We all have a story to tell about Ondoy and how he changed our lives. This is my story.
I am Ron de Vera. I work for a call center and hold a considerably high position. Until Ondoy, I had aspirations of one day being promoted again so that I can buy another car and finally own a condo unit in the affluent areas of Metro Manila. My worries included managing the balances of my credit cards and choosing which of my three laptops to save a file in. Every now and then I would gripe about what to do with the old car tire in my trunk and how slow my insurance agency took to replace my shattered rear windshield. On the plus side, my friends and family thought highly of me because of my apparent financial success. After all, in the first four years of my career, I was promoted every single year.
Of course, like most other people, I worried about my future and suffered some philosophical woes. What should I consider important? What was my place in society? What was my role? What ideologies should I stand for? I love animals. Should I be an animal advocate? I play volleyball and I swim. Should I be an athlete? I love writing. Should I be a writer? For each dream, I would lay out a master plan that always made sense. But somehow, something would always be off. Something was always missing.
The afternoon that Ondoy ravaged Manila, I was sleeping in my comfy air-conditioned room. Being on the night shift, I had to be asleep during the day. Besides, I was saving my energy for a weekly volleyball game. When I woke up, there was a power outage. The condo’s generator only powered the common areas so I was forced to socialize with my neighbors. At this point, we had no idea that people were drowning or trying their best not to drown. Don’t blame us, we had no access to the news. I was actually quite pissed because I was looking forward to the volleyball game and the bar-hopping date I had arranged with some friends. I was also annoyed by the fact that there was some rain water that got into my bedroom. It was such a mess, I thought. It was at about midnight when they restored electricity. “Oh, thank God!” I remember shouting. But I was still pissed that we had to cancel the volleyball game and the bar-hopping in Malate. I felt like I was the unluckiest person in the world so I just turned up the AC, put a blanket on, and went to sleep.
The morning after was a real wake up call. As I watched the news, a feeling of guilt and sadness crept up my spine. But it wasn’t what I saw and heard on the news that struck a chord. My ex got news that their house in Vista Verde had been submerged; their life’s investment, gone in one day. It was getting closer to me. A friend who lived in De Castro couldn’t go home and get to his mother because the streets were impassable. This was not on the news, this was happening to people around me. Each time I saw an update online about people I actually knew, it just got scarier because it got more real. Finally, when I found out that the brother of a former officemate had died in the flash floods, I broke down in tears. I slept with a heavy heart that night. I donated a large sum of money to Red Cross through SMS but it wasn’t enough to rid my heart of the guilt and knowledge that people were out there suffering while I was in my room complaining about some rain water. I resolved to get up and do something the next day.
As if on a personal quest, I gathered some friends and set for flood-stricken areas. The intent was to check on people who couldn’t be reached on their mobile phones. In two days and on foot, we found ourselves in Vista Verde, Kingsville, Greenpark, and Bartville. With concerted effort we were able to check on six people and leave food for those who needed it. We also dropped off donations in UP and Ateneo. Through Facebook, I found groups that organized relief efforts. I felt compelled to help. For the entire week, I did volunteer work during the day and went to work at night. But it was not enough, I thought.
My first real experience came when I joined a relief operation in Pandacan. I offered my car because they had volunteers who couldn’t fit in the truck full of relief goods. What I was about to go through was something I never thought would happen to me in my lifetime. I was told that we were going to give out 350 bags but other than that, I had no idea what to expect.
The relief operation was supposed to start with a program to thank donors before actually giving away the bags. But lo and behold, there were definitely more than 350 of them. It was such a large group that it took a lot of time and effort just to get them to settle and to line up. We decided to forego the program. I didn’t count but the fact that there were still people lining up without bags well after we had run out was enough proof that there were more than 350. There were children who had no way of claiming because they had no parents and thus, were not considered residents. There were more than a couple of mothers who had just given birth but couldn’t afford health care so they just gave birth in the shanties that they called home, all of which were gone by the time Ondoy left.
Where were they during the typhoon? Some were on rooftops and some floated around on old car tires. There was no worry about shattered windshields here only worry for their own lives. The little boy I talked to hadn’t eaten for days. But his mind was still full of the cries for help he heard that night. He was crouched on the ledge of the Pandacan multi-purpose gymnasium where he took refuge during the flood. No, he was not there to play volleyball, he was holding on for dear life because he couldn’t swim. He said he heard mothers shouting names of their children in an effort to locate them in the dark. Some were praying aloud and some were just moaning due to hunger. It was haunting to even imagine it. But to my surprise, he told me he was lucky. I couldn’t understand so I asked him to explain. He said “Masuwerte ako. Buti nga wala akong magulang para walang mag-aalala tungkol sa’kin.” I forced a smile, slipped him a packet of biscuits and turned away. I had to because I was holding back my tears.
That day I got a better understanding of the word poverty. In the days that followed, I was able to define synonyms of the same word. I joined NGO’s in Kasiglahan, Montalban and Sucol, Laguna. In Kasiglahan, we went from house to house to drop off relief goods rather than having them line up. The village had 2 landlines, no electricity, and a lot of mud on the streets. It was like a scene from an old Pinoy movie portraying life in the slums, only this time, it was real. In Sucol, we were invited inside the house of one of the organizers. By this time, I already had a conversation starter. “Mang Domeng, hanggang saan po yung pinakamataas na inabot nung baha?” He then proceeded to gesture towards the highest group of snail eggs on the wall. On his wall were pictures of his children. “Ilan ba ang anak niyo?” I said. “Walo” was his response. “Walo sila tapos kayo pang mag-asawa, kasiya kayo lahat dito?” – “ Oo, may dalawa pa nga kaming aso eh.”
He had no credit cards and probably had never used a laptop but he was a leader to his people. And to their eyes, he was accomplished. My tita explained more as we were walking away. “Lider siya ng unyon kaya hindi na siya makahanap ng trabaho.” Oo, Mahirap lang siya at malamang ay hindi na siya makakahanap pa ng trabaho o mapo-promote pa. May mga bagay sa pagkatao niya na hindi na niya mababago pa. Pero siya, alam niya kung sino siya at kung ano ang pinaglalaban niya. Eh ako, sino nga ba ako? Ano sa pagkatao ko ang hindi ko na mababago pa? Napaisip tuloy ako at napilitang mag balik-tanaw.
NPA ang nanay ko. New People’s Army ang ibig sabihin niyan. Ang hukbo ng mga progresibong mamamayan na ang layunin ay pigilin ang mapang-api at mapang-aliping gubyerno. Dati pa siyang NPA. Nahuli nga siya nung panahon ni Marcos. Human rights victim siya. Kinulong, tinortyur, linapastangan, ginahasa. Oo, ginahasa. Wag kang maawa sa kaniya dahil hindi siya kaawa-awa. Malakas siya at matalino. Maraming kababaihan ang namulat dahil sa mga ginawa niya para sa karapatang pangkababaihan at karapatang pantao. Naging inspirasiyon siya ng marami. Kaya wag kang maawa.
Ang tatay ko naman ay desaparecido. Hindi alam kung patay na o buhay pa. Basta nawawala lang siya. Dinukot siya ng mga militar dahil NPA din siya. Oo, NPA. Wag kang matakot sabihin. Ako nga bata pa ako nung puntahan ko siyang mag-isa sa apartment niya. Hindi siya dumating dahil dinukot na pala siya. Umalis ako sa apartment na mag-isa lang din kahit madilim na. Alam kong may nangyari nang masama sa kaniya. Pero hindi ako natakot. Pagtapos nun ay hindi naging madali ang buhay ko bilang bata. Pinadala pa ako ng nanay ko sa Children’s Rehabilitation Center kung saan namulat ako sa mga karapatang pambata. Mahirap, pero hindi ako natakot. Kaya wag ka ring matakot.
Ang kuya ko, nakalabas na ng kulungan. Dating siyang preso. Oo, preso. Nabilanggo. Ex-convict. Pero hindi siya NPA. Bata pa siya nun. Nasa states siya. Gang-related ang krimen. Hindi naman siya miyembro nung gang pero kasama siya nung naganap ang krimen. Nasa pangangalaga siya ng umampon sa kaniya. Oo, ampon siya. Inampon siya ng tita ko. Oo, tita ko. Kaya sa mata ng batas, mag-pinsan kami, hindi magkapatid. Magkaiba nga ang apelyido namin eh. Nakakalito ba? Wag ka malito, hindi importante kung anong sinasabi ng batas. Hindi importante kung anong apelyido namin. Ang importante, kuya ang turing ko sa kaniya at nakababatang kapatid ang turing niya sakin dahil iisang babae ang nagpanganak samin. Simple lang yun. Kaya wag ka malito.
Ako naman, bakla. Nasa sayo na kung ang gagamitin mo ay bi, gay, silahis, parlorista, wala akong pakialam. Basta bakla ako. Oo, bakla. Wag kang mahiyang sabihin. Mga salita lang ‘yan. Wag kang mahiya sa’kin dahil hindi importante sa’kin kung aling salita ang piliin mo. Ang importante ay alam mong ganito ako. Ang importante ay malaman mo na walang iisang anyo ang mga bakla. Hindi lahat kami ay kilos babae. Hindi lahat ay parlorista. At lalong hindi lahat kami, kinakahiya ang pagiging bakla. Kaya wag kang mahiya.
Ako si Ronald de Vera. Onald o kaya’y Nald sa iba. Ito ako. Ito ang mga bagay sa pagkatao ko na hindi ko kayang baguhin. Ang napakalaking bahagi nito ay dala ng kung sino ang nanay, tatay, at kuya ko at kung anong pinaglalaban nila. Ngayong may sarili na akong pag-iisip, may sarili na rin akong mga ipaglalaban. Masiyado siguro akong nakatutok sa hinaharap at nakalimutan ko na ang aking nakaraan. Dahil kay Ondoy at sa mga taong tinulungan ko, nahanap ko kung sino ako. Hindi ibig sabihin ay magiging NPA na rin ako. Hindi ibig sabihin ay ipaglalaban ko na ang karapatan ng kababaihan o ng mga bakla. Ang ibig sabihin lang ay alam ko na kung ano ang importante sa buhay ko. Alam ko na kung anong lugar ko sa lipunang ito. Alam ko na kung anong papel ang gagampanan ko sa bawat ideyolohiyang ipaglalaban ko.
Nang dumating si Ondoy, hindi ako nawalan ng mahal sa buhay o nasiraan ng bahay. Nabigyan pa nga ‘ko ng pagkakataong makatulong sa kapwa. Bukod sa lahat, marami akong natutunan tungkol sa buhay at tungkol sa sarili ko.
‘Yan ang dahilan kung bakit pinamagatan ko itong “Salamat Ondoy.”
Lahat tayo may kuwento tungkol kay Ondoy at pano niya binago ang buhay natin. Ito ang kuwento ko.
5 Ways to #ResistTogether after #Pride
Be constantly reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).
A few days into July, after the June Pride month, I was chatting with someone from Grindr; he boasted that he was at the “essence of pride: the Pride parade” (his words, not mine). The chat revolved around shaming, particularly of other LGBTQIA people; that now that the one-day celebration is over, things (including his way of “booking”) are “just back to normal.”
See… right after the “very proud” placement of the #ResistTogether hashtag in his pick-up account (particularly while he was in Marikina City), it has been refreshed, reverting back to claiming “NO chubs; NO oldies; NO femmes. Don’t dare me, I have unliblock.”
This got me thinking about this “brand” of exclusivist #Pride; and how we should instead be making (and continuing to make) it inclusive…
And so – off my head – here are five ways to #ResistTogether after the #Pride parade…
1. Stop the shaming from within the LGBTQIA community.
Change should start from within our community; and this can happen if our community members become more aware that – frequently – hatred starts from within.
Stop shaming the “oldies”; we’d all grow old.
Stop shaming the “chubs”; ALL bodies are beautiful.
Stop hating on the femmes; every gender expression is VALID.
Stop discriminating against sex workers; there is no shame in trying to make a living.
Our community is minority, as it is. Stop creating more minorities from within our community with your biases.
2. Donate… not just because you want merchs.
I get this concept of “what’s in it for me?”. This is the “driver” of so many of our actions – e.g. if companies give money to “support” Pride, they expect to get media mileage from it; and if we give money to “make Pride happen”, we may as well have that sticker (or whatever) to prove that… yes, we gave money.
But helping should be done not because of any return; it should be done because it’s the right thing to do.
And so if/when someone asked you to donate (however small the amount may be) to help establish an actual home for senior LGBTQIA Filipinos, give.
If someone asked you to chip in (no matter how small the amount you can give) to help pay for the PhilHealth of a person living with HIV, give.
And if someone asked you to donate (whatever amount) to help finance the picket line of LGBTQIA workers who were illegally dismissed from their jobs after they (rightfully) asked to be made regular employees, give.
LGBTQIA-related issues happen EVERY DAY of the year, not just in June. So if you’re willing to cough up cash to look glamorous/fab ONLY in June, you should also be willing to do so the rest of the year…
3. Be the voice of other minorities.
This shouldn’t be a divisive issue, but it is becoming that – i.e. the supposed “hijacking of commies of Pride month” by highlighting other issues that those who complain say have nothing to do with the LGBTQIA community.
These issues include: contractualization, wage hike, extra-judicial killings, war on drugs, and so on.
Here’s the BASIC thing though: LGBTQIA people do not live in a vacuum. Some of us are contractual workers (e.g. LGBTQIA people working for – say – Zagu, or Jollibbee, or the baggers in department stores). Many of us LGBTQIA people do not get the wages we deserve (e.g. LGBTQIA people who are also nurses and teachers). There are LGBTQIA people also killed because they were allegedly involved in the drug trade; and this is even if the claim may be true or not.
We say that LGBTQIA people are EVERYWHERE. Well, WE ARE; including among other minority sectors.
So that we can’t separate THEIR issues from OUR issues.
4. Be seen the rest of the year.
You, like many others, helped create the noise for LGBTQIA issues during Pride month. That’s all good (and thank you, truly, for this). But please, please don’t disappear after June (or worse, don’t be the source of discrimination after June – as noted in #1).
If you can’t be bothered leaving your desk, that’s your call; but continue making noise for the LGBTQIA community.
But if/when you are able to/you are keen to, join the ongoing struggle for our total liberation – e.g. join the call for rally for the anti-discrimination bill, attend gatherings pushing for marriage equality, attend events of LGBTQIA-related NGOs (including HIV-related events), physically support LGBTQIA-related shows/productions/et cetera.
Just BE SEEN BEYOND JUNE; it matters a lot.
5. Go back to the streets… and not just to party.
So you had fun attending the parade; perhaps even more so when you attended the after-parade party/ies. That’s all good. Not one to miss out on fun, I am one with you here…
BUT be reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).
After almost 20 (THAT’S 20!) years, the anti-discrimination bill is still languishing in Congress.
Over 80% of the new HIV cases in the Philippines affect members of the LGBTQIA community (particularly gay, bi and trans people).
Schools (including State-owned/run) still discriminate against LGBTQIA students; a handful of them barring LGBTQIA students from enroling/attending classes because of some bloody haircut or because of what they are wearing.
Because of their HIV status, people living with HIV (many of them LGBTQIA) are: still fired from work; kicked out of their homes; or not given access to life-saving HIV medicines.
LGBTQIA informal settlers – along with hetero-identifying informal settlers – are kicked out of their homes.
LGBTQIA contractual workers are still not regularized.
So – let’s state this – IF THERE IS A CALL TO RALLY FOR OUR RIGHTS, not just a call to parade and party, TAKE HEED. If 70,000+++ people can gather to parade and party, surely the same number (if not more) should also be able to gather when a call is made for us to rise again together to push for equality.
Yes, we have taken progressive steps (corporations are even considering how to profit off us now); but so much still needs to be done. And – to stress- we need to always show our force; to always take to the streets to highlight our issues.
So party on, yes; but never stop fighting as one. This is how we continue to truly #ResistTogether.
6 Reasons why your ‘pride’ isn’t (necessarily) every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…
Michael David Tan: “We may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we ‘represent’ them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be.”
“Make pride happen. Give money.”
That – in not so many words – is what LGBTQIA “pride” has become. And here, we don’t have to look (only) at Western versions of what Pride has become; we just have to consider Metro Manila’s.
Now, now, now, before you hate-click; before you fume with anger for being “attacked”; before you start complaining that those who are complaining “just don’t get it; they’re just getting old”; before you start unfriending those who do not belong in your echo chamber/s, hear some of the counter-arguments why YOUR ‘pride’ (or your concept of it) is no longer every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…
1. When pride organizers party with non-supporters (or even abusers) of members of the LGBTQIA community, or those that are in it just to profit off us because… money and/or fame and/or convenience and/or they’re all in the same “in” group/social circle.
In the Philippines, that LGBTQIA national “conference” that was really just a political tool of a former presidentiable comes to mind. But so is that blind support of pride organizers of this venue in Cubao, where many members of the LGBTQIA community alleged that they were harassed and molested. And so are companies/people who only surface supposedly for us only once a year, but are nowhere to be seen the rest of the year…
This approach has turned this “pride” into a hobnobbing event, helmed by those who have access to powers-that-be (e.g. media, donors, advertisers, et cetera)…
2. When your pride “leaders” claim to represent you, but are not accountable to you.
If, in the past (such as in the case of Task Force Pride in the Philippines), it was the community that decided who would helm Pride, the model has now changed to NGOism with an eye on earning (seemingly without even intending to effect REAL changes anymore since – as noted already – those who turn up for pride do not turn up to push for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill anyway).
I challenge you to listen and hear speakers talk about Lumads/Indigenous Peoples, Muslims, PWDs, seniors, and so on… Great crowd-rousers and sources of newsbytes when delivering speeches, actually; but that’s all they have become. Aside from the so-called (once-a-year) visibility, what has this version of “pride” done (in practical sense) to these communities being mentioned?
3. When it’s now all about merchs; all of them using nice-sounding hashtags claiming we’re supposedly all in this together.
Did you know that, for 2019, “the total we need to mount the March and Festival is PHP990,050”?
Not surprisingly, we have this in this year’s organizer’s fundraising site: “Donate ₱5000.00 Or More” and get “I Made Pride Happen Sticker, Resist Together Sticker, I Made Pride Happen Pin, I Made Pride Happen Tote Bag, Resist Together Cap and I Made Pride Happen Shirt.”
When you can’t even donate P50 to help the Home for the Golden Gays establish a REAL, physical space for senior members of the LGBTQIA community; or won’t even give P100 to help feed LGBTQIA workers who are holding rallies after they were dismissed from work; or can’t even give a peso even as your token help to Lumad LGBTQIA people who – like other Indigenous Peoples – are fighting to keep their ancestral domains. You have to ask if “pride” – for you – is really just an excuse to party, instead of fighting for the human rights of everyone under the rainbow…
4. When “pride” is a “by-invite” only gathering…
It’s a free event, you say. And in a way it is. But NOT EVERYONE has access to it, or is even made to access it.
In a past pride event in the City of Manila (years and years ago), the attendees were told to leave the venue (where the program was held), only to be allowed back in the same (now gated) venue, though this time with payment already…
Recently, there was an ad from a restaurant that said that it is hosting a “pride” party, so “buy tickets now”…
And don’t get me started with “after parade events” – e.g. in Western countries, accessible only after you pay moolah; and here, via by-invite only parties for the organizers who (apparently) still have spare money to spend to party, party, party…
Also, in modern “pride” events, note who gets to decide who helms “pride”. It’s people belonging to the same close-knit circle (i.e. the “echo chamber), easily disposing those who “don’t think like them”. In this sense, “pride” isn’t exactly inclusive…
At least according to some LGBTQIA people I spoke with, one of the biggest “fears” of some LGBTQIA people who (also) supported Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency if they choose to attend “pride” was their “othering” by the organizers who support the opposition. This is why they choose NOT to go to “pride” anymore; when they are not even given opportunity to air their side, while the “leaders” take every opportunity to tell them (self-righteously) that only they are always right and should be allowed to stay in power…
In this sense, “pride” is also a “tool” to segregate “them” versus “us”, even if we supposedly belong to the same LGBTQIA community…
Similarly, check the data mining happening so that the organizers can use your info to: A) get money off you, or B) “sell” the same to get money off you…
5. When we are blindsided by the glam and forget we’re being used.
Bench has been criticized for not supporting Ang Ladlad in the past; and yet is (for lack of better word) milking the rainbow to sell goods now. But Bench isn’t alone here, there are so many companies that slap the rainbow on their goods to make LGBTQIA people buy their goods, but don’t do shit to help: their LGBTQIA people staff, and the LGBTQIA community as a whole.
Start asking: Where is the money you are spending (supposedly for “pride”) going?
Check, too, the number of brands suddenly using the rainbow to promote themselves. But just how many actually give money back to the LGBTQIA community particularly in the Philippines (and I’m not just talking sponsoring the one-day parade)?
Still on a related note, we also have supporters who – again, let’s be blunt here – should also be asked the hard question, e.g. Catriona Gray is definitely fabulous for supporting us (she deserves the love she’s getting), but premised on her push/support for @sanmiglight, and this alcoholic brand’s silence re alcoholism (that affects the LGBTQIA community), shouldn’t we also be asking the link between the two? No, you don’t have to not support one just because you oppose the other; you just have to START ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS…
6. When the concept of “pride” is packed just in June, with the people behind it disappearing the entire year, as if the LGBTQIA community’s issues ceased to exist after the throwing of the glitter bombs via the parade and festivities.
Jennifer Laude was murdered in October (2014). Not even two weeks later, Mary Joy Añonuevo was stabbed at least 33 times all over her body at her bar in Lucena City (also in October 2014). Bunny Cadag claimed Jollibee discriminated against them in August (2017). Claire Balabbo was dismissed – along with 96 contractual employees – by Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna in May (2015). And Dats Ventura has been fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including LGBTQIA Lumads, every day of the year…
The push – and even celebration of – Pride should be done EVERY DAY.
Because the issues involving members of our community still remain after we’re bombarded by glamorous – and well-funded – “pride” events/happenings. Worse, these issues seemingly remain untouched/unsolved EVEN WITH the “pride” events.
Let me say that every time someone says, “Make Pride happen. Give money.”, they’re really just asking you to fund them/their lifestyles.
Because Pride WILL happen with or without the cash (and the selling out because of it); that’s how the riot in Stonewall Inn started in 1969.
In 2014, during WorldPride in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Angie Umbac – former executive director of Rainbow Rights Project, Inc. – was asked about the “struggle” between “pride as a struggle” and “pride as a commercial celebration.”
She said that Pride is always a struggle between the political and the cultural. For many, when they start, it’s always just political; but then, eventually, sponsors come in and at times dictate Pride’s direction.
But “this is how I see it: Pride belongs to everyone… But if you have a cultural pride without the background of why we are having pride, then we would lose the message. Keep it balanced – stay corporate because you need the funds, but remember that in the beginning it was political, and it was political for a reason.”
Nowadays, we may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we “represent” them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be…
Walang pinipiling oras o panahon ang opresyon at diskrimininasyon
Aaron Bonette writes about the discrimination still experienced by LGBTQIA Filipinos in these supposedly more aware times.
Kagabi, habang naglalakad sa Taft, para mag-abang ng jeep papunta sa terminal ng bus pauwi ng Lucena. May apat na lalaking nakasakay ng kotse na bumagal at nagsisigaw ng “Bakla! Bakla! Bakla” habang nakatingin sa akin at nagtatawanan.
Nakakagulat, pero kahit papano ay nagawa ko parin silang pakyuhan, dalawang kamay. Pero pagkatapos ng napakabilis na sandili ay saka ako nakaramdam ng takot at galit.
Hanggang ngayon pala ay mga ganun pa ring tao na naglilipana sa mundo, mga kaedad ko rin siguro o mga nag-aaral lang din sa mga unibersidad na malapit sa area.
Kagabi ko nalang ulit naranasan yun ganun at naalala ko yung pakiramdam ko nung bata palang ako na ganun din ang sinisigaw ng mga kaklase, mga tambay sa eskinita (may kasama pang pambibikil o panununtok kase hindi naman ako lumalaban) at maging ng mga kamag-anak ko. Masakit at nakakadurog ng pagkatao.
Hindi ko sila na mukhaan pero tanda ko yung laki ng mga bunganga nila habang tumatawa at talas ng mga matang mapanghusga na direktang tumatama sa akin.
Mababaw lamang ito kumpara sa iba kong naranasan at kumpara sa nararanasan ng iba pang LGBT na kinukutya at tinatanggalan ng dignidad araw-araw; yung sa iba, sinasaktan o pinapatay.
Pride month ngayon, panahon para labanan ang lahat ng kabastusan at pangungutya laban sa mga LGBT. Akala ko, mas mapapaigting yung awareness sa mga tao, sa tagal na ng pakikibaka ng mga LGBT, akala ko medyo mawawala na yung mga katulad nila.
Pero sabagay, wala namang pinipiling oras o panahon ang opresyon at diskrimininasyon. Nanjan lang sila, at mas patuloy pang dumadami. Normal parin pala ang pambabastos dito sa Pilipinas.
Patunay na napakalayo parin ng kailangang ipaglaban at napakarami pa ng kailangang singilin.
5 Things businesses can do to (truly) impact the LGBTQIA community
Already, numerous companies have been releasing Pride-related merchandise, out to get the pink currency by blinding members of the LGBTQIA community with glitters. But profiting from members of the LGBTQIA community may earn you some cash in the short term; but pinkwashing isn’t gonna help you in the long run.
Western-dictated LGBTQIA “Pride” is about to happen anytime now, with June fast approaching. This is supposed to be the one month in a year when everything LGBTQIA is to be “celebrated”, to be “showcased”. Why? Because – historically – it’s the same month when the Stonewall Inn riots happened in New York in the US, when members of the LGBTQIA community raged against the police because of abuses committed against them.
And so, not surprisingly, already, numerous companies have been releasing Pride-related merchandise, out to get the pink currency by blinding members of the LGBTQIA community with glitters. If you can afford to, head to the US in June, and walk in any – as in ANY – shopping area to understand this point. From Converse to Dr. Martens to Adidas to Starbucks to phone carriers to… just about everything, there’s something rainbow-colored being sold, supposedly in support of Pride.
Now, now, don’t get me wrong: The “presence” is noteworthy because everything LGBTQIA is (finally) going mainstream. I’m all for that.
But this mainstreaming is also problematic because it actually highlights so many of what’s wrong in society as a whole, and the LGBTQIA community in particular – e.g. how businesses are profiting from the LGBTQIA community without helping its members; and how many LGBTQIA people choose to look the other way just to… get their hands on those new pair of shoes with rainbow stripes, or those shirts with rainbow printing, or that P200 cup coffee in a plastic cup with rainbow design…
The “selling” of LGBTQIA “Pride” has been noted before, and the trend continues even now – e.g. Converse, which has “rainbow sneakers”, won’t even donate any proceeds to actual LGBTQIA causes; and locally, Bench has joined the bandwagon even if (back when the rainbow wasn’t so hip) it did not even support Ang Ladlad, and it can even be argued that it even created a fake “controversy” by using the LGBTQIA community to get media mileage.
In a gist: Many brand’s supposedly pro-LGBTQIA move is performative in the name of making a profit.
Talking to those under the rainbow (for instance, Pride organizers that spend half a million pesos for a half-day parade; but won’t even give a few hundred or thousand pesos to help feed LGBTQIA workers who are holding rallies after they were removed from work by multinational companies) is for another day; though for now, here are five things that businesses can do to (truly) impact the LGBTQIA community…
Put your wallet where your mouth is.
You say you support the rights of LGBTQIA workers who were kicked out of their jobs because of who they are? Then help fund them when they hold rallies against those who fired them.
You say you’re an HIV “advocate”? Sponsor one or two or three persons living with HIV by paying their PhilHealth (amounting to P2,400 per person per year).
You say you’re concerned about your LGBTQIA workers? Give them the same benefits being given to heterosexual people (e.g. those who can legally marry).
You say you’re concerned about senior LGBTQIA people? Help fund the establishment of an actual – physical – home for them.
You say you worry about the mental health of LGBTQIA people (including those working for you) because they continue to experience discrimination? Spend on mental health care.
You say you worry about LGBTQIA youth not being able to access education because of who they are/who they love? Offer a scholarship program to them.
And if you have supposedly LGBTQIA-related for-profit event, DONATE even a portion of your profit to LGBTQIA-related causes.
The harsh truth is: Talk is cheap; but your donation can save lives.
2. Choose where your money goes.
Related to #1, CHOOSE WELL.
There are too many “glittery” LGBTQIA or related organizations; but peel that glitter away, they’re nothing there but empty shells. There are way too many LGBTQIA or related organizations that we often hear of/about, but are actually infamous (in the LGBTQIA community itself) because they’re in the “advocacy” just to profit from it.
Know the opportunists.
Now, how to do this?
They disappear after Pride. LGBTQIA organizations that surface ONLY once a year are just as bad as the private companies that only surface at the same time; they’re really just there to make money.
They’re almost always JUST online or in mainstream media, boasting about this or that, all talk but you never see them do actual LGBTQIA-related work. They co-opt other people’s struggles (e.g. they’d say they represent minorities in the LGBTQIA community), and then they won’t let members of these minority sectors speak for themselves (for instance, LGBTQIA people who are also persons with disability/PWD, seniors, members of the Lumad communities, Muslims, informal working sector, informal settlers and those living with HIV). These people will claim to represent all, so “give us money”, but they do not know shit about these people they claim to represent. So please, STOP funding these people.
You only see them in parties/social gatherings; never where the action happens (e.g. picket lines of workers, including members of the LGBTQIA community, removed by multinational corporations; rallies for the anti-discrimination bill; visits in HIV treatment hubs; et cetera).
Their bosses “beg” you to “sponsor” their international trips. By itself this is “common practice” by NGOs and CBOs with non-existent funds; but when this is all they do, then you need to reconsider the support given to them.
Do your research. Not everyone “popular”, even members of the LGBTQIA community, have the community’s concern in their minds. Stop yourself from getting used and abused to profit off the misery of others.
3. We understand profit; but don’t stop there. Develop pro-LGBTQIA policies.
According to Stonewall in the UK, 19% of LGBT workers experienced verbal bullying from their colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, 13% say that they would not feel confident in reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace.
This no-so-welcoming environment is not good for LGBTQIA employees; and – to over-simplify – if your employees aren’t happy while working for you, their performance is bound to suffer, and this means a loss for your company.
So start creating those LGBTQIA-affirming policies.
Give diversity and inclusion trainings to all your employees (including those holding high positions) for them to understand sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
Include people’s SOGIEs in the existing employee’s manual/handbook – e.g. allow trans women to use women’s CR/loo/toilet; punish those who discriminate; et cetera.
Offer the same benefits to the partners of LGBTQIA people (even if they are not legally married because the country still does not allow this).
Allow LGBTQIA employees to organize.
By making pro-LGBTQIA part of running your business, your impact will be there longer.
4. Hire LGBTQIA people, including in leadership positions.
In 2017, fastfood giant Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) apologized to genderqueer Bunny Cadag who alleged experiencing discrimination, following the PR tempest their story made since it was first shared online.
Cadag was interviewed for a job as a transcriber by people from the Human Capitol Development (HCD) at JFC’s main office in Ortigas. That first day of evaluation passed without incident. However, when Cadag returned another day to continue the training session, a certain Louie Angsico, said to be one of the contact persons of HCD, spoke with Cadag over the phone to tell them that JFC is not yet “welcoming to the idea” of having a transgender person working for the company. Angsioco allegedly added that JFC is a Roman Catholic company.
While JFC eventually apologized, the perception (particularly for members of the LGBTQIA community) continues to exist that Jollibee… discriminates.
Beyond the “image” angle, though, get this: Research from UCLA found that nearly all (92%) of companies with anti-discrimination policies credit the policies with having a positive impact on annual sales. Executives also said that these policies lead to better recruitment and retention of top talent.
The Center for Talent Innovation’s report, “Out in the World: Securing LGBT Rights in the Global Marketplace”, also found that 71% of LGBTQIA respondents and 82% of allies are more likely to purchase from a company that supports LGBTQIA equality.
So yes, having more LGBTQIA employees can positively impact the bottom line.
5. Don’t just show up once a year.
Companies that are ONLY seen once a year, attending corporate Pride parade, are actually seen as opportunists, using the LGBTQIA community only to get media mileage. And when NOT backed by the aforementioned points (e.g. creating LGBTQIA welcoming workplaces), this is actually what it really is.
So while joining the party is fun (and let me say this, those who can should do this), LGBTQIA-related efforts should NOT stop there.
In the end, profiting from members of the LGBTQIA community may earn you some cash in the short term; but pinkwashing isn’t gonna help you in the long run. Look at how Israel’s pro-LGBTQIA efforts are now seen as nothing but part of a “nation-branding program” to use the LGBTQIA community as cover for its abuses against Palestine. Or how Mar Roxas will always be marked by his flip-flopping on LGBTQIA issues. Or how there will now always be people who will see Bench as an opportunist by “selling” the rainbow, when it failed to support the LGBTQIA community when it mattered (i.e. while an LGBTQIA political party eyed a seat in Congress).
So do something good. Expect a return if you must; but ACTUALLY do something. It’s actually easy, and the benefits for any brand longer-lasting…
5 Things funders/donor agencies can do to ACTUALLY help the LGBTQIA community
When their LGBTQIA-related projects are funded, it is okay for organizations to (also) please the funders. But… shouldn’t the beneficiaries be the main focus since these efforts were made to benefit the people more?
In December 2018, while trying to persuade the “mother” of an organization for senior LGBTQIA people in Pasay City to apply for funding for their project/s, I was asked: “Where do they send the money if we don’t even have a bank account?”
In January 2019, while trying to encourage a Deaf trans community leader of an LGBTQIA group in Davao City to get grants to finance their efforts, I was asked: “Will they give us money if we’re not even registered with SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)?”
And in February 2019, while reprimanding a Deaf friend, who also heads a pioneering Deaf LGBTQIA organization (based in Mandaluyong City) in the Philippines for getting used by Hearing organizations that avail of her services (without payment), thereby using her affiliation, I was bluntly told: “This is arguably the only way for us to ‘participate’ in ongoing efforts; we tried applying for funds before, but were told we’re too small, we don’t have the skills, we can’t even do accounting, and so on…”
These are – of course – only some of the more recent somewhat-similar assertions I continue to come across when chatting with grassroots LGBTQIA leaders in the Philippines. This inability to get funds NOT because they can’t do the job (or are not doing the work already), but because they’re not paper-pushers, they don’t know the “right people” (and so don’t know whose asses to kiss), they haven’t been provided training, and so on…
And in all these instances, the analogy that ALWAYS comes to my mind is that issue encountered by fresh graduates when they apply for a job – i.e. companies want people with experience, so they won’t hire fresh graduates, though – if they don’t get hired, how can the fresh graduates then get this so-called experience? The fault isn’t with the applicant but the employer.
An in the case of NGOs and CBOs, the fault – and let’s be blunt here – is on the funder/donor agency because of existing notions and practices that really should be overhauled.
Now how to overhaul these notions? Here are practical tips…
1. Stop funding ONLY big NGOs (and often only those with personal connections to people working for you).
The REAL work is NOT DONE by many of these; instead, they’re merely middlemen that profit from the actual work of grassroots organizations that these bigger organizations “fund” to do the hard work for them.
Fund the actual workers, not just the paper-pushers.
2. Related to #1, fund the smaller organizations.
For instance, note how – in support of LGBTQIA efforts in, say, Africa or Asia – many American-based NGOs get the money, instead of the ACTUAL African and Asian NGOs. They bring “attention” to the LGBTQIA-related issues in these areas, sure; but too much money is wasted on PR, instead of the actual efforts to help those affected by anti-LGBTQIA efforts in these areas.
I have heard numerous excuses about the non-preference for smaller NGOs, e.g.:
But the smaller organizations aren’t familiar with accounting system/s, you say. I said: Then train them. Or just provide the funding so they can get the training themselves.
But the smaller organizations aren’t legal entities yet, you add. Then fund them so they can afford to legally register.
In a gist: Not funding smaller organizations end up promoting an erroneous “for profit” approach of so many bigger NGOs that, as mentioned, reap the benefits from the work of those at the grassroots.
3. Go beyond the reports.
Yes, yes, yes – reports are great and all. But if this is the ONLY (or even MAJOR) indicator of success, then there really is a need to reconsider why we’re in advocacy at all.
In New York in 2014, I once spoke with a worker in a funding agency who boasted to me that “we fund a faith-based effort in the Philippines”. When the name of the church that was given money was mentioned (along with its now-former-leader), I told this person that the same was kicked out of the church because of allegations that involved – among others – financial matters. This is, I added, common knowledge; it’s all over the Internet.
“No, you ARE mistaken,” she said to me, succinctly. “We must not be referring to the same person.”
“No, I’m not mistaken.”
“But the reports we received are… good.”
“Have you ever visited the Philippines? Or spoke to other Filipinos aside from this one person, particularly the beneficiaries?”
She looked at me like I was crazy: “We do NOT do that,” she said. “We rely on the reports given to us; we trust these.”
“Your loss,” I said, “though a bigger loss for the community that’s supposed to benefit from the already-extremely-limited funds.”
I never heard from her EVER again.
4. Reach across (more) aisles.
Dealing with people we’re comfy with is great; but if funds are given to the same people over and over and over again, this creates a “hierarchy” in service provision. This is why there’s the so-called “Bangkok Mafia” in Thailand (a group of people said to know the ‘who’s who’ as far as donors are concerned, and so have somewhat-exclusive access to them). Now, whether this is true or not is up for debate; but that this perception exists at all ought to be a source of worry. Because more than anything, it gives that impression of an “in” crowd, the “chosen ones”, the “gatekeepers”, with the rest basically dependent on their mercy…
5. Revisit indicators (of success or failure).
Yes, popularizing a hashtag created for an event is good and well, but this form of (support to) “keyboard activism” should be limited.
Interviewing a Maranao transwoman (who originally came from Marawi) in Iligan City, I was once told: “We don’t even have electricity; yet you expect us to be active online.”
In the end, pleasing the funders is all good (this comes with the territory); but shouldn’t efforts be made to benefit the people more?
HIV is not inability
There are two possible conclusions that can be drawn based on legal and medical parlance, to wit: (1) HIV and AIDS as a physical impairment, and (2) HIV and AIDS as a psychosocial disability.
“Disability is not inability.”
Councilor Raissa Laurel Subijano of San Juan City once said this; she is a graduate of Law, elected into office, and then became a person with disability after the 2010 Bar exam bombing outside DLSU-Taft.
I intend to permeate wisdom from the lack or absence of knowledge of some individuals regarding disability, or it could possibly rectify the societies ignorance from the DISABILITY.
At the end of this entry, there are two possible conclusions based on legal and medical parlance, to wit: (1) HIV and AIDS as a physical impairment, and (2) HIV and AIDS as a psychosocial disability.
The discussion on PLHIVs as PWDs must clearly establish a parameter that nobody is allowed to neither look nor equate disability to INABILITY, INCOMPETENCE, and HELPLESSNESS. Persons with disability are not less than anyone; they are your fair equals.
Under Art. 5 of the Convention on the Rights of PWD, states that: “State parties recognize that all persons are equal before and under the law and are entitled without any discrimination.”
In our Jurisdiction, Sec. 2(b) of R.A. 7277 or The Magna Carta for the Disabled persons, states that: “Disabled persons have the same rights as other people to take their proper place in society. They should be able to live freely and as independently as possible. xxx Disabled persons’ rights must never be perceived as welfare services by the Government.”
It is a form of discrimination when someone says: “Instead of issuing PWD ID for PLHIV we look for ways to empower them.” It is as if having a PWD ID is not empowering. It is as if being PWD is disempowering. Discrimination of any kind based on disability is prohibited under existing laws.
Under Art. 2 of the Convention on the Rights of PWD, It is considered as a “DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF DISABILITY” when any distinction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, xxx on an equal basis with others.
If you’re adamant in your principle that PLHIVs should not be considered PWDs because they are abled; It is as if PLHIVs being considered as PWDs is degrading or an insult to ones ability. Sorry to burst your bubble, that’s not a principle at all; but a form of DISCRIMINATION, much less, IGNORANCE. Even persons with disability are still considered competent, capable, and productive, as they are other-abled.
There have been several opinions made on the link between disability and HIV; but none of those that disprove the link was intellectually substantiated. Most of the statements made were ranging from dense to shallow premises with no arguments at all. The most that they were able to come up with is the fact that not any existing law expressly mentions HIV and AIDS as a disability. In the same manner, that no existing law expressly LIMITS disability on visual, physical, nor mental impairment to the
I) HIV AND AIDS as a Physical Impairment
Under Sec. 4(c), R.A. 7277 or the Magna Carta for PWD (as amended by R.A. 9442), Disability is defined as Physical Impairment that substantially limits one or more psychological, physiological or anatomical function of an individual. In the definition, Physical would mean anything relating to the body. Physical impairment necessarily follows that it is includes impairment in cells’ function.
Under Sec. 3 (n) of R.A. 1166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, it defines HIV as a: “virus, which infects cells of human immune system, and destroys and impairs the cells.” Thus, a person infected with HIV has a physical impairment through infection of HIV. Unless, it is cured, the virus is a continuous threat. The HIV and AIDS Policy Act recognizes that there’s no cure that can eliminate HIV from our system but what the antiretroviral drugs does is it only stops or suppresses viral replication, thereby slowing down the progression of infection.
While it is true that Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART) suppresses the virus; PLHIVs are vulnerable as compared to other individuals considering our condition being immune-compromised. PLHIVs regardless of medication are still at a higher risk of suffering from HIV-related medical conditions; because, our cells’ functions are impaired.
PLHIV also experience disability related to HIV. As it progresses, HIV disease can result in mental and physical conditions that impair ability. In addition, highly active antiretroviral therapy and other treatments, while saving and prolonging lives of PLHIV, can also cause side effects that can be disabling. [Elliot, R. (2009), Journal of the International AIDS Society.]
This is the other half of the truth, which some “advocates” fail to appreciate. Which leads me to this question: “Who do they really advocate?” Perhaps, it’s time that we also reflect upon the term that has long been abused – ADVOCATE. As I mentioned in my previous article: “Recognition: tug of war in HIV advocacy” (2017):
Advocacy is not just about claiming to be an advocate. Advocacy is equivalent to progressive action rather than passive inaction. It can neither be said that a positive diagnosis for HIV/AIDS is an express ticket nor license to the advocacy. One becomes an advocate when he truly understands the cause by exemplifying affirmative actions engaged in the cause; which should preferably be multiple, continuous, and instantaneous; rather than single, isolated, and orchestrated. This is how we become advocates.
There are also some who have been working for the longest time in the advocacy, thanks to you and your efforts for our community; but are you really for us or against us? With your indulgence, how does an act of going against a privilege for the PLHIVs be beneficial for the Community? Perhaps, its time that you retract from self-infested principles at the expense of a larger population, that further over boards existing laws. The laws may not speak well of your belief, but these are the laws, it applies to all with no exception, let the welfare of the people be the supreme law of the (Salus populi est suprema lex.)
II) HIV and AIDS as a PSYCHOSOCIAL DISABILITY
At present, PLHIVs are being ISSUED PWD ID on the basis of Psychosocial Disability. Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. 7277, the term Psychosocial is defined as inter-relationship of the psychological aspects pertaining to the thoughts, feelings, reactions, and behavior of a person with social aspects pertaining to the situation circumstances, events, relationships, other people which influence or affect the person sometimes to the point of causing distress. The HIV and AIDS Policy Act of the Philippines recognize discrimination against PLHIVs, a discrimination that causes Psychosocial Disability.
The UNAIDS made a statement in United Nations Commission on Human Rights: Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, “HIV/AIDS and DISABILITY” (48 Session, August 1996):
The disabilities consequences of asymptomatic HIV is that often people living with HIV, as well as those suspected of being HIV Positive, are very often discriminated against because they are wrongly perceived as being unable to perform; they are wrongly perceived as being a threat to public health… Thus, if they are not actually disabled by HIV-related conditions, they are often disabled by the discriminatory treatment they perceived because of their HIV status… Definitions of disability should move beyond functional limitations to cover medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS.”
In our Jurisdiction, there are no Jurisprudence that may clearly include HIV and AIDS as a form of disability; but there are already existing laws, as such, outside our Jurisdiction. In Australia, The Commonwealth Disability Act of 1992 defines disability as: “broad language referring to disease or illness, such as the following: the presence in the body of organisms causing disease or illness; or the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing disease or illness.” The same definition is also applied in the countries: New Zealand and South Africa.
While the aforementioned law, of Australia, has no applicability in our Jurisdiction. American Jurisprudence may guide us, as the Americans influenced most of our penal laws. Our Revised Penal Code alone was legislated at the time when our country was a colony of America. The Magna Carta for PWD is both a social legislation and penal legislation by virtue of its penal clause; therefore, we can use as a guide the AMERICAN DISABILITY ACT ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1990, which was subsequently interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998, Bragdon v. Abbott, that settled affirmatively the legal challenges whether or not HIV should, in and of itself, be considered a disability if the person remains symptom-free and otherwise unimpaired.
The US case involving Ms. Abott clearly establishes a rule that HIV should be considered as a disability for purposes of the American Disability Act in relation to the Convention on the Rights of PWD.
The American Disability Act of the United States of America and the Magna Carta for Person with Disability draws it life from the same accepted general principle of international law, that is, the – Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disability. I couldn’t see any reason why the same logic shouldn’t be applied in our Jurisdiction, if our law is anchored on the same International Law as that of the American Disability Act.
Now, it can be settled that infection from HIV and AIDS can be disabling but does not necessarily result to inability, regardless being called a person with disability; otherwise, such thought rightly falls under “Discrimination on the basis of disability.”
The application for issuance of an identification card as a person with disability is a matter of choice, which needs to be respected, when exercised or not. A PLHIV who secures a PWD ID should not be ridiculed as less than anyone. This exercise of privilege made by PLHIVs must not be seen as disempowering, as such, mentality is not only a reflection of legal impertinence but also an absence of intelligence.
Principles that deflect from those of PLHIVs, as persons with Disability articulated in a sophisticated language, do not merit any rebuttals from those who advocate PLHIVs as PWD. But don’t force the law to lean in your favor if it apparently does not support your principles, much less – ignorance.
When someone can come up with an argument, better than: “HIV and AIDS is not enumerated under the Magna Carta for PWD as a disability” feel free to send me a message. Otherwise; I’ll leave you with these: the law clearly implies consistent with the words expressly used that PLHIVs have physical disability on the basis of impaired cells, and PLHIVs are psychosocially disabled for being constantly exposed in a possible discriminatory act based on HIV status.
If there is one rule of construction for statutes and other documents, it is that you must not imply anything in them, which is inconsistent with the words expressly used. (Re: a Rebior [No. 335 of 1947] 2 All E.R. 533, per Lord Green M.R.)
I am Posit Bo, I was diagnosed with AIDS and Major Depressive Disorder, which qualifies me as a person with psychosocial and mental disability, respectively. I am a person with disability; but I am not less than anyone because I am your worthy equal despite my disability. You are not to judge me based on my disability or exercise of a privilege granted by law, as I am not to judge you based on your refusal to acknowledge your disability or exercise of privilege. Let us embrace diversity without hatred but instead with respect.