Their meeting was somewhat providential.
“(Jun and I) met about six years ago, at a gala performance of the San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts. I was dating a tenor from the master chorale at the time, and (Jun’s) brother was also a tenor, so we were going to end up being alone in the audience. Thankfully, we all grabbed a cup of coffee before the show started and got our tickets swapped so we could keep each other company,” Burn says thoughtfully. Then, he adds, with a smile: “Jun was wearing a striped t-shirt tucked into a pair of acid-wash denim without a belt, and socks with sandals. To a gala. But the minute I lay my eyes on him I knew I was going to be in a lot of trouble. It was love at first sight for me, which was just awful timing as I was dating someone else at the time.”
Jun counters: “I don’t know if you can call it love at first sight, I tend to not believe in that. But what he didn’t know at the time we met was that I had already seen pictures of him a few weeks prior to that concert. He’d gone on a trip with my brother and some friends to Baguio City, and I processed the pictures from my brother’s camera on our computer. I kind of knew what I was getting myself into already, by the time I met him.” And then he adds, responding to Burn’s observations on his fashion sense: “And I still believe in socks and sandals, they just make sense if you want to keep your feet warm.”
“If you wanted to keep your feet warm you would wear closed shoes,” Burn says.
This way of talking, the bantering, is actually perceptible in Burn and Jun’s talks – playful, and, well, familiar, very familiar, in fact.
“I’ve had five relationships (before), all girls, including one I almost married,” Jun says.
“Whose identity he still keeps a secret from me as I have been prone to murder,” Burn chimes in.
“Which is exactly why I keep it a secret.”
“Whatever!” Burn says, still smiling. Then: “I had two ‘girlfriends,’ if you can call them that, from my early teens. And four prior relationships, including the guy I was dating when Jun first started stalking me.”
“I didn’t stalk.”
“You had photographic surveillance prior to our first meeting. That’s stalking.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Yes, it is.”
Again turning serious, Jun says that, for him, at least, it was initially difficult to be a part of an out couple in the Philippines. “The main challenge was informing the friends and family. I wasn’t out when we first started, and Burn kept trying to grab my hand in the mall. I instinctively jerked my hand away, fearing the social stigma, but once we got used to the stares, it wasn’t such a big deal anymore. Now it feels weird to be walking around the mall without holding his hand,” he says.
Burn didn’t share the problem, though. “I don’t think I’ve had any difficulty managing perception as an out couple here in the Philippines. We never put ourselves in a position where we’re in a part of Manila that would be dangerous for us,” he says, adding that, “of course it’s different when we travel outside the country where we have to respect the local customs, like in Malaysia. But whenever we go out here, the only real hurdle for me were the initial stares. People are usually polite, but there are those who point and stare, and there are some backhanded slurs thrown around by homophobes. But we just make our peace with it.”
Burn isn’t apologetic in anything. “Coming out of the closet was the best decision I made in my life,” he says. “But because of my dad’s high-profile circle of friends in the armed forces, a certain amount of discretion is called for from time to time. We just stay away from those times as much as we can,” he adds with a laugh.
Jun’s coming out experience was the reverse. “I had a real problem with (coming out) at first. I had my reservations. Eventually, I realized I just had to deal with it,” he says. “My plan of action was to slowly break it down to my circle of friends because no one knew I was gay before Burn.”
“I still don’t think he’s gay, what with his passion for cars and gadgets,” Burn interjects.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Name a single designer that was in this year’s New York Fashion Week.”
Jun ponders, but is unable to answer.
“See?” Burn says, somewhat triumphantly.
Jun believes that “there is a bloated and unfair focus on the ‘gay’ part of gay relationships,” he says. “Straight relationships face the same odds.” Thus, for him, “it already feels like we’re married.”
Burn’s forehead creases. “No, it doesn’t,” he says.
“This is a sensitive issue for us,” Jun explains.
“Because he won’t marry me,” Burn says.
“I’m still waiting, six years later.”
Jun stays quiet.
“Jun’s always moved slowly, but surely. It took him forever to decide that we should start living together. He lived in Binangonan, and I lived near De La Salle University (DLSU) before. With the amount of time it took to see each other on a daily basis, we figured this was an arrangement that would work best,” Burn says. Then turning back to Jun: “Still waiting on that proposal though.”
On a more serious note, though, Burn believes that “I don’t know that I’d call it marriage. A legal way to protect our relationship has to be in place. Not very many people realize that there is absolutely no protection afforded to us, not in the way a heterosexual couple is protected under the law. Even common-law heterosexual partners (live-in couples) have more protection than we do.”
Jun doesn’t say anything, and instead opens a bar of chocolate, chewing on it quietly.
Burn says that “cliché as it sounds, I just knew (Jun is the right one for me). As soon as I saw his sock-covered feet in sandals, I knew he was the one. There have been tough times of course, but at the end of the day, the bigger pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly. He’s the calm in my sea of storm,” he says.
Both agree, without the jousting, that having each other is what’s best about the relationship.
“I’ve never lived with a significant other, before. So, every day, I’m stimulated to do good,” Jun says. “My world used to revolve around myself, now it revolves around someone else and it always keeps me motivated to do right by him.” Then, he adds: “Of course now I have to live with him always picking fights with me.”
“Go to your corner!”