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Pink, bruised and battered

Meet Murrielle Estrada of Bisdak Pride Inc. Having lived with an abusive partner, this trans Cebuana now helps empower LGBT people in the Province of Cebu. Murrielle’s message to other LGBT people is to get a perspective: “Do not be blind or deaf. All of us can fall in love, but we should not let the people we love bruise/hurt us.”

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The first time she was beaten was because transgender woman Murrielle Estrada was wearing make-up. As they were preparing to go to church back in Talisay City in the Province of Cebu, Murrielle’s live-in partner, Carlo, expressed his dislike with the way she looked.

Murielle remembered Carlo asking: “Baga ang imo make-up uy; asa diay ka? Di ba manimba ta (The make-up you have on is thick; where are you headed? I thought we’re (just) going to the church?)?”

Gibuhat daw nako to kay pa-tintal ko sa laing laki (He said I put on extra make-up so I can tempt/be tempted by other men),” Murrielle said. And then: “Diretso sumbag sa nawong (He went straight to hitting me on my face).”

Murrielle was taken aback. “Gisakitan gyud ko (I was really hurt),” she said. “Nalain ko niya (I didn’t like him [that time]).”

However, seeing what happened as “nothing serious”, “napasaylo lang gihapon nako siya (I still forgave him). Kay love man nako siya (Because I love him).”

And so Murrielle’s often violent relationship with Carlo continued, showing how LGBT people can also become embroiled in domestic violence/intimate partner violence.

VIOLENT STREAK

Domestic violence/intimate partner violence is still usually only discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships.

In the Philippines, for instance, in 2008, the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) introduced the “Women Safety Module” that attempted to comprehensively capture the extent and types of violence experienced by women (though those only aged 15 to 49) in the Philippines by collecting information on spousal violence, covering all forms of violence against women, i.e.: 1) physical violence; 2) sexual violence; 3) emotional violence; and 4) economic violence.

The deficiencies of the NDHS are glaring – e.g. over-emphasis on “spousal violence”, and limited focus on the 15-49 age group – but it still managed to surface figures that should worry everyone against violence.

According to the NDHS, one in five women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence since the age of 15; 14.4% of married women have experienced physical abuse from their husbands; and 37% of separated or widowed women have experienced physical violence. Also, one in 25 women aged 15-49 who have ever had sex ever experienced forced first sexual intercourse; one in 10 women aged 15-49 ever experienced sexual violence; and 4% of women who have ever been pregnant experienced physical violence during pregnancy.

The manifestations of the violence vary. Still according to the NDHS, one in three women who experienced physical/sexual violence reported having physical injuries such as cuts, bruises or aches; and more than 10% reported to have suffered eye injuries, sprains, dislocations or burns.

Notably, the effects to those who were violated go beyond the physical, with three in five women who experienced physical/sexual violence reported having experienced psychological consequences like depression, anxiety and anger.

Interestingly, the NDHS also touched on the violence initiated by women against their husbands, with 16% of the surveyed women having “ever hit, slapped, kicked, or done anything else to physically hurt your (last) husband at times when he was not already beating or physically hurting you”. Nine percent of the women surveyed were violent against their husbands in the last 12 months preceding the survey.

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Obviously, the NDHS is not the only source of data highlighting violence particularly against women.

In 2013, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) noted the 49.4% increase (compared to 2012) in the number of cases of violence against women reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP). And this data is not even conclusive, according to the PCW, because “data are based only from what was reported to PNP”.

In fact, reported cases under Republic Act 9262 (or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Law of 2004) continued to increase from 218 in 2004 to 16,517 cases in 2013.

PROTECTING (MAINLY) WOMEN

The Philippines has, in fact, numerous laws that protect the rights particularly of women in relationships – e.g. RA 9262. But this focus on those in heteronormative relationships seems to belie that the same concerns also happen to non-heterosexual people (i.e. LGBT people).

Internationally, domestic violence/intimate partner violence is already considered through a pink lens. The AIDS Council of NSW in Australia, for instance, noted that domestic violence has become a “silent epidemic” in the LGBT community, considering its neglect even if “roughly one in three LGBTI couples experiencing domestic violence – statistics that are echoed among the general population.”

This observation was similarly made by a review published in 2014 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, which noted that “domestic violence occurs at least as frequently, and likely even more so, between same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex couples.”

The review stressed:

“Previous studies, when analyzed together, indicate that domestic violence affects 25% to 75% of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. However, a lack of representative data and underreporting of abuse paints an incomplete picture of the true landscape, suggesting even higher rates. An estimated one in four heterosexual women experience domestic abuse, with rates significantly lower for heterosexual men.”

When Murrielle was in high school, she opened up to her family that “ing-ani na jud ko (I’m really going to be like this).” They accepted her “basta dili lang daw ko magpakaulaw; basta dili nako hatagan ug kaulaw ang pamilya (as long as I don’t live shamelessly; as long as I didn’t shame the family).”

When Murrielle was in high school, she opened up to her family that “ing-ani na jud ko (I’m really going to be like this).” They accepted her “basta dili lang daw ko magpakaulaw; basta dili nako hatagan ug kaulaw ang pamilya (as long as I don’t live shamelessly; as long as I didn’t shame the family).”

WAY OF BEING

Back in Talisay City, Murrielle recalled how her parents never hurt her – at least physically.

Murrielle was eight years old when she realized that her self-identity is not aligned with her physicality. “Eight years old ko, naa ko nakit-an nga boy, gisultian nako ako mama: ‘Crush ko siya!’ Nasuko siya; sulti niya: ‘Ayaw pag-ingun-ana kay lalaki pud ka! (I was eight years old, I saw this boy, so I said to my mother: ‘I have a crush on him!’ She got angry; she said: ‘Do not be like that because you’re also a boy!).”

But Murrielle said that “I didn’t like looking at my penis. Gusto ko puki siya (I wanted to have a vagina). Sige na (Okay, fine), I accepted I was born with this body, but still I didn’t wan to use it.”

When Murrielle was in high school, she opened up to her family that “ing-ani na jud ko (I’m really going to be like this).” They accepted her “basta dili lang daw ko magpakaulaw; basta dili nako hatagan ug kaulaw ang pamilya (as long as I don’t live shamelessly; as long as I didn’t shame the family).”

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In Murrielle’s case, giving “shame” to her family means “mukawat, mag-bisyo (steal, have vices).”

Pero (But) I was accepted. Bisag bunal wala. Kulata, wala (They didn’t even hit me. They didn’t bash me).”

LOVE HURTS

Considering her family’s response to her being transgender, Murrielle was somewhat surprised with her parents’ reaction to her having a boyfriend/partner.

Before Carlo, Murrielle already had two live-in partners, “pero wala sila kahibawo nga naa koy uyab (But they didn’t know then I had a partner),” she said. It was only Carlo who she introduced to her parents. “Gihatagan mi’g duha ka Bibliya (ni mama). Sulti siya: ‘Basaha dira, wala lalaki sa lalaki dira (Mom gave us one Bible each. She said: ‘Read and see in the Bible, it doesn’t mention male to male relationships).”

Murrielle severed her link to her parents. “Wala jud mi nagtagad sa ako parents kay nagpakauwaw daw ko (We ignored each other because they said I have shamed/embarrassed them).”

This lasted for two years and nine months.

And at that time, Carlo, therefore, became the center of her life.

A friend introduced Murrielle to Carlo. “Initially, he didn’t like me as trans. Dili gani siya mag-shake hands (He won’t even shake my hands),” she said.

Murrielle was feisty then. “Ako sya diretso gi-sultian nga suplado siya (I told him straight out that he’s a snob).” Carlo became defensive, and – as if to prove her wrong – they became textmates (i.e. sent text SMS messages to each other) for a month. They became an item; and after three months, they were already living together.

Since Carlo earned well as a BPO worker, “siya nagbuhi nako (he supported me),” Murrielle said. “Plain housewife jud ko – naglalaba, naglilinis, nagtatahi ng curtains, nag-iigib, namlalantsa (I was a plain housewife – I did the laundry, I cleaned the house, I sewed the curtains, I gathered water, I did the ironing of clothes)…”

Murrielle was also introduced to Carlo’s parents, and while his father did not initially accept her, his mother was always supportive. “His mom said: ‘Imoha man decision. Kung as aka lipay, suporta ko (That’s your decision. Wherever you are happy, I support you).”

Living as a stereotypical housewife made Murrielle happy – at least for a year.

Carlo hit her a year after they started living together.

It happened repeatedly, too.

Daghan bawal – make-up, shorts, mga amigo (There were a lot of no-no’s – make-up, short pants, friends)…”

The violence against Murrielle resulted to physical injuries.

Murrielle didn’t have anyone to confide to, too. “Wala ko matug-an (There wasn’t anyone I could tell),” she said. “Gasulti ko sa among mga amigo nga ginakulata ko. “Mangatawa man lang sila (I told our friends that he was beating me. They just laughed).”

Murrielle said that she also couldn’t physically fight back – all the men in her life were, to begin with, all physically bigger than her. “Wala jud ko kusog musukol (I didn’t have the strength to fight back),” she said.

One time, they had to settle a fight in front of barangay (village) officials.

But Murrielle said that Carlo always seemed apologetic for the pain he caused her. “Mamawi man siya. Iyaha man ko i-sweet-sweet. He offers something. Unya sex para uli-an (He suddenly does something good. He’d be sweet to me. He offers something. And then we’d have sex for the things to be as they were),” she said.

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Murrielle recalled repeatedly asking Carlo why he was hurting her, and he said it was because he loved her. “Sulti niya he doesn’t want to lose me daw (he said he didn’t want to lose me),” she said. “Tuo jud ko (And I believed him).”

LAST STRAW

Murrielle was already with Carlo for two years and nine months when – while Murrielle was washing the dishes after they had dinner – Carlo went behind her and tied his leather belt around her neck to choke her. “Galalis mi tungod sa akong shorts. Nigawas man gud ko bag-o nag-dinner kay nipalit kog ice para sa drinks. Nasuko siya kay nganong short shorts daw akong sul-obon (We were arguing about my short pants. I had to go out before dinner to buy ice for our drinks. He got angry because of the length of my short pants),” she said.

Choking while trying to at least fighting back, Murrielle found herself lying on the bedroom floor. That was when she saw herself on their floor-length mirror. “Nangitom ako liog sa iyaha belt (The skin on my neck where he tied his belt was dark),” she said. Murrielle then realized that “kung dili ko niya mapatay, ako makapatay sa iya (if he didn’t kill me, I may kill him).”

After that fight, while they were lying in bed, “mga 12:00AM, ako siya gipukaw. Wala man siya namata; tulog jud siya (around 12:00AM, I woke him. He didn’t wake up; he was in deep sleep),” Murrielle said.

Murrielle took this chance to take off.

Nisibat ko (I ran away),” she said. “Wala ko dala sanina. Kung unsa ako-a ako sul-ob, kadto lang (I didn’t bring my clothes. I only had with me what I had on me).”

Murrielle didn’t have anyone to confide to, too. “Wala ko matug-an (There wasn’t anyone I could tell),” she said. “Gasulti ko sa among mga amigo nga ginakulata ko. “Mangatawa man lang sila (I told our friends that he was beating me. They just laughed).”

Murrielle didn’t have anyone to confide to, too. “Wala ko matug-an (There wasn’t anyone I could tell),” she said. “Gasulti ko sa among mga amigo nga ginakulata ko. “Mangatawa man lang sila (I told our friends that he was beating me. They just laughed).”

FINDING HER TRUE SELF

In total, “one year and nine months akong martir (I was a ‘martyr’ for one year and nine months; or I put up with the abuses for one year and nine months).”

Murrielle stayed with a friend for three days; and then she left for Metro Manila, where she stayed with her grandmother for three months.

Staying away was important for her because Carlo was looking for her. “Apparently, prmi niya pangita sa ako-a. Samukon niya ako mama, lola. Wala sila ikatingog kay wala man sila kahibalo (he always looked for me. He bugged my mom, my [other] grandmother. But they couldn’t give him any answer because they didn’t know where I was).”

Being away also cleared her mind. “I stayed with my lola until maka-move on ko

Love man gihapon nako siya, so nasaktan gihapon ko (I still loved him, so I was hurting).”

After three months, Carlo stopped frequenting Murrielle’s family’s house to look for her.

Four months after she left him, “I think I stopped loving him,” Murrielle said.

Since Murrielle returned to Cebu, where she is now involved in LGBT human rights advocacy, she has yet to cross paths with Carlo again. “I still fear seeing him. But I am ready if that happens,” she said.

Having experienced what she did, Murrielle’s message to other LGBT people is to get a perspective. “Dili magpakabuta bungol. Kita tanan puwede ma-in-love pero dili pasagdan nga mabun-og ta nila (Do not be blind or deaf. All of us can fall in love, but we should not let the people we love bruise/hurt us).”

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

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Lesbian Lumad

What is it like to be a lesbian and also a part of an indigenous group? For Teng Calimpang, the Tagbawa ethnic group of people at the foot of Mt. Apo accepted her, so she hopes other lesbian Lumads live good lives both as LGBTQIA community members and as Lumads.

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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.”

Dili lisod mag-lesbian ka diri kay tanan diri murag paryente lang nako, mga pinsan lang (It isn’t hard to be a lesbian here because everyone here is just like a relative, just like my cousins),” Teng Calimpang, who is from Meohao at the foot of Mt. Apo, said. “Tanan pud mga tawo nakabalo kung kinsa ko ug unsa ko (People here also know who I am and what I am).”

Teng’s family is from the Tagbawa Manobo ethic group of people. Originally from Bansalan, her mother met her father in Meohao, where they decided to eventually settle. Also because of being based here, Teng is fluent in Bagobo Diangan, spoken by another ethnic group of people particularly at the foot of Mt. Apo.

At least in her experience, being a lesbian is a non-issue for her people (Tagbawa Manobo), as well as for her “adopted” Bagobo Diangan family.

Teng was 10 when she recognized her “otherness”; she did not like wearing girls’ clothes, and she preferred doing things that boys do. At 15, “diha na nako napansin nga… na-feel na nako nga dili gyud nako ma-love ang boy (I noticed that I was not attracted to members of the opposite sex).” Teng said that “babae ang mugawas sa akoang heart ba (I was attracted also to women).”

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Teng told her family about “ang tinuod (the truth).” And “okay lang sa ilaha. Tanggap gyud ko nila (it’s fine with them. They accepted me as a lesbian).”

Now 48, Teng works for Dole Phils. (Stanfilco Division). After work, she is also a local healer, giving “hilot (traditional massage)” to those who seek her out for the same.

Teng credits her “lolo (grandfather)” for her gift to heal.

She was 15 when she was “taught” how to “help people”; she dreamt her then-deceased grandfather show her how to do so, serving as a passing-of-the-torch to heal others.

Teng said that there are two kinds of people who help – one who expects to be grandly paid for the effort, and one who doesn’t. “Donation, okay lang sa ako-a (I’m okay with just receiving donations),” she said, adding that it already makes her happy that “nakatabang ko sa ilahang kinahanglan sa lawas (at least I’ve helped people with their needs).”

Teng had a heterosexual-identifying GF in the past; but that relationship didn’t last. She noted that there are some women who just want to be financially supported; they leave their partners when they have gotten what they wanted, or if their partner can’t offer them what they really want (i.e. wealth). “Pait kaayo ba (This makes being lesbian hard).”

Now single, Teng has other lesbian friends, and not all of them from Lumad communities. But her friends are now based overseas, where they work. She admitted that it can be lonely at times, but that technology (e.g. social networking sites) help alleviate the loneliness since she can at least chat with them even if they’re apart.

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Teng also has an adopted child, given to her when the child was only a month old. She is now 18.

Lisud gyud (sa sinugdanan) kay syempre ang acting nimo is as a boy, so nalisdan ko pagpa-dako niya (It was hard for me to raise her at first because I am masculine/not stereotypically motherly),” Teng said. “But I gradually learned how to properly raise her.”

To other lesbians who may also belong to Lumad communities, Teng said: “Kung unsa gyud sila sa ilang panginabuhi, ipadayun na nila (Continue living your true selves in living a good life).”

And in the end, “learn from me as I say that you can be good people as lesbians.”

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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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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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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.”

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.”

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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.”

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.

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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.”

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.”

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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.”

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Worsening #ARVshortage in the Phl?

On Jan. 9, the Philippines gained a new HIV and AIDS law that is supposed to better the lives of Filipinos living with HIV. But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage.

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In September 2018, Xander (not his real name; anonymity requested), a Filipino living with HIV, claimed that he was told by the person working in the pharmacy of his hub to “consume already-expired medicines (the three-in-one tablet of Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz)”, and that “it is “still good for three months after the expiration date.”

Since dealing with ARV-related issue is not new to him (it happened to him in the last quarter of 2013), he complained and was given newer meds. Noticeably, “those who didn’t complain – like I did – ended up using the expired meds,” he said.

Xander can only recall how he earlier lamented – again in 2013 – that the ARV shortage will happen again, particularly considering the continuing denial of the Department of Health (DOH) about this issue.

TAINTED ‘SUCCESS’

The 9th of January is supposed to be a happy day particularly for Filipinos living with HIV and their advocates. On that day, the newly-signed Republic Act 11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act was released after it was signed into law by Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte. By replacing the 20-year-old Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine National AIDS and Control Act of 1998, this new law is supposed to boost the government’s response to HIV and AIDS by making health services for HIV and AIDS more accessible to Filipinos.

But many in the HIV community mark this day with distress, largely because of the worsening ARV shortage, which is not helped by the denial of the issue by various heads of offices – including government officials, as well as those helming treatment hubs/facilities and even select non-government organizations (NGOs).

In an unsigned statement (as if so that no one can be “chased” to be held accountable for the same statement), the DOH seemed to belittle the issue by outright claiming that there’s an ‘alleged’ shortage of ARVs; even as it also stated that they take the issue of HIV infection in the country seriously. Part of this is to take “great steps to ensure that access for HIV treatments are available for those who are diagnosed with HIV.”

The DOH statement added:
“As of October 2018, we have enrolled 32,224 persons living with HIV for treatment with ARV such as Nevirapine, Lamivudine/Tenofovir. The DOH has been providing free ARV to Filipinos living with HIV through our HIV treatment hubs.
“Based on our records, there are 3,200 registered PLHIV who are on Nevirapine and 1,791 PLHIV on Lamivudine/Tenofovir, as of December last year.

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That just about half of the total PLHIVs in the Philippines use ARVs is worth noting, even if it’s another issue altogether.

But the mention of these two meds/cocktails is important because the complaints reaching – among others – Outrage Magazine, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) other and HIV-related community-based organizations/non-government organizations particularly currently mention these.

In Quezon City, for instance, at least eight PLHIVs alleged that they have been given incomplete medications – i.e. they were supplied with either Lamivudine/Tenofovir or Lamivudine/Zidovudine, but they have not been receiving Nevirapine because this is not available. These people are, therefore, taking incomplete meds.

Pinoy Plus’s hotline, PRC, has received similar allegations of non-delivery of Nevirapine.

In Cavite (Imus, Bacoor and Dasmariñas), at least three clients surfaced to allege about the same issue. PLHIVs are now “borrowing” each others’ Nevirapine supply just so they don’t miss their required dosage because their hub does not have supplies from the DOH.

There are similar allegations in Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City and Zamboanga City.

And in Alabang, the pharmacy of a treatment hub even posted on January 8, 2019 an announcement that “due to the shortage and delay of the deliveries at DOH, only one bottle will be dispensed of the following medicines: Nevirapine (200mg tablet); Lamivudine (150mg)/Zidovudine (300mg tablet); and Lamivudine (300mg)/Tenofovir (300mg tablet).” The same hub is telling its clients to “wait for further announcement on stock availability.”

Note that the RITM-AIDS Research Group’s pharmacy is putting the blame on the DOH.

DOH’s CLAIM

The same DOH statement stressed that “the latest data, as of January 4, confirms that Nevirapine has already been delivered to the 16 treatment hubs to meet the requirements for February-April 2019. For Lamivudine/Tenofovir, a month’s supply has also been delivered to Regions X, VI and I. The rest of the regions will expect deliveries within this week.”

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Noticeably, the DOH statement responds to issues only this January, even if this concern has been circulating in the PLHIV community since 2018, and only peaked now.

There are fewer ARV refills now. If, in the past, the usual practice is for hubs to give PLHIVs three bottles of ARV to last them for three months, a growing number are now complaining about the supply being cut to one month in numerous hubs – e.g. there’s that post in RITM’s pharmacy. Some allege that they are even supplied ARVs just for a week or even just for three days.

Due to the ARV shortage that the DOH is not outright confronting, expired medicines are allegedly being given to PLHIVs – as in the case of Xander.

Also due to the ARV shortage, the medication of a number of PLHIVs are allegedly being changed not because it’s medically sound, but because their usual medicines are not readily available. In Mandaluyong City, there are PLHIVs who claimed to have been told to use Lamivudine/Tenofovir/Efavirenz because it’s the only available ARV. If they refuse to do so, then they will have to stop taking their usual medications until such time when the delivery of supplies are normalized again.

To allow the DOH to respond to these claims, Outrage Magazine repeatedly reached out to the government body. Upon calling the media relations unit (at +63 2 651-7800 loc. 1126), we were turned over to the office of Dr. Gerard Belimac (+63 2 651-7800 locs. 2355, 2352, 2354). Five attempts were made to speak with Belimac or any other authority in his office, but he has been unavailable at those five times; and even after leaving requests for a statement from him on the ARV shortage, as of press time, the publication has not heard back.

As this is a continuing story, coordination will continue to – eventually hopefully – extensively hear from the DOH on this issue.

WHAT NOW?

The DOH statement also stated that it is “working closely with our suppliers to ensure that there are no gaps in our supply chain. In fact, we are waiting for deliveries of an additional 12,375 bottles of Nevirapine good for another three months and 7,024 bottles of Lamivudine/Tenofovir good for another two months.”

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The DOH also claimed that it is continuing to explore “for more partners in providing excellent support for Filipinos living with HIV-AIDS and in ending the deadly disease.”

As if wanting to pacify the complaining PLHIVs, the DOH statement transferred to responsibility to “HIV doctors to explore possible options”, or visit Facebook page (PLHIV Response Center) or email dohnaspcphiv@gmail.com. Note the use of a gmail account for a body with millions in budget.

No investigations on where the errors in the supply chain is happening so that these can be fixed is forthcoming. No one being held accountable here.

THE NEED TO GO BEYOND LIP SERVICE

Incidentally, Article V, Sec. 33 of the newly signed HIV law states: “The DOH shall establish a program that will provide free and accessible ART and medication for opportunistic infections to all PLHIVs who are enrolled in the program… A manual of procedures for management of PLHIV shall be developed by the DOH.”

The IRR is not even there yet, but this mandate to provide life-saving meds is now already cast in doubt.

Xander – who only had a refill of his ARVs – said that many like him who posted about this issue online were told to stop doing so “because we are supposedly creating panic among PLHIVs.”

He now says that people who cover up this issue are “as worse as those paid to work on this issue. Because if you go to the HIV community, we’ve long lived with worrying that our meds may not be given us at any moment. If some people think complaining about this is wrong, then they shouldn’t be in HIV advocacy, but work as PR people of those failing to do their jobs.”

In the end, “this needs to be resolved fast. Enough with discussing semantics on what we’re having is a shortage or a stockout; the fact remains that there are PLHIVs not getting their supplies. Lives are at stake. So supply the ARVs; now.”

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PSA tackles in Filipino Sign Language what happens after rapid HIV test

What happens after you get tested for HIV? Particularly to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement was released on getting tested for HIV in the Philippines, and what happens after one gets tested.

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One of the biggest confusions re HIV testing in the Philippines is answering the question on “what happens after one gets tested for HIV,” said Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) and concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow (PDR).

The confusion is not helped by numerous factors – e.g.: various testing facilities are, in a way, “autonomous”, so there are varying practices; and information about post-testing remains limited.

No matter the reason/s for the confusion, “the effect is the same: it discourages many people from getting HIV testing and/or screening,” Aguila said.

To demystify particularly rapid HIV screening to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on getting tested for HIV in the Philippines, and what happens after one gets tested.

The PSA is the third in a series of PSAs produced as part of a Bahaghari Center project backed by a collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

Particularly pertaining rapid HIV test, “we want to educate particularly Deaf Filipinos about post-testing – that, if you are non-reactive, there are steps you can do to stay non-reactive; and if you’re positive, help is available to help you access treatment, care and support (including getting antiretroviral medicines) so you can live a long, healthy life.”

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PSA on getting tested for HIV released in Filipino Sign Language

Aguila stressed that knowing one’s HIV status is important to protect oneself and others around him/her.

If one is HIV-positive, then he/she can start taking antiretroviral medicine (ARV) that will prevent the HIV (virus) from replicating and thereby help him/her stay healthy and live longer/normal lives.

And if one is HIV-negative, then he/she can take steps to stay negative (for example, by practicing safer sexual practices).

“It starts with getting oneself tested,” Aguila said, “which is why we encourage people to get tested.”

Most hospitals and clinics can give HIV testing.

Social hygiene clinics (SHC) located in select barangays can also give HIV testing and/or HIV screening.

Various non-government organizations also offer HIV testing and/or screening.

There are also people who are certified to give rapid HIV test.

A series of community-based HIV testing trainings are given to select members of the Deaf community in Metro Manila/Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao is to “empower members of the Deaf community to be more proactive in dealing with HIV by allowing the Deaf to help the Deaf.” These trainings are provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

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PSA on getting tested for HIV released in Filipino Sign Language

To demystify particularly rapid HIV testing/screening to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on the getting tested for HIV in the Philippines.

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on

Getting tested for HIV is – as it is – already challenging for Hearing people, but “it can be argued that this is doubly difficult for Deaf people,” said Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) and concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow (PDR). This is because “aside from dealing with the ‘usual’ issues related to getting tested for HIV that are encountered by Hearing people (including dealing with stigma and discrimination), we also have to contend with language barrier.”

Eyeing to demystify particularly rapid HIV testing/screening to “help simplify the HIV discussion for the Deaf community in the Philippines,” a public service announcement (PSA) was released on the getting tested for HIV in the Philippines.

The PSA is actually one in three PSAs produced as part of a Bahaghari Center project backed by a collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

Particularly pertaining rapid HIV test, “we want to educate people that all it takes is a prick, and a person can already find out his/her HIV status… in less than 20 minutes,” Aguila said.

Knowing one’s HIV status is important, Aguila added, as a means to: protect oneself and others around him/her.

If one is HIV-positive, then he/she can start taking antiretroviral medicine (ARV) that will prevent the HIV (virus) from replicating and thereby help him/her stay healthy and live longer/normal lives.

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And if one is HIV-negative, then he/she can take steps to stay negative (for example, by practicing safer sexual practices).

“But it all starts with getting oneself tested,” Aguila said, “which is why we encourage people to get tested.”

If these are more accessible, most hospitals and clinics can give HIV testing.

Social hygiene clinics (SHC) located in select barangays can also give HIV testing and/or HIV screening.

Various non-government organizations also offer HIV testing and/or screening.

There are also people who are certified to give rapid HIV test.

A series of community-based HIV testing trainings are given to select members of the Deaf community in Metro Manila/Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao is to “empower members of the Deaf community to be more proactive in dealing with HIV by allowing the Deaf to help the Deaf.” These trainings are provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

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