I don’t remember meeting him.
We came from the same university, though (different batches) – the University of Newcastle, where I did Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies), and him some postgraduate degree.
I don’t even remember his face, truth be told.
I was told, though, that he was the one who delivered some speech in behalf of the students when our Australian university held a ceremony a few years back in Metro Manila for its Filipino graduates.
I remember, though, how I was told of his death – another schoolmate, in a rare catching up, blurted out, out of the blue: ‘Remember Jeremiah*? He’s dead – found killed by some guys he picked up.’
‘You know, the one to deliver the speech when…’ Blah, blah.
‘That gay guy who…’ More blah.
‘Not ringing a bell, sorry.’
A hard look, as if I did something bad.
Then: ‘Anyway, he was found dead in his house in Davao City – stabbed to death.’
‘That’s sad,’ I say. Murder’s murder – even if you didn’t know who was murdered.
‘Yes,’ came the reply. And then: ‘He picked up some boys the night he was murdered.’
‘Maybe he didn’t pay enough?’ Laughter ensued.
And so was named the first gay person I know (well, supposed to have known) who was killed for being gay.
There are numerous issues immediately raised with this.
For one, there are no laws against biases in the Philippines – arguably, an anti-discrimination law ought to respond to this (to begin with), but even such a law is finding it hard to get passed, showing the discriminatory nature of most Filipino politicians. No, anti-bias laws do not give special rights to certain groups of people – it just highlghts the need to ensure that no crimes are committed against people (or groups of people) for their being different.
Even animals have protection under the law (selectively, obviously – and stupidly – to protect the cruel pasttimes of the elite, e.g. cockfighting). The GLBTQIs, wala.
Secondly, even while there are cases when families would rather not relate the death of a loved one with his/her being GLBTQI, the reporting of cases of those whose sex and/or gender identification open is often done sans good taste – as if the occurrence is unworthy of good coverage.
At least three gay people who worked for ABS-CBN were murdered, but the coverage of the news was done by tabloids – the giant TV network has not (seemingly) seen merit in highlighting the gay hate aspect of the crimes.
And thirdly, the blame has often been internalized, e.g. that a gay guy didn’t pay enough, so he was killed – a story often repeated even among gay men, as if it is somehow justified to kill a gay man following this reasoning. Think: if every time I buy my groceries, and I am not given the exact change by the girl at the checkout counter, is it justifiable for me to kill her (or her boss, for that matter, for not providing enough changes)?
This is tantamount to telling the Black Americans to thank the Ku Klux Klan for burning many of them alive simply because they’re Black. Or making the Jews sing Adolf Hitler praises for wanting to exterminate all Jews.
A few weeks back, yet another friend was bugging me if I remember Ali*, from Cotabato City.
‘You know – that gay guy we used to hang out with…’ Blah, blah.
‘Not ringing a bell, sorry.’
The long stare ensued. Then: ‘Anyway, he was stabbed to death.’
Apparently, his body was found a few hours after he was repeatedly stabbed – fortunately, the suspected killers were apprehended; unfortunately, news soon spread that they ‘disappeared,’ released perhaps because, as the stories told had it, they only killed a gay guy anyway.
‘Sorry to hear that,’ I say.
Then again: ‘I bet he didn’t pay those boys enough.’
Nothing funny there.
The University of Newcastle is organizing its alumni association in the Philippines.
Less one former student.
I still don’t remember meeting him.
I never will meet him (now that he’s gone).
But I won’t forget him.
Yet another gay Filipino whose senseless death highlights how easy it is to get away with killing GLBTQIs in the Philippines.
And the likes of them should never be forgotten.
*Names changed to respect the privacy of the family of the deceased, who may or may not have been out.