Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘golden gays

What the SSS pension hike means to senior LGBTs

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Outrage Magazine | 01 February 2016

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Growing-old-and-gay

Poverty knows no sexual orientation or gender identity.

With Philippine President Benigno Aquino III vetoing the bill that would have increased the pension to be received by beneficiaries of the Social Security System (SSS), pensioners who are also members of the LGBT community are joining the fray against the move considered as both “inhumane” and “anti-poor”.

Dati akong nagtatrabaho sa isang kooperatiba (I used to work in a cooperative),” said 62-year-old gay pensioner Andrea del Rosario. “As an SSS member, my contributions were automatically deducted from my salary; and during that time, hindi ko masyadong pinag-aralan kung ano mangyayari sa kontribusyon kobasta ang alam ko, may aasahan ako pagtanda ko (I didn’t closely look at how my contributions were handled; I just knew that when I grow old, I’d have something to fall back on).”

And now that Aquino’s government refused to “give us minimal increase, even if the SSS executives profit from us, talagang pinapahirapan kami (we’re really placed in a difficult situation),” Del Rosario said.

FAILED JOURNEY

As early as March 2011 a bill seeking for an increase in monthly retirement pension to a minimum of P7,000 a month was already submitted to Congress. This did not pass, so that in January 2013, a new bill substituted the previous version, this time looking into a reduced increase of a maximum P2,000-a-month pension. In July of the same year, another bill was passed in response to the substitution, again highlighting the need for the proposed increase.

Not incidentally, also in July 2013, Aquino said in his State of the Nation Address that “it is time to amend the SSS pension scheme. We must establish measures that remedy the outflow of funds.” Interestingly, Aquino is also a defender of granting SSS executives hefty bonuses.

It was only in 2015 when, finally, the Congress approved the P2,000 across-the-board pension hike.

However, Aquino vetoed the increase in January, stating that “while we recognize the objective of the bill to promote the well-being of the country’s private sector retirees, we cannot support the bill in its present form because of its dire financial consequences.”

GROWING OLD AS LGBT

For Del Rosario, the effects of Aquino’s “anti-poor SSS stance” are very defined among LGBT pensioners like himself.

Kaming mga gay senior citizens na walang binubuhay ang mas may kailangan (Gay senior citizens like us who do not support anyone, need the money most),” he said.

On one hand, exactly because they do not support others, “wala rin kaming aasahang susuporta sa amin pagtanda namin (We expect no one to support us when we grow old),” Del Rosario said. As such, “we only live on what we get.”

On the other hand – and this is reflective of the Philippine society expecting those who supposedly do not have families of their own (such as LGBT people) to help look after the families of their relatives – Del Rosario said that his pension is also used “para makatulong sa mga pamangkin at apo (to help my nephews/nieces and grandchildren),” he said. “Sila ang aking tinutustusan at pinagbibigyan kung may hinihingi o pangangailangan sila (I support them when they ask or need something).”

The small pension he receives makes it “difficult to live, much more to help out.”

FALSE HOPE

Del Rosario said that “many like me resort to utang (borrowing money).”

Talagang hindi sapat ang nakukuha naming pensyon. Nababaon kami sa utang at ang mga lending institutions na may matataas na interest rates lamang ang nakikinabang, pinapahirapan nila kami lalo (The pension we receive is not enough. We are deep in debts, and only lending institutions with high interest rates benefit from this, as they make our lives more miserable),” del Rosario said.

He also added that he is one of many seniors – LGBT and non-LGBT – still hoping for some changes to happen to “acknowledge ang pinagdadaanan namin (what we’re going through), considering that we have to spend more sa gamot, pantustos sa mas maraming tao (for medicines, to support a bigger family)…”

But beyond this, though, Del Rosario said he hopes for a change of heart to “start ensuring that the elderly are taken care.”

Magkaroon sana sila ng magandang pananaw at kabuuang malasakit para sa mga senior citizens (I hope they gain better understanding of the plight, and have more compassion for the senior citizens),” del Rosario ended.

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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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Once there was a golden showgirl

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Outrage Magazine | 21 March 2015

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The-Showgirl

What he does for a living is merely a “passion to entertain the audience,” he said.  He performs on stage – miming different songs, dances to a familiar tune, and presents different acts in a comedic way.

He goes under the name Gloria Manila.

He is from a group of Filipino gay senior citizens, most popularly known as the Golden Gays.

And at 68 years old, he doesn’t see himself slowing down. He is, he stressed, “still a showgirl”.

A PLACE TO CALL HOME

Gloria moved into the house of the late Justo Justo (known to many as JJ) when he was only 15 years old, living there until he reached his twilight years.

Mula noong namatay ang mga magulang ko, nagsosolo na ako sa buhay. Ang mga kapatid ko naman nasa Visayas lahat. Talagang nag-iisa nalang ako sa buhay ngayon (From that time when my parents died, I have been alone. My siblings are all in the Visayas. So I am really by myself now),” he said.

Gloria added: “Doon na ako sa bahay ni JJ lumaki. Kinuha nila ako at inampon. Sa kanila na ako lumaki, inalagaan ako ni Konsehal JJ (I really grew up in JJ’s house. His family took me in. They looked after me).”

In that former shelter for (mostly senior) gay men, the so-called Golden Gays had a family that they can call their own. It was something that most of them did not have. And for a time, they had a place they can call home.

Mas masaya kami noon, noong magkakasama pa kami sa isang bahay. ‘Yung iba sa amin hindi na iniisip kung saan titira o kung may sapat na pera para pangkain kinabukasan. Dahil magkakasama kami sa isang bubong, hindi ganun kahirap (We were happy then, while we were living together. Some of us didn’t have to worry where to live or if we had enough money to buy food for the next days. Because we were living together under one roof, life didn’t seem so hard),” Gloria said.

Unfortunately, it only lasted until JJ died.  His halfway shelter for the Golden Gays shut its doors.

He alleged that “mga barumbado ‘yung mga apo niya (JJ). Pinabayaan kami, pinalayas lahat ng Golden Gays. Ngayon, parang pagsubok na lahat ng mga bagay (JJ’s grandchildren were harsh. We were neglected, we were kicked out. So now, it seems that everything in life is a challenge),” he lamented.

COMEDY IN THE LIMELIGHT

But unlike some of the Golden Gays, Gloria continues to have a drive – that is, to get his share of applause from an audience, even now that he’s already in his sunset years.

Gloria started performing during the 1970s, as a regular at some of bars and clubs that offered alternative entertainment. Now, even as decades passed, he continues to perform on stage, although not as active as when he was younger.

Naalala ko noong kabataan ko, okay ang mga raket ko, kaliwa’t kanan. Pero ngayong tumanda na ako, nahihirapan na ako. Sa mga comedy bar na lang ako nakakapag-showngayon. Wala kasi akong alam na ibang trabaho kung hindi ang mag-show lang (I remember when I was young, I had numerous projects. But now that I am older, I am having a hard time. I now only perform in comedy bars where I get gigs. I don’t know of anything else to do aside from doing shows),” he said.  “Isa talaga akong showgirl (I am a true showgirl).”

Sadly, as his age – and the physical beauty that goes with it – progresses, the workload lessened. He is no longer a regular at any comedy bar, even if he gets occasional gigs.

Gloria is also frequent at some town fiestas, plays slapstick acts that often ridicule the ugly part of being gay or sometimes his old age.

Kahit magkano lang ang ibigay sa akin, okay lang. I don’t ask for a big amount of money,pakikisama lang ang kailangan ko, ‘yung pang-u-unawa nila. Hindi ko kailangan ng malaking pera. Kung magbibigay sila, kahit pamasahe lang, okay lang (It’s okay with me whatever amount is handed to me. I don’t ask for a big amount of money, just the companionship, and their understanding. I don’t need a lot of money. If they give me something, even if it’s just for my fare, that’s fine by me),” Gloria added.

Aside from his stint as a showgirl, he is also pre-occupied with his small beauty salon in Quezon City.

Binigyan ako ng parlor ng asawa ko. Pero minsan mahina ang kita doon. Alam mo naman ang kita sa parlor – minsan wala, minsan mayroon. Kung wala akong mga shows, sa parlorako nag-s-stay at nagbabantay (My partner gave me a parlor. But sometimes that doesn’t earn. You know how parlors are – sometimes they earn, sometimes not. If I don’t have shows, I stay at the parlor and look after it),” Gloria said. “Pero sa ngayon, pinagkatiwala ko sa kapatid ko ‘yung parlor, ‘yung pera na kita napupunta sa kanya. Binibigyan naman niya ako ng pangkain sa araw-araw, 60 pesos (But now I entrusted the parlor to a sibling, so the money the place earns goes to that sibling who just gives me money for food every day, 60 pesos).”

OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

For every struggle Gloria experiences, he finds solace through one of the greatest things that happened to him – his almost lifelong relationship with his partner.

He met this wonderful man during his 40s and they have been together for 26 years and still counting.

Gloria-Manila

“Kahit magkano lang ang ibigay sa akin, okay lang. I don’t ask for a big amount of money, pakikisama lang ang kailangan ko, ‘yung pang-u-unawa nila. Hindi ko kailangan ng malaking pera. Kung magbibigay sila, kahit pamasahe lang, okay lang,” Gloria Manila says.

Malungkot ako ngayon, wala akong katabi sa pagtulog. One and a half years na siyang nasa Mindanao kasama ang pamilya niya. Pero tinatawagan naman niya ako sa cellphone, kinakamusta niya ako (I am sad now because I have no one beside me when I sleep. He’s been in Mindanao for one and a half years now to be with his family. But he calls me to ask how I am),” Gloria said.

He remains hopeful that in the near future, his partner will come back to Manila to be with him again.

Alam ko babalik pa siya para magkasama ulit kami. Minsan tinanong ko siya kung may asawa na siyang iba dahil ang tagal na niyang hindi umuuwi dito, wala naman daw (I know he will come back so we can be together again. Sometimes I ask him if he has found someone else, and this is why he hasn’t been with me for a while; but he said he doesn’t have anybody else),” he added.

So for the time being, Gloria said that he will continue to entertain people through his knack in making everyone smile. Because after all, even if he’s already in his sunset years, he is and always will be a showgirl.

Wala akong gustong baguhin sa buhay ko. Naging masaya ako sa mga napagdaanan ko. Bakit ako may babaguhin? Magaganda naman ang naging buhay namin, pati na ang naging samahan namin ng mga Golden Gays (There is nothing I will change in my life. I’ve been happy with what I went through. Why would I want to change anything? Life has been beautiful, particularly the relationships we’ve formed with the Golden Gays),” Gloria ended.

To donate or extend help to The Home for the Golden Gays, visit http://homeforthegoldengays.org/ or email homeforthegoldengays@gmail.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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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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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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A moment for the sunset beauty queens

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Outrage Magazine | 19 March 2014

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beauty-queensThe event was not grand, and there weren’t even many in attendance.  But the happiness and the sense of belonging felt by those who participated was immeasurable. It was, after all, an afternoon devoted to the lolas of The Home for the Golden Gays.

It was the Miss Golden Gay 2014, held at the Andres Bonifacio High School in Pasay City by Trippers Philippines.

It was a beauty pageant like no other. Arguably, many may see it as akin to a slapstick show. But really, it is more than just the aging beauty and the funny punchlines.  It was to showcase the elderly members of the LGBTQ community.

Sixteen lolas participated, each of them had a unique personality and a story to tell. And though they seemed to only flamboyantly parade their wares in front of the audience, the celebratory atmosphere wasn’t lost on them.

all-beautifulAlam naman namin na temporary lang itong kasiyahan na ito, kaya we are just living the moment. Dahil pagkatapos nito, babalik na naman kami sa kanya-kanya naming buhay, sa paghahanap ng pagkukuhanan ng sapat na pera para panggastos namin sa araw-araw. Pero kahit na ganito kami, masaya kami. Masaya kami dahil kasama namin ang isa’t-isa kahit na magkakalayo na kami,” Sophia Lorraine, an 85-year-old Golden Gays member, said with a laugh.

GATHERING OF LOLAS

“This is the second year we’ve been doing a project for the lolas of The Home for the Golden Gays,” Joseph Antony Zingapan, secretary general of Globe III cluster of Trippers Philippines, said. ”We want to give something back to the community, and with this kind of effort, it only proves that clans, like Trippers Philippines, can have functions beyond merely forming camaraderie.”

The nine-year-old all-gay organization has been making various efforts that, in their own way, reach members of the LGBTQ community who are in need of assistance. After registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) three years ago, their efforts doubled.  The gathering of the lolas is proof of this.

Particularly, Trippers Philippines’ effort for the lolas was designed while bearing in mind UNDP’s Millennium Development Goals; one of the eight goals is to focus on the elderly.

“We have an advocacy for the elderly within our community,” Romrico Salgada Luga, national president of Trippers Philippines, said, adding that “we might as well concentrate on them.”

HOME FOR THE ELDERLY

The Home for the Golden Gays officially closed its doors when its founder, Justo Justo (known to many as JJ), passed away last 2012. All its members were asked to vacate the house by the family of JJ, supposedly telling the former residents that “now that Justo is already gone, we’re closing our doors to you.”

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. Nagkakasamasama lang kami kapag may mga ganitong activities. Kaya we’re very thankful for this wonderful opportunity for us para magkasama-sama uliand of course, napakalaking tulong para sa amin yung maibibigay nila,” Ramon Busa, president of The Home for the Golden Gays, said.

PERFORMANCE OF THEIR LIVES

The beauty pageant lasted for almost two hours. Some of the lolas continued to perform even after the actual pageant, as everyone waited for the judges to tally the scores. Some of them sang familiar songs from the distant past, and some of them narrated stories, delivered with witty punchlines. At that point, it became unlike other beauty pageants where there is pressure among the contestants to win for winning’s sake.

It became an afternoon for the lolas; an afternoon that, even if brief, eyed to make them smile.

Hilig ko talaga kahit noong bata pa ako na magsuot ng magagandang damit, mga gowns, ang rumampa sa entablado. At my age, kaya ko pa rin yan. Lahat kami sa Golden Gays,nakakaramadam kami ng panandaliang saya at nakakapagpasaya kami kapag nasabeauty pageants o kapag nasa outreach at ibang activities kami. Pakiramadam namin, kapamilya namin ‘yung mga nanonood at pumapalakpak sa amin. Napupunan nila yung kulang at nawala na sa amin,” 60-year-old Rica Ramasamy said, tearing up.

Five lolas eventually won in the pageant. And as the members of Trippers Philippines crowned the winners, the lolas were happy, some of them even teary-eyed.

And so, even for a while, spotlight was shone on the almost forgotten members of the LGBTQ community.

To donate or extend help to The Home for the Golden Gays, visit http://homeforthegoldengays.org/ or email homeforthegoldengays@gmail.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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