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Bagodatu Zacaria: Pioneering LGBT rights in Muslim Mindanao

Bagodatu Zacaria, president of the Initiative and Movement for Gender Liberation against Discrimination (IM GLAD), cites the constant risks they face as LGBT people in Muslim Mindanao. “We are oppressed,” he said. And so “I am now focusing with our organization and LGBT people, especially on the issues we face with Islam.”

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Bogadatu ZacariaWhen it was discovered that he is gay, Bagodatu Mabang Zacaria of Cotabato City was told by elders that he didn’t belong inside a mosque and in the madrasa (Arabic school). This is only one of the experiences that pushed Bhagz to eventually become an openly Muslim LGBT advocate by establishing the Initiative and Movement for Gender Liberation against Discrimination (IM GLAD) in 2008.

Marami ang nagtulak sa akin. Isa na yung diskriminasyon sa barangay namin. Hindi kami binibigyan ng pansin bilang LGBT. Although may Gender and Development fund sa Cotabato, hindi binibigay sa amin ang karapatan na iyon (Many factors pushed me. One is the discrimination in my own village. We are not noticed as LGBT. Although there is a Gender and Development fund in Cotabato, this right is not even appropriated to us),” he said.

Bhagz cites the constant risks IM GLAD faces as an LGBT organization in Muslim Mindanao. “Na-o-oppress kami,” he said. And so, “nag-fo-focus ako ngayon sa organization at LGBT, especially sa mga issues na kinakaharap namin sa Islam (We are oppressed. I am now focusing with our organization and LGBT people, especially on the issues we face with Islam).”

Bhagz is first to acknowledge that “mahirap kalabanin ang mga religious. Mahirap kalabanin dahil naka-base sila sa Qur’an, Shariah (We know that it is difficult to oppose the religious. They are difficult to oppose because they base everything on the Qur’an, Shariah).” But for Bhagz, the Qur’an and the laws of the land are different. “We respect our religion, but we must also respect our rights.”

READ:  Mr. Gay World Philippines 2016 eyes to ‘modernize the image of gay men’ in Phl

He recognizes the urgent need to address human right issues in the LGBT community, as well as other gaps in laws and in representation. “Dapat natin tugunan ‘yung issue ng gay killings. Dapat rin tayo magkaroon ng representative sa Congress at sa local level din. Dapat maipasa ang Anti- discrimination Bill (We need to address the issue of gay killings. We need to have a representative in Congress and also at the local level. The Anti-discrimination bill needs to be passed),” Bhagz said.

Bhagz is proud of IM GLAD’s initiatives in recent years, including conducting HIV and leadership trainings in Muslim villages. “Kung ano ang natutunan mo sa mga past trainings, dapat ito i-echo sa iba para ma-inspire din sila (What we learn in past trainings we must re-echo it to others to inspire them),” he said.

For now, he intends to pursue IM GLAD’s advocacy in Muslim Mindanao. “Ipagpapatuloy ko ang aming gawain. Kahit anong mangyari, walang atrasan (I will continue our work. No matter what happens, there is no turning back),” Bhagz said.

For more information on IM GLAD, email bagodatuzacaria@ymail.com.

A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

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Jason Mraz opens up about his ‘two spirit’ sexuality, admits having experiences with men

‘I’m Yours’ singer Jason Mraz opened up about his sexuality by saying that he had experiences with men, even while he was dating the woman who became his wife. His wife “laid it out” for him, Mraz said, by calling it ‘Two Spirit’. “I really like that.”

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Screencap of Jason Mraz from the YouTube video of 'I'm Yours'

“I’m Yours” singer Jason Mraz, 41, opened up about his sexuality by revealing that “I’ve had experiences with men, even while I was dating the woman who became my wife.”

Interviewed by Billboard, Mraz said that “it was like, ‘Wow, does that mean I am gay?’”

His wife for three years now, Christina Carano, helped him embrace his sexual identity.

“My wife laid it out for me. She calls it ‘Two Spirit,’ which is what the Native Americans call someone who can love both man and woman,” Mraz said. “I really like that.”

The term “Two Spirit” was coined in the 1990s at a conference for gay and lesbian Native Americans as an umbrella term with no specific description of gender or sexual orientation, according to the New York Times.

Mraz has actually opened up about his sexuality even prior to this. In 2005, for instance, he told Genre that he was “bisexually open-minded” when he told the publication that “I have never been in a sexual relationship with a man. If the right one came along, then sure.”

In 2012, he also indicated that he wasn’t comfortable with labels. “Were we to live in a society that was equal those labels wouldn’t really exist or matter except maybe at the DMV or someplace where, for some reason, you have to put down gender, race or age,” he said to Pride Source. “I don’t get it. I don’t get why sexuality has to be such a big deal.”

READ:  Jason Mraz opens up about his 'two spirit' sexuality, admits having experiences with men

Just this June, in time for the observance of Pride, Mraz wrote a Pride-themed poem, where a line stated: “I am bi your side”. Mraz said that he “didn’t realize (it) was going to be so telling”.

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The young believer

For Ian Jaurigue, it is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support the LGBTQI community these days. “But as long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” he said.

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“As long as there are LGBT advocates who will fight tirelessly for the advancement of our advocacy, things will get better.”

So said 19-year-old Ian Jaurigue, a self-identified “gender advocate”.

And Ian believes that “(the older generation) did a good job when it comes to working for the advocacy, and we need to learn from their experiences and be grateful for it. If they did not start it, the advocacy would not have had moved forward.”

According to Ian, the young advocates today still have a lot to do; and for Ian, this is “not just talk and rant about (the issues).”

But while recognizing the efforts of those who helped start the movement, Ian also recognizes that there are gaps. And these gaps are not helped by the “disconnect” between his generation and the one before it.

“The struggles may have evolved and revolutionized, but we, the younger generation, still need to reflect and learn from what they have accomplished,” he said. Only “by doing this (will we be helped to) have a stronger grasp of our advocacy.”

Also, even if the LGBTQI movement has reached new heights, according to Ian, the young advocates today still have a lot to do; and for Ian, this is “not just talk and rant about (the issues).”

“It is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support us. But it does not mean that we should settle for these little triumphs. As long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” Ian said.

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Incidentally, Ian is also a freelance makeup artist, theater and indie actor, dancer, a student at U.P. Diliman, and… a drag artist. He is known in the drag community as – plainly – Mrs Tan.

“My style is a mixture of dance, comedy, and theater,” Ian said.

Though he is still new in the world of drag, Ian believes that the way he carries himself and how he performs onstage prove that “age is nothing but a number”.

Ian merges his advocacy with his performances, making sure that “every performance brings a certain message and not just a spectacle. I like the feeling when I’m able to give a deeper message to the audience while I’m performing,” he said.

His first foray into the world of drag was when he joined U.P. Samaskom’s Live AIDS. Ian took on the role of a drag queen. But he felt, during that time, that “drag should be more than what I did in Live AIDS; there should be meaning to it.”

Whenever he performs, “I feel a sense of fulfillment and liberation. I’m not just entertaining people, I’m also giving them something to think about. There is pride to it.”

For someone as young as Ian, “Pride is both a celebration and a revolution.”

On the one hand, it is a celebration of the LGBT community’s diversity, accomplishments, and ongoing contributions. But on the other hand, “Pride is also a protest for the members who are not able to take advantage and enjoy their basic human rights, and for those who have died because they are members of the LGBTQI community,” Ian ended.

“It is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support us. But it does not mean that we should settle for these little triumphs. As long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” Ian said.

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All hail the beauty queen

A glimpse into the life of a trans woman beauty pageant enthusiast, Ms Mandy Madrigal of Transpinay of Antipolo Organization.

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBT people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

“I feel accepted.”

That, said Mandy Madrigal, is the main appeal of joining beauty pageants.

“I feel so loved when I join pageants. Especially when people clap for us, cheer for us. And when you win… it (just) feels different.”

FINDING ACCEPTANCE

Assigned male at birth, Mandy was in primary school when her father asked her if “I was a boy or a girl”. That question scared her, she admitted, because – as the only boy among six kids – she thought she did not really have “any choice”. “So I answered my father, ‘I am a boy’.”

But Mandy’s father asked her the same question again; and this time, “I said, yes, I am gay.”

No, Mandy is NOT gay; she is a transpinay, and a straight one at that. But the misconceptions about the binary remains – i.e. in this case, she is associated with being gay mainly because she did not identify with the sex assigned her at birth.

In a way, Mandy said she’s lucky because “I believe he (my father) accepted (me) with his whole heart.”

The rest of her family did, too.

Though – speaking realistically – Mandy said this may be abetted by her “contributions” to the family. “Hindi naman aka basta naging bakla lang (I’m not a ’typical’ gay person),” she said, “na naglalandi lang o sumasali lang ng pageant (who just flirts, or just joins beauty pageants). Instead, Mandy provides financial support to her family by – among others – selling RTW clothes and beauty products. In fact, some of her winnings also go to the family’s coffers. By helping provide them with what they need, “it’s easy for them to accept me as a transgender woman.”

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Growing up, Mandy realized that while “makakapagsinungaling ka sa ibang tao, pero sarili mo, hindi mo maloloko. Kaya mas magandang tanggapin mo ang sarili mo para matanggap ka ng ibang tao (you may be able to lie to others about who you really are, but you can’t lie to yourself. So it’s better to accept your true self so that others will be able to accept you too).”

Mandy was “introduced” to beauty pageants when she was 13 or 14. At that time, a friend asked her to join a pageant; and “I won first runner up.” She never looked backed since, even – at one time – earning as much as P20,000 after winning a title. Like many regular beauconeras (beauty pageant participants), she also heads to distant provinces to compete, largely because – according to her – prizes in provincial competitions tend to be higher. The prize money earned helps one buy more paraphernalia for the next pageants, and – in Mandy’s case – also helps support her family.

Generally speaking, Mandy Madrigal said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

FORMING A FAMILY

Beauty pageants are competitions, yes; but for Mandy, pageants also allow the candidates to form bonds as they get close to each other. Pageants, she said, can be a way “na maging close kami, magkaroon ng magagandang bonding… at magkakilala kami (for us to be close, to bond and get to know the others better).”

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Pageants can be costly, Mandy admitted – for instance, “you have to invest,” she said, adding that a candidate needs to be able to provide for herself (instead of just always renting) costumes, swimsuits, casual wear, gowns, and so on.

In a way, therefore, having people who believe in you helps. In Mandy’s case, for instance, a lot of people helped (by providing necessities she needs) because “naniniwala sila na I am a queen inside and out,” she smiled.

But this support can also rack the nerves, particularly when people expect one to win (particularly because of the support given).

One will not always win, of course; and this doesn’t always give one good feelings. In 2017, for instance, Mandy joined Queen of Antipolo, and – after failing to win a crown – she said many people told her she should have won the title, or at least placed among the runners-up. “naguluhan ang utak ko (That confused me),” she said. “‘Bakit ako ang gusto ninyong manalo?’ But that’s when I realized na marami ako na-i-inspire na tao dahil marami nagtitiwala sa akin (I ask, ‘Why do you want me to win?’ But that’s when I realized that I inspire a lot of people, which is why they count on me).”

This gives her confidence; enough to deal with the nervousness that will also allow her to just enjoy any pageant she joins.

A TIME TO SHINE

Mandy believes pageants can help LGBTQI people by providing them a platform to showcase to non-LGBTQI people why “hindi tayo dapat husgahan (we should not be judged).”

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Generally speaking, Mandy said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

And she knows that not every pageant is good for every contestant. There will be pageants where you will be crowned the queen, she said, just as there will be pageants where you will lose. But over and above the winning and losing, note “what’s most important: that there’s a lot of people who supported you in a (certain) pageant.”

At the end of the day, “sa lahat ng patimpalak, pagkatandaan natin na merong nananalo at may natatalo. Depende na lang yan sa araw mo. Kung ikaw ay nakatadhanang manalo ay mananalo ka; kung nakatadhanang matalo ay matatalo ka talaga. Yun lang yun. Isipin mo na lang na meron pang araw na darating na mas maganda para sa iyo (in all competitions, remember that there will always be a winner and a loser. It all depends on your luck for the day. If you are fated to win, you will win; if you are fated to lose, you will lose. That’s that. But still remember – even when you lose – that there will always come a day that will be great for you).”

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The trials and tribulations of Mr. Gay World Philippines 2018

The Philippines’ hope of winning back-to-back Mr. Gay World titles rests on the shoulders of Gleeko Magpoc, an independent delegate, married to an Indian national and currently based in Sweden. If he survived the cyber bashing of his nonbelievers, could he also withstand the rigors of the competition in South Africa and duplicate John Raspado’s feat?

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Only two countries achieved a back-to-back victory in Mr. Gay World pageant’s entire history: South Africa’s Charl van den Berg (2010) and Francois Nel (2011), as well as Andreas Derleth (2012) and Christopher Olwage (2013) of New Zealand. But these records might change soon, should lady luck smile on our very own Gleeko Esguerra Magpoc.

If his name doesn’t ring a bell among Filipino pageant aficionados, that’s because Magpoc was never a candidate of past Mr. Gay World Philippines editions. He volunteered to wear the country’s satin sash in this international contest established by Australia-based philanthropist Eric Butter. Now on its 10th year, Mr. Gay World “strives to be a mentor in grooming gay leaders that will advance LGBT human rights” in their respective nations and across the globe.

No local search or casting call was conducted this year as Wilbert Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines of 2009, decided to let go the country’s exclusive license of Mr. Gay World in July last year. Under Tolentino’s helm, Christian Reyes Lacsamana became the first Filipino delegate to enter the top five round and emerged second runner-up to Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain in 2016; while John Fernandez Raspado became the country’s first-ever Mr. Gay World, and the first Asian to win the title.

“I learned that the Philippines didn’t have any representative, so I contacted the admin [of Mr. Gay World Ltd.] and followed the procedures. I thought of representing my country to continue supporting the LGBT community,” Magpoc said, in an online interview with Outrage Magazine before he left for South Africa for his much-awaited global mission. “This is my first pageant… I want to continue spreading awareness to show that we are here to support those who feel depressed and oppressed.” He is a 28-year-old restaurant service crew who migrated to Stockholm, Sweden after getting married to Amitabh Das, an Indian national, back in October 2015.

He is hoping that lightning will strike twice because Raspado conquered Spain last year. But tons of his kababayans in Manila believe otherwise: Gleeko Magpoc would probably go down in the annals of the pageant history as the most bashed Filipino candidate in Mr. Gay World.

FACING BASHING

As soon as his photos and profile video on You Tube were uploaded in the “Delegates 2018” subsection of Mr. Gay World’s official website, and after Tolentino made a public post via Facebook, reiterating his resignation as the country director and license holder of Mr. Gay World, saying “that the current representative volunteered to compete. He was not appointed and never involved with the MGWPO. He has never undergone pageant training with us. He was never connected with the organization or with me personally. The Mr. Gay World itself accepted him with open arms and we need to respect them. I hope I have answered all your queries,” Magpoc’s online ordeal began.

A multitude of Facebook users flooded the comments section of Tolentino’s post, expressing their disappointment with the Mr. Gay World Ltd., questioning Magpoc’s qualifications, suggesting that Mr. Gay World Philippines 2016 first runner-up Bench Ortiz should be the one sent to South Africa, etc. The cyber mob and the day-to-day bullying that remains under-reported, has reached pageant-related Facebook groups as of this writing.

Raspado already stepped up on cyberspace to defend Magpoc: “I admire this person, because he took responsibility when nobody else can… he qualified as an independent… and I feel for this person because of all the bashing and critics, same critics I received when I was still starting. He faces a big struggle ahead, but let us by any means support him… as a Filipino and as an LGBT advocate.”

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Igor Scheurkogel, Mr. Gay World chairman of the board of directors, reaffirmed their stand that they made the decision to include Magpoc in this year’s lineup of candidates since there was no national competition held in the Philippines this year. “And after multiple and extensive outreach (sic) to the old directors of MGWPH to indicate a candidate or any leads, we had no options. [And] because I’m not from the Philippines I do not have the networks to select a person. [And] therefore, if there is a person willing to represent and paid all the license fees and other costs, we [as Mr. Gay World Organization], are willing to work with the person. Also, if a person is willing to represent our LGBT community, we all should consider that he possibly has a good motive and doesn’t need a lot of pageant ‘training’. For now, it’s up to the Philippines to support the delegate and show national pride. If he wins, he would need support.”

GETTING TO KNOW GLEEKO  

But Magpoc is someone who chooses to let things bother him. “They are not so destructive,” he laughed. “I’m aware of some [criticisms], but not all. I don’t have time to read so many things which I personally believe are not worthy… Bashers are everywhere no matter who you are. You just have to accept the reality and then move on. I learned from Buddhism to let go.”

He added that “Mr. Gay World is not a beauty pageant. The main reason why it is held annually since its inception in 2009 is to identify leaders who will be speaking out for equal and human rights in a global stage. The acceptance of LGBTQI+ identities is one of its missions.”

Born on August 5, 1999 in Manila, Gleeko is the fourth among the five children of Celso de Guzman Magpoc Jr., a native of Bataan, and the former Charibell Gaon who hails from Pasay City. Both of his parents already passed away.

“I am not so sure about the origin of my name, but according to my mother she just changed the spelling [of Glico to Gleeko], whom she said is a friend of my father. However, I learned that glico in Greek means ‘sugar’ [which happened to be sweet],” he said.

He’s an undergraduate of Japanese studies program at the University of Manila. “For almost nine years, I have worked as a bilingual call center agent [Spanish/English] in the Philippines. “I easily learn languages… I love to learn languages. I tried learning Russian and recently, I started learning Arabic. I also love swimming. It’s my form of exercise and relaxation.”

To prepare, he studied YouTube videos of previous Mr. Gay World pageants. “I would love to meet him [John Raspado] in Knysna. He is [of course] an epitome of the LGBTQI+ community. I [just] watched the previous pageant in Maspalomas [via YouTube], so I could learn from him and the others. I also tried to see the other Mr. Gay World pageants from before.”

Magpoc admitted he is pressured to secure a consecutive win for the Philippines in Mr. Gay World. “I would be lying if I say I’m not. There is pressure but it’s a good one because it pushes me to do the very best I can.”

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MEET THE FRONTRUNNERS

Gleeko will be facing a tough competition in becoming the third Mr. Gay World winner crowned by a compatriot. He and 20 other gay ambassadors will be judged in the following activities: sports challenge, photo shoot, written test, personal interview, social responsibility campaign, social media task, online vote, quality and content of video presentation, swimwear, formal wear and national costume.

Here are 12 delegates who will make him compete harder:

  1. Winning Australia’s first Mr. Gay Word title is the best birthday gift that Jordan Paul Bruno could ever receive. He will be turning 26 come finals night. The economics and finance alumnus at the Curtin University in Perth is a celebrity chef and he wants to grow his LGBTI cooking school and release a range of cookbooks, with all proceeds going to LGBTI charities.
  2. Jaimie Deblieck of Belgium, at 19 years old, is the youngest participant. A high school student blessed with an angelic face, he survived an anti-gay assault while going home from a night out in his hometown of Roeselare last February. He considers his young age an advantage in the competition, as he can reach out to teenagers. He’s collaborated with government agencies in coming up with a pro-diversity charter, signed and supported by some of the biggest companies and brands in his country.
  3. Chile’s René Alfredo Rivera Lizana, 30, pursued his bachelor’s degree in physical education at the University of the Sea. A staunch advocate of homo-parental adoption, he dreams of becoming a good father in the future. He believes that “having gay parents is better than having no parents at all—that a child’s greatest need is not necessarily to have two parents, but to be cared for in a godly, nurturing way and to have godly role models.”
  4. Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Castro of Costa Rica is a 30-year-old administrative officer for a private company. He obtained his diploma in business administration at the National Technical University. His goal of fighting for his community became a reality after earning the right to represent his country in Mr. Gay World, and he aspires to “be a leader of union, progress and equality, where there is a place for everybody.”
  5. India’s Samarpan Maiti, 30, works as a senior research fellow in the field of cancer drug discovery from a reputable institute in Kolkata. He is currently completing his PhD in biochemistry. He wants to help the underprivileged members of the LGBT community who are lagging behind, as well as the uneducated people who live in slums in urban areas. He is a rare combination of good looks and brains—an icon of social and sexual inclusiveness in a populous nation that is still struggling to legally accept homosexuality.
  6. Erick Jafeth López Pérez of Mexico spearheads a campaign, entitled “We Are The Same,” focused on “struggle for equality and equity of human rights.” At 39, he is the eldest Mr. Gay World candidate. He’s an industrial engineer, entrepreneur and professional model who believes, “There are no reasons and justifications that should prevent us from being who we are.”
  7. Nepal’s Manindra Singh Danuwar, 29, completed his degrees in social work and psychology at the Triton International College in Kathmandu. He works as a field supervisor and management information system officer for Blue Diamond Society. He helps the organization in coming up with activities that strengthen communities such as promoting good sexual health, psycho-social counseling, raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, documenting human rights violations, etc., among cultural minorities.
  8. Ricky Devine White is a 36-year-old certified life coach, registered personal trainer and group fitness instructor. If he becomes New Zealand’s third Mr. Gay World winner, he would take his tenure to a new direction by encouraging the LGBT international community to live a healthier lifestyle, get into sports and other regular physical activities that are good for the mind, body and spirit.
  9. Portugal’s first envoy to Mr. Gay World is João Pedro Carvalho Goncalves de Oliveira. He is a 38-year-old reporter and editor for Enlacegay, an LGBT media company based in Madrid. He obtained his diploma in languages and Portuguese literature at the Escola Secundária José Afonso Loures. He is also the presenter of “Star Chef Gay,” a TV and Internet program that revolutionizes cooking contests.
  10. Being first runner-up isn’t bad at all. Take the case of Karabo Morake, who placed second to Juan Pinnick in the Mr. Gay World Southern Africa contest last September. Fast forward to April, the latter was forced to withdraw because he underwent a knee operation and was deemed unfit to participate in the rigorous challenges that have been lined up for the candidates. Morake, 27, completed his practical legal training at the University of Cape Town and works as an international relations legal executive manager for a law firm.
  11. Ricardo Tacoronto Castro, 28, might give Spain its second harvest of a Mr. Gay World crown. Deemed as the “most handsome homosexual” in his country at the moment, he owes his sculpted physique to his work as a soldier in Cartagena. This Navy corporal confessed that his co-workers were the first ones to know he was gay before his family, and that “the army is much more open than people think.” He would like to win in order to “continue fighting for rights and achieve the normalization of homosexuality.”
  12. Pakkarapong Khuaikoen of Thailand, 22, is a junior art communications major at the Nation University. “Toy,” his nickname, enjoys being in front of the camera. He is a budding actor, runway model and an advocate for bullying prevention policies in academic institutions. He encourages school administrators to facilitate discussions or after-school activities about gay prejudice.
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Completing Mr. Gay World 2018’s roster are Canada’s Philippe Laurin, Lukáš Grečko of Czech and Slovak Republic, Finland’s Rami Joel Kiiskinen, Enrique Doleschy of Germany, Japan’s Shogo Kemmoku, Mduduzi Dlamini of Swaziland, Taiwan’s Po-Hung Chen, and Kyle Haggerty of the United States.

Gleeko Magpoc’s haters and critics still have enough time to convert their protests into online votes so he can possibly make the cut, by registering at http://www.mrgayworld.com/register-2/ and voting once every 24 hours until 6 p.m. of May 26 (Manila time).

It takes a lot of courage on his part to endure the pain of cyber bullying. He can hide the tears of sorrow in his eyes, but not in his heart. We just don’t know how many times he’s cried before sleeping at night whenever he reminisces how his countrymen humiliate him online, as the global search draws near. It may really sound cliché, but Magpoc’s bashers will never feel any better if the only thing they know is make him suffer. He doesn’t deserve to feel worthless at this point.

The 10th Mr. Gay World pageant will take place at the Villa Castolini Hotel in Knysna, South Africa, and will be streamed live through the organization’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel on May 27, 12 a.m. (Manila time).

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Monique de la Rue: ‘See yourself for who you really are’

Meet Monique de la Rue (a.k.a. Mon Busa), who helms the Home for the Golden Gays. He hopes to “help senior LGBTQI Filipinos see that, even as they age, they remain beautiful. And – maybe, just maybe – young LGBTQI Filipinos can learn from us on how we can age gracefully and, yes, beautifully.”

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBT people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

It wasn’t even 9:00AM yet on March 19, 2014, but Monique de la Rue (a.k.a. Mon Busa), now 67, was already busy getting ready. He was prepping himself for the Miss Golden Gay 2014, a pageant for senior gay and trans Filipinos; many of them residents of the Home for the Golden Gays (HGG) in Pasay City.

“That was the first time I ever ‘cross-dressed’,” Mon said. This was because – while he may have always known he’s gay – growing up, “I was always old to dress ‘aptly’.” And by that, people meant he had to present himself only by using clothes that society deemed appropriate for a specific gender. While looking at himself at the mirror, it was the first time that Mon said he saw that “maganda rin pala ako (I actually also look nice) as a woman,” he said with a laugh.

Mon didn’t win the crown that day. But – considering that he dresses up now and then since that day – he said he may have won something bigger. And “that is this ability to see beauty in yourself no matter what you are,” he said. “I suppose this should strike us LGBTQI people even more…”

And it is this that now motivates him as he helms HGG: “To help senior LGBTQI Filipinos see that, even as they age, they remain beautiful. And – maybe, just maybe – young LGBTQI Filipinos can learn from us on how we can age gracefully and, yes, beautifully.”

When all is said and done, Mon Busa said he wants to be remembered as Monique de la Rue, “the one who saw himself for who he really is and lived his life following that mantra,” he said. “We should all aim for this.”

DIFFERENT TIMES

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Though his family originated from Borongan in Samar, Mon is – by and large – a Manilan, growing in Malate. “You know where Aristocrat Restaurant is now (along Roxas Blvd.)? That used to be Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School; I went there,” he smiled.

There were 10 of them; he was the seventh. “Actually, 14 talaga kami (there were 14 of us). But four died during WWII.”

Mon recalled that “seven years old pa lang ako, nagtitili na ako (I was only seven, yet I was already flamboyant).” But it was the 1950s, “so being gay was largely a taboo.”

He could remember his mom reprimanding him particularly when he started acting feminine while playing, for example. “So people like us had to also act ‘formal’ or nabubugbog sa bahay (we get abused at home).” This made him realize that, truly, “discrimination starts at home.”

But expressing one’s true identity always happened, Mon said. When with friends for instance, “‘yung papel de Hapon, binabasa namin yun, tapos ginagawang pang-lipstick at pang-kulay sa pisngi (we wet Japanese paper so we can use its coloring as lipstick and to color our cheeks).”

Mon said he always knew he was “different”, but his attraction with another man happened in his fourth year in high school. “We had a 28-year-old transferee,” he recalled, “and he took me with him to the toilet. That was the first time I saw an adult male’s genitalia, and I was surprised at nanginig (I started shaking). I thought, ‘May ganyan pala ka-laking nota (There’s a penis as big as that)?’.”

In 1967, Mon finished high school; and “I already started working then.”

Looking back, he said he was never once pressured to already marry (as men his age then started doing at that age). “My dad, for example, had no comment about me being gay; he was always busy anyway,” he said. But he remembered that both parents told him to “act formal.”

LIVING GAY

This acting “formal” – perhaps akin to being cisgender and availing of the privileges of being non-feminine – served Mon well.

Mon eventually left the Philippines to work in the Middle East in 1981.

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And even while there as a gay guy, he said “di talaga ako nakaranas ng discrimination (I never experienced discriminatory acts).” For him, “I maintained my being ‘formal’; I suppose society is more tolerant of this.”

Mon considers himself “somewhat of a late bloomer”. He was 24 when he said he was devirginized by his first-ever BF (a Lebanese guy) while he was in the Middle East. But “marami akong naging BF doon. Gumihit ang pangalan ko doon (I had lots of BFs there. I made a mark there).”

Mon can recall how the Filipino gay community in KSA (where he specifically went) “looked after each other,” he said. It was from those who came before him, for instance, that he learned how to “labatiba (douching)”.

At that time, he said, he sent money to send relatives to school. On occasion, he set aside money for his boys – and on this, he can now say with bitter laughter: “Kung hindi ako nagmahal may naipundar na sana ako (If I didn’t love anyone, I’d have saved money for myself).”

With a sigh, Mon said that “sa panahon namin, bawal ang gay to gay. Bawal ang aswang sa aswang. Malalason ka (two gay men don’t fall for each other. If you did, you’d be ‘poisoned’),” he said. And so “falling in love with someone who is bound to leave you was, sadly, normalized.”

For Mon Busa, having an actual space can also help them develop livelihood programs since “maraming (a lot of) senior LGBTQI Filipinos still have skills and talents but can no longer find good employment. And so nasasayang lang (we’re just wasted).”

FINDING A HOME

The late Justo Justo (JJ), who founded the HGG, was “an old friend,” Mon said.

Though the two knew each other even before the 1980s, “naghiwalay kami ng landas (our paths separated).” JJ became a local politician, while Mon went to work in the Middle East.

And then “when I retired, I was able to get in touch with JJ again,” Mon recalled. “That was when he was sickly already. So I started doing the admin work for HGG; I fulfilled the tasks he couldn’t anymore.”

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Mon said that it was also then when “JJ said to me, ‘Ituloy ang legacy ng HGG (To continue HGG’s legacy)’.”

In 2012, JJ passed away, and HGG was left under Mon’s care.

“I always felt other (LGBT people) also experienced what I did in life,” he said. “It was colorful; it IS colorful.”

And this is why, now, as he steers HGG forward, “I want the members to feel this very thing now even in their sunset years.”

AGELESS PAGEANTRY

Holding pageants is one of the more popular way to gather the members of HGG.

To date, there are 48 members (including support staff), with 25 of them “active members”. The idea – originally – was to have an actual “home” for displaced senior LGBTQI Filipinos (thus the name), but even now, this hasn’t really been realized. Instead, HGG has an office that also serves as the home only of select members, while the rest still live elsewhere (e.g. on their own, or with families).

And then “when we gather, for example when we have pageants, everything becomes fun,” Mon said. He thinks this “stops the aging process” for many, as it allows them to remember the joys of the past and to look forward to living a life that – yes – still has beauty.

Mon recognizes that this is “non-lasting efforts”, stressing that HGG needs to get funds so “we can have a real home to call our own”. Having an actual space can also help them develop livelihood programs since “maraming (a lot of) senior LGBTQI Filipinos still have skills and talents but can no longer find good employment. And so nasasayang lang (we’re just wasted).”

STILL LOOKING FORWARD

If there’s an observation that Mon can give about the younger LGBTQI people now, it’s the “lack of compassion with older LGBTQI people,” he said. “You need to understand one thing: Tatanda rin kayo (You will also grow old).”

This is also a driver on why Mon said there is a need to have HGG; so that “when LGBTQI Filipinos get older – and we all will – meron tayong mapupuntahan (there’d be a place where we can go to).”

And in this sense, HGG is “an alternative home for a sector in the LGBTQI community that is often ignored.”

When all is said and done, Mon said he wants to be remembered as Monique de la Rue, “the one who saw himself for who he really is and lived his life following that mantra,” he said. “We should all aim for this.” – With Aaron Moises Bonette

For more information on the Home for the Golden Gays, coordinate with Mon Busa at (+63) 9476930516.

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FEATURES

I, Drag Queen

When Vinz Calvin Sagun started doing drag, it was only out of curiosity. But before he knew it, his persona – Lumina Klum – has carved a name in the local industry, so that over 10 years later, he established himself as a major drag queen in the Philippines. He believes that “we all have drag queens in all of us, you just have to learn to bring your inner drag queen out.”

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Vinz Calvin Sagun can still remember how – as a child – he really wanted to be lady-like. So “nagdadamit ako ng kumot (I would turn blankets into dresses),” he said, and then – like some beauty queen – “kakaway nang ganyan-ganyan (I’d wave like this and that).”

Looking at where life took him, he said “may konek naman (there’s a connection).”

Because now Vinz is also known as Lumina Klum, a drag queen; and one of those who’ve been constantly carving a name in the local drag industry.

O, di ba, ngayon, nakakapagsuot na ako ng pambabae (Now, you see, I am able to wear clothes reserved for women),” he laughed.

THE BIRTH OF LUMINA

“I started doing drag out of curiosity,” Vinz said.

When a friend auditioned to do drag in one of the bars in Metro Manila, he thought: “Gusto ko ring i-try (I want to try it, too).”

He found work as a drag queen then, though “not that big yet.”

And then one of the pioneers of the drag show in O Bar saw Vinz and told him he wanted to take him in to mentor him, and so “‘yun na nga (that was that),” he said.

Since then, he has performed in O Bar and the now defunct The Library; as well as in events like the commercialized Pride festival.

Interestingly, the name Lumina did not come from Vinz himself.

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Isa sa good friends ko… Nakita daw niya ako Starbucks sa Cubao. Tinext niya ako, sabi niya: ‘Lumina dapat ang name mo.’ Kasi pag nasisinagan daw, lumiliwanag daw ako (One of my good friends… He saw me in Starbucks in Cubao. He texted me, he said: ‘Lumina should be your name.’ Because when light shines on me, I sparkle),” he said. “So… okay.”

As a drag queen, “you should be able to connect with the people,” Vinz Sagun said. “Hindi puwedeng bumubuka lang ang bibig mo and yung tao walang reaksyon (It’s not enough to just lip sync and the people watching you couldn’t care less about you).”

DEALING WITH LUMINA

At home, it was Vinz’s sister who first found out he does drag after seeing all his stuff in his room. She then told their mom, who just laughed.

“She said okay lang na mag-drag ako as long as di ako magpapabutas ng tenga (it’s okay to do drag as long as I don’t have my ears pierced),” Vinz smiled.

Vinz’s father passed away already, but he remembers him saying that “it’s okay for me to be gay as long as I don’t cross-dress,” he said. “I started doing drag a year after he died.”

THE LIFE OF LUMINA

Doing drag isn’t easy, Vinz admitted.

First, “you have to look good onstage.” This means spending on what you have since “kailangan mo ng magandang wigs, magandang make-up, magandang damit (you need nice wigs, good/quality make-up, good clothes).”

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It helps if one has good skin “para kumapit ang make-up (for the make-up to work well),” he said.

Beyond the look, the drag queen also has to study – e.g. new songs, and old songs.

A drag queen also has to learn how to dance “para maganda ang presence mo sa stage (so you look good onstage).”

And more importantly, “you should be able to connect with the people,” Vinz said. “Hindi puwedeng bumubuka lang ang bibig mo and yung tao walang reaksyon (It’s not enough to just lip sync and the people watching you couldn’t care less about you).”

A drag queen like Lumina earns “just enough”; maybe not from regular shifts but from sidelines.

The matriarchs of drag

FUTURE OF LUMINA

When he started doing drag at 23, Vinz told himself he’d stop when he reaches 30. But then he kept going, so that “I’ve worked in the drag industry longer than I did in the BPO industry,” he smiled.

He realized that one can make a career in this; like the Lola Divas who – already in their 60s – still call the stage their home. “Puwede pala (It can be done),” Vinz said.

For Vinz, the best thing in being a drag queen is “napapakita mo sa mga tao ang creativity mo (it allows you to show people your creativity),” he said. Not just with how a drag queen presents, but “how you encourage people to bring out the drag queens in them.”

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In the end, “we all have drag queens in all of us, you just have to learn to bring your inner drag queen out,” Vinz ended.

Lumina Klum performs from Thursday to Saturday at Che’lu at the corner of Julio Nakpil and Ma. Orosa, Malate, City of Manila. The cover charge ranges from P100-P350.

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