created those MIB (men in brief) claims that the concept was done in “good Taste”, Good taste is as subjective as obscenity. If such MIB was in good taste, maybe the ad agency can come up with a giant ad for condom brand or an airbed showing celebrity couple like Dindong and Marian, Hayden and Vicky, Kris and whoever, copulating…in good taste.

  • Anonymous

    Do these advertizers of sleazy products on giant billboard honestly believe that the higher the billoboard the higher the sales of such product? Baloney! The only positive thing about these giant boards is that they sustain the advertising industry and the jobs of construction workers who raise these boards. Everything else about giant billboards is bad: 1, They pose deadly hazards, especially on windy times. 2. They distract motorist driving focus and cause a chain of accidents. 3. Giant billboards rob trees of space to green and grow. 4. Their sights blurs the once beautiful open sky sight of Edsa, and 5. They add to stressful driving through a congested avenue littered with sidewlak vendors, screaming barkers, whistle-blowing traffic enforcers, bulky buses, reckless drivers of all kinds.

    How about art for art’s sake? The agency that created the MIB(mern in brief) claims that the concept was done in “good taste”. Good taste is as subjective as beauty and obscenity. If such concept were really in good taste, then why doesn’t that agency put up gigantic billboard to sell a condom brand or waterbed  modeled by celebrities like Dingdong and Marian, Hayden and Vicky, or Kris Aquino and whoever copulating in “good Taste”. 

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