Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘Philippines

OFW guide: How to make every remittance count

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VERA Files | 13 November 2016

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Overseas Filipino workers are considered to be some of the hardest-working people in the country. But as unfortunate as it sounds, most of the fruits of their hard work are not put into something that can possibly gain great rewards – which in return, if managed properly, can give them the option to stop working abroad and go back to the Philippines and be with their loved ones.

Based on statistics, the remittances most of them send home are poorly managed by their families. In some cases, they are spent on unnecessary things, like buying the latest gadgets, and dining at expensive restaurants.

And this unnecessary spending can be avoided with proper financial education for both the OFW and their families.

“In order to make a big difference in the lives of OFWs and their families, there has to be a comprehensive, extensive and sustainable personal finance program nationwide. There has to be a program [that] will teach the spouses of OFWs  how to manage their money,” said registered financial planner Alvin Tabañag.

The starting point of the personal finance journey should come from the OFWs themselves.

“An OFW, or anybody for that matter, should not be too busy to make sure that his/her family’s financial future is secured,” Tabañag stressed.

He also added that financial education should be adopted by the entire family, not just the overseas worker. And the most crucial part of the journey is to teach basic money management to OFWs before they are deployed, so they can also teach it to their families before they leave.

Currently, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration offers Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) to would-be OFWs.

“The PDOS is only five to ten minutes, and the topics do not cover much on the subject  of money management,” Tabañag said, “and if you bombard them with too much information, they will just shut down.”

So he proposed to make it an hour-long orientation, wherein the basics of money management will be discussed. He pointed out that it would only be effective if the families of the OFWs would also participate and make the effort to learn personal finance.

“Ultimately, it’s the OFW’s responsibility to teach his/her family how to better manage its finances. Responsible money management is more about attitude and discipline, rather than knowledge and skills,” Tabañag explained.

He also gave initial steps on how OFWs can educate their families when it comes to money management, as follows:

1) First, overseas workers should sit down with their families and talk about the importance of a secure financial future. They should ask them about their goals. After hearing their answers, the OFWs should explain what is required to achieve such goals.

2) Next is to paint a picture of the negative consequences if the families left behind do not manage the money responsibly.

“The problem with a lot of Filipinos, not just OFWs, is they do not look far enough into the future. That’s why they don’t realize or see the long-term consequences of the money decisions that they make today. But if you plan ahead and try to create a vision of the future, then probably, you would think twice about how to spend your money wisely,” Tabañag stressed.

On the part of the OFWs’ spouses, they need to realize and keep in mind that their husbands or wives who are abroad will not be working there for life. The OFWs will eventually return home and the money coming in will stop at some point. And if they do not take care of what was being earned right now, they might suffer later.

“OFWs and their families need to master budgeting and spending wisely, so they can secure their financial future. Just follow a budget which will tell you how much you need to spend for a certain period and then exercise discipline. Make every peso count. Do not spend on impulse,” Tabañag ended.

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(Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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HB 3398 seeks more benefits for 14M solo parents

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VERA Files | 24 October 2016

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Solo parents campaign for more support. Photo from the Facebook page of DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

Solo parents campaign for more support. Photo from the Facebook page of DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

Here’s a good news for all solo parents in the country, now numbering about 14 million based on the latest data released by the National Statistics Office.

Solo parents may look forward to an additional basic personal exemption from individual income tax in the amount of P50,000. That’s on top of the existing exemption that they may claim for their dependent child or children.

This tax exemption is just one of the added benefits for solo parents provided under House Bill 3398 that seeks to amend Republic Act 8972, or the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000.

Solo parents are composed of widows or widowers, persons separated, annulled, or abandoned by their spouses or partners.

House Bill 3398, filed recently by the Gabriela Women’s Party, also adds teeth to the old law by penalizing persons or companies found guilty of violating the Solo Parents Act. It provides a fine of P50,000 for the 1st violation, P100,000 for the 2nd violation, and P300,000 for the 3rd violation.

In addition, it states that businesses that refuse to grant the benefits and privileges mandated for solo parents may be ordered closed by the appropriate implementing agencies.  These penalties and administrative sanctions will also apply to government offices and officials.

“We are hoping that next year, House Bill 3398 will get enacted,” Carina Javier, president of the Federation of Solo Parents in LuzViMin and United Solo Parents of the Philippines, said. “As of now, the bill is with the committee on revision of laws.”

“For the first time ever, we, solo parents, were consulted. We actually sat down with them in crafting this bill; all the recommendations and provisions were from the actual suggestions of solo parents all over the Philippines,” Javier explained.

Solo parents. Photo from FB page of DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

Solo parents. Photo from FB page of DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

HB 3398 seeks to give the following additional benefits to solo parents whose net annual income is P250,000 and below:

  • 10% discount on purchases of clothing for a child, made within a period of up to 12 years from the kid’s birth;
  • 20% discount on all purchases of baby’s milk, food and food supplements made within a period of three years from a child’s birth;
  • 12% discount on all purchases of basic necessities;
  • 20% discount on purchases of medicines and other medical supplements and supplies for a child made within a period of 18 years from birth;
  • at least 20% discount on the hospital bill of the solo parent or his/her child, if admitted for medical care, be it in a private or public hospital;
  • at least 10% discount on consultation and laboratory diagnostic fees, and purchase of medicines for solo parents and their dependents;
  • 10% discount on school tuition fees per child who is in college;
  • 15% discount on all purchases of school supplies for the child made within a period of 21 years from birth;
  • at least 20% discount on all private and public recreational facilities, provided that the discount can be availed only when the solo parent and his/her dependent/s are together.

Under RA 8972, solo parents are entitled to a flexible work schedule, safety net against discrimination in the workplace, additional parental leave, educational and housing benefits, and medical assistance.

Also included in the Act’s comprehensive package are the following: livelihood development and counseling services, parent effectiveness services, critical incidence stress debriefing, and special projects for individuals in need of protection.

“Sadly, only a handful of local government units are aware that RA 8972 exists and have the political will to implement the programs and services for solo parents,” Javier said. “The majority are not aware, do not care, or do not have a budget.”

On Nov. 30, solo parents will hold a unification meeting and launching of their advocacy campaign, “Kapakanan ng mga Solo Parents.”

“We are part of the disadvantaged sectors of society who need assistance. Let’s call on our local officials, whom we had voted for in order to help us,” Javier said in Filipino. “Go or write to your congressmen so that HB 3398 will immediately be passed into law.”

“This piece of legislation will be a blessing for all of us – solo parents and our children,” she stressed.

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(Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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Quezon City holds a different kind of santacruzan

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 24 May 2014

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A different kind of santacruzan was held recently in Quezon City. It was different not only because the participants were transgenders from different organizations from all over the country but also because it had the full support of the local government.

Called the trans-santacruzan (transgender santacruzan), the May 18 event was held in celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). Aside from the annual Pride celebration held every June, IDAHOT is another important event that the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) community throughout the world celebrates every year.

“The theme of IDAHOT this year, coinciding with the international celebration, is ‘freedom of expression in all public areas’. We would like to show everyone that [we] trans people should be respected in terms of how we express ourselves in public places. We want to highlight LGBT rights and gender equality,” Dindi Tan, board member of the Association of Transgender People (ATP) in the Philippines and organizer of the trans-santacruzan, said.

Santacruzan5“The Q.C. government helped the LGBTQ community to make this event possible,” Tan added. “Without its help, we wouldn’t be able to mount this kind of event. Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte was also an integral part of this. She has expressed her advocacy and support for the LGBTQ community through her efforts.”

IDAHOT commemorates the World Health Organization’s (WHO) action removing homosexuality from the list of psychological diseases. It was the outcome of a long-fought battle by LGBTQs.

The trans-santacruzan was participated in by several LGBT organizations, including Alcaraz Beauties, Bellissimo Filipinas, Bermudez Beauties, Betera’s Powerhouse of Beauties, Deaf Rainbow Philippines, GANDA (Gender and Development Advocates) Filipinas, LGBT Pinoy, Miss Gay Philippines Winners, Sytangco Beauties, TAO (Transpinay of Antipolo Organization), TransDeaf Philippines, and Trippers Philippines-TWC.

“It was the first time the transwoman and transman communities were together for an event. We, [members of] TransMan Pilipinas, would like to show everyone that we exist, and that we are not lesbians,” Nil Orera Nodalo of TransMan Pilipinas (TMP) explained.

Another main feature of the event was the participation of US-based Filipino transgender model, Geena Rocero. She came to Manila to attend the event and to meet members of local LGBTQ organizations.

“This is a historic moment, for the first time we’re all together fighting for our rights. I’m happy to be here with my friends and everyone who joined this parade,” Rocero said. “I think organizations like ATP and TMP are doing an amazing work. People now are more aware of what we need.”

Santracruzan4Rocero first gained public attention when she came out as a transgender during TED Talks’ annual conference last March. Her video, a monologue about her life and the struggle she experienced during the years she hid her true sexuality, gained more than a million views.

During the IDAHOT celebration, Rocero gave another inspirational speech on the importance of fighting for one’s right.

“We all have to stick together. I think one of the basic rights that we all have is to fight together to advocate for our name and gender recognition… without being forced to undergo surgeries. We all have to come together as a community so we can succeed,” she said.

The trans-santacruzan did not only showcase the diversity of the transgender community, but also imparted a very important message to the public.

“It is very relevant to celebrate IDAHOT because… [many are] not familiar with the transgender concept in the Philippines. And we, [members of] the transgender community, are affected by that. Most people in our society don’t really understand what homophobia and transphobia really mean,” Kate Montecarlo Cordova, founder of the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines, stressed.

Although Quezon City has made many efforts to improve the welfare of the LGBTQ community, still majority of local governments are still unaware of the struggles LGBTQs are experiencing.

“The government is not doing what it is supposed to be doing in terms of alleviating discrimination against us. In the first place, how can it do it if it is not completely aware of us? That’s why, we in the transgender movement, want to be visible in the society. We are very visible and yet invisible when it comes to health, rights, and in many other sectors,” Cordova pointed out.

“It’s about time that we assert our rights,” she added. “The whole concept of this [santacruzan] event is that we are free in sending a message to the world that we can be ourselves, regardless of our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression – and we have the freedom to do that.”

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(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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‘Trans-Santacruzan’ celebrates IDAHOT in Phl

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Outrage Magazine | 21 May 2014

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The first-of-its-kind parade of beauties happened in the Philippines when the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP) and TransMan Pilipinas (TMP) mounted “Trans-Santacruzan” recently in Quezon City. Santacruzan is traditionally held in the month of May to express the Marian devotion of Christians in the Philippines, with this version adding the call for acceptance of LGBTQ people. The event also marked the annual celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), held every 17th of May to mark the date when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases.

The event was not the first Santacruzan to feature transgender people, but it was the first trans-led such gathering.

The purpose of this event is to highlight LGBT rights and gender equality. The theme for this year, coinciding with the international celebration, is ‘Freedom of expression in all public spaces’,” ATP’s Dindi Tan said.  “We would like to show people that trans people should be respected in terms of how we express ourselves in public spaces.”

Several transgender and LGBT organizations from all over the country participated in the event, including: Alcaraz Beauties, Bellissimo Filipinas, Bermudez Beauties, Betera’s Powerhouse of Beauties, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, GANDA (Gender and Development Advocates) Filipinas, LGBT Pinoy, Miss Gay Philippines winners, Sytangco Beauties, Transpinay of Antipolo Organization, and Trippers Philippines-TWC.

For Shane Madigal, president of TAO, participation in the gathering was a show of solid support.  “In our city, in Antipolo, the local government is giving enough support to transpinays, not just in our organization. It’s a big impact that we are now being recognized and that there were a lot of changes that have been happening. I hope that other local government units (LGUs) would mirror the practices in Antipolo and in Quezon City when it comes to promoting LGBT rights.”

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The Trans-Santacruzan passed by parts of the Elliptical Road, and the stretch of Philcoa before it concluded in the Quezon Memorial Circle. Although the parade wasn’t that organized in terms of marshalling the participants, particularly as they neared Philcoa, the message that called for equality was delivered loud and clear as they walked along the busy highway.

This is a historic moment, for the first time we’re all together fighting for our rights. I’m happy to be here with my friends and everyone who joined this parade,” Filipino transgender model Geena Rocero, who joined the event, said. “I think organizations like ATP and TMP are doing an amazing work but we need to start a conversation, and that’s how we start. People now are more aware of what we need, and that’s why we’re here.”

timthumb-3Rocero, who is based in the US, came out as a transgender during TED Talks’ annual conference last March. She now devotes most of her time in joining LGBTQ-related activities, particularly those that promote transgender rights. She arrived in the Philippines last May 17 to participate in the IDAHOT 2014 celebration in the Philippines, and to meet with LGBTQ organizations to “inspire them to continue fighting for equal rights”.

We all have to stick together. I think… that we all have to fight together, and to advocate for our name and gender recognition, that would allow us to change our name and gender marker in our documents without being forced to undergo surgeries. I think we all have to come together as a community so we can succeed,” Rocero added.

If anything, the Trans-Santacruzan was another landmark for the LGBTQ community in the Philippines for getting the attention of the spectators, thereby awakening the senses of the haters, for them to accept and treat equally members of the LGBTQ community.

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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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Once there were dancing goddesses

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Outrage Magazine | 06 March 2014

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They are a group of eight gay men in their early twenties, living in a humble barangay in Las Piñas. At first glance, there’s nothing extraordinary about them. They’re not in a clan or a sorority, but they define their sisterhood like the ones you see in families. And while half of them are unemployed, they don’t fret about it. Although they don’t have regular 9-5 jobs, all eight of them are always busy practicing their complex routines, memorizing steps and mastering how graceful every move should be.

They call themselves the “Goddess of Death”.

But the people in their barangay call them the “dancing goddesses.”

“Ang pagsasayaw namin nabuo dahil sa tropa. Nag-decide kami na gumawa ng grupo. Tinawag ko ’yung grupo na Goddess of Death kasi may ka-grupo kami na ang nickname ay ‘Dyosatapos dinagdagan namin ng ‘of Death’ dahil para sa aminhangang kaya naminhangang mamatay kami sa kakasayawbasta maprove namin na kahit bading kami may kaya kaming patunayan, gagawin namin,” said Erich Arcilla, founder and leader of Goddess of Death dance group.

Their group is no different from the ones we see in fiestas and in barangay events.  But what makes them standout is the way the members present themselves on-stage. “Bading ang mga itsura namin, malalambot; pero kapag sumayaw kami, lalaki ang mga steps namin,” Erich explained.

Instead of doing the expected effeminate type of dancing, they focused and mastered the art of hip-hop dance, and every time they perform at any event, the audiences are left with amazement and shock.

The goddesses are not as privileged as other dance groups – they don’t have a decent place to practice, and most of the time they can be seen rehearsing in the streets.  At times, they don’t even get to finish their rehearsals because the barangay tanods or the homeowners ask them to leave the area.

Isa sa mahirap para sa amin ay ‘yung wala kaming mahanap na lugar para makapag-practice. Hindi naman namin afford mag-rent ng studio. Minsan, kapag nasa kalagitnaan kami ng pagsasayaw, pinapaalis kami kasi daw maingay kami at hindi daw pwede doon,” Erich said.

But this didn’t stop them from doing what they love doing. They still train every day, from afternoon to evening.

“Noong unang contest na sinalihan namin, hindi kami nanalo, pero maganda ang feedbacknila. Kapag tinuloy daw namin, may patutunguhan kami, kaya sinubukan namin ituloy-tuloy,” Erich said.

There was a time when they needed to focus on their dancing, so the members who had regular jobs had to leave their jobs and devote their entire time in the group. Kahit mas malaki and kita sa parlor, aanuhin mo namanyun kung wala naman ‘yung mga kaibigan mo, at ‘yung totoong kaligayahan mo?” Johnrey Articula, one of the Goddesses, said.

All their hard work paid off. They won almost all the contests that they joined. They even managed to dance for several rounds in the TV show “It’s Showtime”.

“Ang pagsasayaw namin ay para mabago ang image namin na hindi lang kami basta mga bakla na tumatambay lang sa kalye, na baklang salot sa lipunan. May mga talento kami na binigay ng Poong Maykapal, na shino-showcase namin sa kanila,” Erich proudly said. “Masaya din ang feeling, kasi kapag natapos mo ‘yung sayaw, parang mission accomplished. Tapos nakapagbigay pa kami ng saya sa tao. Ang sarap sarap sa pakiramdam kapag pinapalakpakan ka.

At times, winning becomes a must. “Importante na manalo kami kasi kapag natalo kami, nandiyan ‘yung kukutyain kami, sasabihin nila, sumali pa kayo eh matatalo din naman kayo.GOD3

But their biggest accomplishment (yet) was when the “World Supremacy Battlegrounds”, a dance contest in Australia, chose their group to represent the Philippines last December 2013. The Goddess of Death was the first all-gay group chosen to represent the country in such a prestigious international dance contest. Being chosen was in itself an honor, but being able to go could have been a historic event for the local LGBTQ community.

However, “sobrang laki ng pera na gagastusin para makapunta sa Australia. Kailangan namin ng almost half a million para sa processing ng visa naminsa pocket money, at sa iba pang gagastusin doon,” Erich explained.  “Hindi kami mga anak mayaman, mga mahihirap lang kami. Kapag nananalo kami, ‘yung premyong nakukuha namin, malaki na ang natutulong sa amin.

They joined all the contests that came along their way. They borrowed money from everyone they knew. But when they finally reached the needed amount, it was already too late. They were not able to fly to Australia.

Nanghihinayang kami, pero wala kaming magagawa, kasi wala naman kaming pera. Sinubukan namin humingi ng tulong sa barangay pero deadma lang sila. Kahit gusto kaming suportahan ng pamilya namin, hindi naman enough,” Erich said.

They dwell on the idea that if only the government has existing programs to support these kinds of endeavors, the Goddesses could have joined the World Supremacy Battlegrounds, becoming the first all-gay dance group to represent the country in an international event. The sad truth, however, is that the betterment and welfare of the LGBTQs in the country remain not prioritized by the government.

Today, the goddesses still continue to join all the dance contests that come along their way. Some of the members teach dance lessons in schools to have extra income.  They are also saving up so they can join another international contest in October, and they are hoping that this time, they will have enough money.

Hindi lang siya grupo ng pagsasayaw, pamilya na ang tingin namin sa isa’t-isa. Magsasayaw kami hangga’t kaya namin sumayaw, hangga’t hindi pa sumusuko ang katawan namin,” Erich said.

Once there were dancing goddesses, they continue to make a mark on their barangay, eventually making a mark on the LGBTQ community. Although the available resources are scarce, it doesn’t stop them from reaching their dreams. Their dancing is not only for themselves or solely for the money, it is also changing and uplifting the image of the LGBTQ community.

For additional information or for those who want to donate to the Goddess of Death, email crucialchicc.erich@yahoo.com.ph or visit the group’s 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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Once there was an Angel in Quezon Avenue

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Outrage Magazine | 03 February 2014

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Angel-of-Quezon-Avenue

It was half past noon one slow Monday. The glaring light of the afternoon sun covered the intersection of EDSA and Quezon Avenue. It was an ordinary day – the streets were filled with busy people who were on lunch break, students and night shift workers rushing on to get the next available public transportation, and street vendors offering their usual products. The air was filled with the familiar noise of the buses, jeepneys and the whizzing sound of the passing MRT.

But right at the corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue, where there’s a jeepney and FX stand, an exuberant display of character welcomed the commuters.

Her name is Angelo Suarez, a 25 year old who lives somewhere near Quezon Avenue.  She is a barker, and she is a transgender woman. She was carrying a Generics Pharmacy umbrella, but there was nothing generic about her. Drivers and vendors call her as the “Angel in Quezon Avenue”.

Matagal ko na ginagawa itong pagbabarker, bata pa lang ako, barker na ako (I have been doing this for a while now; I was still young when I started this line of work), Angel proudly said.

Truth be told, when people hear the word “transgender”, many continue to have a pre-conceived notion of the fabulous transwomen.  At times, admittedly, the stereotype of the “parlor-type” of gays emerge, too.  But reality is more complex.  Because there are the likes of Angel, often less noticed perhaps even by the trans advocates who endlessly call for equal rights or by the entire LGBTQI community.  They are the bekinals.

Wala naman masama sa ginagawa ko, nagtatrabaho lang ako para kumita ng pera, para may pangbili ako ng (female hormone) pillstsaka para may pera kami pang good time (There is nothing wrong in what I do. I’m just working to earn money so I can buy pills, and to earn money for me to spend for fun),” Angel said.

She didn’t finish college because her family couldn’t afford the tuition fee. She tried her luck in hairdressing, but she didn’t succeed,hindi para sa akin ‘yung career na ’yun (that line of work is not for me).

Since largely unseen, they remain often ignored – these bekinals who survived and are still surviving the challenges life throws their way one day at a time.  For Angel, waking up the next morning is not about putting layers and layers of make-up or spending several minutes, even hours, deciding what to wear.  “Ganito talaga ang buhay. Minsan, kailangan mong magtiis. Masaya naman ako sa ganito. Kumpleto naman pamilya ko. Pero, someday, gusto ko din magkaroon na mas magandang trabaho, ‘yung papasok ako sa office, ‘yung ako naman ‘yung tatawagin ng barker para sumakay sa FX (This is life. You need to face hardships sometimes. But I’m happy with my life. My family is complete. But someday, I also want to have a good job, one that will allow me to go to an office, when it will be me who will be called by a barker to ride a vehicle).”

Then, without pausing, Angel lit her second stick of Marlboro as she called for more passengers. “Capitol, Pantranco, Araneta, Banawe, Welcome Rotonda, aalis na!”

The drivers and vendors showed some respect – at least Angel was never bullied while barking for passengers. If she successfully gathered more than two passengers per vehicle, the driver pays her five pesos. It was a slow and inadequate income, but she never complained about it.

And so there is an Angel in Quezon Avenue. Her story is a reminder for everyone that in life, no matter how blessed or greatly challenged, nothing should be taken for granted.

But at the same time, in life: “Abante, abante! Para umusad tayo,” as Angel puts it when she yells at drivers to move on, waiting for the next ones that came her way.

 

 

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

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