It was Valentine’s Day. It was our first traditional date in a pricey Filipino restaurant in Malate, Manila. His hands were clasped together across the table, and so were mine. I couldn’t endure the tension, so I reached out, my hands on the table, palm facing up, and he immediately held it. He was grinning widely. It was a busy night, a family behind us, two old ladies beside us, another gay couple right in front, and celebrating straight couples filled all the other tables. After finishing the white wine and some good adobo, we stood up to leave. While standing at his seat, I came to him, smiled, and gave him a kiss on the lips. When I pulled back, I uttered to his smiling face, “Every kiss is a revolution.” I briefly turned around me as he opened the door. The gay couple was smiling, the family table fell silent, and the two old ladies were whispering. We walked home, his hand gripping mine and told me, “If we were in Australia, I could just hold and kiss you anytime, anywhere. It’s really different here in Manila.”
It was a Sunday. We were out with some friends to watch a movie at Greenbelt, Makati. We were walking to the cinemas when a sea of people just poured out from the chapel. I looked at him, we both smirked, and held hands. A father’s frowning face, a small boy’s pointing fingers, a woman’s evasive stare, and two Caucasian girls’ exchange of whispers, were just few of those we observed in that brief counter flow with a devout crowd.
It was a summer music festival night in Talakag, Bukidnon. We were adrift with all that alcohol, songs, dances, and those magical burgers. From time to time, his lips land on my neck, my hand holds his, and his body would be against mine. Every now and then, there’s a flash in our direction. In that blur, we tried to make out that source of rudeness but only found some occasional small bright red dots from the crowd.
It was weekend night market in Cagayan de Oro City. We caught up with some of my hometown friends over dinner and beer at those crowded streets. In cutting through the crowd to check the array of street market goods, my hand clasped his tightly. Over more beer after shopping, a close friend told us of the myriad of reactions as we passed by. Muslim women vendors stood up to point, drinking pot-bellied men jeered, curious street children called their friends to see us, and a group of drinking gay guys cheered and clapped.
Every moment was beautifully defiant. Every moment was a denial to conform to what they think is right. Every unhidden kiss, hug, and caress is a protest against the patriarchy that has long plagued this country and has kept many of us in closets.
This country still has a long way to go. Start with a kiss, today.