This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, 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 LGBTQIA 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.”
Edmil Pillazar Morillo – 34 years old from San Piro, Balayan, Batangas – came to accept he’s bisexual when he was around 24 years old. At that time, he was supposed to get married, having “prepared to get married for a year.” But “that was when I realized that maybe a life like that’s not meant for me,” he said, adding that “I got confused about my SOGIESC. I looked at my life to ascertain who I really am, where I am in life, what I am in the community I belong to. Until I realized I belong to the LGBTQIA community of our barangay, and even of Balayan.”
In hindsight, “I also remember, when I was maybe in elementary school, I sort of knew what I really am. But I didn’t come out and fought this off.”
This sense of knowing he’s “different” somehow persisted as he grew older.
“Even before (actually coming out at 24), when I was younger than 24, I already felt I was different. But at that time, I had to think things through 100 times, and before I came out as bisexual.”
He remembered that while finishing a degree at the University of Immaculate Concepcion College (where he took up Bachelor of Secondary Education, major in Filipino), he was approached by an organization to ask him if he wanted to be a candidate for Mr. Balayan (a male beauty contest).
“I thought to myself, ‘Mr. Balayan? That seems far-fetched. I feel more aligned with Miss Balayan.’ But people gossiped already. ‘He’s gay!’, ‘Why was he allowed to join; he’s queer!’, and ‘In high school, he was flamboyant.’”
Ignoring what people said at his back, Edmil still joined, out to prove himself.
After joining Mr. Balayan, he finished college, took the licensure exam and landed his first job. “It was really only that time when I fully accepted that, ‘Hey, I’m bisexual.’”
Edmil has three siblings; he’s the youngest among four kids.
“Initially, my parents weren’t able to accept that their son turned out to be bisexual. I experienced being told: ‘You want to be like your gay uncle? Having one gay family member is more than enough!’,” he recalled.
He remembered thinking: “’Why are they like that? Why do they want to stop me from what I’m feeling?’ I thought what they’re doing pained me. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wasn’t showing them anything bad, so why ask me to stop feeling the way I was feeling?”
Edmil said, though, that eventually “they saw that I was happier when I mingled with LGBTQIA people in our barangay.”
It helped that their local LGBTQIA organization was also recognized in the community. And so “my parents eventually realized it’s okay for me to be bisexual. At least I help others. And I’m not a nuisance even if this is the state of my life.”
Looking back, Edmil said: “People in the community were surprised when I came out. Some said: ‘He used to be heterosexual.’ ‘He was a man’s man.’ ‘He was about to get married.’ ‘Why is he like that now?’ ‘Wow, that is shocking!’ Those were the things I heard people in the community said about me.”
Still, for Edmil, coming out is important.
“You need to show people who you are, what you are, and what the state of your life is. Because when you finally open your heart as part of the LGBTQIA community, you’d be able to breathe easy. Nothing will trouble your mind. There’s no more pain when you finally show people, when you share to them that you’re part of the LGBTQIA community,” he said.
BI LOVE IN BALAYAN
Edmil just came from a “complicated relationship” with a guy for four years. “And even if I had flings, the pain that relationship left is still there,” he smiled bitterly. So for now, “I don’t want to enter a relationship that I know will just hurt me in the end.”
In Balayan, he said, “it is very hard for bisexual people to find relationships. Here I often see straight men in relationships with bisexual men. And sometimes, bisexual men are in relationships with lesbians.”
Falling for heterosexual women is also challenging.
“If you ask me, in 10 bisexual men who had relationships with women, only one woman fully accepted her bisexual partner. Society always discriminates bisexual men with intimate relationships with women. We hear, I hear people say: ‘Her partner’s gay!’, or ‘Why did she enter into a relationship with him? He’s gay! He flirts more than her.’ Why do people judge how others feel? It’s not them who are in the relationship.”
In Edmil’s experience, bisexual people also experience discrimination in the community via the “erasure” of bi people.
“Some of your friends stop being your friends after discovering you’re bisexual. They avoid you,” he said.
For Edmil: “They should open their minds. That no matter the person’s identity – he may be bisexual or gay – just accept him. Because they’re also humans, we’re also humans who get hurt when we hear bad things being said about us.”
Besides, Edmil added, “They should not judge us. Because not all people they judge are unimportant. Not all people they judge are uneducated. Before judging LGBTQIA people particularly in Balayan, they should look at themselves first. They should assess themselves first. As was said, before judging others, look at your own dirt first.”
FINDING A PURPOSE
Currently a public school teacher at San Piro National High School, he is now more open about himself. And “after coming out, my relationships at school became better because they saw who I really am in the community,” Edmil said. “People at work are happy. They tell me to just continue with what I’m doing to help other people in my community.”
Edmil became Balayan’s LGBTQIA organization’s president in 2019, continuing in 2020 and the first half of 2021. For him, “having an organization for LGBTQIA people is extremely important. Because through our organization, we show that we may be LGBTQIA but we help more than even other members of the locality.”
To date, their organization – Bahian Movers Club (BMC) – has over 300 members. And they continue to face various issues.
First, Edmil said, is discrimination since “not all people in Balayan accept gays, lesbians, trans people and bisexuals in the community.” So “we try to show the community that LGBTQIA people have a special part to play in society.”
Second is the infighting leading to boundaries set by LGBTQIA organizations in the smaller barangays versus the bigger towns. “There are times when the LGBTQIA people from the town have fights with those from barangays.
And the third problem is the high unemployment rate among LGBTQIA people in Balayan. “The unemployment rate (is an issue) because many LGBTQIA people in Balayan do not have work,” he said.
BMC is already hoping to provide some solutions, e.g. by giving livelihood trainings like cosmetology classes, which Edmil said will hopefully “empower these locals to consider this as an avenue for them to make a living.”
He may have taken some time to finally fully accept himself, but Edmil said that this acceptance is extremely important.
“To LGBTQIA people who are still finding themselves, accept who you are. Never be ashamed of who and what you are because when you do this, you will be able to live freely in the community,” he said.
And to the community as a whole, “my message is for you not to judge the book by its cover. Because that person you judge may be the one who will help you,” Edmil ended.