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Meeting the ‘bekinals’

An encounter with members of ProGay Barangay Tatalon

The group is eyeing activities to help empower its members. For instance, there are talks with legal groups to help inform the members of their legal rights; HIV-related endeavors; et cetera. But TonTon Tero is first to admit “na marami pang dapat gawin (there is still a lot to be done).”

The term – “bekinals” for “beking kanal” or, literally, gays from the gutters/canals – is not at all politically correct. But it is what TonTon Tero uses to refer to those “na katulad namin (who are like us).” By those “who are like us”, he meant “mahihirap na mga bakla na hindi naman madalas mapansin ng lipunan (impoverished gay men who are often neglected by society).”

Initially, “nahirapan kaming imbitahan silang maging bahagi ng grupo – may nagsabi sa amin: ‘Ano ‘yan, rally na naman?’ (we had a hard time persuading people to join us – there was even one who said: ‘What is this, another group to hold rallies?’),” TonTon Tero said. “Kalaunan, nang makita nila na may pinaglalaban, sumama na rin sila (Eventually, when they saw what we stand for, they joined us).”

It is this neglect, nonetheless, that pushed these “bekinals” to organize themselves, eventually forming a ProGay chapter in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City this year (2012). “Dati, may grupo na ang mga beki dito; pero nakikita lang kami sa Miss Gay – ganyan lang (In the past, the gays already formed a group; but you’d just see us when there is a gay beauty pageant),” TonTon said. “Kung kailangan ng katatawanan, ng pampaganda… saka lang kami nakikita (We were then only seen when there was a need for someone to be laughed at, or when there is a need for our service to beautify other people).”

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But then “namulat kami sa katotohanan na kailangan din naming mag-organisa para ipaglaban ang mga karapatan namin (we realized we also had to organize to fight for our rights),” TonTon said. “At may mga karapatang din naman talaga ang mga beki na dapat ipaglaban (And gays do have rights worth fighting for).”

FORMING A FAMILY

Barangay Tatalon is a 92.946-hectare barangay established in 1960 in Quezon City. As of the 2007 census, it has a population of 57,930, with a total number of 12,267 households (at least as of 2000). Ascertaining the exact number of members of the LGBT community is difficult, since “andami namin dito (there are a lot of us here),” TonTon said. In just a few months since its establishment, in fact, ProGay already has 80 members – “Siguro trenta diyan ang active (Approximately 30 of that number are active members).”

Initially, “nahirapan kaming imbitahan silang maging bahagi ng grupo – may nagsabi sa amin: ‘Ano ‘yan, rally na naman?’ (we had a hard time persuading people to join us – there was even one who said: ‘What is this, another group to hold rallies?’),” TonTon said. “Kalaunan, nang makita nila na may pinaglalaban, sumama na rin sila (Eventually, when they saw what we stand for, they joined us).”

ProGay has become a sort of “family” for many of its members. “Nagkikita, nag-uusap, nagtutulungan (We catch up, chat with other members, help each other out),” TonTon said.

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And for these members, this belongingness means a lot. One other ProGay member, Jason, recalled how – one time, before ProGay was formed in Barangay Tatalon – “nasanay na akong kutyain – tinatawag nila ako horsey, salot, at kung ano-ano pa (I got used to being ridiculed – they said I look like a horse, that I’m a pest, and such insults were thrown at me),” he said. “Minsan pa, sinako ako (One time, I was even placed inside a sack).”

Another member, a minor – third year high school Owel – said the group allows him to “makasalimuha ang mga katulad natin (mingle with people like us).”

For Jason and Owel, therefore, ProGay has become a “takbuhan (group to go to).”

FACING LIFE

That life isn’t easy “para sa mga tulad naming bekinal (for the likes of us)” is a mantra repeatedly stated by TonTon. “Ni walang makitang trabaho kasi madalas, na-di-discriminate kami (We can’t even find jobs because often, we encounter discrimination).”

Sadly, discrimination is encountered even from other members of the LGBT community. “Noong sumali kami sa Pride 2012, napagitnaan kami ng mga mayayamang beki at mayayamang transgender (When we joined Pride 2012, our group was placed in between well-off ‘straight-acting/looking’ gay men and well-off transgender women),” TonTon recalled. “Feeling namin, para kaming minaliit; na para kaming tinanong na ‘Anong ginagawa n’yo rito?’ (We felt belittled; as if we were asked what we were doing there in the first place).”

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When pressed for the feeling of being ostracized, and that it may not be “real”, just “felt”, TonTon said “ganoon na rin ‘yun; ganoon ang na-feel namin eh (it’s basically the same, because that’s how we felt then).”  All the same, “ginagawa na lang naming magagawa namin (we just do what we can do for the advocacy).”

The group is eyeing activities to help empower its members. For instance, there are talks with legal groups to help inform the members of their legal rights; HIV-related endeavors; et cetera. But TonTon is first to admit “na marami pang dapat gawin (there is still a lot to be done).”

For now, though, forming as a group to achieve the goals is – arguably – a big first step. And ProGay in Barangay Tatalon has already taken this first step.

Sa mga nais sumali sa (For those who want to become part of) ProGay Barangay Tatalon, bisitahin sina TonTon Tero sa (visit TonTon at) Barangay Tatalon. As TonTon himself said: “Lahat po, welcome (Everyone is welcome).”

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