In 1984, nine friends – Gerardo Anosa, Alfonso Arguelles, Nonito Cabago, Arnaldo Camartin, Gerry Godino, Probo Godino, Eduardo Lingan, Wilson Lobina and Ben Rebamontan – founded Katlo San Julian Inc., the first and only SEC-registered community-based organization working for and with men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women in Region 8. Its purpose is to foster unity among members of the gay community of San Julian, Eastern Samar
According to its Facebook page, Katlo’s initial activity was an annual Christmas party held every 28th of December. From the nine pioneers, participation in the closed-door party grew and grew every year. Katlo Night became a signature event in San Julian and started to attract gay guests from nearby towns.
Almost two decades later in 2009, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) included Katlo in organizing the Pink Brigade-Gay Advocates to Fight HIV/AIDS through the initiative of Roel Andag, a Katlo member who was then the UNFPA Programme Manager in Eastern Samar. This is also seen as one of the most substantive accomplishments of Katlo since its founding.
Katlo eventually moved away from personality-based leadership and unorganized planning, to a much systematized organization. Based in San Julian, Eastern Samar, Katlo now has a diverse membership representing the 16 barangays of the municipality that are divided into three Katlo chapters, with each chapter having its respective set of officers elected every April during an annual convention.
“Hindi covered ang San Julian sa municipalities na covered ng UNFPA program ko pero inuna ko ang Katlo kasi semi-organized na siya kahit watak-watak,” said Andag, Katlo’s so-called “reviver”. “I made Katlo a test case for the Pink Brigade Advocates for HIV Awareness of UNFPA in Eastern Samar. I wanted to optimize the potential of Katlo.”
Katlo’s Project Sirak, funded by UNICEF and TLF Share Collective, also became a milestone achievement for this organization. Focused on the key affected populations (i.e. MSMs and members of the LGBT community) of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, Project Sirak aimed to change the risky behaviors of the members of Katlo especially after Typhoon Yolanda. Until today, Katlo takes pride in educating young MSMs and transgender women in San Julian with the help of Katlo’s peer educators and counselors.
Katlo’s rebirth happened in March 28, 2010 after the members realized the need for a more systematized organization. With the aid of Katlo, San Julian also became the first municipality in Region 8 to pass an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.
Katlo now enjoys prestige in the community as its members stand by their battle-cry, “Katlo, Taas Noo!”, to symbolize the unity and strength of their organization.
And so what started as a small organization of close friends, and which had no organizational structure whatsoever became one of the leading organizations fighting for HIV and AIDS awareness, and for the inclusion and non-discrimination of the LGBT community not just in San Julian, Eastern Samar but in the Visayas region.
“We are situated in a fifth class municipality in one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. If Katlo San Julian can do it, then anyone else can do it. It can be done. Katlo is a best practice story. I want to impart that organizing is challenging but it can be done,” Andag ended.
For more information on Katlo San Julian, check out the group’s Facebook page.