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Finding Pride in Manticao, Misamis Oriental

Meet Mark Gil Dagapioso, 27, who heads Manticao Pride LGBTQ Organization. For him, the #LGBTQIA movement in Phl shouldn’t forget those in #Mindanao in the fight for #equalrights for all.

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.”

Mark Gil Dagapioso, 27 years old from Manticao, Misamis Oriental, was five years old when he realized he’s different. “At that time, my Dad gave me a toy robot. I really didn’t like it,” he recalled in the vernacular, with a laugh. “I wanted him to give me a Barbie doll.”

He also remembered seeing his Mom “comb her hair, wear skirts… and I wanted to do the same.”

He wasn’t surprised when his Mom, a teacher, openly accepted him as part of the LGBTQIA community. “(She) always wanted a girl for a child. Her first child was a boy – me, the eldest. This may be why when I came out when I was young, my Mom accepted me,” Mark Gil said.

Unfortunately – particularly early on – “my Dad didn’t immediately accept me; he’s in the military,” he recalled.

It took Mark Gil effort – i.e. “proving” himself – because his Dad changed his mind, since “eventually, particularly after I finished college, he started becoming more accepting.”

Mark Gil’s parents eventually separated; and he has half-siblings when his father made a newer family. His father, in fact, took his younger sister to raise her with their half-siblings, while Mark Gil was sent packing to his maternal grandparents who raised him.

Though not particularly close to them, Mark Gil still had to “prove” himself worthy of being accepted/respected by other family members.

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“I worked hard to finish my education so my siblings would respect me; so that they’d see me better than if I’m uneducated,” he said.

FACING DISCRIMINATION

Looking back, “I’ve experienced discrimination because I’m gay.”

One instance he can distinctly remember was in high school, when a woman bullied him. “She taunted me for being dark-skinned, gay and poor,” Mark Gil said. “This is why I worked hard to complete my education, so no one can taunt me that way again.”

For him, however, “Of course, discrimination will always be there.” But with harsh words, “you learn to ignore them.” Also, “little by little, LGBTQIA people are becoming more accepted as we show we’re more than what they deem us to be.”

“I worked hard to finish my education so my siblings would respect me; so that they’d see me better than if I’m uneducated,” Mark Gil said.

ORGANIZING IN MANTICAO

Many municipalities in Misamis Oriental actually now have LGBTQIA organizations.

Mark Gil is, in fact, the chairperson of the Manticao Pride LGBTQ Organization.

“The main purpose why we have an organization is to show our unity. LGBTQIA people should be united,” he said. “We’re fighting for the same thing: equal rights for all, and respect for all.”

It is through these organizations that Mark Gil hopes society will eventually start looking at LGBTQIA people differently.

“We have lots of community service activities that help lessen the bullying, the mockery. For instance, we help in tree planting activities, and coastal clean-up drives. So little by little, people see that LGBTQIA organizations don’t just exist for pageantry. People now see we can do more,” he said.

CONFRONTING HATRED

All the same, for Mark Gil, “our number one issue is still discrimination. Not just from cis-hetero people, but within the LGBTQIA community.”

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Specific to Misamis Oriental, “Our biggest issue here still has to do with equal rights. I don’t think LGBTQIA people in Misamis Oriental have equal rights.”

This is why he believes the LGBTQIA movement in the country should prioritize those who are voiceless.

LGBTQIA people in Mindanao, for instance, remain largely ignored, and there is a need to “prioritize us in information dissemination to help prepare us. There is too much focus on Luzon, or even Visayas. Focus on us, too; so you’d know what can be done for us, and what LGBTQIA people in Mindanao can do,” Mark Gil said.

“Little by little, people see that LGBTQIA organizations don’t just exist for pageantry. People now see we can do more,” Mark Gil said.

GLIMPSES OF MINDANAO

A graduate of Public Administration, major in organizational management, from the Marawi State University – Main Campus, Mark Gil knows what it’s like to hide due to one’s SOGIESC.

Marawi is infamous for being intolerant of LGBTQIA people as an Islamic city. But while there, Mark Gil remembers expressing his SOGIESC secretly – e.g. they used to have beauty pageants in school, and “we put make up on during school events”, he said.

Nonetheless, and generally speaking, he doesn’t believe it’s really hard to be LGBTQIA in Mindanao. “What LGBTQIA people experience in Luzon and Visayas, we experience, too. The biggest difference may be in self-expression; you can’t express yourself fully as LGBTQIA. This is particularly true when you’re in an Islamic area.”

Now single (“I last had a partner in 2016”), Mark Gil also doesn’t believe it’s difficult for an LGBTQIA person to find a partner in Mindanao. And for him, this is largely because of the changing demographics.

“I appreciate the younger generation when it comes to loving LGBTQIA people. It’s not difficult for them to love us,” he said. For instance, “I have many trans women friends whose boyfriends see them as women. So it was perhaps harder to have a relationship before than now.”

“I appreciate the younger generation when it comes to loving LGBTQIA people. It’s not difficult for them to love us,” Mark Gil said.

LET LGBTQIA PEOPLE LIVE THEIR LIVES

“I always tell younger LGBTQIA people to study well, and finish school,” Mark Gil said. Secondly, “be grateful. Even of small things. And thirdly, keep on dreaming. You should have aspirations in life.”

And to parents of LGBTQIA people, “do not judge your child until you know what he/she can do. As much as possible, just support your child. You do not know your child’s future. But it will be affected by good parenting. If you keep preventing your LGBTQIA child from expressing him/herself, or from becoming part of his/her community, he/she would rebel against you. So why not support your son, support your daughter do what makes them happy? At the end of the day, parents won’t live their children’s lives. These children will live their own lives.”

In the end, Mark Gil said that “people who mock us, who bully us, they’re always around us. I only have one message to them. Instead of bullying us, why not focus on yourselves? We don’t do you harm. Those who ridicule us should know, firstly, not to have close minds and hearts. We’re also human. We also feel pain. And we get affected by your hatred.” – WITH STEPHEN CHRISTIAN QUILACIO

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“If you keep preventing your LGBTQIA child from expressing him/herself, or from becoming part of his/her community, he/she would rebel against you. So why not support your son, support your daughter do what makes them happy?”

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