Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘Call Of Duty

Divided we fall

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Outrage Magazine | 18 June 2016

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Faces-of-LGBT

We love to say that the LGBT community revels in diversity – after all, our multi-colored rainbow flag is supposed to highlight that even if there are many of us who may come from different walks of life, we are still united in our struggle for the same cause (i.e. seeking equal rights for all).

Suffice it to say, I have seen the various faces that constitute the LGBT community in the Philippines.

I have met some who claim to represent (and – perhaps reflective of the elevating of the rich in a largely elitist heterosexual society – with actual pride at that) the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT”, the elite who fail to see their privilege.

I have met some of the “karaniwan (common)”, whose main concern is to ensure day-to-day survival.

And I have met some of the “bekinals (a play with “beking kanal” or gays from the gutters; a term that may be politically incorrect, but is still used by many when referring to themselves to highlight their lowly status), those who are at the fringes of society; and whose very existence is marked by the hardships encountered not only by being LGBT, but also by their social status.

I’d have to say that, unfortunately, these segregations do not at all “blend”. That is, at least as far as my experience in the Philippines is showing, there’s no “waving of the same banner/flag” for the LGBT community.

We are too… broken; too divided.

And this could spell our fall.

Hear so many of the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT” speak supposedly on behalf of the “entire LGBT community” while only focusing on such issues as marriage equality and passing the anti-discrimination bill in Congress (they do this in between parties or photoshoots or the likes). The mainstream media gives them the platform; and their allies in the ruling class (from politicians to celebrities) only “consult” with them on just about every LGBT-related issue (before publicly claiming they already spoke with the entire LGBT community). But they remain mum on other day-to-day issues, e.g. the policies being developed in Muslim areas in Mindanao that also affect LGBT people there, the effect among LGBT pensioners of the veto for SSS pension hike, and the failure of the Department of Health and PhilHealth to deal with the disparity of services offered in treatment hubs. Here, there seems to be more concern with faux publicity stunts that supposedly banned the expression of LGBT love, than actually finding practical solutions to deal with those who perpetuate the ills that affect us.

And then hear many of the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people, whose stance is – because they are often ignored anyway – to just keep to themselves.

We call our divisions “diversity”, as if by doing so the cracks from within are covered up and are therefore made more appealing. In reality, there is nothing empowering about this often unspoken great divide.

We have to bridge the divide.

Because there is always room for everyone on the table.

Start getting immersed in different contexts. Ask the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people to speak about their issues (in Congress/Senate, in the media). Stop only talking about the glamorous and start including issues of those who are unable to speak.

Because only if everyone is represented will our community be truly united.

And only then will we be truly a “community of diversity”.

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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Week 1: Road to #JusticeforJennifer

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Outrage Magazine | 29 March 2015

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Laude

Jennifer Laude’s mother, Julita, still in anguish over the death of her daughter, at a press conference.

Various developments marked the first week of the trial of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the main suspect in the death of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude, including the re-emergence of the issue of plea bargain, and the appearance in court of key witnesses.

NO PLEA BARGAIN AGREEMENT

The camp of slain transgender woman Laude expressed dismay over Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie delos Santos for allegedly pushing the family to enter a plea bargain agreement with the camp of Pemberton.

Atty. Virgie Suarez (TOP), and Jennifer Laude’s siblings face the media.

Atty. Virgie Suarez (TOP), and Jennifer Laude’s siblings face the media.

Hours before the trial began, the lead counsel of the Laude family, Atty. Harry Roque, said that “in the last hearing, she (Delos Santos) manifested that she would want to proceed with the plea bargain, where Pemberton could plea to a charge of homicide and will allow the civil case to continue; (this) is unprecedented,” Roque said. “Given the preference of Judge Delos Santos to enter this plea bargain, there’s now no guarantee for the Laude family that the prosecution will remain steadfast to procure a conviction for murder.”

Due to this, the camp of Laude submitted a formal request to the Department of Justice, requesting for Delos Santos to be replaced.

“The Laudes (submitted) a formal letter to ask that Delos Santos should be replaced, believing that thousand of prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service ought to be prosecuting, as they would be able and willing to see a convicted Pemberton for murder and not homicide,” Roque said.

Delos Santos denied the claim that she is pushing for a P21-million plea bargain deal in the case.

DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima already said that she would look into the complaint of the Laude family against Delos Santos, and has also directed the prosecutor to make comment about it “before I make a decision.”

Roque remained optimistic that their request will be granted by the DOJ.

“The victims have lost their confidence with the public prosecutor. I don’t see why the DOJ Secretary will consider Delos Santos as absolutely indispensable in this case given her actuation. And take note, her actuation took place in court. (And if our request is denied), we will go to court. Victims cannot be ignored in a criminal case,” Roque said.

THE BELLBOY TAKES THE STAND

A bellboy at the Celzone Lodge, the hotel where Jennifer was found dead, took the stand on March 23, the first day of trial.

Elias Gallamos, the first witness presented by the government prosecutors, narrated the what he witnessed on the night of October 11, the night Laude was killed.  Gallamos identified Pemberton as the man he saw with Jennifer, when the two checked-in at the hotel; he pointed to Pemberton, who sat in the courtroom, according to one of the Laude’s lawyers.

The US marine and Laude supposedly met at Ambyanz Disco earlier the night before they headed to Celzone Lodge.

Other details of the proceedings were not made available to journalists, as media coverage was barred during the trial.

THE CLOSE FRIEND AS THE STAR WITNESS

The star witness of the prosecution took the stand on the second day of the trial.

Barbie (birth name Mark Clarence Gelviro), a close friend of Laude, first made her testimony in the Senate, when Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago requested for her presence last October 2014.

It was noted by Atty. Virgie Suarez, lawyer of the Laude family, that during the trial last March 24, Barbie was calm and consistent with her answers, and “she showed confidence the entire time, and that was a good thing.”

The defense did not show much objections throughout Barbie’s narration. For Suarez, this may be a tactical response on their part.

During the direct examination, Barbie also admitted that she’s a sex worker. However, she said that she does not know if Jennifer was also engaged in sex work.

“I may say that there were questions na hindi magaganda (that were distasteful), focusing on Barbie being a sex worker or a prostitute. But I don’t think those issues (Barbie being a sex worker) will in any way lessen her testimony, because again, being a prostitute does not mean that you can’t be killed when your customer is not satisfied or anything,” Suarez said.

On the issue of a plea bargain, Suarez said that it’s no longer an issue as “we are now on trial, so that’s already water under the bridge and we can no longer get back to the that. We are now proceeding with trial, tuloy tuloy na ito (this will already progress).”

But the trial ended early, as the third witness – Jacinto Miraflor, Celzone Lodge’s security guard on duty at the time when Jennifer was found dead – was not able to testify due to health reasons.

Julita, the mother of Jennifer; and Marilou, her sister, may also become possible witnesses.  They were therefore not allowed to be inside the courtroom during the trial.  Michelle, another sister of Jennifer, was the only one present in the courtroom.

“Normal na normal si Barbie sa loob, hindi siya natatakot. Nakakatuwa dahil nung tinuro niya talaga si Pemberton, na si Pemberton talaga ‘yung kasama nila that night, tumayo siya (Pemberton), makikita mo sa mukha niya na nahihiya siya, na-conscious siya (Barbie was very normal/natural, she was not scared. It was good that when she pointed out Pemberton, that it was Pemberton who was with them that night, he stood up, and you can see in his face that he was ashamed, he looked conscious),” Michelle said.

A MOTHER’S GRIEF

Although Julita was not present in the courtroom, but she waited outside.

Ang babaw talaga ng kaligayahan ang tingin nila sa amin. Talagang akala nila na pwede na nila magawa o maapakan ‘yung karapatan namin. Ang gusto ko lang naman talaga mangyari ay ‘yung makulong siya (Pemberton), maranasan niya, maisip man lang niya, bakit ko ginawa ‘yun (They think our source of happiness is very shallow. They think they can take or step on our rights. What we really want to happen is for him to be jailed, for him to experience, to make him realize why he did what he did),” she said.

Julita also expressed dismay over the supposed P21 million agreement with the camp of Pemberton.

Ang sinasabi nila na ganung halaga ang hinihingi namin, hindi katumbas ‘yun. Kasi ako ang nakakaalam kung gaano kasakit ang nangyari. Hindi na nila maibabalik sa akin ‘yung anak ko, ‘yung pagmamahal niya, ‘yung haplos niya tuwing nagkikita kami, hindi mababayaran ng milyon (When they said that that’s the amount we’re asking for, I say that’s not worth considering. Because I personally know how painful what happened is. They can not return to me my child, her love, her touches whenever we see each other; they can’t pay those even with millions),” she said.

The trial will resume on April 13 and is expected to last until September.

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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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Laude’s case to test how Phl gov’t values its citizens, says Atty. Roque

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Outrage Magazine | 22 March 2015

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PHOTO OF ATTY. HARRY ROQUE FROM HIS FACEBOOK PAGE

PHOTO OF ATTY. HARRY ROQUE FROM HIS FACEBOOK PAGE

As the trial of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the 19-year-old suspect in the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, is set to begin this week, the lead counsel of the Laude family, Atty. Harry Roque, once again reiterated that the family will not enter any agreement with the US.

Last March 10, during the pre-trial hearing of the case, the possibility of a plea bargain was raised. But the family and lawyers of the slain transgender stood firm during the media briefing afterwards, saying that they would not agree to a plea bargain and made it clear that they just want to see Pemberton go to jail.

LGBT and ally organizations are condemning the brutal murder of 26-year-old transpinay Jennifer Laude Sueselback allegedly in the hands of a US marine.

LGBT and ally organizations are condemning the brutal murder of 26-year-old transpinay Jennifer Laude Sueselback allegedly in the hands of a US marine.

Nitong mga nakalipas na pre-trial, talaga namang puspusan ang pagpilit ng pamahalaan sa pamilyaLaude na pumasok sa isang kompromiso sa bansang Estados Unidos. Pero lahat ay tinutulan at naninindigan kami na katarungan ang kailangan (In the past pre-trial (meetings), the government has been adamant in urging the Laude family to enter a compromise with the US. But we refused and stand by the belief that justice is what’s needed),” Roque said to Outrage Magazine.

Supposedly, even though the prosecution wants to expedite the trial, the Philippine government continues to urge the Laude family to enter an arrangement.

Dapat simula na ‘yung pag-pi-prisinta ng mga ebidensya, pero kami ay nagkakaroon ng alinlangan, dahil malinaw ang posisyon ng Pilipinas na gusto nila na magkaroon ng plea bargain (The evidences should have already been presented, but we are having apprehensions because the position of the Philippines is clear that they want to have plea bargain),” Roque said.

He also said that this case will test how the Philippine government values the welfare of its citizens and how important the Visiting Forces Agreement is.

The Laude family continues to believe that when the case is over, they will be given justice. They also believe that this is not only a fight of the LGBT community, but of every Filipino.

And they just hope that the government will support them when the trial begins, rather than counter the efforts of the prosecution.

Nasasaktan din ang pamilya doon sa mga ni-leak out, na sa tingin namin ay galing sa gobyerno, na ‘di umano ay humihingi sila ng P21 million. Ito ay pinapabulaan nila at itong walang kasunduan ngayon ay patunay na naninindigan sila na ang kanilang hiling ay katarungan. Dapat itigil na nila ang pagpilit sa pamilya Laude na pumasok sa isang kasunduan (The family was also hurt when the news was leaked, which we think also came from the government, that they’re asking for P21 million.  This was denied by the family, and the fact that there’s no agreement now is proof that they remain steadfast in demanding justice. They should stop forcing the Laude family to enter any agreement),” Roque emphasized.

Although the country still lacks a law that can protect members of the LGBT community against hate crimes, he said that this shouldn’t hinder the Laude family to receive justice.

Dahil si Jennifer ay isang miyembro ng LGBT (community), magiging isa itong qualifying circumstance to murder. Kasi nagpapakita ‘yan na ang pagpaslang ay hindi lamang paglabag sa karapatang mabuhay, kung hindi karaptan na rin sa right to privacy nung napatay (Because Jennifer was a member of the LGBT community, this becomes one of the qualifying circumstance to murder.  Because this shows that gettig murdered is not only a violation of the right to life, but also the right to privacy of the one who was murdered),” Roque explained. “Lahat naman tayo ay may karapatan na pumili ng ating kasarian, kung sino ang gusto nating mahalin, at kung sino ang gusto nating makapiling (All of us have the right to choose our gender identity, who we choose to love, and who we want to spend our life with).”

The absence of a hate crime law, especially during times like these, “only highlights the importance of it, so perpetrators would be punished accordingly,” Roque said.

As the trial begins this week and is expected to last until September, Roque calls for the support of the LGBT community throughout the whole time.

Dapat mas maging aktibo sa kasong ito ang mga LGBT; hindi namin nararamdaman ang presensya nila. Kung hindi sila maninindigan dito, baka sa susunod sila na ang magiging biktima, dahil na rin sa patuloy na pananatili sa ating bansa ng mga dayuhan, gaya ng Amerikano, na pinapalawak pa sa pamamagitan ng EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). Panahon na na i-recognize na walang pwedeng manindigan sa interest ng mga Pilipino kung hindi ang ating mga kapwa Pilipino (The LGBT community should be active in this case; we are not feeling their presence. If they do not stand for this, they may become victims next, due to the continuing presence in our country of foreign powers, such as the US, further empowered by EDCA. It is high time to recognize no one will defend the rights of Filipinos but other Filipinos),” Roque ended.

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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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State of the Nation: The Grievances of PLHIVs

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Outrage Magazine | 22 July 2014

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WAD2013

“It is clear: The state was established to serve you. If you have health problems, the government must care for you. In times of illness, it should be there to give aid and support. What has our government done in this regard?”

That was the question posed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III himself during his fourth State of the Nation Address last year.

And this year, four years since Filipinos were led to the daang matuwid (righteous/right path)”, the commitment made by PNoy to Filipinos – that there will be a better tomorrow – seems to be untenable.  In fact, there seems to be no decent stopovers along the way, only obstacles.

The plight of Filipino people living with HIV (PLHIVs) exemplify this.

‘WITCH HUNT’

In an earlier interview on ABS-CBN News Channel, Department of Health (DOH) assistant secretary Eric Tayag said that the government agency is working on the details to make HIV tests compulsory.

“(DOH) Sec. Enrique Ona would want to shift from voluntary testing to something that’s compulsory. We want health providers to screen adults who may have a risk for HIV, so that they can be properly counseled on what to do next,” Tayag was quoted as saying.

While the DOH blindly considers this move to be beneficial to everyone, especially to those who are “unaware and reckless with their lifestyle”, different HIV-related organizations and support groups believe otherwise.

“We were surprised and very alarmed by the pronouncement of the DOH. We feel that the mandatory testing, other than being very violative of the AIDS law, will also violate fundamental human rights. If HIV testing would be required for employment or upon entry to educational institutions, then that’s a violation of the socio-economic and socio-cultural rights. It will promote greater stigma and discrimination,” Perci Cedaña, National Youth Commission’s commissioner-at-large, said.

The DOH also noted that the prevalence of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM) is really alarming and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

What the DOH leadership fails to see is the diversity of the LGBTQ community, whose members don’t follow the stereotyped images that the media or the everyday Filipino perceive.

“Even (if) DOH possesses evidence that show the complexity of Filipino behavior, in a concentrated epidemic among MSM and transgenders, who do you actually require to get tested? This population does not conveniently fit whatever stereotypical images that Sec. Ona may have about the (LGBTQ) community. Would DOH require all of them to get tested? The problem is not simply about increasing uptake of HIV testing. There’s a more fundamental issue: it’s Sec. Ona himself,” Network to Stop AIDS (NSAP) said in a statement.

Project Red Ribbon, an organization that composes mainly of PLHIV, noted that typecasting a certain group will not solve the growing problem of HIV in the country.

“It’s basically a witch hunt, and different organizations and institutions, especially BPOs, will be affected by this. (We are) so against this because it’s basically typcasting a certain group. The problem is, when you say MSM, not all MSM are gay. So does this mean that they will only focus with this group? What about the other groups? This is a clear typecasting of MSM. We don’t think it’s going to work,” said Pozzie Pinoy, founder of the Project Red Ribbon.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

While the government is “trying” to decrease the prevalence of HIV infection in the country, the quality of service and professionalism among medical practitioners in some health centers and treatment hubs continue to be lacking.

One PLHIV, RT, found out that he’s HIV-positive while he was finishing the requirements needed for a job application in Dubai.

“When I went back to the clinic in Malate to get my confirmatory test, the nurses and medical technicians who were on duty immediately went to the reception area to take a good look at me and they whispered to each other,” he recalled.

And what the attending physician told RT was even more alarming. “Okay lang ‘yan, matagal pa naman ang 10 years. Mga five years pa bago mo maramdaman na may AIDS ka. Marami ka pa naman pwedeng magawa (That’s okay; you still have 10 years. It will take five years before you start feeling the effects of having AIDS. You can still do a lot ’til then).” After hearing that, he just left the clinic.

Several days later, he consulted with another doctor in San Lazaro Hospital.

It has been three years since that incident.

RT is now taking antiretroviral medicines (ARV) to help control the growth and spread of the HIV virus in his body. His doctor told him that he’s in superb shape – he goes to the gym every other day and he hasn’t experienced any opportunistic infections.

Despite the unfortunate initial experience, RT is still “luckier” than most PLHIVs.

In the case of Paolo (not his real name), a 22-year-old barista who is also HIV-positive, the available resources in the Visayas region to attend to the needs of PLHIVs is insufficient, if not lacking.

Mahirap ang kalagayan ng mga may HIV dito sa Visayas. Minsan nangyayari na hindi kami naasikaso kasi hindi available ‘yung doktor namin. Kaya ‘yung iba sa aminnagbibyahe pa papuntang Cebu para macheck-up at makakuha ng ARV (Our status in the Visayas is difficult. At times, no one looks after us because there’s no doctor available. So, some of us have to travel to Cebu just to get checked, as well as to get ARV supplies),” he said.

As a minimum wage earner, Paolo cannot afford to skip work just so he can go to Cebu.

Naalala ko five or six months ago, nagkalagnat ako for three weeks, tapos noong nagpunta ako sa hospital namin ditonakaleave daw ‘yung doktor na naka-assign sa amin, at pinapapunta ako sa Cebu para matignan. Sumabay pa noon, naubos na ‘yung supply ko ng ARV, kaya hindi rin ako nakainom ng gamot ng almost one month. Tapos nag-consult na lang ako sa general practitioner doctor, at sinabi ko ang status ko. Wala naman akong choice (I remember five or six months ago, I had a fever for three weeks, so I went to the hub here, but the doctor was on leave; I was told to go to Cebu for me to get checked. It was also that time that I ran out of ARVs, so I have not been able to take my medicines for a month. I was forced to consult with a general practitioner; I disclosed my status to him. It’s not like I had a choice),” he recalled.

UNNECESSARY PANIC?

Although Filipino PLHIV benefit from PhilHealth’s Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment Package, which covers the majority of their hospital and treatment expenses, there is also the growing problem that the government is facing in terms of ARV supplies.

“Actually, we don’t have a problem in ARV supplies. It just so happened that there was an abnormal situation. There was a miscalculation when they ordered the supply, that’s why there was a delay for a few months,” said Dr. Rossana Ditangco, research chief of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).  “We experienced the shortage not because we didn’t have a budget, there was just a delay in the delivery. There’s no need to cause unnecessary panic towards this. As far as the budget is concerned, I don’t think we will experience any problem because the ARVs that we are buying are very cheap, they are just generics. And PhilHealth is there and ready to take over eventually for the cost of treatment.”

Supposedly pacifying words that don’t hold sway to so many PLHIVs.

In the case of JB, who lives in Quezon City, going to RITM Alabang to get ARV supplies is a tedious task, especially if he will only be given one to two weeks’ supply.

“I have been taking ARVs for more than four years now, and this year was the hardest for me, not because of the side effects I feel whenever I take the medicines, but the stress I experience every time I go to RITM. The nurses told me that they cannot give three and half months worth of ARVs, which I normally get, because they are ‘budgeting’ it to accommodate other patients. They only gave me two weeks’ worth of ARVs and I was asked to go back after I finish them,” he said.

The government, it seems, is covering up the real situation by not being open about this, as a consequence, some organizations supporting the PLHIV community end up making their own efforts to help augment the problem.

“The PLHIV community has been panicking for months now. The DOH has not been that transparent with its programs when it comes to antiretroviral medicines. The Project Red Ribbon itself has already purchased ARVs to support the community. So if there’s no problem, why is it that we are buying from other countries to supplement the problems with the stocks?” Pozzie Pinoy said.

(IN)TANGIBLE EFFORTS

PLHIV in the Philippines is protected by the Republic Act 8504 (The Philippine AIDS Law), which includes the following provisions: HIV and AIDS education in the workplace; prohibiting compulsory HIV testing; medical confidentiality; and prohibiting discriminatory acts and policies in the workplace.

But while RA 8504 may be beneficial, it is not fully functional. Truth be told, it is not even being practiced by the people who are dealing with PLHIVs.

As RT, who remains traumatized by the treatment he received at the hands of healthcare providers when he went to the clinic in Malate, is right in saying that he didn’t deserve to be judged by the people who are supposed to take care and make him feel better.

Paolo shouldn’t have suffered for three weeks because the attending physician for HIV patients in his locality was on leave.

JB could have used the time he spent traveling back and forth to Alabang to do other things.

If the government is really doing anything to improve the lives of PLHIVs, then why are there PLHIVs experiencing unnecessary distress?

In the end, as far as healthcare provision is concerned, how long must Filipino PLHIVs should wait until they see concrete efforts from this government? When will they stop questioning the decisions made affecting them, and just enjoy the supposed benefits?

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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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State of the Nation: The Plight of the Golden Gays

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Outrage Magazine | 18 July 2014

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For the likes of Mother Leony of Home for the Golden Gays, life is a constant struggle – discriminated for being gay when he was young, with an added layer of discrimination encountered now as a senior gay man…

For the likes of Mother Leony of Home for the Golden Gays, life is a constant struggle – discriminated for being gay when he was young, with an added layer of discrimination encountered now as a senior gay man…

Four years ago, Filipinos were reminded to remember an idea, an idea that there is hope for a better tomorrow.

This is no small thanks to the yellow fever Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III brought during his campaign for the Presidency, largely banking on the death of his mother. It was during the rise to power of his mother, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, when Filipinos felt the same, as she represented the opposition to former President Ferdinand E. marcos.  And while everything changed after her term, with discontent marking her reign, when Noynoy won in the 2010 Presidential elections, the country surprisingly turned yellow once again.

UNQUEENLY MOVE OF THE SOUTH

It was also during that time when ‘Nay Josie, a 65-year-old gay living in Mandaue City, felt that her life would improve.

“I remember voting for Noynoy back in 2010. Some people tried to convince me to vote for another candidate, they said that Noynoy was just all talk, and that I would be just wasting my vote. I didn’t listen to them and still voted for him,” ‘Nay Josie recalled, speaking in the vernacular.

‘Nay Josie has been living on his own for more than 10 years. His family asked him to move out of their house after he lost his job. They told him that they never wanted to see him again because he’s a disgrace to the family. He now lives on the streets. He works as a part-time assistant in a small beauty parlor in Mandaue.

“I understand their reasons. I don’t want to give my family a hard time taking care of me, especially now that I don’t have a job, and I don’t have the capacity to give any monetary support to them. My situation is really hard, but I don’t have a choice,” ‘Nay Josie said, wiping away tears.

There was a time, some two years ago, when he tried to reach out to their barangay, but they also turned him away, saying that “we don’t offer help to LGBT people.  Ginusto niyo maging bayot, kayo ang may kasalanan kung bakit kayo nagkaganyan (You decided to be gay, so it’s your fault your life ended up that way).”

For many senior LGBT people, only their memories (and not even happy ones) keep them company…

For many senior LGBT people, only their memories (and not even happy ones) keep them company…

A couple of months after this, when he gathered back his strength to reach out for help again, he went to the City Hall of Mandaue. But, what he heard made him completely hopeless. “Our government doesn’t have a budget for homeless people.  And even if we do, it might be hard for us to accommodate you because of what you are. We’re not saying we don’t accept you, but other people might be offended,” he was reportedly told.

“Sometimes, the young gays I meet in the beauty parlor, they give me some money so I can buy clothes in ukay-ukay.  O minsan, pinapagamit nila ako ng CR nila para makaligo ako. Hindi ko na alam ang gagawin ko kapag nawala ang raket ko saparlor (“Sometimes, the young gays I meet in the beauty parlor, they give me some money so I can buy secondhand clothes.  Or sometimes, they let me use their bathroom so I can shower.  I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my job in the beauty parlor),” ‘Nay Josie said.

DEMISE OF THE GOLDEN GAYS

Alas, ‘Nay Josie isn’t allowing in what she’s going through.  This is because in the Philippines, the government doesn’t have a solution to accommodate homeless LGBT people; or, for that matter, it does not have any concrete programs specifically catering to LGBT people’s needs. Instead, even if it’s hard, people who are in dire situations are forced to come up with their own solutions to remedy their problems.

This way, for the government to serve as the go-to of the citizens who are in need is but a dream.

A few years back, there was a self-sustaining home for the elderly gays in Pasay City. It operated for several years, with the doors open to anyone who has no place to go to. This community built and sustained a small community of elderly gays, becoming each other’s family. But everything ended when Justo Justo, the founder of the home, passed away. All the members were asked to vacate the house by the family of Justo.

Simula noong nawalan kami ng tirahan, nagkahiwa-hiwalay na kami. May mga iba sa amin na sa kalye na lang natutulog. ‘Yung iba naman, umuwi sa mga distant relatives nila.Nagkakasama-sama lang kami kapag may mga activities (Since then, we’ve lost the home we’ve known; we parted ways.  Some of us slept on sidewalks. Others stayed with distant relatives.  We just see each other if there are activities),” Ramon Busa, president of The Home for the Golden Gays, said.

Sophia, an 85-year-old gay, stayed at The Home for the Golden Gays for more than 15 years. After they were sent away, he didn’t have choice but to go back to his family, who never showed compassion to him after they found out he’s gay.

“Wala din naman kaming choice kung hindi pilitin namin na umuwi na lang sa kanya-kanya naming bahay. Dahil sa edad kong ito, hindi ko na kakayanin ‘yung walang maayos na matutulugan (We don’t have a choice but to return to our families. Because in my age, I won’t survive not having a proper place to live in),” Sophia said. “Kahit na sa bahay namin hindi nila ako inaasikasoat least alam ko na ligtas ako kapag may dumating man na bagyo (Even if no one cares for me in that house, at least I am safe when there are natural disasters).”

Rica Ramasamy, a 60-year-old gay, has been a member of the “Golden Gays” since 1982. He ran away from home when he was young because his family, particularly his mother, refused to recognize him because he’s gay.

Unlike Sophia, Rica didn’t have the same option of returning to his family.  He has no one to run back to. He lived on the streets, sleep on sidewalks, and run for cover whenever the rain came.

Nakita ako ng barangay captain na natutulog sa kalye, tapos kinuha niya ako. Nakiusap siya doon sa may-ari ng isang bulok na apartment para payagan akong tumira doon. Kahit na sira-sira na ‘yung apartment at butas-butas na ‘yung bubong, malaking pasasalamat ko na doon. At least hindi na ako sa kalye natutulog (The barangay captain saw me sleeping on the streets, so he saved me. He spoke with the owner of a dilapidated bulding to allow me to live there. Even if that building is dilapidated, I am still thankful.  At least I don’t live on the streets anymore),” he recalled.  Ginawa akong barangay sweeper ni kapitan (He gave me job as a street sweeper).” 

SUNSET IN THE “DAANG MATUWID

In Negros, there’s a 55-year-old gay who lives in jeepneys. His name is Mang Joseph. His family disowned him because of the supposed “choices” he made when he was younger. He is currently unemployed. And he’s suffering from bronchitis.

With their government failing them, with the society continuing discriminating against them, many senior LGBT people have no one to turn to…

With their government failing them, with the society continuing discriminating against them, many senior LGBT people have no one to turn to…

“Sinubukan kong lumapit sa health centerdito, pero hindi nila ako pinayagan ma-confine, dahil daw baka may AIDS ako at makahawa ako sa iba. Binigyan lang ako ng mga gamot at pinababalik na lang ako kapag naubos ko na (I went to the health center here, but they won’t admit me because they said I may have AIDS and I’ll infect others. They just gave me medicines, and told me to return when I’m finished taking the medicines),” he said.

He went to the City Hall of Negros to ask for assistance, but he was also turned away because he didn’t have the necessary requirements needed to process his request.

Namamalimos lang ako para may pambili ako ng pagkain. Kapag hindi sapat ‘yung nakukuha kong pera, naghahanap na lang ako ng mga natirang pagkain sa mga basura (I just beg so I can have money to buy food. If the money is not enough, I scavenge to find food in garbage),” he added.

He tried to go back to his family, but they still refused him, especially now with his illness.

“Ang pinakagusto kong ginagawa kapag dapithapon ay ‘yung panoorin ‘yung unti-unting paglubog ng araw. Minsan naiisip ko, sana kasabay ng paglubog ng araw ay ‘yung pagkawala ng mga problema ko at ang pagkakaroon ng solusyon sa mga ito (What I like doing is watching the sun set. Sometimes it makes me wish that with the setting of the sun, my problems will also disappear),” he lamented.

‘Nay Josie didn’t choose to be gay to be treated unfairly.

Sophia, meanwhile, was lucky to have a family who begrudgingly welcomed him back, though not all golden gays have the same privilege.

Rica was lucky to have met the barangay captain with a golden heart, though if it wasn’t for thebarangay captain, what would have happened to him?

And then there’s Mang Joseph who doesn’t deserve to suffer the way he is suffering now, as it was never his choice to be gay or to be burdened by an illness.

At desperate times like this, the government is supposed to serve as the beacon of hope that the people could look to to ensure that their welfare is taken care.  And this is regardless of their social status, gender identity and sexual orientation, or the problems that they currently face.

But as their plights highlight, where is the daang matuwid (right/righteous path)” promised them?

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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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Baguio Pride 2014: Celebrating diversity of the Cordillerans

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Outrage Magazine | 25 June 2014

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Can’t stop Pride.

That was the spirit behind the Baguio Pride 2014, which was held despite a heavy downpour, with members of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, as well as their allies, calling for more emphasis to be placed on the anti-discrimination, as well as HIV-related efforts.

In its 8th year, the Baguio Pride celebration – with the theme “Celebrating the Heritage of Struggle. Continue the Fight for Equality. Let a Thousand Flowers Rise.” – draws inspiration from the anti-war peace protests of the sixties, which started what is now known as the “flower power movement”.

“Compared to previous Pride celebrations, this year really improved a lot, but there are still some economic issues that we continue to face, there are still a great number of LGBT people who are not able to join these kind of activities because they would rather work,” Emerson Soriano, secretariat of Baguio Pride Network, explained. “Life here in Baguio, especially for LGBTQ people, is very difficult.”

As the parade left the assembly area, the rain became stronger. But, that didn’t stop the attendees, who continued marching along Session Road.

“The Pride celebration here in Baguio is going stronger every year. LGBTQ people who live in the suburbs and in far flung areas are coming here just to attend this annual event, and they are very interested to learn what this event is about,” Clyde Pumihic, spokesperson of Baguio Pride Network, said.

Baguio City is most known for its festival of flowers, and just like the people who live and visit the summer capital of the country, they’re also very diverse – thus, making it more difficult for LGBTQ people to practice and stand up for their rights.

“The Cordilleran culture is a very macho culture. In the far flung areas, especially in the provinces of the Cordillera, LGBTQ people really find it hard to be what they are, because generally speaking, people here tend to (just) tolerate rather than accept the members of our community,” Soriano explained.

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And for the LGBTQ community in Baguio, relying on the government to help them alleviate the struggle they experience every day is (unfortunately) their last option.

“The efforts of the local government is not enough to address the needs of the LGBTQs. And this is one of the reasons why we are connecting with other organizations, not just the ones here in Baguio, so we can get all the support that we need,” Josie Tacsi of Baguio Pride Network said.

After the parade, each organization gave a solidarity message.

“There are organizations here in Baguio who can help LGBTQ people.  We want to give them a voice and we want to give them the strength so they can come out,” Pumihic said.

There were also representatives from the local government during the event.

“I think Baguio’s progress in terms of accepting the LGBT community is improving, because we allow activities like these, and we are putting money in HIV programs,” Councilor Betty Tabanda explained.

And just like other areas in the country, Baguio is one of the many places that still doesn’t have an anti-discrimination ordinance.

“We want to continue pushing the government so they can already pass an anti-discrimination ordinance here. They (government) often focus on the problems of big cities and they tend to forget the needs of the ones who live in the provinces,” Pumihic ended.

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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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Is there Pride in the ‘daang matuwid’?

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Outrage Magazine | 04 June 2014

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IMG_6022 copyWith so much weight given to it to represent the LGBT community in the Philippines, the defeat of Ang Ladlad in two consecutive elections left many in the LGBT Filipino community in the middle of the battleground (so to speak), not knowing what the next actions will be. This may be because the path to LGBT equality continues to be a long and seemingly unending struggle; in fact, many advocates have already aged and retired, some have been killed along the way, and still some just lost hope and gave up.

Looking closely, this is not at all surprising. Twenty years already passed since the first LGBT Pride March was held in the Philippines, and yet, beyond the cheerful chants, hopeful smiles and parties, and the optimism of LGBT people, the protection of our basic rights remain evasive. Consider that when LGBT people attempted to seek representation in Congress, they were called “immoral” by a Commission on Election commissioner. When they reached out to the media, they were continuously labeled as “third sex”, as if there’s a hierarchy in shelling out who to respect.

It was in 2010, the same year when Ang Ladlad first lost in the elections, when the country turned “yellow” by voting for Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. But four years since then, are there any significant changes, particularly for the LGBT Filipinos?

PNoy, of course, famously said that he believes LGBT people should not be discriminated. Yet he also expressed apprehension when it comes to allowing LGBT people to adopt. The disconnect was not noticed; it’s a case of “I don’t have issues with you, but…”

And so while there may be people who will claim that under PNoy’s term (so far) many changes have been made, just as many can claim that many Filipinos are left out in the long-term plans of the Aquino administration.  And this includes members of the LGBT community.

Do you remember when, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, PNoy said that “it feels good to be Filipino these days”?

I remember.

But, I also ask:

How can it feel good when – as members of the LGBT community – we still experience discrimination, and the perpetrators get away with what they do?

How can other LGBT people feel good when companies would rather deny their application because of their gender identity rather than hire them for their skills/talents?

How can an HIV-positive Filipino feel good when he’s unsure of what’s going to happen to him after the Global Fund ends? For that matter, when the security of his medical supplies waver, even if membership to PhiHealth is supposed to cover the same.

How can families of slain LGBT people feel good when justice is being denied to them?

How can we feel good when suffering – solely because we are LGBT – is fast becoming a norm for us?

How can we feel good when an anti-discrimination law that will protect our basic rights continue to languish (since 1999!) in either Houses of Congress? If it were not for the efforts of local governments – like the cities of Quezon, Bacolod, Angeles, Cebu and Davao – some version of anti-discrimination policy wouldn’t see the light of the day.

And so the question remains: is celebrating Pride in a country where corrupt people are being escorted by bodyguards and are called honorable, and where prosecuted officials who are receiving VIP treatment in their fully air-conditioned rooms, still relevant?

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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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