MARY GRACE COSTA WRITES – A defaced billboard featuring a same-sex couple in the Philippines has the LGBTQ community in an uproar. Meanwhile, online supporters rush to save the ad with a hashtag and a bit of creativity.

Filipino retail giant Bench released a new ad campaign entitled “Love All Kinds of Love” on February 11, just in time for Valentine’s Day. The campaign featured different kinds of romantic relationships, including that of real-life gay couple Vince Uy and Niño Gaddi. The couple was photographed with their hands clasped together.

Two days later, however, on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Makati City, passersby noticed that Uy and Gaddi’s hands on the billboard had been painted over in black.

Bench released an official statement a few days after the incident, saying that “the [Ad Standards Council] had rejected photos of the couple looking lovingly at one another, citing ‘traditional Filipino family values’ as the reason.” Jojo Liamzon, Advertising and Promotions Manager at Bench, told Style Bible that the Ad Standards Council (ASC) of the Philippines had deemed the advertisement “too gay” and advised Bench’s advertising team to censor Uy and Gaddi’s hand holding.

However, an ASC spokesperson denied that they had anything to do with the defaced billboard. According to Executive Director Mila Marquez, the Bench advertising team made the decision to obscure the couple’s hands on their own, hoping that the ad would be more readily approved.

The billboard was saved with the help of Filipino artists Rob Cham and Thysz Estrada. Cham and Estrada started the #PaintTheirHandsBack trend on Twitter on February 12. Cham, disturbed by the censorship, edited a photo of the billboard and gave Uy and Gaddi clasped Mickey Mouse hands, complete with wedding rings. He then invited Estrada and the online community to do the same.

The trend resulted in an overwhelming amount of #PaintTheirHandsBack edits featuring tentacles, Emojis, Spongebob and Patrick, even Katy Perry’s infamous left shark.

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To see more creative edits, check out the #PaintTheirHandsBack hashtag on Twitter.