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The trials and tribulations of Mr. Gay World Philippines 2018

The Philippines’ hope of winning back-to-back Mr. Gay World titles rests on the shoulders of Gleeko Magpoc, an independent delegate, married to an Indian national and currently based in Sweden. If he survived the cyber bashing of his nonbelievers, could he also withstand the rigors of the competition in South Africa and duplicate John Raspado’s feat?

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Only two countries achieved a back-to-back victory in Mr. Gay World pageant’s entire history: South Africa’s Charl van den Berg (2010) and Francois Nel (2011), as well as Andreas Derleth (2012) and Christopher Olwage (2013) of New Zealand. But these records might change soon, should lady luck smile on our very own Gleeko Esguerra Magpoc.

If his name doesn’t ring a bell among Filipino pageant aficionados, that’s because Magpoc was never a candidate of past Mr. Gay World Philippines editions. He volunteered to wear the country’s satin sash in this international contest established by Australia-based philanthropist Eric Butter. Now on its 10th year, Mr. Gay World “strives to be a mentor in grooming gay leaders that will advance LGBT human rights” in their respective nations and across the globe.

No local search or casting call was conducted this year as Wilbert Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines of 2009, decided to let go the country’s exclusive license of Mr. Gay World in July last year. Under Tolentino’s helm, Christian Reyes Lacsamana became the first Filipino delegate to enter the top five round and emerged second runner-up to Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain in 2016; while John Fernandez Raspado became the country’s first-ever Mr. Gay World, and the first Asian to win the title.

“I learned that the Philippines didn’t have any representative, so I contacted the admin [of Mr. Gay World Ltd.] and followed the procedures. I thought of representing my country to continue supporting the LGBT community,” Magpoc said, in an online interview with Outrage Magazine before he left for South Africa for his much-awaited global mission. “This is my first pageant… I want to continue spreading awareness to show that we are here to support those who feel depressed and oppressed.” He is a 28-year-old restaurant service crew who migrated to Stockholm, Sweden after getting married to Amitabh Das, an Indian national, back in October 2015.

He is hoping that lightning will strike twice because Raspado conquered Spain last year. But tons of his kababayans in Manila believe otherwise: Gleeko Magpoc would probably go down in the annals of the pageant history as the most bashed Filipino candidate in Mr. Gay World.

FACING BASHING

As soon as his photos and profile video on You Tube were uploaded in the “Delegates 2018” subsection of Mr. Gay World’s official website, and after Tolentino made a public post via Facebook, reiterating his resignation as the country director and license holder of Mr. Gay World, saying “that the current representative volunteered to compete. He was not appointed and never involved with the MGWPO. He has never undergone pageant training with us. He was never connected with the organization or with me personally. The Mr. Gay World itself accepted him with open arms and we need to respect them. I hope I have answered all your queries,” Magpoc’s online ordeal began.

A multitude of Facebook users flooded the comments section of Tolentino’s post, expressing their disappointment with the Mr. Gay World Ltd., questioning Magpoc’s qualifications, suggesting that Mr. Gay World Philippines 2016 first runner-up Bench Ortiz should be the one sent to South Africa, etc. The cyber mob and the day-to-day bullying that remains under-reported, has reached pageant-related Facebook groups as of this writing.

Raspado already stepped up on cyberspace to defend Magpoc: “I admire this person, because he took responsibility when nobody else can… he qualified as an independent… and I feel for this person because of all the bashing and critics, same critics I received when I was still starting. He faces a big struggle ahead, but let us by any means support him… as a Filipino and as an LGBT advocate.”

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Igor Scheurkogel, Mr. Gay World chairman of the board of directors, reaffirmed their stand that they made the decision to include Magpoc in this year’s lineup of candidates since there was no national competition held in the Philippines this year. “And after multiple and extensive outreach (sic) to the old directors of MGWPH to indicate a candidate or any leads, we had no options. [And] because I’m not from the Philippines I do not have the networks to select a person. [And] therefore, if there is a person willing to represent and paid all the license fees and other costs, we [as Mr. Gay World Organization], are willing to work with the person. Also, if a person is willing to represent our LGBT community, we all should consider that he possibly has a good motive and doesn’t need a lot of pageant ‘training’. For now, it’s up to the Philippines to support the delegate and show national pride. If he wins, he would need support.”

GETTING TO KNOW GLEEKO  

But Magpoc is someone who chooses to let things bother him. “They are not so destructive,” he laughed. “I’m aware of some [criticisms], but not all. I don’t have time to read so many things which I personally believe are not worthy… Bashers are everywhere no matter who you are. You just have to accept the reality and then move on. I learned from Buddhism to let go.”

He added that “Mr. Gay World is not a beauty pageant. The main reason why it is held annually since its inception in 2009 is to identify leaders who will be speaking out for equal and human rights in a global stage. The acceptance of LGBTQI+ identities is one of its missions.”

Born on August 5, 1999 in Manila, Gleeko is the fourth among the five children of Celso de Guzman Magpoc Jr., a native of Bataan, and the former Charibell Gaon who hails from Pasay City. Both of his parents already passed away.

“I am not so sure about the origin of my name, but according to my mother she just changed the spelling [of Glico to Gleeko], whom she said is a friend of my father. However, I learned that glico in Greek means ‘sugar’ [which happened to be sweet],” he said.

He’s an undergraduate of Japanese studies program at the University of Manila. “For almost nine years, I have worked as a bilingual call center agent [Spanish/English] in the Philippines. “I easily learn languages… I love to learn languages. I tried learning Russian and recently, I started learning Arabic. I also love swimming. It’s my form of exercise and relaxation.”

To prepare, he studied YouTube videos of previous Mr. Gay World pageants. “I would love to meet him [John Raspado] in Knysna. He is [of course] an epitome of the LGBTQI+ community. I [just] watched the previous pageant in Maspalomas [via YouTube], so I could learn from him and the others. I also tried to see the other Mr. Gay World pageants from before.”

Magpoc admitted he is pressured to secure a consecutive win for the Philippines in Mr. Gay World. “I would be lying if I say I’m not. There is pressure but it’s a good one because it pushes me to do the very best I can.”

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MEET THE FRONTRUNNERS

Gleeko will be facing a tough competition in becoming the third Mr. Gay World winner crowned by a compatriot. He and 20 other gay ambassadors will be judged in the following activities: sports challenge, photo shoot, written test, personal interview, social responsibility campaign, social media task, online vote, quality and content of video presentation, swimwear, formal wear and national costume.

Here are 12 delegates who will make him compete harder:

  1. Winning Australia’s first Mr. Gay Word title is the best birthday gift that Jordan Paul Bruno could ever receive. He will be turning 26 come finals night. The economics and finance alumnus at the Curtin University in Perth is a celebrity chef and he wants to grow his LGBTI cooking school and release a range of cookbooks, with all proceeds going to LGBTI charities.
  2. Jaimie Deblieck of Belgium, at 19 years old, is the youngest participant. A high school student blessed with an angelic face, he survived an anti-gay assault while going home from a night out in his hometown of Roeselare last February. He considers his young age an advantage in the competition, as he can reach out to teenagers. He’s collaborated with government agencies in coming up with a pro-diversity charter, signed and supported by some of the biggest companies and brands in his country.
  3. Chile’s René Alfredo Rivera Lizana, 30, pursued his bachelor’s degree in physical education at the University of the Sea. A staunch advocate of homo-parental adoption, he dreams of becoming a good father in the future. He believes that “having gay parents is better than having no parents at all—that a child’s greatest need is not necessarily to have two parents, but to be cared for in a godly, nurturing way and to have godly role models.”
  4. Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Castro of Costa Rica is a 30-year-old administrative officer for a private company. He obtained his diploma in business administration at the National Technical University. His goal of fighting for his community became a reality after earning the right to represent his country in Mr. Gay World, and he aspires to “be a leader of union, progress and equality, where there is a place for everybody.”
  5. India’s Samarpan Maiti, 30, works as a senior research fellow in the field of cancer drug discovery from a reputable institute in Kolkata. He is currently completing his PhD in biochemistry. He wants to help the underprivileged members of the LGBT community who are lagging behind, as well as the uneducated people who live in slums in urban areas. He is a rare combination of good looks and brains—an icon of social and sexual inclusiveness in a populous nation that is still struggling to legally accept homosexuality.
  6. Erick Jafeth López Pérez of Mexico spearheads a campaign, entitled “We Are The Same,” focused on “struggle for equality and equity of human rights.” At 39, he is the eldest Mr. Gay World candidate. He’s an industrial engineer, entrepreneur and professional model who believes, “There are no reasons and justifications that should prevent us from being who we are.”
  7. Nepal’s Manindra Singh Danuwar, 29, completed his degrees in social work and psychology at the Triton International College in Kathmandu. He works as a field supervisor and management information system officer for Blue Diamond Society. He helps the organization in coming up with activities that strengthen communities such as promoting good sexual health, psycho-social counseling, raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, documenting human rights violations, etc., among cultural minorities.
  8. Ricky Devine White is a 36-year-old certified life coach, registered personal trainer and group fitness instructor. If he becomes New Zealand’s third Mr. Gay World winner, he would take his tenure to a new direction by encouraging the LGBT international community to live a healthier lifestyle, get into sports and other regular physical activities that are good for the mind, body and spirit.
  9. Portugal’s first envoy to Mr. Gay World is João Pedro Carvalho Goncalves de Oliveira. He is a 38-year-old reporter and editor for Enlacegay, an LGBT media company based in Madrid. He obtained his diploma in languages and Portuguese literature at the Escola Secundária José Afonso Loures. He is also the presenter of “Star Chef Gay,” a TV and Internet program that revolutionizes cooking contests.
  10. Being first runner-up isn’t bad at all. Take the case of Karabo Morake, who placed second to Juan Pinnick in the Mr. Gay World Southern Africa contest last September. Fast forward to April, the latter was forced to withdraw because he underwent a knee operation and was deemed unfit to participate in the rigorous challenges that have been lined up for the candidates. Morake, 27, completed his practical legal training at the University of Cape Town and works as an international relations legal executive manager for a law firm.
  11. Ricardo Tacoronto Castro, 28, might give Spain its second harvest of a Mr. Gay World crown. Deemed as the “most handsome homosexual” in his country at the moment, he owes his sculpted physique to his work as a soldier in Cartagena. This Navy corporal confessed that his co-workers were the first ones to know he was gay before his family, and that “the army is much more open than people think.” He would like to win in order to “continue fighting for rights and achieve the normalization of homosexuality.”
  12. Pakkarapong Khuaikoen of Thailand, 22, is a junior art communications major at the Nation University. “Toy,” his nickname, enjoys being in front of the camera. He is a budding actor, runway model and an advocate for bullying prevention policies in academic institutions. He encourages school administrators to facilitate discussions or after-school activities about gay prejudice.
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Completing Mr. Gay World 2018’s roster are Canada’s Philippe Laurin, Lukáš Grečko of Czech and Slovak Republic, Finland’s Rami Joel Kiiskinen, Enrique Doleschy of Germany, Japan’s Shogo Kemmoku, Mduduzi Dlamini of Swaziland, Taiwan’s Po-Hung Chen, and Kyle Haggerty of the United States.

Gleeko Magpoc’s haters and critics still have enough time to convert their protests into online votes so he can possibly make the cut, by registering at http://www.mrgayworld.com/register-2/ and voting once every 24 hours until 6 p.m. of May 26 (Manila time).

It takes a lot of courage on his part to endure the pain of cyber bullying. He can hide the tears of sorrow in his eyes, but not in his heart. We just don’t know how many times he’s cried before sleeping at night whenever he reminisces how his countrymen humiliate him online, as the global search draws near. It may really sound cliché, but Magpoc’s bashers will never feel any better if the only thing they know is make him suffer. He doesn’t deserve to feel worthless at this point.

The 10th Mr. Gay World pageant will take place at the Villa Castolini Hotel in Knysna, South Africa, and will be streamed live through the organization’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel on May 27, 12 a.m. (Manila time).

Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon is just your average journalist who can't live without a huge plate of cheesy spaghetti, three cups of brewed coffee, and high-speed Internet every single day. A graduate of mass communication at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, he chased loads of actors, beauty queens, pop artists and even college basketball players until the wee hours of the morning to write their stories eight years. Ivan (how those close to him call him) presently works as a full-time search engine optimization copywriter and an image consultant. He splurges his take-home pay in motivational books and spends his free time touring different heritage towns in the country.

#KaraniwangLGBT

Gay man in the street

Originally from Negros Occidental, Jorie Salvano Garnado now sells ‘kakanin (snacks)’ in the streets of Manila and Makati, with his earnings sustaining him and his family in the province. He wants LGBTQIA people to learn to “choose your family”, who he hopes will “always be there for you.”

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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.”

Sana yung mga baklang kabataan, kung may kabutihang matutulong sila, tumulong talaga sa magulang (For young gay people, if they can do good, they should do good particularly to help their parents),” said Jorie Salvano Garnado, 39. “Gipalaki sila sa magulang nila para makatulong. Huwag muna unahin ang lalaki; unahin muna ang mga magulang (Their parents raised them so they can be of use/they can help. Don’t prioritize your BFs; focus on your parents first).”

Originally from Negros Occidental, Jorie’s parents are actually separated, though not after having seven kids (two eventually died at a younger age). His mom now has four other kids with a different husband; and his dad, another kid with another wife.

In 2016, Jorie moved to Manila, joining an auntie who told him he could look for a job in the big city.

Nagtitinda ako kakanin para makatulong ako sa magulang ko (I sell snack foods to earn to help my parents),” he said. “Kasi mahirap po ang buhay sa probinsiya (Life is hard in the province).”

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Jorie wakes up before 4AM, and is on the street immediately after then. By 10AM, he is done with selling the breakfast goodies. He takes a breather from 10AM to 12PM, and then heads out to the streets again after 12PM to sell the snack fares. He usually heads home around 6PM.

On a good day, he could earn as much as P1,000 per day; he divides this into two, sending the P500 to the province, and using the other P500 to pay for his living here (e.g. rent, food, his personal loans, and his BF). He actually earns more than enough, saying “nakaluwag na kami (my earnings have made things easier/lighter for everyone)”. Aside from some savings, he was able to help those in the province start a livelihood (“babuyan”/piggery), as well as built a better house.

“At least di ako nag-perwisyo sa iba, naghingi kahit saan (At least I don’t pester others, or ask others for support),” he said.

Also because he’s a main source of money for them, Jorie said he never encountered being bullied by family members. “Hindi ko naranasan na bugbugin ng mga kapatid ko (My siblings never hurt me),” he said, “kay lahat naman ng gusto nila binibigay ko sa kanila (because I always give them what they ask from me).”

Looking back, Jorie said he knew he’s gay at around 12 years of age. “Tanggap naman ako ng magulang ko na ganito ako (My parents accepted me as a gay person),” he said, because “yung bakla pala, yun pala ang makatulong sa kanila (who’d have thought it’s the gay person who would end up helping/supporting them)?”

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There were times – he recalled – when he was verbally abused (by community members) for being gay, taunted as “bakla, bakla (faggot, faggot)!”. “Okay lang po, tanggap ko po. Wala ako magawa eh ang Panginoon nagbigay sa akin na ganito ako (I’m fine with it; I accept it. I can’t do anything about this; God made me like this).”

Jorie’s “boss” now, someone called Ate Tisay, was the one to persuade him to become a street vendor. She told him not to work a regular job; instead, be his own boss by selling on the streets. His only capital: His saliva (for calling out to people). “Kung gusto mo kumita, mabilisan (If you want to earn fast, this is it),” he said. “Kung mangamuhan ka, isang buwan bago ka makakain (If you work a regular job, it’d take you a month before you can earn).”

Not that this line of work is easy, Jorie said. He has to walk all day, basically; chase people’s break times (if he misses the break time of regular clients, then they won’t buy from him anymore for that day, so it’s loss earnings for him); and it can also be dangerous at times (if there are “bad people who choose to do something bad with you”).

Now, “days off” for him include the weekends, though having a special someone (and spending on him) is a “necessity” as it helps him relax.

“Kung iiwanan ako ng jowa ko… okay lang na iwanan niya ako sa ere basta mga magulang ko mga kapatid ko andiyan lang (if he decides to leave me hanging, that’s fine, so long as my parents and my siblings are there for/with me).” For Jorie Garnado: “Lalaki lang yan (He’s just another man).”

Jorie met his BF from Facebook; and just after a day of chatting, they moved in together. They’re still together after five years.

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Nagtatrabaho din siya para makatulong siya sa akin, sa housekeeping (He also works – in housekeeping – to be able to help out),” he said.

Their relationship, Jorie said, is based on being able to help each other. “Kung may problema siya, tulungan ko siya. Kung ako may problema, tulungan niya rin ako. Wala naman ibang tao makatulong sa akin, siya lang (If he has problems, I help him. And if I have issues, he helps me. No one else helps me out but him).”

Despite this, “kung iiwanan ako ng jowa ko… okay lang na iwanan niya ako sa ere basta mga magulang ko mga kapatid ko andiyan lang (if he decides to leave me hanging, that’s fine, so long as my parents and my siblings are there for/with me).” For Jorie: “Lalaki lang yan (He’s just another man).”

Jorie intends to continue doing what he’s doing until he turns 50; and then he wants to go back to the province. There, he said, things are easier (e.g. there’s no rent to pay). He also acknowledged that in the province, “basta todo kayud ka lang, basta may lakas ka pa, mapakinabangan ka pa (so long as you work hard, for as long as you still have strength, then you’re still of use to the world/to people).” For younger LGBTQIA Filipinos, Jorie said they should aim for something higher in life. But that “dapat magtrabaho sila sa kabutihan; huwag sa kasamaan (they should do so doing good things, not doing bad things).”

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Queen Bhee

Bhee Garcia, a trans woman hairdresser in Makati City, believes LGBTQIA people can be empowered by not focusing on negativities thrown their way. Once derided as “bakla (gay)”, she even reclaimed this reference to her identity to show she can turn it into something unique and empowering.

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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.”

Bhee Garcia – a 23-year-old transgender woman from Makati City – grew up being called “bakla (gay)”. But she did not shy away from the (derogatory) term; instead, “pinalandi ko (contextually: I glamorized it/I made it work)”. And so – while she was also called, among others, Barbie, Amanda, Miranda and Nica – it was this name that stayed with her. “Bhee – it was used to mock me before, but I made it beautiful and my own.”

Bhee added that “di naman big deal sa akin (ang pangalan) as long as may respect ang pagtawag sa akin (What name people use to refer to me is not a big deal as long as they address me with respect)”.

Bhee knew she was transgender since high school. “Alam ko na sa sarili ko na babae ako… simula nung makihalubilo ako sa mga babae at alam ko na belong ako sa kanila (I knew I’m trans when I started mingling with girls and I felt I belonged).”

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As the youngest of eight siblings (and the only member of the LGBTQIA community), Bhee’s family didn’t have negative reactions when she came out. “Prinoprotektahan nila ako (They even protect me),” she said. “May mga nakakasalamuha ako na… matatalim ang mata, ayaw nila makita na bakla ang anak mo o kapatid mo, so pinoprotektahan nila ako (You come across people who do not want to be with LGBTQIA people, and my family protects me from them).”

Not that this spared Bhee from bullying. For instance, in high school, when she already started wearing make-up, people used to taunt her. But Bhee said that though this may have also made her shed some tears, she also learned not to give people power over her personhood; “I just try to see the positive in life’s experience.”

She studied cosmetology, and eventually ended up working as a hairdresser in a beauty salon/parlor.

Her job isn’t always easy; one time, a client yelled at her, doubting her skills. But she learned that – aside from being adept at her work – people skills can also make her succeed. And the latter is helped being developed by a good working environment. “Sa salon kasi, masaya pag marami kayo (Working in a salon is fun if there are many of you),” she said.

Earning is “okay lang (just okay)” when working in a salon, Bhee said, though this is always – and obviously – dependent on the customers.

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Actually, “mas mataas ang pangarap ko kesa ini-expect ng iba (my dreams are bigger than people expect my dreams to be),” she said. Lie when she was younger, she wanted to be a “supermodel, a beauty queen”; but “di ko pinush sarili ko (I didn’t push myself to be this). I just pushed myself to have an income, to have money and be able to help my family.”

Bhee had a four-year relationship before. And while it didn’t last, she said that even if there are people who say that relationships with transgender women do not last, it doesn’t mean “you don’t deserve to be loved,” she said.

Bhee wants younger LGBTQIA people to just “go lang nang go (persevere).” “Ako, nararamdaman ko kayo bilang trans sister; nararamdaman nyo sana na ako, lumalaban din sa buhay (I feel you as your transgender sister; I hope you know that I, too, fight to live),” she said.

She wants LGBTQIA people to not focus on the negative hurled our way. “Kailangan natin isaisip na tayo, tinatanggap dapat ng lipunan (We need to realize that society should accept us),” Bhee said. So “hindi (natin) dapat isipin ang mga negatibo na sinasabi ng mga tao (We souldn’t think of the negative things people say about us).” But at the same time, for non-LGBTQIA people to “change your way of looking at us. See us as equals; not as less-than-human that you can step on.”

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Perseverance in pushing for LGBTQIA issues

Glenn Ricaroz always had a welcoming family that allowed him to express his being part of the LGBTQIA community. But because not everyone is as fortunate as him, the current president of Diwata ng Muntinlupa advocates for LGBTQIA issues, and takes pride in drafting the Muntinlupa City ordinance declaring the last Saturday of June as “Muntinlupa City LGBT Pride Day”.

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Photo by Luwela A. Rodrigo

Glenn Ricaroz has no coming out story. “Simula bata pa lang (ako), ramdam ko na (Even when I was young, I already felt my being part of the LGBTQIA community),” he said.

He was fortunate that, to start, “hindi pinag-usapan ang pag-a-out (sa karanasan ko), naramdaman na lang ng parents ko ‘yun. Walang: ‘Mommy, daddy, mag-a-out po ako’ (this was never discussed at home since my parents just felt it. For me, there wasn’t a situation where I had to say, ‘Mom, dad, I’m coming out gay’).”

His grandmothers were also teachers, and “lagi nila akong ifo-front. Gusto nila kasali ako palagi sa school presentations. Gusto nilang sumali ako rito, sumali ako riyan (they wanted me to join all the presentations in school. They made me join this and that).”

That they let him be who he is without discrimination, and that they allowed him to express himself even made Glenn realize “na malandi ka, na maarte ka (that you’re flirtatious, you’re fussy).”

Not surprisingly, Glenn believes that “kung pinanganak kang ganyan, ganyan ka talaga (if you’re born LGBTQIA, you’d be LGBTQIA).”

But since – particularly nowadays – much weight seems to be given on coming out, even if “ngayon na lang ‘yang coming out (coming out is just ‘normalized’ these days)” – Glenn believes that nearly every day involves coming out. That is, one’s identity is expressed in layers to different people; and these – by themselves – are coming out processes. Thus, “coming out and being out are continuous process.”

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Growing up, Glenn was exposed to Diwata ng Muntinlupa – an LGBTQIA organization established in 1977 in Muntinlupa City. Particularly every summer, he recalled watching volleyball games and seeing members of the organization.

Eventually, he became a member (in 2003).

The initiation for new members was to dance in public. Glenn hosted.

His belonging to the LGBTQIA organization pushed him to advocate for LGBTQIA issues.

In 2007, he worked for the local government as the Supervising Tourism Operations Officer for the City Tourism Office. And there, “I made sure na priority and Diwata ng Muntinlupa,” he said. “Binigyan ka ng pwesto para makatulong at para makapag-share (You were given a position to be able to help and share). So I made it sure I did that (particularly to other LGBTQIA people).”

Glenn also takes pride in drafting the local ordinance declaring the last Saturday of the month June of every year to be known as “Muntinlupa City LGBT Pride Day”. In a meeting in 2016, Councilor Lucio Constantino said that at least one of the activities for Muntinlupa Grand Centennial in 2017 should be for the LGBTQIA community; and this ordinance was what Glenn advocated for.

At that time, the “norm” was just to hold a Miss Gay beauty pageant, which Glenn saw as “off”. He just wanted for LGBTQIA people to be “recognized lang sana“. After almost six months, Ordinance no. 17-084 was signed (in May 2017).

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Glenn Ricaroz also takes pride in drafting the local ordinance declaring the last Saturday of the month June of every year to be known as “Muntinlupa City LGBT Pride Day”.
Photo by Luwela A. Rodrigo

Glenn eventually resigned in December 2018 and started working as a full-time freelance events host.

He was elected president of Diwata ng Muntinlupa also in 2018.

And after years of being in the LGBTQIA advocacy, he learned of perseverance in pushing for LGBTQIA issues.

When the pro-LGBTQIA ordinance was signed in Muntinlupa City, for instance, religious groups sent letters of protest to the City Council. “Pino-protesta nila ‘yung pagkakaron at pagde-declare ng LGBTQIA Day sa Muntinlupa (They were protesting the enshrining of an LGBTQIA Day in Muntinlupa City).”

But while the rejections from numerous groups in the society remain tragic, the circumstances can be improved, he said, until being LGBTQIA is no longer simply tolerated but becomes a non-issue.

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Turning a personal fight into an advocacy

Nimes Alvarez believes that becoming an advocate to fight for something you are passionate about (especially one’s rights) does not happen in a snap. Instead, it is something that has to be cultivated. Now the secretary of Diwata ng Muntinlupa, he bats for grassroots education to change minds.

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Photo by Luwela A. Rodrigo

In the 1980s, after attending LGBT Pride events in the US and in Paris in France, Nimes Alvarez was sure he became a “different person”. It is this that triggered him to want to be an LGBT human rights advocate, which came to fruition when he came back to the Philippines and then became a member of Diwata ng Muntinlupa in 1989.

“Becoming an advocate to fight for something you are passionate about (especially one’s rights) do not happen in a snap,” said Nimes.

Instead, it is something that has to be cultivated.

In Nimes’ case in particular, wanting to help his fellow LGBT Filipinos (particularly those in Muntinlupa) was “buried deep within (me) even before (I) decided to openly and loudly fight for (LGBT human rights).”

He added that the desire “just needs awakening” – and this is what he experienced during the LGBT Pride events he attended abroad: the awakening of his will to be an advocate.

Nimes is now the secretary of Diwata ng Muntinlupa.

Now as he helps push for the human rights particularly of Muntinlupa’s LGBT community as a member of Diwata ng Muntinlupa, Nimes believes that there are particular issues that need to be highlighted. For one, there’s the need to “focus on taking care of the elderly gays,” he said, adding that – for this to happen – perhaps reviving “Home for the Golden Gays”. For Nimes, every city should even have this kind of facility because “there are elderly gays who are alone (and) who have no one to take care of them.”

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In a way, Nimes is “luckier” because “sa akin, wala namang problema sa akin kasi I have family (becoming homeless is not a problem for me because I have a family who will look after me/be with me),” he said, but “paano yung ibang less fortunate, you know, na ‘di ba walang pupuntahan? Parang nakakakurot (ng damdamin) ‘di ba (what about the less fortunate LGBT people who have nowhere to go to when they get older? It makes one sad, doesn’t it)?”

To change minds about LGBT Filipinos, Nimes believes that the most effective way to disseminate information and to educate is to go the barangays. For him, by going to every streets of barangays and explain SOGIE concepts, grassroots people can be educated, and (hopefully) start changing their minds re LGBT people. This – for him – is a “preferable kind of information dissemination than (people) just getting information from TV.”

And perhaps it’s by educating that Nimes believes change can happen for LGBT Filipinos.

For him, if the Philippine education system “can tackle issues like HIV, AIDS and gender-based discrimination and bullying, then (we can change the mindset of the people even in their earlier years),” Nimes ended.

For LGBTQIA Filipinos in Muntinlupa City who may want to join Diwata ng Muntinlupa, visit and coordinate with the officers via the organizations Facebook account.

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‘We’ll just keep rising up’

Khandie Segovia, a trans mother figure in Pasay City, has been through a lot in life, with her experiences shaping her somewhat contrarian beliefs. But through it all, she continues to say that people who hate LGBTQIA people may continue the hating, but ‘we’ll just keep rising up to prove we’re fighters’.

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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.”

The first time I met Khandie Segovia was sometime in December 2018; past midnight. A cousin needed to borrow something to wear to a costume party (for Christmas), and Khandie is known particularly among “beauconeras (those frequently joining beauty pageants)” to have some. So – keen to meet one of the supposed “sources” of “beaucon (beauty contest)” outfits – I joined the visit to Pasay City, carrying my cam and the hope to be allowed to also interview her.

Khandie’s place isn’t hard to find; people in her area know her (or of her), and they are more than willing to point the way to her place. They’re used to seeing people looking for her, too; going there emptyhanded, and then leaving with various costumes. This happens in reverse after a few days, when the same people go there with costumes on hand, and then leaving emptyhanded after returning what they borrowed.

Pasok lang (Just go in),” this long-haired guy (who was doing laundry in a dark front yard) told us when we entered the gate. It was dark; you had to slowly find your way inside, fearing you may step on something… or anything.

But Khandie wasn’t at home when we first got to her place. Some “trans nene (young transgender girls)” were there, instead, chatting while helping with the bead works on some gowns. They were in the one room that was well lit in the generally dark place; the one room that was apparently filled with people and their chatters.

Khandie, one of them said, just went outside; “She’s busy these days, you know. What with a nationally televised beauty pageant about to happen.”

And the, rushing, she arrived.

Shocked; perhaps even flabbergasted. That was how Khandie reacted when she saw the cam. “Keri lang (It’s okay),” she said when asked about a possible interview, wiping sweat forming on her forehead. But she immediately added: “Huwag ngayon sana; di ako naka-make up (But it’s okay if we don’t do it tonight as I didn’t fix myself)?”

All the same, Khandie toured me – us – around her “palace”: a two-floor house whose rooms are, basically, occupied by the stuff she made/makes and rents.

Her “office” (that well-lit room where the trans nene were) is at the first room at the left side of the ground floor; this is where her ideas are made and/or executed. The room beside this is where the costumes are kept; though – almost always – these costumes may also be found on the hallway leading to the second room, awaiting those who will rent them.

The right side of the house, accessible via more darkened hallway, has two other sections: the space where relatives sleep, and a room where the gowns are kept (some on them on hangers; others in plastic containers and/or on the floor).

The second floor was off-limits; but some trans nene said there are more clothes there.

Makalat talaga (Everything’s a mess),” Khandie excused, picking a gown here and there, and then hanging (or more like stuffing) them here and there.

All the while I was shooting the B roll. And Khandie was “making chika (making small talks)” – about her endeavor (i.e. costume-making), and how it has allowed her to reach out to her biological and LGBTQIA families.

Natulungang nakakatulong (It helped me help others),” she said.

And in so many ways – her contrarian beliefs notwithstanding – this is sort of how Khandie herself summarizes her role as a transgender nanay-nanayan (‘mother’) particularly for younger gay, bi and trans people in her area in Pasay City. That you help her so she can help you; and those who don’t necessarily agree with her be damned.

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Khandie Segovia takes pride in having done something with her life even if she didn’t finish high school (much more college). In fact, she believes education may be important, but people can still succeed without it; and here, she has herself as her own example.

GROWING UP TRANS

Khandie – whose age remains a secret (she mumbles the number on-cam) – originally came from Hagonoy, where her father lived. It took over a month before the interview (this time with a dolled up Khandie) took place; still around midnight, when she said she “peaks”.

In her father’s place, she said she couldn’t live her true self because “may mga paniniwala silang ewan (they had their own beliefs).” But her mom took her in when she was eight years old, which was how she ended up living in Pasay City.

In Grade 1, Khandie said she remembered having girl crushes, so she can say she didn’t know herself yet then. It was only in high school when she realized her true self as a transgender woman.

No, she did not come out; “na-discover na lang nila, nahuli nila ako (they just discovered this for themselves; they ‘caught’ me in ‘action’).” Khandie joined a beauty pageant in a neighboring barangay (village), and people told her mom (and relatives) about it.

Tanggap naman ako (They accepted me),” Khandie said, “so doon na nagsimula (and that’s how it started for me living openly as a transgender woman).”

Khandie has an elder brother, and he wasn’t accepting of her at first. “Paano ba nila ako natanggap? Nung nagkatrabaho na ako. Nung tumayo na ako sa sarili kong paa at natulungan ko na rin sila (How did everyone eventually accept me? When I started working. When I could already look after myself, and even helped support them).”

Even now, actually, Khandie looks after her mom and an aging grandmother; not to mention other relatives who may depend on her.

Khandie was 20 when she started transitioning; that was when “nagsimula akong kumita ng pera (I started earning money),” she said. She was working then as a make-up artist in a KTV bar, and from her earnings, she was able to help support her family, and save enough “para magpa-retoke (to undergo body modifications)” and have capital for a future business.

She takes pride in having done something with her life even if she didn’t finish high school (much more college). In fact, she believes education may be important, but people can still succeed without it; and here, she has herself as her own example.

MISSING INTERCONNECTIONS

Looking back, Khandie said her being trans may have affected her not finishing education.

On the one hand, she encountered anti-trans policies that made not going to school preferable – e.g. not being allowed to present herself befitting her gender identity (as a trans woman) when attending classes.

But on the other hand, or arguably perhaps because the school was not welcoming for people like her, she preferred hanging out with friends, and “naglandi at nag-party (flirt/fool around and party).”

Khandie, nonetheless, doesn’t see how the two are interconnected, and instead consider them as separate incidences.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when one of the trans nene who looks up to Khandie experienced the same discriminatory policy in her school in Pasay City, Khandie was more… “practical”. “Tiis (Put up with it),” she said, and “just graduate fast and then fly faster.”

‘NORMALIZING’ THE STRUGGLE

Nakaranas ba ako ng pam-bu-bully? Siyempre lahat naman ng trans nakaranas niyan (Have I ever experienced bullying? Of course; all transgender people experience that),” Khandie said.

One of Khandie’s earlier memories of bullying was when she was in Grade 5, when a supposed friend refused to allow her to join a party because Khandie was “bakla (gay).”

Now more aware – and even feisty – Khandie said that some people may say that LGBTQIA people should just ignore bullies, but “para sa akin, hindi. Kailangan mong patunayan sa kanila na hindi ka deserving ng discrimination… Kailangan tayo (kumilos bilang) isang baklang matapang (for me, no. We need to show to them that we don’t deserve discrimination… We need to be feisty LGBTQIA people).”

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Resilience served her well, too, so that “sa paningin ko hindi mahirap maging transgender kasi tayong mga transgender people, powerful. Pag sinabing powerful, in a way, magaling tayong dumiskarte. So hindi mahirap (maging transgender) (the way I see it, it isn’t difficult living as a transgender person because we, transgender people, are powerful. When I say powerful, I mean we’re resourceful. That makes being transgender easier).”

CONTRADICTIONS AT THE GRASSROOTS

In so many ways, Khandie is a walking contradiction – e.g. she believes in equal rights and yet is also calling for “separate but equal”/limited rights.

And here, Khandie may also be an exemplification of the “failures” of so-called LGBTQIA “leaders” and this “movement” – i.e. how existing “advanced” discourses on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) and even LGBTQIA human rights do not necessarily reach the grassroots, or even the leaders of small(er) LGBTQIA communities. A reflection – for me – of the continuing selective progress/development, and of how many in the LGBTQIA community continue to be left behind.

Kailangan natin magkaroon ng anti-discrimination bill… sa buong Pilipinas dahil hindi po natin dapat i-discriminate ang LGBTQIA dahil pantay-pantay po tayong dapat mabuhay sa mundong ibabaw (We should have an anti-discrimination policy for the whole country because LGBTQIA people should not be discriminated against because we are all equal while living in this world),” she said.

But Khandie holds strong beliefs contrary to those held (and advocated) by those pushing for LGBTQIA human rights.

For instance, she doesn’t believe trans women should be allowed to join pageants that were traditionally for those assigned female at birth (e.g. Miss Universe). “Bata pa lang ako Miss Universe (at) Miss World na yan eh. Ibig sabihin ng ‘miss’, babae. Ano ba ang babae? Nag-menstruate, a ‘real’ woman can bear a child, and a woman lactates (Even when I was young, those pageants were already for women. And what defines a woman? A woman menstruates, a woman can bear a child, a woman lactates).” And so she believes that trans women should just stick to their own pageants.

Khandie is somewhat aware that: others may not think the way she does (e.g. she mentioned Boy Abunda), and that she could get attacked/bashed for her way of thinking (“Bashers!” she’d say with a smirk). But she continues to firmly believe in gender binary, even if it disadvantages LGBTQIA people like her.

Khandie, by the way, has a live-in partner; they’ve been together for almost 20 years now. But she also doesn’t believe in marriage equality. “Tanggapin lang ng tao ang relasyon (natin) ay isang malaking bagay na. Pero pilitin pa natin sila na tanggapin ang pagpapakasal ay isang malaking bagay na hindi dapat binibigla (For people to tolerate our relationships is aready a big deal, so forcing them to accept same-sex marriage is a huge thing that shouldn’t be rushed).”

Her faith also affected her way of thinking so, as she believes “paglabag ito sa utos ng Diyos” – a reflection of religion’s eventual (harmful) effect on LGBTQIA people’s self-perceptions.

And yet again, Khandie said that her way of thinking may not be popular, but “that’s that” and her attackers/bashers be damned.

Khandie also doesn’t see the “practicality” of the “toilet war (wherein trans people are not allowed to use toilets befitting their gender identity).” Because for her, yes, changing the policies may be a long-term necessity, but if a transgender woman (for instance) isn’t allowed to use the female toilet, “just use the cubicle in a male toilet”. Doing so only takes minutes, she said, and this is better than not being able to use a toilet at all particularly when really needed.

Khandie admits being open to hearing opposing views; and “we start with that: talking.”

Khandie Segovia said that some people may say that LGBTQIA people should just ignore bullies, but “para sa akin, hindi. Kailangan mong patunayan sa kanila na hindi ka deserving ng discrimination.

CARING BY WELCOMING

Terms (such as “trans” and “bakla”) used interchangeably, Khandie noted how some transgender people now prefer to have abs (not breasts), just as how some bi men are really “bakla (gays).”

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But she also said “choice nila ‘yun; lahat naman welcome eh, go lang nang go, laban lang nang laban (that’s their choise; and everyone’s welcome, just go for it, live fighting for it).”

Khandie sees internal homophobia/transphobia (the hate/discrimination given by other LGBTQIA people to other LGBTQIA people) as due to “insecurity.” She believes that “sana tayong LGBTQIA magtulungan na lang tayo, huwag na tayo manira ng kapuwa natin. Kasi sino rin ba yung magtutulong-tulong (kundi) tayo rin naman kapuwa LGBTQIA (LGBTQIA people should instead help each other, stop pulling each other down. Because who else will help LGBTQIA people but other LGBTQIA people)?”

Giving flesh to this belief, Khandie started being “nanay-nanayan ng mga Nenita or batang bakla when I was 30 (I became a ‘mother’ of some sort to younger LGBTQIA people when I was 30).”

At first, they only joined Khandie and assisted her when she joined pageants. Eventually, though, and when Khandie already stopped joining pageants, she started supporting the younger ones in joining pageants.

And “mas marami akong hinahawakang pa-mhinta kasi mas madaling bihisan, hindi kailangan ng (I manage candidates of male beauty pageants; they’re easier to dress and they don’t need to spend a lot on) hair and make-up,” she said, adding – as a joke – that “mas matatalino (they’re more intelligent).”

Khandie makes a living renting clothes and/or costumes, many of them she herself designed and/or made. She also (sort of) finances LGBTQIA people who help her in this endeavor (e.g. doing beadworks, sewing, et cetera).

Hindi ito negosyo (This isn’t a business), she insisted. “Kasama ito sa libangan ko (This is just a hobby).”

In total, Khandie has over 100 gowns and over 85 costumes. She sources the outfits from “all over,” she said – some she made herself from scratch, others were given to her, others she bought from Divisoria, from Taytay (in Rizal Province), from ukayukay (secondhand shops), and from bazaars (particularly those where celebrity clothes are sold).

She said she spent a lot for her collection, but as a way to somewhat earn, she said investing is necessary. Spending big means possibly earning big, though it could also mean losing big, she said.

Going into this industry is also “hindi mahirap (not difficult),” Khandie said, because “sa dami ng naging trabaho ko, ito ang pinakagusto ko, pinakaminahal ko. Dito ako nag-enjoy at dito ako sumaya (among the many jobs I’ve held, this is what I like the most. I enjoy this and find happiness in doing this).”

She doesn’t give a specific price when she rents these outfits because “minsan, talo eh, kaya tulong na lang (at times they don’t win in the pageants, so giving them clothes to wear is my way of helping them).”

For Khandie, pageants will continue to be a big thing, arguably particularly among members of the LGBTQIA community. This may have to do with getting validation onstage, which is a source of happiness. And – as Khandie said – when it’s happiness that is at stake, people go to extra lengths to achieve this… including spending a lot on costumes/gowns even if there’s no guarantee that the expenses will be returned.

Looking forward, Khandie said she just wants to “maintain lahat – pera, lovelife, and health”, and that “hindi naman ako ambisyosa (I’m not ambitious).”

CONSERVATIVE EMPOWERMENT?

In so many ways, Khandie may be deemed “conservative”.

For trans nene, for instance, she said that “puwede namang maging bakla pero konting kontrol lang, huwag naman masyadong bakla kasi hindi tayo tatanggapin ng bigla-bigla (you can be LGBTQIA but be a decent LGBTQIA person because people won’t immediately warmly receive you),” she said. “Huwag yung baklang balasubas; bata ka pa lang nag-i-spaghetti ka na. Siguro yung baklang normal. Baklang tao para ituring tayong tao (Don’t be a swindling LGBTQIA person; present yourself properly like any ‘normal’ person. Act like any human would so you are treated as a human being).

But at this point in her life, too, Khandie said she already realized the value of self-empowerment.

To people who continue to discriminate, Khandie said “bahala kayo patuloy kayong humusga (judge all you want).” This is because “marami na kaming napatunayan – hindi lang sa larangan ng siyensiya, sa pagkanta, sa pagiging artista, even sa politics, meron kaming napapatunayan. Bahala kayong manghusga; pero patuloy kaming tatayo at ipagpapatuloy na ipaglalaban ang karapatan namin (we have proven our worth, not just in science, in the entertainment industry, or even in politics. Judge all you want, but we’ll continue rising up and continue fighting for our human rights).”

The interview ended, but Khandie continued chatting, even giving an invite for a future catching up (sans cam). “There’s more in life – to experience, to know, to learn, et cetera,” she said. And then with a laugh, “parang beaucon lang na sagot no (and that’s just like a contestant’s answer in a beauty pageant, right)?”

We left; it was still dark, just after 2.00AM. The promise of dawn is there, yes, but still dark all the same. Much like the state of grassroots LGBTQIA struggle… and of my mind…

Khandie Segovia believes that “sana tayong LGBTQIA magtulungan na lang tayo, huwag na tayo manira ng kapuwa natin. Kasi sino rin ba yung magtutulong-tulong (kundi) tayo rin naman kapuwa LGBTQIA?

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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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