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.”
ROXAS CITY, PROVINCE OF CAPIZ – “Ngongo (Harelip).” That – in a word – is how many derogatorily address her. But that “just about everyone knows me here is what’s more important,” wryly stated in the vernacular by Marimar, one of the fixtures/regular faces that can’t be missed by people (residents or tourists) when in Roxas City in the Province of Capiz. See, Marimar is the “undisputed ‘queen’” of the city’s downtown area, having been selling candles for churchgoers right in front of the Immaculate Concepcion Metropolitan Cathedral, the Roman Catholic church at the very heart of Roxas City, right beside the city hall and the provincial capitol.
Marimar was only 16 when she started selling candles; but her family has been in this line of business for generations already. Her grandmother, in fact, did not only sell candles, but also offered prayers (for a fee) for those who asked. When her grandmother passed away, Marimar’s mother took over that position. And when her mother was no longer able to sell candles, Marimar became the family’s “kapalit sa puwesto (replacement in the position).”
Marimar is a transwoman; though most times considered as “agi ra (just gay)” by people. This ought to have “disqualified” her from selling candles, since this line of work is traditionally stereotypically reserved for those who were assigned female at birth. But the “puwesto (position)” didn’t go to Marimar’s female siblings because “tamad man (they’re lazy),” she sneered.
Now 36, Marimar is the only transwoman selling candles – both a boon and a bane, she said.
On the one hand, people know – not just recognize – her, and so she is able to sell a lot of candles. Her “puhunan (capital)” reaches just a few hundreds every day; and if she’s lucky, she could earn “P50 o sobra (P50 or more)” on top of that.
But on the other hand, exactly because people know her (whether assumed or in true sense), the sense of affinity seemed to have given people license to tease/mock/ridicule her. Not many call her by her name, for instance, and instead refer to her as “ngongo” because of her inability to clearly speak; and surprisingly, not many see this as offensive…
“Ani na pirmi (I’ve always been like this),” she said, referring to her way of speaking.
Marimar said she was also “pirmi (always)” a “binabaye (feminine).” None in the family did not accept her, with her being trans just accepted “nga kani na ni (as just it is).”
Marimar has numerous “suki (regular customers)”, some of them buying not just one or two candle sticks, but “tanan (the lot).” At times these customers “pakyaw (buy the whole lot)”, she squeals, gleeful as she hops in the square in front of the church. Occasionally, there would be people who would tease – and even mock – her, calling her “ngongo” or “agi”, though more often the former than the latter. She just ignores them, she said, as she has learned to live “iya-iya (each to his/her own).”
This way of thinking extends to her way of seeing her being trans working in the vicinity of an institution (i.e. church) that traditionally frowns upon people like her. Yes, she said, she knows the church may not always be accepting of LGBT people, but that “deadma na (just ignore that),” she said, adding that after all, she’s just “nanginabuhi (making a living).”
As a “queen”, Marimar’s domain is the square in front of the church in the very heart of Roxas City. It’s not really hers (obviously), but she’s long been identified with it; and just as obviously, she lords no one… but her own happiness, she said. But for her, “tama ya na (that’s more than enough).”
Marimar said she still “gapangampo (prays).” At times, she leaves her post to go inside the church to talk to God. Asking for a lover, perhaps, she laughed; though she said this isn’t a priority, but that having fun in life is. Or to ask to have a good day selling, since there would be days when business isn’t good. But mostly, it’s to be thankful being “nga buhi ta (being alive)”, living – as it is – her life, as the “queen of Roxas City”…