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Fulfilling a lifelong dream to be in the spotlight

Meet Princess Jolens, here as part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine launched to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living. When she started performing as a drag queen, she was only earning P200 per night – somewhat higher than others who just earn P100 per night. But she was happy, and this is what she wants others to learn from. “Be happy with what you’re doing; that’s the most important thing.”

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, 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 LGBT 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.”

“Two hundred binayad sa akin noong una akong mag-perform, pero masaya na ako. Okay lang kasi matagal ko na itong pinangarap (I was paid P200 the first time I performed, but I was already happy. It’s okay because this has been my dream for so long).”

That was how Richard Fabella, better known by her stage name as Princess Jolens, broke into the drag scene, perhaps highlighting how her journey into the spotlight was not an easy one. But more than the failed attempts, it was perseverance that “paved the way for the fulfillment of my dreams,” she said.

Princess Jolen’s exposure to the drag scene was somewhat atypical.

“One time, nagkaayaan kaming mag-barkada, mga workmates ko, na pumunta sa isang hosto bar. Habang aliw na aliw sila sa mga macho dancer, ako naman manghang-mangha sa gay impersonator. Sobrang na-impress ako sa host (One time, me and friends went to a male go-go bar. While there, they were so fascinated with the macho dancers; but me, I was fascinated with the gay impersonator. I was so impressed with that host),” Princess Jolens said.

That first exposure to the world of drag left an indelible mark on her.

Habang pinapanood ko ung impersonator, maraming sumagi sa imagination ko – kung ako ung nasa stage, sisiguraduhin ko na magandang-maganda ung suot kong gown (While watching the impersonator, a lot of things entered my mind. I was thinking that if I’m the one onstage, I’d make sure I’d be wearing a really fabulous gown),” she laughed.

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When the night ended, as they headed out of the bar, Princess Jolens saw the impersonators eating outside. She didn’t let the opportunity pass. She walked over to them and introduced herself.

“Mama, magkano per night niyo dito sa bar (Girls, how much do you earn every night here in the bar)? Princess Jolens asked. “P150 a night lang; tapos kung walang tao, P100 lang (They earn P150 per night; and if there aren’t any people, just P100 per night). Oh my God!

She was shocked after hearing how much the performers were earning, “but they seemed happy with what they were doing, and that’s the most important thing.”

That encounter encouraged her to pursue her desire to perform.

During one of her night-outs, she stumbled upon an opportunity to make her dreams a reality.

“I went to this bar in Pasay and I saw at the counter a poster announcing the bar’s annual beauty pageant. The floor manager approached me and asked if I was interested. I immediately said ‘no’. It never crossed my mind to join beauty pageants,” Princess Jolens said. “I told the manager that I prefer performing than be a ‘beauconera‘.”

The floor manager told Princess Jolens “that one of the prizes that I would get if I win the pageant would be a regular set at the bar,” she recalled. With some hesitations, Princess Jolens joined the contest.

She was able to reach the grand finals. But, unfortunately, she did not win

A few days later, she joined another pageant in Cubao. And this time, she won the title.

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Princess Jolens went back to the bar in Pasay to let the performers – with whom she became friends with during the contest – know about her victory.

That night at the bar, she met the floor manager again.

“He introduced me to the owner. They asked me what my talents are. I told them that I can do anything – that I’m even willing to perform for free. I just want to perform,” Princess Jolens said.

And that was the turning point for her, as she “officially” entered the drag scene.

She earned P200 on her first night and she was happy with it.

It was a thankless beginning to a drag career.



But different bars noticed her, and eventually, she started getting bookings left and right.

“I started from P200 a night, but when I started performing in other bars, it became P3,000 per night,” she said.

She juggled her daytime job and the demands of being a performer.

“It’s all good. I love what I was doing. It did not matter if I was only able to sleep for a few hours because of rehearsals. There was also a time when I made costumes while at work. It was tiring, but it was really fun… because I love what I was doing,” Princess Jolens said.

But then, another chapter of her life started. Princess Jolens got an offer to work abroad with her ex.

She gave up everything for love. Princess Jolens and her partner at that time went to Jeddah.

Pero isang taon pa lang ang nakakalipas (But after only a year), I felt that my ex could not love me the way I was hoping he would. After I gave up everything, that was what happened,” she recalled.

When she finished her contract, she went back to the Philippines.

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Princess Jolens got in touch with the bars that she was connected with before – and in no time, she started performing again.

“The art of drag is slowly dying,” she sadly said. Nowadays, “there is no production value, especially those who perform in small bars. That’s wrong. Regardless if it’s a small or a big venue, you should always be at your best. Your next performance will depend on your last performance. If you do well with your last performance, expect that you will have another set the following day. But if you did not do well, don’t expect another booking the following day.”

Although there is a growing number of drag performers in Manila, for Princess Jolens, “the quality of their performance is no longer that good.”

“It’s not always about how much you are earning. It’s not always about the money. It’s about entertaining the audience. It’s about being beautiful on stage and giving your best performance,” she said.

Princess Jolens also said that some drag performers now do not value the opportunity given to them. “You will see that they are not taking their job seriously, like as if they are just playing on stage. Some of them are prima donnas.”

For Princess Jolens, “whenever you perform on stage, put yourself in the position of the audience. Ask yourself what you would like to see and experience. That’s what you should give. The audience should be in awe when they watch you. And if you successfully achieve that, then that’s the only time you would leave a mark as a performer.”

And Princess Jolens ought to know, of course; considering what she had to go through to be where she is now.




Living life a day at a time – and writing about it, is what Patrick King believes in. A media man, he does not only write (for print) and produce (for a credible show of a local giant network), but – on occasion – goes behind the camera for pride-worthy shots (hey, he helped make Bahaghari Center’s "I dare to care about equality" campaign happen!). He is the senior associate editor of OutrageMag, with his column, "Suspension of Disbelief", covering anything and everything. Whoever said business and pleasure couldn’t mix (that is, partying and working) has yet to meet Patrick King, that’s for sure! Patrick.King.Pascual@outragemag.com

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Paolo, naked

Paolo Dumlao, a pansexual Filipino performance artist, uses his naked body as a canvas, believing that art can help the people – both the artist and those who see the artworks. “It makes people think, ask… and feel,” he said, all relevant because “we’re not robots; we’re humans.”

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Four years ago, Paolo Dumlao, a pansexual Filipino, did his first performance art “as mema lang (out of whim),” he said. At that time, he just wanted to “tick off something from my bucket list.” But he fell in love with the form, and so stayed with it.

Here’s the thing: In his performances, Paolo is always without clothes since he is a nude artist.

There is reason behind this, he said. “It’s not because it’s something different, or because it’s something new since it’s been done before… but because for me, the feeling (when one is nude) is very vulnerable, and I think it’s my most vulnerable form, and I want to be in that state when I perform so I can emphasize with people.”

To be clear, Paolo is not a performing artist; instead, he is a performance artist.

Performance art is different from performing arts. With the latter, “you are portraying a character that is not you. So you’re using your body as a canvas to create another character. When it comes to performance art, you yourself are the character, and the message you relay is different outside of the text,” he said. “At least that’s what I am doing.”

Paolo noted that there are people who see performances of nude artists as sexual, and he said that this is not necessarily true.

On the one hand, just because one is naked doesn’t mean the piece is sexual, as “it could be pure, it could be wholesome (even if the performer is not clothed). And I am able to show these (through my performances), and that (things aren’t) just black and white.”

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And so, it is worth stressing, “it is not pornography; I am not selling my body, I am just using my body as canvas for my art.”

Paolo said that malice needs to be removed when viewing particularly his performances – i.e. “We don’t give malice when seeing a naked child, so why give malice when seeing a naked adult?” This is particularly true when “they’re not doing anything malicious or anything sexual.”

On the other hand, Paolo said with emphasis, even if the piece is also sexual, it’s not like there’s something wrong with that. “We’re all different; sensuality is different for everyone, just as sexuality is different for everyone. You can be modest and that empowers you, and that’s fine. You could be very, very promiscuous and very sexual, and that empowers you, and that’s fine, too. As long as you’re responsible with yourself, you’re responsible when dealing with other people, and you know for a fact you’re not stepping on other people’s toes.”

Though Paolo has been inspired by various artists, his main inspiration are the people he deals with while performing. “My interaction creates an experience for me, and from that experience, I get inspired to make more art,” he said.

Paolo said he gets two reactions when he performs. For one, there are people who get “the vulnerability,” he said. And, secondly, “there are times when (people) get intimidated.” But with performance art, “your art is effective when you get a reaction, once it creates discourse.” And so for Paolo, the piece still works “even if only one person gets it.”

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There are members of his family who disapprove of what he does, though Paolo said this is largely due to security/safety issues – e.g. he could get harassed, or he could be accused of harassing and could get in trouble for this. But Paolo said that he is actually cautious when planning performances, making sure that – yes – he does so in a safe space where he won’t be harassed, and only in contexts where he won’t knowingly end up harassing people.

For those who oversimplify what he’s doing as “just getting naked”, Paolo said performing is actually very draining, not just mentally but also physically. Which is why “I look after my body,” he said, “because I use my body as my canvas and I need to take care of it. I always make sure I am ready for it; it’s strenuous.”

If there’s one lesson his performances taught him, it’s that “we share similar stories,” Paolo said. “We share similar pain, we share similar happiness or success… The levels may be different on how we deal with these, but they’re similar.”

And after his performances, if there is one thing he wants those who see him to take away from seeing him, it’s the ability to “ask questions,” Paolo said. “Never be afraid to ask questions. It’s a start of being curious, of interacting with other people. So if possible, ask all the questions you can ask. It’s a way to grow as a person.”

READ:  People now embrace different forms of intimate relationships that flout cultural norms

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Photos from the fringes of the rainbow

How Outrage Magazine’s #KaraniwangLGBT eyes to help broaden LGBTQIA representation in the Philippines by documenting those at the fringes of the rainbow. As editor Michael David Tan said: “To really engage, we have to allow others to shine. Hopefully, in a small way, #KaraniwangLGBT does that.”

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On June 13, 2015, fashion designer Veejay Floresca – who happens to be a transgender woman – alleged that she was almost refused entry by high-end bar Valkyrie in Taguig City.

“Because: 1. that venue was frequented by the so-called ‘high and mighty’ and the social climbing crowd; 2. one of the owners of the venue is a local celebrity in the person of Vice Ganda; and 3. Floresca, herself, was a mini-celebrity, the ‘Valkyrie issue’ made a big splash in the news,” recalled Michael David C. Tan, editor of Outrage Magazine.

TV personality Boy Abunda – an openly gay man himself – interviewed Floresca in ABS-CBN; and national dailies like Inquirer and The Philippine Star tackled Floresca’s “almost non-entry” into an exclusive bar.

But also around that time – on June 22, 2015 – Michael David interviewed another transgender woman: Claire Balabbo. Claire was one of the 96 contractual employees of Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna who decided to launch a sudden strike after they were told on May 16, 2015 to stop reporting to work by May 18.

“While a handful of alternative media picked the picketers’ story (for instance, Altermidya), this story remained largely ignored,” Michael David said.

And for Tan, this highlighted a “sad reality”, an “imbalance that should embarrass us all” because of the “seemingly too apparent preference to provide coverage to the issues of the rich and famous; but not of those at the fringes of society.”

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Murielle

Ryan B.

Sarah

Vien

Aside from her issues as a contractual worker, Claire also encountered work-related discrimination as a trans woman – e.g. when she just started working for Tanduay Distillers Inc., the HR office allegedly forced her to cut her hair, else risk getting fired from work; and she was physically harassed at work, though the HR office allegedly just dismissed her claim since “all workers were ‘male’ anyway” and that the co-workers may have just been joking around (as boys do).

Particularly looking at the Valkyrie versus Tanduay issues superficially, one is about accessing a space to party; while the other is about being able to work decently to make a living.

This helped drive the development of #KaraniwangLGBT, with Michael David starting to photo-document “LGBTQIA Filipinos at the fringes of the rainbow,” he said.

Michael David said that “in no way is this effort belittling the issues raised in occurrences like the Valkyrie debacle – e.g. access to space. Instead, this is an attempt to ‘give face’ to those who do not usually have the same access to, say, media and representation.”

Aian

Aris

Bunny

Claire

#KaraniwangLGBT became a section in Outrage Magazine, with the effort to tell the stories of “common LGBTQIA people” bringing Michael David (and the staff of Outrage Magazine) all over the Philippines. And what – initially – started as a photo campaign evolved, with this section now also telling the stories of the subjects via write-ups and mini-documentaries.

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To date, Michael David has already photographed/documented – among others – members of the LGBTQIA community who are also Moros, sex workers, church workers, HIV advocates, differently-abled/PWDs, PLHIVs, members of Lumad communities, contractual workers, homeless, victims of domestic abuse, et cetera.

Jelly Ace

Mara

Marimar

MMK

“To really engage, we have to allow others to shine,” Michael David said. “Hopefully, in a small way, #KaraniwangLGBT does that.”

n.b.
Following Floresca’s media tour, Valkyrie eventually amended its policy to allow trans women to party in its premises. But the “Valkyrie effect” was minimal – e.g. only Valkyrie made changes; and was Taguig City, where Valkyrie is located, still does not have an anti-discrimination ordinance, so venues there can still opt to implement discriminatory policies similar to what got Valkyrie in hot water.

Balabbo was not able to return to work. She now helps other contractual workers in other factories/plants in Laguna to organize to also fight for their rights.

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#KaraniwangLGBT: My life as a beautician

What is it like to work as a beautician to support your entire family in the province? Outrage Magazine chats with Jillian Agbuya, who has been working in the beauty industry since after she finished high school, just so she can send money to her family in Pangasinan.

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, 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 LGBT 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.”

Jillian Agbuya, 23, only just finished high school when she started working as a beautician.

When she was younger, “gusto kong maging (I wanted to be a) teacher, a psychologist, a model,” she said, wanly smiling. None of these happened, though Jillian just looks at how she ended up in a positive way. “Masaya na rin ako kung ano naging trabaho ko (I also find happiness in the job I ended up having).”

Though Jillian identifies as a “babaehan (like a woman)”, she does not see herself as a trans woman. This is because of a misconception – i.e. she believes that only those who can afford to undergo gender affirmation surgery can use the term “trans”. And so she offhandedly uses words like “gay”, “bakla” and “babaehan” to refer to herself, even if her lived experience is that of a straight (trans) woman. If she is given the chance, she would like to be a “real woman” by “becoming trans”; though she said it saddens her that she has to save a lot just to be able to identify as a “trans woman”.

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As a “babaehan”, she uses the female pronoun (thus the use here).

Originally from Pangasinan, Jillian moved to Caloocan when she finished high school around six years ago. “Doon ako tumagal ng (I stayed there for) five years,” she said, crediting her past workplace as “doon ko natutunan lahat (where I learned everything).”

Jillian, by the way, also studied cosmetology with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

As the fifth of 11 kids, Jillian said her family always “nag-udyok (encouraged)” for her to be the way she is. All her elder siblings are male, so her father – who wanted a girl – encouraged for her to be “girly”. They bought her dresses, and treated her as a girl; and so, for Jillian, it wasn’t surprising she became what she is now. She was in Grade 1 (around seven years old) when she realized she was part of the LGBTQI community.

When she graduated from high school, Jillian actually wanted to pursue college. She even started inquiring about BS Psychology. But then, “sa kawalan ng pera (because we are not financially capable),” she had to stop schooling and start working.

Nung una, nahirapan ako (At first I had a hard time, too),” she said. “Pero ngayon, easy-easy na lang (But things come easily to me now).”

Jillian is the breadwinner of her family. Daily, she earns from P300 to over P1,000; and every week, she sends money to her mother.

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Now working – and living – in Makati City, she hopes to be with her family when she gets older, and hopefully already running her own business. “Sila talaga priority ko eh (My family is really my priority),” she said.

Jillian said she never regretted being “babaehan”. “Paninindigan ko talaga pagiging (ganito) ko (I really stand up to what I turned out to be),” she said. “Kasi kung iisipin ko ang pam-bu-bully sa akin ng mga tao, wala naman silang ginagawa para sa kagandahan ng buhay ko eh, kundi sarili ko lang (If I pay attention to those who bully me, I realize they don’t really do anything to better my life anyway; it’s only me who looks after myself).”

And this more empowered perspective is what she hopes young LGBTQI people to learn.

Maging ka-respe-respeto; huwag maging bastusin. Kailangan maging proud ka kung sino ka basta huwag ka lang gumawa ng masama sa kapuwa mo… para sa susunod na henerasyon para malinis ang ating pangalan bilang LGBT community (Be a respectful/respectable person. You should also be proud of who you are; and don’t do anything bad to others… for the next generation and for the entire community to have a good name),” Jillian ended.

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To live a life in service

Meet Carla Culaste, the trans houseparent of a halfway house for people living with HIV in the City of Manila. It’s a challenging – and yet fulfilling – job, he said, as he stressed to others to learn more about HIV to promote non-discrimination.

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, 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 LGBT 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.”

Carla Culaste, now 26, was around 12 years old when he first visited the Positive Action Foundation Philippines Inc. (PAFPI). His sister worked for the non-government organization that was founded by his gay uncle, Joshua Formentera. Even then, he said that he was always “impressed” with how it was able to touch the lives of Filipino PLHIVs, providing them a “safe space” when even their own homes failed to do so.

Little did he know that – by the time he’d turn 22 – he’d be working as the houseparent of the NGO’s Abot Kamay Center, a halfway house for PLHIVs who are in need of a helping hand to get back on their feet.

DAILY ROUTINE

From Monday to Friday, Carla sleeps at the center. On weekends, he heads home (in Parañaque, where his family lives). But even if his work is actually supposedly only from 8:00AM to 5:00PM, “as a houseparent, 27/7 ka nakabantay (I watch after them 24/7).”

Part of Carla’s job is to “always check on the clients” – from checking if they have supplies of their medicines, if they actually take their medicines on time, if they eat properly, et cetera. This is particularly true when dealing with new clients who may still have physical limitations and need help in their day-to-day living in the shelter.

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Aside from this, Carla also helps manage clients who may need to be rushed to the hospital, particularly when “wala silang pamilya na willing tumulong sa kanila (if they don’t have family willing to help them).” By extension, therefore, Carla becomes an alternative family member.

Iniisip ko kasi, bilang houseparent, hindi lang ako nanay o tatay sa kanila (As a houseparent, I do not only see myself as a father or a mother to them), Carla said. “Ano rin ako sa kanila… kapatid, kaibigan na puwede nilang takbuhan pag kailangan nila ng makakausap (I am also a sibling, a friend to them; someone they can go to if they need to talk to someone).”

But it is a fulfilling job, particularly when he sees people he helped do well in life. “Nakakasaya rin (It makes one happy),” he said.

GROWING UP TRANS

Carla didn’t finish high school; though if given a chance, he’d like to study again.

As a trans man, his life was not always easy.

The youngest of six kids, he always identified as a trans man.

“Before, hindi nila ako matanggap (In the past, my family couldn’t accept me),” he said. “Against sa religion nila (Being LGBTQIA was against their religion).”

As a child, two of his borther also bullied him; they hurt him verbally, as well as physically.

When he told his parents about it, they just dismissed the bullying, telling Carla that perhaps “naglalambing lang sila (they were just being affectionate)”.

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But Carla said he still chose to be what he is because this is what makes him happy.

By the time Carla had his first partner, “wala na rin sila nagawa (there was nothing they could do but accept me).”

In hindsight, that experience taught Carla an important lesson in life: To be accepting.

Kung paano mo i-treat ang tao… ipakita mo sa kanila na kaya mo silang intindihin kahit magkaiba kayo (In treating people, show them that you can understand them even if you’re different from each other),” Carla said.

EVERYONE’S ISSUE

With her exposure to the HIV community, Carla wants PLHIVs to learn to care for themselves. For instance, not to do things (e.g.vices) that will – in the end – just be bad on/for them. “Huwag matigas ang ulo (Don’t be hardheaded),” he said.

To everyone, he said “huwag kayong matakot sa PLHIVs (don’t be afraid of PLHIVs).” In fact, “matuto tayong sumuporta (sa PLHIVs) hindi lang sa kamag-anak natin (na may HIV). Maging concern din tayo sa iba. Iwasan natin ang discrimination (We should learn to support PLHIVs, not just relatives who may have it. We should show our concern to everyone. We should avoid discrimination).”

Learning also helps, he said, “at bigyan natin ng kaalaman sarili natin tungkol sa HIV kasi dagdag impormasyon yan para sa atin (and for us to add to our knowledge everything about HIV since this is good to our lifelong learning).”

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For more information on Positive Action Foundation Philippines Inc. (PAFPI), visit Abot Kamay Center at 2613 Dian St., Malate, City of Manila, 1004 Philippines.
They may also be reached at (+632) 4042911; or email pafpiorg@gmail.com.

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The young believer

For Ian Jaurigue, it is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support the LGBTQI community these days. “But as long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” he said.

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“As long as there are LGBT advocates who will fight tirelessly for the advancement of our advocacy, things will get better.”

So said 19-year-old Ian Jaurigue, a self-identified “gender advocate”.

And Ian believes that “(the older generation) did a good job when it comes to working for the advocacy, and we need to learn from their experiences and be grateful for it. If they did not start it, the advocacy would not have had moved forward.”

According to Ian, the young advocates today still have a lot to do; and for Ian, this is “not just talk and rant about (the issues).”

But while recognizing the efforts of those who helped start the movement, Ian also recognizes that there are gaps. And these gaps are not helped by the “disconnect” between his generation and the one before it.

“The struggles may have evolved and revolutionized, but we, the younger generation, still need to reflect and learn from what they have accomplished,” he said. Only “by doing this (will we be helped to) have a stronger grasp of our advocacy.”

Also, even if the LGBTQI movement has reached new heights, according to Ian, the young advocates today still have a lot to do; and for Ian, this is “not just talk and rant about (the issues).”

“It is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support us. But it does not mean that we should settle for these little triumphs. As long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” Ian said.

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Incidentally, Ian is also a freelance makeup artist, theater and indie actor, dancer, a student at U.P. Diliman, and… a drag artist. He is known in the drag community as – plainly – Mrs Tan.

“My style is a mixture of dance, comedy, and theater,” Ian said.

Though he is still new in the world of drag, Ian believes that the way he carries himself and how he performs onstage prove that “age is nothing but a number”.

Ian merges his advocacy with his performances, making sure that “every performance brings a certain message and not just a spectacle. I like the feeling when I’m able to give a deeper message to the audience while I’m performing,” he said.

His first foray into the world of drag was when he joined U.P. Samaskom’s Live AIDS. Ian took on the role of a drag queen. But he felt, during that time, that “drag should be more than what I did in Live AIDS; there should be meaning to it.”

Whenever he performs, “I feel a sense of fulfillment and liberation. I’m not just entertaining people, I’m also giving them something to think about. There is pride to it.”

For someone as young as Ian, “Pride is both a celebration and a revolution.”

On the one hand, it is a celebration of the LGBT community’s diversity, accomplishments, and ongoing contributions. But on the other hand, “Pride is also a protest for the members who are not able to take advantage and enjoy their basic human rights, and for those who have died because they are members of the LGBTQI community,” Ian ended.

READ:  Angel: ‘Huwag na silang umibig, masasaktan lang sila’

“It is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support us. But it does not mean that we should settle for these little triumphs. As long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” Ian said.

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All hail the beauty queen

A glimpse into the life of a trans woman beauty pageant enthusiast, Ms Mandy Madrigal of Transpinay of Antipolo Organization.

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, 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 LGBT 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.”

“I feel accepted.”

That, said Mandy Madrigal, is the main appeal of joining beauty pageants.

“I feel so loved when I join pageants. Especially when people clap for us, cheer for us. And when you win… it (just) feels different.”

FINDING ACCEPTANCE

Assigned male at birth, Mandy was in primary school when her father asked her if “I was a boy or a girl”. That question scared her, she admitted, because – as the only boy among six kids – she thought she did not really have “any choice”. “So I answered my father, ‘I am a boy’.”

But Mandy’s father asked her the same question again; and this time, “I said, yes, I am gay.”

No, Mandy is NOT gay; she is a transpinay, and a straight one at that. But the misconceptions about the binary remains – i.e. in this case, she is associated with being gay mainly because she did not identify with the sex assigned her at birth.

In a way, Mandy said she’s lucky because “I believe he (my father) accepted (me) with his whole heart.”

The rest of her family did, too.

Though – speaking realistically – Mandy said this may be abetted by her “contributions” to the family. “Hindi naman aka basta naging bakla lang (I’m not a ’typical’ gay person),” she said, “na naglalandi lang o sumasali lang ng pageant (who just flirts, or just joins beauty pageants). Instead, Mandy provides financial support to her family by – among others – selling RTW clothes and beauty products. In fact, some of her winnings also go to the family’s coffers. By helping provide them with what they need, “it’s easy for them to accept me as a transgender woman.”

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Growing up, Mandy realized that while “makakapagsinungaling ka sa ibang tao, pero sarili mo, hindi mo maloloko. Kaya mas magandang tanggapin mo ang sarili mo para matanggap ka ng ibang tao (you may be able to lie to others about who you really are, but you can’t lie to yourself. So it’s better to accept your true self so that others will be able to accept you too).”

Mandy was “introduced” to beauty pageants when she was 13 or 14. At that time, a friend asked her to join a pageant; and “I won first runner up.” She never looked backed since, even – at one time – earning as much as P20,000 after winning a title. Like many regular beauconeras (beauty pageant participants), she also heads to distant provinces to compete, largely because – according to her – prizes in provincial competitions tend to be higher. The prize money earned helps one buy more paraphernalia for the next pageants, and – in Mandy’s case – also helps support her family.

Generally speaking, Mandy Madrigal said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

FORMING A FAMILY

Beauty pageants are competitions, yes; but for Mandy, pageants also allow the candidates to form bonds as they get close to each other. Pageants, she said, can be a way “na maging close kami, magkaroon ng magagandang bonding… at magkakilala kami (for us to be close, to bond and get to know the others better).”

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Pageants can be costly, Mandy admitted – for instance, “you have to invest,” she said, adding that a candidate needs to be able to provide for herself (instead of just always renting) costumes, swimsuits, casual wear, gowns, and so on.

In a way, therefore, having people who believe in you helps. In Mandy’s case, for instance, a lot of people helped (by providing necessities she needs) because “naniniwala sila na I am a queen inside and out,” she smiled.

But this support can also rack the nerves, particularly when people expect one to win (particularly because of the support given).

One will not always win, of course; and this doesn’t always give one good feelings. In 2017, for instance, Mandy joined Queen of Antipolo, and – after failing to win a crown – she said many people told her she should have won the title, or at least placed among the runners-up. “naguluhan ang utak ko (That confused me),” she said. “‘Bakit ako ang gusto ninyong manalo?’ But that’s when I realized na marami ako na-i-inspire na tao dahil marami nagtitiwala sa akin (I ask, ‘Why do you want me to win?’ But that’s when I realized that I inspire a lot of people, which is why they count on me).”

This gives her confidence; enough to deal with the nervousness that will also allow her to just enjoy any pageant she joins.

A TIME TO SHINE

Mandy believes pageants can help LGBTQI people by providing them a platform to showcase to non-LGBTQI people why “hindi tayo dapat husgahan (we should not be judged).”

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Generally speaking, Mandy said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

And she knows that not every pageant is good for every contestant. There will be pageants where you will be crowned the queen, she said, just as there will be pageants where you will lose. But over and above the winning and losing, note “what’s most important: that there’s a lot of people who supported you in a (certain) pageant.”

At the end of the day, “sa lahat ng patimpalak, pagkatandaan natin na merong nananalo at may natatalo. Depende na lang yan sa araw mo. Kung ikaw ay nakatadhanang manalo ay mananalo ka; kung nakatadhanang matalo ay matatalo ka talaga. Yun lang yun. Isipin mo na lang na meron pang araw na darating na mas maganda para sa iyo (in all competitions, remember that there will always be a winner and a loser. It all depends on your luck for the day. If you are fated to win, you will win; if you are fated to lose, you will lose. That’s that. But still remember – even when you lose – that there will always come a day that will be great for you).”

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