MANILA – Bench’s game-changing billboard may have been painted over, but that could not stop artists and friends from sharing their love and support for LGBT equality with the now viral #painttheirhandsback campaign.
A day before Valentine’s, a portion of one of Bench’s billboards was painted over to obscure the intertwined hands of Preview Creative Director Vince Uy and his boyfriend Nino Gaddi, and people are now taking it upon themselves to fix the image. 


The image, which originally showed Uy’s arm around Gaddi and the two holding hands, is one of four billboards that are part of Bench’s February campaign called “Love All Kinds of Love”. The other billboards in the campaign feature actress Gloria Romero with her grandson Chris, engaged couple Solenn Heussaff and Nico Bolzico, and makeup artist Ana Paredes with interior designer Carla Peña.

It began with Mickey Mouse gloves by artist Rob Cham, who came up with the idea for #painttheirhandsback together with writer Thysz Estrada. Others were quick to participate, drawing all sorts of hands for the couple. The results range from realistic to cartoonish, but the message is clear. 
“We thought, hey these guys erased a part of what makes the whole Bench campaign work and most importantly, the way these two guys express their love. It’s not offensive at all, it’s love!!! So when Rob suggested he paint over the missing hands, I thought of a good hashtag for it and posted it to our networks. The rest is internet viral history,” Estrada told adobo.
“They didn’t like how the hands had to be covered up and took it upon themselves to make it right. I think it’s a really clever way to respond to the issue. Stuff like this is what the internet is for and I think it’s beautiful that people are fighting for freedom, love, and equality in the most creative, intelligent, and funny ways,” Raymond Ang, editor of Bench’s quarterly magazine Benchmark, told adobo.
As of posting time, Bench has not issued an official statement about the revised billboard. 
Bern Abraham, former Communications Manager of Task Force Pride Philippines, said the Bench campaign was brave, as it was a statement of equality. “However, it may be surmised that the company conceded to cover the ringed hands. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have a go signal and would have wasted money. After all, they are a business. But that’s where the danger lies. When relationships like that has to have conditions when being shown in public, it is discriminated,” Abraham told adobo.
Abraham continued, saying the move to alter the image is a bit counter-intuitive to the ad copy, which calls to celebrate all kinds of love equally. “Does that mean we can love but not offend people? I can have a boyfriend but I can’t hold his hands or kiss him when and where I want to? Again, this kind of attitude is the main reason the Anti-Discrimination Bill is being deliberated in Congress. 
“Love is an all-encompassing and transcendent concept and to deny it, to discriminate it, is to insult its essence. The Ad Standards in our country is a little outdated and bigoted, if you ask my opinion. Maybe they could reconsider their stands, and we, as a society could reconsider what values do we uphold,” Abraham concluded. 
Earlier, Ang told Style Bible that the original idea was to have a gay couple kissing, but did not push through, as the Ad Standards Council expressed concerns, citing traditional Filipino family values.
Section 3 of the Ad Standards Council’s general standards of presentation states that “Advertisements must respect religious beliefs, and be sensitive to the diverse religions, mores, culture, traditions, characteristics, historical background and identity of the various Filipino communities and uphold traditional Filipino family and social values.”
Ang told adobo that despite this, Bench decided to move forward. “They figured that the most important thing is for the ads to go up and still send the message. Obviously, it’s not the ideal situation but I think the campaign still, against all odds, sends the message and celebrates love. And reading through Twitter and Instagram, hearing people talk about it, I think the largely positive reception to the campaign shows that Filipinos are more open, intelligent, and progressive than they’re given credit for. Filipinos are hearing the message loud and clear and are choosing to stand behind it,” Ang said.