It was probably around 2004, when he was still coming out of the closet (a process that, he said, took about three years, as “it didn’t happen overnight”) that Atty. Raymond Alikpala became an LGBT advocate. “The more I came to terms with my homosexuality, finding the joy and peace in accepting who God created me to be, the more the desire of spreading this joy and peace took hold. It was an evangelical experience, if you will, a call to spread the good news that God loves bakla, tomboy, trans, bi, and everyone else in between.”
It was this, after all, that developed in Raymond “a vague desire to help other conflicted gay men and women accept themselves, (becoming) a determination to write a tell-all book about my life in the closet, in the hope that it will help others get out of theirs.”
That book, God Loves Bakla, was published in 2009 in Cambodia [and then released internationally by Maverick House Publishers of Ireland under the title Of God and Men: A Life in the Closet (Groundbreaking memoirs of growing up as Filipino closeted gay Catholic)].
There was at that time, says Raymond, that “realization that being gay is a special gift from God, the greatest gift, the source of every good thing that I have managed to accomplish in my life. Just like the prophets of old, I have received the good news, and it demanded to be shared with others.”
It is this book, too, that Raymond considers as – so far – his one achievement in the fight for LGBT rights, since it is “groundbreaking, in the sense that it is the first full-length book detailing the real life of closeted gay man in the Philippines and his struggles with his being gay and Catholic. I am proud that it has been published internationally and that my story is available to a global audience.”
Raymond is, of course, the fourth Congressional nominee (2013) of Ladlad, the first and still only political party for LGBTs in the Philippines. “I would like to be among the first LGBT members of Congress in the Philippines,” said Raymond, as he asked for “everyone’s support to help us make history.”
A graduate of Ateneo de Manila University – AB Management Economics (Cum Laude and Departmental Award) (1988); and Juris Doctor, JD (Second Honors and Evelio Javier Leadership Award) (1992) – Raymond holds a Master of Laws, LL.M. (ASEAN Postgraduate Scholar) from the National University of Singapore (NUS) (2000).
Being a part of Ladlad was somewhat providential. Raymond has, after all, worked as a legal officer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for international NGO Jesuit Refugee Service from 2001 to 2004; and as a protection officer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (2004-2007), and as refugee status determination supervisor in Saloum, Egypt (2011) for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The push for equal protection specifically for LGBTs came with Raymond’s participation in Ladlad.
A little known fact about Raymond: he was a stage actor, having performed in seven plays (including Art, Noises Off, The Boor and Cosi) for Phnom Penh Players from 2009-2011.
For LGBT Filipinos, “the key issue remains the continuing discrimination against LGBT persons in law and in fact. Despite the growing recognition of LGBT persons under international law, this trend has not taken root in the Philippines, where LGBT persons remain legally invisible,” Raymond said.
And while the 2010 Supreme Court decision on Ang Ladlad vs. Comelec finally extended legal recognition to LGBT persons as a minority group in this country, “we need to build on that by passing laws specifically protecting our rights as a community. And we have the Yogyakarta Principles to guide us in our struggle.”
Raymond finds disappointing “the fact that some LGBT persons believe that there is no need for LGBT representatives in Congress, and that they do not support the electoral fight of Ladlad,” he said. But he remains hopeful. “I am most inspired by those activists who have been fighting for LGBT rights for decades, before it became fashionable to do so. I was in the closet in the 1990s when these people were already bravely speaking out for the dignity and equality of all gays and lesbians. I have tremendous respect for their commitment and tenacity. And they are still here with us, young as ever, fighting in the trenches. I salute them.”