It all started when the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) sent one of its members, Brigite Salvatore, to the HASIK Film Making Seminar, organized by Dakila – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism. There – even if “I never really thought that I would have the opportunity to make a film and to have my story be heard”– Salvatore pitched her story, at first only doing to “for the sake of completing the three-day seminar,” she said. “But deep inside, I was really looking forward to making it (among the) finalists; I always wanted to be good in everything that I do. It was really a surprise when I came to know that I made it to the ALAB Finalists for Active Vista Film Festival.”
And so Brigite was given the chance to make model ciTizen.
The idea behind model ciTizen is actually very personal for Brigite, as it captures and then tells her life as “a Muslim, a transgender, and a woman. That despite of the struggles and prejudices we (transgenders) experience every day, we still manage to celebrate life in our own way,” she said. “I want people to realize that we are not different from anybody else. We may not be ‘normal’ to others, but for us, we live life just like the way they do. We fight. We love. We pray. And most of all, we also wanted to be loved.”
Growing up as a transgender was not easy for Brigite. “There was a point in my life when I thought that I was no longer myself, and I felt like this was not me anymore,” she recalled. But the occurrence of this difficult moment was somewhat of a turning point, since it made Brigite decide to start living according to the way she self-identified; and “it was the hardest yet the best decision I’ve ever made in my whole life.”
Brigite recalled how “everything got complicated the moment I identified myself as a woman. (When that happens, people) always look at you like you’re different from them. It made me feel like I didn’t belong in this world.” It was even more difficult to be a transgender Muslim woman “because aside from the prejudices of the community at large, there is (also) a special criticism about being a Muslim.”
Brigite added, nonetheless, that “this didn’t stop me from having myself identified the way I want it to be. People will always say something about you. You just can’t please everybody. It really was a difficult time, but (I) had to do it because I knew I’d never be happy and the emptiness would always be there when I did not follow what my heart and my mind said.”
Brigite is motivated most by family. “I don’t care what anybody would say against my identity as long as I know that my family is and will always be there to support every decision I make. And I will always be grateful for that.”
Brigite found filmmaking similarly challenging. “I could say that (making model ciTizen) was a rough journey. I’ve been through a lot doing this film. Aside from the fact that I have no background in filmmaking at all, filmmaking is known to be stressful.”
She, nonetheless, pushed on, helped by her mentor, Cecilio Asuncion. “I didn’t let all the negativity intimidate me,” Brigite said. “The reason why I wanted my film to be seen and be heard was because it’s not just about my story; it’s also about the story of every transgendered woman who spends her day to day in a battlefield.”
What Brigite wants to impart to the viewers through this film the realization that “all our lives will be easier if we just understand and love one another. I want them to know that we are simply human; that being a transgender doesn’t make you a less of a person, and we just want to live life like the way they want (to live theirs).”
Brigite is already taking into consideration going to a filmmaking school, to help her be able to tell more of the same narratives. “Always take every opportunity that will come my way as long as it will help me grow,” she said.
Thus far, “the best lesson that other transpinays could learn from my life experiences would be to always be the person you identify yourself (as). I know that living a life as a transgender is never easy, but you just have to be yourself all the time and always remember that it’s as always important to be able to describe what you are as it is to be who you are,” Brigite ended.
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