Life hasn’t always been easy for Iloilo-based transgender woman Ducky Pamplona, who – even at an early age – already accepted that she was “not like all the other boys” and yet had to suppress her true self to avoid any conflict with her family members.
“I was not accepted,” Ducky said. “So I strived for it.”
Assigned with the name Ramillo Pamplona Menor at birth, Ducky got her name from her grandmother. “I used to love to swim and I ate a lot – just like a duck. Even my first makeup artist, Neka Madiclum, called me ‘Ducky’.”
Ducky – who has four siblings – was raised by a single mother. She never had a strong male figure in her life, though an uncle (a former seminarian) served as an obstacle in her coming out. And yet, seeing that uncle, “I also saw that if I (continued presenting myself as) male, it would be scarier for me.”
And so when she was 13, Ducky started presenting her true self. “Britney Spears was my idol. I tried everything to look like her. I even dyed my hair,” she laughed, adding that it was for her own “fulfilment”. “I know I can do better things by looking like a ‘real’ woman. That’s what I am; that’s what my souls is.”
To be her true self was costly, Ducky said. “The costs of surgeries and pills are expensive. I went broke one time, not only financially, but also my soul was broken.” However, “growing up and living with people who were going through the same struggle as me… taught me how to be strong and accept myself and see the real beauty beneath my skin.”
Now 31 years old, Ducky has already conquered the scene. She has joined beauty pageants, became a model, worked as an on-screen indie film actress and managed her own beauty salon, Salon de Pamplona, in Iloilo City.
Among the titles Ducky held were: first runner up in the Miss Gay Paraw pageant in 2011, winner of Miss Gay Dinagyang in 2012, Super Sireyna Iloilo in 2014, and candidate of the HIV Ambassador and Ambassadress pageant organized by the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines in 2015.
“I was a ‘parlorista’ for about nine years. So fixing hair is one of my passions, though it’s just one of my passions. I didn’t finish my college education and I admit it. So this is why I use my skills and talents not just to influence others, but also to make a living for myself.”
But Ducky wants to think she also did not forget about the LGBT community. Now as an “elder” trans woman, she tells younger transgender women: “Being a transgender woman, I tell them that it is hard. But if you have the heart and if it is your dream, then go for it. I tell them that hardship is always with you everywhere you go, but as long as you know you are strong, you can make it.”
Ducky is now in a relationship with an American man. She laughed when she mentioned “marriage”, since “I was in wrong relationships before. But recently, an American man came into my life and he made me realize how beautiful my life is and how beautiful I am.” They are now planning to get married hopefully within the year.
“I’ve gotten older. I keep learning from my past. I would like to tell a young transgender woman to do what your heart says as long as you know that you are not stepping on anyone,” Ducky said. “God has a plan for all of us. This is why we need to have a strong faith in God. I made a lot of mistakes before. But I used those as weapons of learning. Life is so deep and you can never understand life. But you make your own life.”