Sometime in 2012, a GWM (Gay White Male) from UK started chatting with EJ*, now 23, in PlanetRomeo.com. “Ayoko siyang kausapin noon (I didn’t want to talk to him then),” he said, “since I’m not into White men.” Also, since the GWM was already in his 70s, “he was way too old for me kahit pilitin ko sarili ko (even if I forced myself).”
But EJ said that the GWM was insistent, so he eventually caved in. “He sounded nice naman, and the chats led to discussions about my lack of education,” said EJ, who – at that time – was already working after finishing high school. “Wala kaming perang pantustos para makapag-college pa ako (We didn’t have money to pay for me to go to college).”
More specifically, the GWM asked EJ if he could send by email his high school transcript of records, certificate of good moral character, and birth certificate. The GWM supposedly already mentioned how he could help EJ get a degree.
“Wala namang mawawala sa akin, kaya pinadala ko na lang (I wasn’t going to lose anything, so I just sent him what he asked from me),” EJ said.
At no time, EJ stressed, was any form of exchange mentioned. Instead, what the GWM was doing was supposed to be a “philanthropic act”.
The GWM went to the Philippines – particularly to Davao City – a few months later, and on his way back to UK, he dropped by Manila. That was when EJ met up with him, picking him up at the airport.
The GWM and EJ went to a motel, where they had to spend the night. “He even asked me: ‘Saan tayo matutulog nito (Where are we sleep tonight)?’ Sabi ko: ‘Hindi ko alam; hindi po ako taga-Manila, taga-Cavite po ako (I said: ‘I don’t know; I’m not from Manila, I’m from Cavite)’.”
At that point, though, “inasahan ko na na may mangyayari (I was already expecting that something will happen),” EJ said. “Naisip ko, bahala na! Para sa kinabukasan na ito (I was thinking, whatever! This is for the future)!”
But when they were making the hotel booking, and the receptionist asked the GWM if they wanted a room with a Queen-sized bed, the GWM said he’d rather have two separate beds.
So, “seryoso, walang nangyari (seriously, nothing happened),” EJ said.
The two communicated again after that, and this time, the GWM asked EJ what he’s willing to give up to be able to study.
“Sabi ko, lahat (I said, everything)),” EJ said.
After a few months, EJ received an email from the GWM, telling him to relocate to Davao City, where he is to enroll in one of the universities there.
That was over three years ago.
EJ has one more year to go before he finishes his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in the same university in Davao City. And it is still financed by the GWM.
And EJ isn’t the only student being financed by the GWM. In fact, there are 10 of them, all coming from different parts of the Philippines (e.g. Surigao, Cebu, and in EJ’s case, Cavite), all staying in the same boarding house, and all going to the same university.
And yes, “gay lahat (all of us are gay),” EJ said. “He met all of us in PlanetRomeo.com.”
The GWM, by the way, pays for an apartment in Matina in Davao City, where “we all stay in two rooms.” No, the 10 aren’t always friendly to each other, “pero nagtitiis sa isa’t isa (we put up with each other).” There are no house rules to speak of, since “some bring their boys there, the other don’t. Kanya-kanya kaming buhay (We each live our life separately).”
This “scholarship” includes everything – the school fees, and allowance for living expenses). “‘Di naman kalakihan, pero covered na lahat (The amount isn’t that big, but everything is covered),” EJ said. “Reklamo ka pa ba (Would you still complain)?”
There is already a “success story”. Apparently, the GWM once financed a Filipino, and then took this guy to the UK “kasi mabuti naman siyang estudyante (because he was a good student).” A few years of living together there, though, they had a falling out and parted ways. That Filipino is now applying for UK citizenship.
“It isn’t easy,” EJ says. Mainly, “matanda na kasi siguro, kaya kailangan lambingin (maybe because he’s already old, we have to be sweet to him).”
At times, the GWM “uses his helping as a leverage,” EJ said. For instance, when he visits and “‘di namin siya pinapansin (we don’t shower him with attention),” when the GWM heads back to UK, “hindi nagpapadala ng pera (he won’t send money).” There are even times when the GWM even openly tells them through email “na kung ‘di namin siya papansinin, di niya kami bibigyan ng pera (that if we don’t pay attention to him, he won’t give us money).”
The GWM has a “treasurer” – actually also a student that “he trusts completely”. The money is sent to this person who then disburses the amount to his “scholars”.
In instances like this, “takbo sa parents (we run to our parents),” EJ said. “That, or we just help each other out. Sino may pera, siya muna tutulong sa wala (Whoever among us has money, then he helps out those who do not have money).”
At times, too, “we skip the exams, or we don’t eat, or whatever… until we have money again.”
This withholding of the “scholarship” on the whim of the GWM is the one “issue” that bothers EJ, “lalo na’t medyo madalas siya mangyari (particularly since this happens a lot).”
And no, even now, EJ said that the GWM never asked for anything in return. At least from him. He doesn’t know about the other nine “scholars”.
“Pero napansin namin, kung nasa Davao siya at (We noticed that when he’s in Davao and) he picks up gay guys, he’d tell them that he’d also send them to school,” EJ said. But this time around, “after sex, ini-ignore niya na lang. Ubos na yata ang budget niya sa aming sampo (he just ignores them. Maybe the 10 of us consumed his budget).”
EJ realizes he is luckier than most for the chance, though “sana matapos na ito (I wish it’d finish soon),” he said. “Mahirap kasi ‘yung di ka sigurado kung matatapos o hindi dahil lang sa kaprisyo ng isang tao (It’s difficult when you’re not sure if you’ll finish just because of one person’s whim/caprice).”
For now, “tiis talaga (you really just have to put up with everything).”
And since this “scholarship” comes with “no strings attached” – “Wala kaming kasulatan, walang expectations sa amin, wala man lang siyang sinabi na gagawin namin after (We don’t have written agreement, there are no expectations from us, he didn’t even tell us what he expects from us after we graduate),” EJ said – it seems like “we are really being helped,” EJ said.
There are times when he and the other “scholars” talk, and they recognize that they ought to “pay it forward – maybe help others, too, when we already can do so,” EJ said. “But I suppose we’ll get there when we get there. For now, tiis talaga muna para matapos na ito (we really just have to put up with it until we finish it).”
And does EJ regret taking up the GWM’s offer?
“Not necessarily,” he said. “Kasi sa buhay (Because in life), you get what you can get.”
*NAME CHANGED AS REQUESTED BY THE INTERVIEWEE TO PROTECT HIS PRIVACY