Suspension of Disbelief

Archive for April 2014

Robin Tomas: Pinoy Pride on the world stage

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Outrage Magazine | 15 April 2014

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Meet-Robin-Tomas

TomasIt was in mid-2000 when this Filipino designer slowly made a name in the world of fashion.

He was born and raised in the Philippines.  His mother, a famous comedienne, TV host, and a veteran actress, supported all his endeavors.

He calls himself an artist, a designer, a gastronome, a class clown, and many others. But most importantly, he is proud to be a Filipino.

Meet Robin Tomas.

THE CALLING

In an exclusive interview withOutrage Magazine, Tomas recalled how he got interested in fashion.

“I was in college then, studying Fine Arts in U.P. It was then that I started getting curious about the fashion industry,” he recalled.

After he graduated from college, he decided to pursue further studies in New York.  He took up fashion design at Parsons School of Design. He also interned at Anna Sui and Valentino.

“It was a memorable experience for me (as) I was really interested in fashion,” Tomas said. With his enthusiasm and passion, he graduated with flying colors.

In no time, he got hired in the fashion industry in New York City after he graduated.

And in 2011, Tomas won the Supima Design Competition, a T-shirt design contest participated by six other designers. His winning piece was a “re-invention of the classic T-shirt.” His winning design, a “V-neck T-shirt in layered tonal Supima cotton knit,” was launched and sold at Bloomingdales.

It was also in 2011 when Tomas started his retail market in New York.

“The competition in New York is very fierce! It’s a very saturated and small industry, and the competition is really quite tough,” Tomas said. “You need to have the right combination of skill, personality, and luck.”

ON THE WORLD STAGE

Since then, Tomas has started creating couture pieces that reflect class and glamour.

“I have always admired similar works of the masters in this field – YSL, Valentino, Lagerfeld, et cetera. It was just something that I loved,” Tomas said.

His pieces are being carried by several boutiques in Manhattan.

He also said that most of his creations were inspired by some of the classic designers. “YSL is one of my inspirations, so are the early works of the late Gianni Versace. But overall, many aspects inspire me – architecture, art, films, and many others. Oh, and of course, my major inspiration is New York City!”

Apart from mounting successful fashion shows and events in New York, Tomas also contributed to the budding Philippine fashion industry.

In 2009, he showcased some of his creations during the Philippine fashion week.  Designers who witnessed the spectacle of Tomas’ designs dubbed it as “very strong”, and that “women will drool at it.”

He also partnered with a local clothing brand, Penshoppe, and released a 12-style collection for men and women. “It was a move to reach a different market. And I also want to bring my designs here (in the Philippines).”

Just recently, Tomas mounted another successful trunk show at Raffles Makati, showcasing his whole Holiday/Resort 2013 collection.

“I wanted to share my collection to the Philippine market, and the reception I received just affirmed the opportunity to open a store in Manila,” Tomas proudly said. “I would also like to open stores in other Asian and European cities.

He also launched a retail store last year “to make the creations more accessible to everyone,” he said.  In short, it was a move to make sure that he would reach a wider market.

Although Tomas has only been in the industry for some time, he is already slowly making a mark in the world of fashion, thereby paving the way for many budding Filipino designers to continue dreaming big and to reach for their goals no matter how difficult it may seem to be.

Robin Tomas is a New York-based designer for his own label, TOMAS.
Visit his online store at TOMASNYC.com.

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(Outrage Magazine remains the only publication for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.)

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Once there was a ‘butterfly in disguise’

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Outrage Magazine | 09 April 2014

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Miss-Golden-Gay-2014

He admits he is no spring chicken.  But he said that he is still young at heart. This even if he has abundant life experiences, many of them memorable if not painful ones.

The ignorant people he met call him “baklang walang pinagkatandaan (a gay man who never learned).”

But on that particular afternoon, when the “sunset beauty queens” were being celebrated, he referred to himself as a “butterfly in disguise.”

He introduced himself as Rica Ramasamy.

He is 60 years old. Homeless.  And gay.

He came from a group of gay senior citizens, most commonly known as the “Golden Gays of Pasay”.

Rica has been a member since 1982.

FINDING FAMILY

The bitter relationship he had with his family, particularly with his mother who refused to recognize him as her son because he’s gay, pushed Rica to ran away from home.

Sa pamilya namin, ayaw na ayaw nila ang may bakla, lalo na ang nanay ko. Pinaramdam at pinamukha niya talaga sa akin na ayaw niya ako. Kaya ako umalis noong bata pa lang ako (In my family, they did not want gay people, particularly my mother. They always made me feel unwanted. So I left home when I was still young),” Rica said.

Throughout the years, he struggled to make a living. He even tried to reach out to his other family members, but all of them, just like his mother, shamed him away. He slept on pavements and sustained a living on his own.

After years of living by himself, he discovered the Home for the Golden Gays and joined it. He has been very active member since then.

The happiness he felt in finding a new family was challenged when he received a bad news.

Noong 2007, nabalitaan ko mula sa isang kapamilya ko na namatay na ang nanay ko. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang gagawin ko noon.  Sobrang tagal ko ng hindi siya nakikita,more than 25 years, tapos mababalitaan ko na lang na patay na siya (In 2007, I heard from a family member that my mother passed away. I didn’t know what to do then. I didn’t see them for years, more than 25 years, and then I just suddenly heard that she already died),” Rica tearfully recalled. “Hindi ko talaga alam kung paano ko siya haharapin. Hindi ko man lang siya nakausap bago siya nawala. Sobrang lungkot ko noon (I couldn’t imagine how I would have faced her had I been given the chance. I was not even able to speak with her before she died. I was so sad at that time).”

He thought that when his mother passed away, his family would finally welcome him back, but he was wrong. They continued to hate him, and they even requested him to end all the connections he had with them.

The Home for the Golden Gays became Rica’s life. He stayed there and treated the members as his family.

Naramdaman ko ang tunay na pagmamahal ng isang kapamilya sa piling ng mga members (of the Golden Gays). Hindi ko ipagpapalit ang kasiyahan na ito (I felt the love of a family from the members of the Golden Gays. Nothing can replace this),” Rica proudly said.

ONGOING STRUGGLE

But the comfort and happiness he felt there didn’t last, too. When Justo Justo (known to many as JJ) passed away in 2012, the Home for the Golden Gays closed its doors, the members were asked to vacate the house by the family of JJ.

Wala kaming choice kung hindi umalis. Sa madaling salita nag-scramble kaming lahat (We didn’t have any choice but to leave. In short, we went our own ways),” Rica said. “Lumipas din ang ilang buwan bago nag-decide si Mon Busa, president of the Home for the Golden Gays, na ituloy ulit ito. Hinanap niya kaming lahat. Sa awa ng Diyos, nabuo niya kaming lahat ulit. Pero hindi na kami sama-sama katulad ng dati (Months passed before Mon Busa, president of the Home for the Golden Gays, decided to re-organize us.  He looked for all of the members.  In God’s grace, we were all re-organized. But we do not live together as we did in the past).”

After they were sent away, most of the members begged their families to take them back. But Rica didn’t have the same option; he has no one to run back to. He was forced to live on the streets, sleep on sidewalks, and run for cover whenever the rain came.

He was once again homeless.

He depended on the donations the Home for the Golden Gays receives from its sponsors.

Several weeks after, his fate changed, when a barangay official saw him sleeping on the sidewalk.

Hulog siya ng langit (He is a gift from heaven),” Rica said. “Sa labas lang ako natutulog, sa may kalye. Nakita niya ako tapos kinuha niya ako. Nakiusap siya doon sa may-ari ng isang bulok na apartment para payagan akong patirahin doon. Kahit na sira-sira na ‘yungapartment at butas-butas na ‘yung bubong, malaking pasasalamat ko na doon. At least hindi na ako sa kalye natutulog (I used to sleep on the street. He saw me, and he took me in. He spoke with the owner of one dilapidated apartment to allow me to stay there. Even if that apartment is dilapidated and the roof leaks, I am still thankful.  At least I don’t sleep on the street anymore).”

And the goodness of the barangay official didn’t stop there.

Ginawa akong barangay sweeper ni kapitan (I was employed as a barangay sweeper),” Rica smiled. “Kahit hindi ganun kalaki ang binibigay sa akin sa pagiging barangay sweeper,sobrang laking pasasalamat ko kay kapitan. Binigyan niya ako ng pag-asa (Even if I don’t get paid a lot as a barangay sweeper, I am still thankful. I was given hope).”

Aside from the ample earnings he regularly gets from being a sweeper, Rica continues to be active in various activities of the Home for the Golden Gays – to be with his “family” and to give entertainment to their sponsors.  His lifestyle depends on how much he earns from thebarangay and on the number of sponsors that would come in a particular month.

TIME TO SHINE

One of the most memorable events for him was when Trippers Philippines sponsored an outreach program, a beauty pageant that highlighted the Golden Gays.  It was a beauty pageant like no other, with the contest filled not just with colorful jokes but with emotional narratives. It was a moment for the sunset beauty queens, a parade of the forgotten.

And in the end, the “butterfly in disguise” triumphed among the others. Rica won the title.

On that particular afternoon, the homeless 60-year-old gay street sweeper was the queen.

Hilig ko talaga kahit noong bata pa ako ang magsuot ng magagandang damit, mga gowns, ang rumampa sa entablado. At my age, kaya ko pa rin ‘yan (Even when I was young, I liked wearing nice clothes, gowns, sashay on sage.  At my age, I can still do that),” Rica proudly said.

But it was also a victory for the Golden Gays, not just for Rica. Because for a time, they were remembered.

Kung bibigyan ako ng pagkakataon na baguhin ang lahat, hahayaan ko na lang na bumalik ako sa ganito, dahil naramdaman ko ang saya at ligaya. Although hindi ako malapit sa mga pamilya ko, kaya ko naman buhayin ang sarili ko. Masaya ako… masaya ako na kapiling ko ang mga Golden Gays (If given the chance to change things, I’d return to when we were together because that was when I felt happy. Although I am not close to my family, I have been able to sustain myself. But I am most happy… when I am with the other Golden Gays),” Rica said.

Then turning political, he appealed to the government to have more tangible efforts for mature aged LGBTQ Filipinos.  “Sana dagdagan nila ang pagpapahalaga sa mga LGBTQs.  Sana naman ipukaw nila ang paningin at pag-iisip sa amin.  Bigyan nila kami ng halaga. Hindi naman kailangan masyado, ‘yung sapat lang para mamuhay kami ng normal (Hopefully government officials start recognizing the worth of LGBTQ people. May the government officials open their minds and eyes about our realities.  They have to see our worth. We are not asking for much, just enough to allow us to live normal lives).”

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(Outrage Magazine remains the only publication for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.)

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Destination: Heaven, defining the love for Malate

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Outrage Magazine | 06 April 2014

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Destination Heaven

It was in mid-2013 when Malate supposedly took a bow – it was (probably) because most of the “happening” clubs, including O Bar and BED Bar, decided to move to Ortigas.  For many years, Malate (arguably) served as the gay capital of the Philippines. There, countless memorable establishments witnessed the continuously evolving LGBT community, including Acquario, Bath, Blue Cafe, Coco Banana, Fidel, Joy, Mint, Rainbow Project, and the older version of Red Banana.

As time passed, new gay spaces opened in different parts of Metro Manila, giving everyone several options.  But what everyone failed to see was that these openings slowly killed Malate.

For months after the closure of the “happening” venues, Malate became stagnant. Che’lu was the only big club left operating along Maria Orosa Street. And while The Library, largely considered as a pioneer in stand-up comedy, started gaining back its traction, both Che’lu and The Library aren’t as aggressive as the old bars, probably because they already have their niche markets.

A PIECE OF CLUBBING HISTORY

Twelve years ago, Red Banana, an infamous and notorious club, opened at the corner of Ma.Orosa and Nakpil Streets. It started a different trend during its time. Most people would remember the red velvet curtains in its interiors, the pulsating beats that echoed in the entire floor, and the “magic” that happened on the 2nd floor.

“(The old) Red Banana was known to be a very naughty and sleazy place, maybe because of its darkroom. It has flown in a very, very fast pace; it gained a lot of attention. Every weekend you would always see new faces,” Paolo Alimagno, co-owner and operations manager of Red Banana, said.

After three and a half years, the venue closed its doors.

It was also during that time when Malate in the City of Manila (where the bar was located) became one of the premier party hotspots in Manila, attracting different crowds, coming from LGBTQ and heterosexual communities, flocked in to experience what it offered. But it didn’t last.  Throughout the years, Malate slowly deteriorated, as one by one; bars, clubs, and restaurants closed their doors or transferred to other locations.

Red Banana

REIGNITING PARTS OF THE PAST

Towards the end of 2013, the abandoned Orosa Courtyard, where BED Bar used to stand, was brought back to life. This time, the new business owners are offering different types of entertainment, all of them falling under an umbrella establishment – Destination: Heaven.

“We love Malate and we don’t want Orosa to fade away that instantly.  Almost everything started here. Malate is very historical for all of us. If San Francisco has Castro and Bangkok has Patpong, of course the Philippines has Malate,” Alimagno said.

Together with Andrew de Real and other entrepreneurs, they discussed the possibilities of reviving Malate.

“It was not an easy decision at first, but when we laid down the concept on how we want to attack this, everything slowly became easy to achieve. We decided to put up a corporation, Rainbow Group Entertainment Ventures Incorporation, to bring back what was lost in this beautiful place,” Alimagno said.Mint

The corporation decided to “re-design the experience” in the courtyard. Alimagno brought back Red Banana, de Real reincarnated Mintand they added two new attractions: Zinc and Azzul. Collectively, the place is called Destination: Heaven.

“While we were standing outside the courtyard, I told Mamu Andrew de Real that I would like to bring back Red Banana because people know it already, and it’s one of the legends of Malate. And Mamu was also eager to bring back Mint, because of the good memories it brought toMalate,” Alimagno said.

Destination: Heaven offers a different kind of experience to anyone.  The set-up attempts to resemble DJ Station in Bangkok, Thailand, and offers different attractions in each area, just like GMF @ Weekend in Berlin, Germany.

Zinc

FOR THE LOVE OF MALATE

“When we decided to open Destination: Heaven, as businessmen, of course the fear was there. But because we love Malate so much and we cannot just let Orosa die or fade that instantly, it gave us more courage and braveness to put up this establishment,” Alimagno said.

He also notes that putting up a business, especially bars and clubs is not that easy because they’re seasonal.  ”Like what I said, what’s really important for us is that we keep Malate alive.  We don’t want it to die. That’s how much we love this place.”

Although the bars that re-opened in Ortigas are already gaining fame, Destination: Heaven doesn’t think of them as competition.Azzul

“The reason why we are surviving in the past six months, and will remain open for a very long time, is because we are enjoying while we’re working. We are gaining attention as the weeks go by. Of course, we cannot expect the people to just magically show up and hang out here.  It takes time,” Alimagno said.  “That’s why we are giving the best service and experience anyone can have when they’re in ‘heaven’.”

Aside from efforts to resuscitate Malate, Destination: Heaven also wants to change the way an LGBTQ establishment should function in the community.

A HOME FOR EVERYONE

Destination: Heaven first made its mark in the LGBTQ community when it hosted the 2013 Pride event without asking for anything in return.

“For those who are saying that we’re only supporting advocacy events to just gain publicity, it’s their right and we respect that. What we really wanted (when we hosted 2013′s Pride) was… it’s time for the Pride event to come home. We didn’t say yes just to earn from the event.  We just felt that it’s time to give back to the community,” Alimagno said. “Destination: Heaven is your home. I may call it as an entertainment place that wants to give back. One of our missions is to keep Malate alive and through these advocacy events happening here, it’s one way to make people remember and never forget this place. It’s high time to start giving back to the community while partying.”

As a new establishment, they may have started a new trend: an LGBTQ space where everyone is welcome. Here, there are no special treatments, no VIP areas – a fair entertainment for everyone.

“I always remember what Mamu told me: ‘When you are handling yourself, use your head. But when you’re handling other people, use your heart.’ We are here to give joy, to give happiness, and to make people feel that they are home because this is Malate,” Alimagno said.

Destination: Heaven is located at the Orosa Courtyard in Malate, City of Manila. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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(Outrage Magazine remains the only publication for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.)

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