Around 2004, Nil Orera Nodalo went to school at Centro Escolar University (CEU) in Mendiola with Catherine (or just “Cat”).
“We were in the same department,” recalled Cat, who – at that time – was curious why a lot of girls had crush on him. And then, she smiled: “One day, I just realized I got a crush on him as well.”
Cat could still recall how “I would see him everyday, walking in our school hallways, and (that) made my day complete,” she said.
Nil knew of this, too. “Cat had a big crush on me,” he said, though at that time, “we were still in committed relationships.”
Now, as a couple, Nil and Cat’s relationship has gone beyond just the two of them, particularly since Nil is at the forefront of the trans movement in the Philippines as one of the country’s most recognizable leaders of the trans community. Nil helps lead TransMan Pilipinas, one of the still few female-to-male (FTM) trans organizations in these parts of the world, helping shape minds through education on transgenderism, pushing for policy changes that respect trans rights, and providing support to other transmen, among others.
In the Philippine society where heterosexism continues to dominate, Nil said that getting recognition is a big challenge. “I am a (trans)man and she is a woman. We are like any other heterosexual relationship. Unfortunately in this country, we don’t have gender recognition law,” he said.
That is, because Nil was assigned female at birth, based on the country’s “official” documentation, he is still a “she”. What they have is therefore debased because its legality is not recognized.
“We don’t have problems when we go out in public,” Cat said. “But when it comes to fixing legal documents… that’s the time when questions come out from those people who are confused and don’t know about transgenderism, and that trans people do exist.”
Cat said that they remain patient. “We adjust; we explain everything, detail by detail,” she said.
Even as they recognize the need to be in the LGBT movement in the long haul by helping shape minds to better understand the trans community, Nil and Cat celebrate the day-to-day.
Nil said that he is appreciative that they have “great communication, same interests/hobbies, best of friends, have a healthy relationship, and (we’re a) God fearing couple.”
Meanwhile, Cat is happy seeing the small changes in Nil. “I love everything about him,” she said, particularly “(as he grew) from a bad boy into my Prince Charming.”
Their plans include having a shop where they can sell LGBT stuff, travel a lot, and – of course – focus on trans advocacy.
And in the end, “we ‘re here for each other through thick and thin,” Cat ended.