The category is Filipino fierceness!

The Philippines’ House of Mizrahi and Haus of Manza

Imagine a scene where people are dressed flamboyantly, there is endless dancing, houses battling other houses, with touches of passion, love, and art on the side. As Shakespearean as that may sound, what we are describing here is the flashy, ever-vibrant, and energetic ballroom culture. But make no mistake, while this kind of ball is far from what you read in fairy tales, it definitely has no shortage of magic and drama.

What was once hidden in the shadows of New York City, the ballroom scene and its art of voguing has now become mainstream and has created an indelible mark in pop culture with the help of movies and TV shows like “Paris Is Burning,” “Pose,” and “Legendary.” In its early days, balls were dedicated to celebrate LGBTQ+ African Americans and Latinos. It’s where houses strutted and posed their way to victory, winning trophies, prizes, and ultimate bragging rights. Decades after, the ballroom fame has reached numerous places in the world, giving platform for queer folks and youth to express themselves. And believe it or not, it is blossoming here in the Philippines.

House of Mizrahi PH

Pioneering the ballroom and vogue movement in the country is the Philippine chapter of the House of Mizrahi, one of the legendary houses in the international ball scene. Established in 2016, the house is led by its mother, dance artist Xyza Mizrahi, who “became a part of the international house in 2015 after she walked (battled) at The Latex Ball in New York City.”

Xyza Mizrahi

“The role of a mother is very essential in keeping the house together,” Xyza tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “She trains her kids to reach their highest potential as voguers, she helps with their looks at every ball or function, she guides her kids with their categories, she also organizes balls and other events for the kids. She watches out for her kids, supports them, and keeps the family together.”

Just like in New York, the local ball scene includes various categories depicting all sorts of realness that houses should master. According to Xyza, the categories at first were more general, playing with Face, Runway, and Vogue Performance. But as the community grew, categories were separated and new ones, such as Sex Siren, Drag Face, Best Dressed, Bizzare, and Old Way vs New Way, were added.

House of Mizrahi PH

From mentoring three children, Xyza now has 14 members in her house, each of them has mastered specific skills. Her children include Twyloit, Mirana, Gesmond, Canter, Carlo, Dora, Phoenix, Dani, Kate, Ponla, Valkyrie, Nique, Marco, and Kylalilalu.

Haus of Manza

With the House of Mizrahi’s generosity in sharing the art that goes behind the ball and voguing, another Filipino house was born. Haus of Manza, headed by its mother, drag artist and House of Mizrahi PH’s child Maniqueen “Nique” Manza, was built through online exchanges. Although she is an experienced drag and ball artist, Maniqueen was hesitant at first in building the house.

Maniqueen ‘Nique’ Manza

“We meet through Zoom parties. We always attend online drag balls and virtual gatherings. These kids want to join the ball so they ask me if I could make a house for them to practice and learn more about drag and ballroom,” Maniqueen says. “At first, I’m in doubt about making a house because building it is not that easy. But I challenged myself. I knew my capabilities and I agreed to do it.”

Haus of Manza

As a fresh house with many of its children new in both drag and ball culture, the Haus of Manza knows they have a lot of work to do to hone their skills, and one of the best ways to do it is by putting themselves on the stage through virtual performances. Under Maniqueen’s tutelage are her children Empy Radora, Martha Amethyst, Qlint Torris, Ferdie Hoe, and two drag pros, Mathilduh and Jade So.

Ball goes online

To keep the ball rolling (pun intended) during the pandemic, much like everything else, the community took their craft to the online world. The House Mizrahi has hosted a number of vogue balls online like its annual Eclipse Ball, which was attended by ball icons like “Pose” choreographer Jamal Milan, Akuma from the House of Xtravaganza, and Sattva Ninja from HBO Max’s “Legendary.”

Last June 19, 2021, it held its Rainbow Ball online for free. It featured international judges Sharron Ninja from the House of Ninja (Taiwan) and House of Milan’s Range Milan (Korea).

The local chapter the House of Mizrahi has been a long advocate of ball and vogue education. It fulfills that mission by organizing ball talks and vogue workshops online for aspirants to get to know the culture and learn a few skills. “The ballroom culture here now is slowly getting bigger, but during the pandemic everything went virtually,” Maniqueen notes. “Ballroom until now is active. It never stopped from sharing knowledge.”

Finding a family

As Pray Tell from “Pose” says, “A house is much more than a home. It is a family.” Apart from finding an avenue to express their art, ball and its houses offer a community where queer individuals can find a safe space where they’ll be surrounded by people who love and understand them.

“The ballroom culture creates a space where you can be who you want to be without judgement. At a ball, you can freely express who you are and you will be appreciated,” Xyza muses. “It is a space where you are allowed to be extra and fierce. Ballroom is where magic happens and fantasies are fulfilled. Ballroom is for everyone, where fashion meets dance and inclusivity is key.”

“Ballroom is a protest and a celebration,” Maniqueen adds. “It’s all about equality and talent. Ballroom is family.”

Follow @houseofmizrahiph and @hausofmanza on Instagram to get the latest update about their performances and workshops.

Source: Manila Bulletin (