It was on the 18th of March 2011, also Bangsamoro Freedom Day, when Tumba Lata was founded in Jolo, Sulu. Merilyn “Mherz” Jamad, Tumba Lata’s founding president said, “Mga tambay lang kasi kami dati, mga out-of-school. Magkakabarkada kami pero hindi siya organization. Kinausap kami ni Kah Sherfa na kung kaya na ba naming bumuo ng organisasyon ng mga lesbiyana. Kesa tumambay lang kami, mas mabuti na may karanasan na rin kami na mag-organize (We were just bystanders/idle before, out-of-school youth. We were a group of friends, but we were not organized. We were consulted by Ka Sheilfa Alojamiento if can form a lesbian organization. Instead of doing nothing, it was better for us to experience to organize).” About 17 – 20 lesbians initially joined as members.
Their lesbian organization was named Tumba Lata (literally, to “knock down the can”) after the traditional Filipino street game of arrests and escapes where each player’s life chances depends on the toppling of a tin can watched by a tag who plays guard. “Mula rin sa bansag na tomboy. Dapat itumba ang lata, para makaalis ang mga kalaban. Kumbaga sa pelikula, dapat itumba ‘yung pinaka-mastermind para makalaya (Also from the usual tag used to refer to lesbians. The can should be knocked down to eliminate the enemy. If it was a movie, the mastermind should be defeated in order to be free),” Mherz said.
Since the founding of Tumba Lata, the group faced many challenges. “Nahihirapan kaming ilabas ‘yung members at organisasyon namin sa Jolo dahil sa pagdakip ng mga kilalang aktibista, kagaya ni Cocoy Tulawie. Ano na lang kaya kami na pipichugin (We are having a hard time to expose our members and organization in Jolo because of the detention of known activists like Cocoy Tulawie. How much for us who are less known)?” Mherz admitted.
Organizing meetings proved to be a difficulty as well. “Nahihirapan magpatawag ng meeting dahil wala naman kaming permanenteng opisina sa Jolo. Minsan sa bahay o tambayan namin sa Kapitolyo. Hindi kami nagpapahalat na nagmimiting. Kunwari nag-vi-videoke lang kami (We even have difficulty in calling for meetings because we don’t have a permanent office in Jolo. Sometimes we do it at my house or at our hangout place at the municipal plaza. We keep our meetings discreet, we pretend to be just singing videoke),” Mherz said.
In September 2011, Tumba Lata engaged in an anti-rape campaign to respond to the series of gang rapes from 2008 to 2009, and another case that month. “Pinag-usapan namin kung papaano i-solve. Haka-haka na mga lesbian daw ang may pakana. Napagkamalan ‘yung mga kaibigan naming lesbiyana na tumutulong sa mga nag-re-rape dahil may biktima na nabuhay na nagsabi na may tomboy na kasama. Sinuplong namin ‘yung mga na-involve sa gang rape (We discussed how to solve it. Lesbians were blamed for it. Our lesbian friends were alleged to be involved in rape because a victim who survived mentioned that there was a tomboy involved. We were able to report those who were involved),” Mherz reported. Three accessories to the crime are now jailed but the main perpetrator remains in hiding. Tumba Lata reports of threats from the politically influential family of the rapist against those who will speak up. Tumba Lata considers their anti-rape campaign a success in the promotion of women’s and lesbian rights.
They continue their crusade again sexual violence. As Mherz adds: “May bagong kaso naman ng rape naman ngayon at sila rin ang may pakana. Mga racing group ‘yan sila sa Jolo. ‘Yung mga ni-re-rape ay pinapatay. ‘Yung isa na naabutan namin sa ospital. Walong lalaki ang gumahasa sa kanya. Pinagtripan pa, nilagyan ang ari niya ng bote. ‘Pag naalala daw niya ay gusto na niyang magbigti. Ayaw niyang makakita ng lalaki at ayaw niyang mahawakan (There is a new rape case now and they are still the ones who are behind it. They are a racing group in Jolo. They kill the ones they rape. There was a victim we saw at the hospital. Eight men raped her. She was violated, they inserted a bottle in her vagina. Everytime she remembers this, she thinks of killing herself. She doesn’t want to see any male and doesn’t want to be touched).”
Aside from helping rape victims, Tumba Lata deals with the socio-economic problems that their members continually face. One is the discontinuing of schooling. “Majority ng out-of-school youth sa Jolo ay lesbian. Dahil sa hindi pagtanggap ng mga magulang, hindi na nila pinapag-aral. Walang trabaho ang mga magulang namin para ipa-aral sa amin. May mga ayaw na mag-aral, gusto nalang magtambay (Majority of the out-of-school youth in Jolo are lesbians. Due to the non-acceptance of parents, they are not supported to go to school. Other parents don’t have jobs to support their children’s education. Others just don’t want to continue schooling,” Mherz said.
One dimension in the dropping out of school among lesbians is cultural. “Sa high schools, kailangan mag-hijab o magturong. Eh ayaw nila. Kesa magsuot nito, tumitigil sila. May kaibigan kami na hanggang third year high school lang dahil sawa na sila sa pasuot ng purong. Noong elementary, nag-u-uniform ako ng babae. Pero hindi ko talaga masikmura. Ayun, tumigil ako sa pag-aaral. Sinunog ko ‘yung uniporme noong Grade 6 ako (In high schools, the practice of hijab or the wearing of veils is required. They don’t want to wear it so they stop. We have a friend who dropped out when she was in third year high school because she was fed up with wearing veils. In my elementary years, I wore the girls’ uniform, but I couldn’t stomach it. I dropped out. I burned my uniform when I was in sixth grade),” Mherz said.
Mherz added that lesbians who come from middle class families are able to finish schooling because they are educated in private schools where the practice of hijab is not mandated.
Tumba Lata’s membership process involves the filling up of forms that include the securing of parents’ consent. “Mahirap na hindi malaman ng pamilya. Gusto namin alam ng mga magulang ang sinasalihan na organisasyon (It’s difficult if the family is uninformed. We want parents to be aware of the organization their daughter is joining),” Mherz said.
The major reason for this process is the tension between Moro tribes in Sulu. “May problema lang kami sa mga miyembro na Samal o Badjao. Minsan pinagbabawalan ng pamilya. Kasi takot ang mga Samal sa mga Tausug. Ang mga Samal halos walng tiwala sa mga Tausug. ‘Yung iba, pinapaalis sa Tumba Lata. Mas Tausug kasi ang pinakamarami (We have a problem with members who are from the Samal or Badjao tribe. Sometimes their families would prohibit or ask them to leave Tumba Lata. Samals or Badjaos are afraid and mistrust the Tausugs – the majority of the organization’s membership),” Mherz said.
Mherz is proud of Tumba Lata’s achievements since its founding. She shares Jolo people’s usual question to them when they distribute advocacy materials: “Hindi ba kayo natatakot na nag-di-distribute kayo ng mga ganito? Taga-rito pa naman kayo” (Are you not afraid of distributing these? You are residents here).” And they would courageously reply: “Hindi. Dahil ‘yan ang totoo eh (No. Because that is the truth).”
For additional information or for those who want to donate to Tumba Lata, email email@example.com or visit the group’s blogsite.
Here comes… Gothic drag
Patruni Chidananda Sastry started doing drag at the age of 12, “though I didn’t know it was drag,” they said. Now, Patruni says that drag is equivalent to sports, drama, dance, music and more. “It’s a package of all in one. So if you don’t like our art, I believe you should have a better reason; and to get one, you should dress up one day.”
This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, 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 LGBTQIA 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.”
Patruni Chidananda Sastry started doing drag at the age of 12, “though I didn’t know it was drag,” they said. At that time, “I was learning and pursuing Indian classical dance, ‘Kuchipudi’, where the young boys dress up as girls and perform on mythological contexts. It was through this that… I dressed as a girl to present a dance piece.”
It took Patruni more time to “conventionally call it drag”, when – starting 2019 – they started to “imbibe the idea of drag in Hyderabad.”
Patruni also recalled that at that time, Hyderabad didn’t have any drag culture.
“Conventional drag has been (reported on) pretty late in India, around 2018-2019,” they said.
This was also the time when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (the archaic British “anti-buggery law” that prohibited sexual contact between two men even if they consent) was decriminalized.
“Before that, drag was there as a part of multiple art forms, but not many people used the word ‘drag’. It was not a separate entity of art,” Patruni said.
As such, Hyderabad had never seen someone perform drag and “in an interim discussion with a couple of friends, the idea of hosting a drag show crossed my mind. I was looking for drag queens who can perform for the show and was desperate to get someone… to dress up. Irritated by my constant push, a friend got back to me saying, ‘If you can’t do it yourself, don’t ask others to do it!’.”
That was when Patruni decided to do drag.
“After performing on the first show in June 9, 2019, I found the intersectionality of dance, performance art and theater in drag; and I felt it relevant to pursue it from thereon,” they said.
And so with the passing of time, “my drag has been my way to showcase a visible medium of gender nonconformity and the politics of fashion within the country.”
Here’s an interesting thing, though: Patruni actually once referred to what they do as “Gothic drag”.
“My style of drag is inspired by the Tranimal Drag style by Austin Young and Speaky Blonde,” they said, adding that “I was also inspired by Daniel Lismore, who’s style gave me a new way to reflect drag.”
In Tranimal drag, the idea of beauty, glamour and fashion is questioned to the core; the notions of what is aesthetic and what’s not are tossed; and the gender is wiped out of the body to ensure the body is genderless.
“The art of Tranimal becomes available as we use available objects from trash bags to big liners, broken jewelry to face paints… and put it on the body in a non-choreographic way to create an image,” Patruni said.
And so “Gothic drag was one of my explorations where I could bring my Tranimal soul to dwell with the nature of Black and Red, drag and mixed gendered representation of the spooky soul. This style of drag dismissed the idea of beauty, privilege and glamour of the conventional drag, and points out that drag is away from the idea of perfectness. (It is) anti-beauty and privilege less.”
FAMILY… FOR ART
It was actually Patruni’s mom who “helped me dress up as a woman at my first drag show when I was 12 years of age,” they smiled. “And even when I started doing drag as an adult, they were interested in knowing the purpose of art than my choice of choosing the art. They have been extremely supportive and have never stopped me from my gender expressions. At times they are curious to know the why, what and how about the art form and encourage me to push my boundaries time and again.”
FROM INDIA… TO THE WORLD
Patruni – who identifies as a gender fluid pansexual person – recognizes that much of the world that’s exposed to Western culture will be familiar with drag via the likes of RuPaul and Hollywood iterations.
But they said that “drag as any other art form is supposed to be diverse.”
This may be particularly true when “looking through the compass of Indian drag history, where drag has always been diverse and evolving.”
“Sometimes I feel that drag was something which was picked up from India, where men were dress up as women and women dress up as men in more than 50 art forms for centuries,” they said.
The first citation of Roopanurupam (which is drag in Sanskrit) was in Natya Shastra around 200 BC; and because of the colonization, the art transcended to Victorian Era, which then followed to other parts of the world.
“Hence for me, the Indian context has a lot more space worth researching,” they said.
Patruni added: “In Indian drag, there is glamour as well as performance. But when I see the representation in Western drag as shown in RuPaul, I find glamorization as something which is ‘given’, as ‘important’. There is no harm to be beautiful, and there is no right and wrong since art is personal, but drag is way more than that. And when only one aspect of it is highlighted across the world and other versions are not equally given opportunity, that brings up the idea that ‘This is the only right way to do’, which is wrong.”
For Patruni, “I believe all the drag is valid and matter, and we all have to be represented and respected (to) share a holistic vision of drag.”
IS DRAG ANTI-WOMEN?
Drag has also been criticized for being anti-women. For instance, the very definition of drag often excludes women dressing up as men; and drag may be (mis)construed as “playing woman”.
But Patruni said that “drag is both gendered and genderless.”
In India, for instance, there is a very rich culture of having drag in all gender forms – e.g. in Manipuri dance, a woman performs a man’s roles; while in Jatra drag, a man performs in roles of women. There are also forms like Buta Kola and Theeyam where the performing body is neither man nor a woman.
However, perhaps because of the limitations of drag as often portrayed in the West, the “anti-women perspective” is bound to surface.
“Though women perform as bio-queen or drag kings, their entry into the mainstream culture is not so visible,” Patruni said. “It’s equally important to have multiple bodies come and explore the art, and restricting it for only one body/gender type is equivalent to killing the art. Drag can be performed by anyone irrespective of their gender sexuality, caste, race or privileges; and it’s high time we include all performing bodies into the mainstream drag.”
RAISING A CAUSE
Drag artists/performers have also been criticized for “hijacking” many of women’s issues – for example, male drag artists/performers become the “spokespeople” of women’s issues.
In Patruni’s case, for instance, one of their endeavors was to deal with witch-hunting as an issue still affecting many Indian women. It is easy to argue that women, not drag artists/performers, should be speaking about their own issues.
Patruni said that “as an artist, it is important to question oneself about how we are doing it, why we are doing it, and for whom we are doing it. And one should also keep in mind the spaces artists are standing at while raising a cause. It is important to understand what these spaces are where we can articulate a certain thing, and what are some spaces which we should.”
Patruni recognizes that “when it comes to women’s issues, we need to understand that the (most) drag performers are not biological or transgender women, and hence cannot claim the spaces of women. Their issues are real (and it should) come from them, and not be snatched (by those doing) drag.”
However, adding to the conversation can be done by drag queens.
“As drag is a visual medium, they can add more value to a cause. As a society, all the genders need to have awareness and co-work to make the changes,” Patruni said, stressing – all the same – that “we need to step aside to give space to women to talk about women’s issues.”
And while women voice their issues, “let the men clean up their patriarchal mess. And that’s where drag can help.”
UNDER THE LENS
To highlight Gothic drag, Patruni worked with ace photographer Manab Das for a “photo performance”.
In India, “Goth” hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – e.g. in connection with a Bollywood actor passing away while staying in a Gothic hotel (“Palazzo Magnani Feroni”) Italy.
“The Goth culture has always been tabooed… in Indian context,” Patruni said.
Patruni likened this Goth shaming with witch shaming, particularly as used in India to refer to self-aware women.
With the merging, therefore, came this output that highlighted everything Patruni is about – e.g. the interdependencies of the illusioned gender and the spooky esthetics of Goth.
ACCEPTANCE THROUGH DRAG
That drag continues to be misunderstood goes without saying. And so if there’s a lesson about drag that Patruni thinks people should know of, it’s “the lesson of acceptance… as it builds, survived and made the art of drag visible. And all individuals – may that be performers, audience, curators, event organizers, TV promoters, et – need to practice that art of acceptance to make it more popular, diverse and heartful.”
For those who continue to look down on drag, “maybe you should consider taking drag therapy,” they said. “Dress up someday and you will fall in love with your self.”
For Patruni, drag is equivalent to sports, drama, dance, music and more. “It’s a package of all in one, and drag performers are happiest people in the world. So if you don’t like our art, I believe you should have a better reason; and to get one, you should dress up one day.”
And so for those who want to do drag, Patruni said for them to just do it.
“Drag is very easy. All you need to do is to do it. The rest comes as you go along. Anyone can be a drag performer and no one can keep you away from being one,” Patruni ended.
City of Manila passes LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinance
The City of Manila finally has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) to protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos. Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso signed City Ordinance 8695, sponsored by councilor Joel Villanueva, which prohibits “any and all forms of discrimination on the basis of SOGIE”.
The rainbow rises in the City of Manila… finally.
The City of Manila finally has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) to protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos. Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso signed City Ordinance 8695, sponsored by councilor Joel Villanueva, which prohibits “any and all forms of discrimination on the basis of SOGIE”.
“No harm will come to you while I’m mayor of Manila. Lahat kayo pantay pantay sa mata ng pamahalaang lokal,” Domagoso said before signing ADO.
Called Manila LGBTQI Protection Ordinance of 2020, the ADO prohibits:
- Denying or limiting access to employees the promotion, transfer, training and schooling if these are otherwise granted to others;
- Refusing employment based on actual or perceived SOGIE;
- Denying access to medical/health programs and services based on actual or perceived SOGIE;
- Denying admission, getting expelled or dismissed, or preventing a student from graduating or getting clearance based on actual or perceived SOGIE;
- Revoking accreditation or LGBTQI organizations in schools and workplaces;
- Subjecting any person to verbal or written insult including on any social media platforms;
- Refusing services based on SOGIE (e.g. accommodations, renting dwelling, malls, etc); and
- Organizing groups and activities that promote/incite discrimination of LGBTQI people.
The ADO also mandates the creation of the Gender Sensitivity and Development Council, which will be tasked to synchronize the city’s programs for the LGBTQI community. This council is also tasked to facilitate and assist victims of stigma and discrimination so that they get legal representation and psychological assistance.
With the ADO, every barangay is mandated to establish LGBTQI assistance desks to receive complaints related to the ADO.
By 2023, it is expected that gender-neutral toilets will be established in all venues in the City of Manila. This will be made a condition precedent to the renewal of business permits of establishments.
Violation of the ADO will be penalized with a fine of PhP1,000 and/or imprisonment of six months for the first offense; increasing to a PhP3,000 fine and/or imprisonment up to a year for the third offense.
The ADO will be funded by 5% of the appropriation to finance the city’s Gender and Development programs.
According to Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas, which helped push for the passage of this ADO: “Based on experience, we know that a law won’t end LGBTQI discrimination and violence but can enable access to justice for people who seek redress. The fight isn’t over.”
And since the ADO has no IRR yet, it also “needs to be monitored for proper implementation.”
Since this also comes on the heels of Zamboanga City passing its own ADO on October 14, Fontanos said that credit should be given to the work of LGBTQI advocates and allies in and outside LGUs tirelessly pushing for structural change.
All the same, “the struggle to pass a national anti-discrimination law also continues and our work to hold those in power to account remains,” Fontanos ended.
*This article was amended on October 30, 11.21AM to include the statements of Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas
Enter the alter world
Welcome to the alter world, where people tweet and retweet their or other people’s sexual engagements. Though often maligned, it actually also highlights formation of friendships, info sharing, emotional support, and even provision of a ‘safe space’ for those who wish to express their sexuality.
Some time back, Kurt (a.k.a. @MoanerBottom) opened a Twitter account as a form of revenge. “I found out that my ex had an ‘alter’ account and he was fooling around with different people,” he recalled. And so “I wanted to prove to him that I can also do the same thing.”
Little did Kurt know at that time that he would become a mainstay in the alter world/community. A few months since opening his own alter account, he garnered over 130,000 followers, all of them craving – and even waiting – for what he would post, usually dominated by sexual encounters (“kalat videos,” he calls them) with mostly students, including a basketball varsitarian “who likes to penetrate deeply”, a Blue Eagle who allowed for his orgasm to be videoed, a Tamaraw who also allowed himself to be videoed as he orgasmed, and bending for a Red Lion.
“I must admit that I am a shy person in real life,” Kurt said. But “here in Twitter, it is like I have less shame and more courage to do kalat (contextually: shameless) posts and videos.”
Kurt is, obviously, only one of the people – not just Filipinos – with alter accounts, which many like him, say is similar to a “pseudonym — like Batman to Bruce Wayne, or Superman to Clark Kent; where people can have a separate account from their primary accounts, usually used to express themselves more ‘wildly’ yet more ‘discreetly’/anonymously.”
And so welcome to the alter world, where people tweet and retweet their or other people’s sexual “collaborations”, hookups, fetishes, fantasies and social engagements, with the audiences often never really knowing the content generators/producers/distributors.
That the alter world is often dominated by sexual content is a given.
Onin (a.k.a. @Onin_NuezPH), for example, sees his alter account “as an avenue for me to express myself and my sexuality. I am able to let everyone know within the community about my sexual desires without the fear of being judged.”
Looking back, it was actually “a friend who is an alter too introduced me in this alter community,” Onin said.
One of the early instances Onin trended was when some of his nude photos circulated on Twitter. Many got curious, asking the person who previously reacted or shared the photos if there were more.
It whetted Onin’s interest; and so he started posting more photos and short videos. His followers quickly increased, reaching more than 145,000.
Taking pride that he is one of the more talked about alters out there, Onin has produced content that may seem trivial… but these have been keeping the alter community and lurkers interested, from balancing a shampoo bottle on top of his erect penis, sharing a photo of his endowment while asking his followers if they want to kneel in front him, a comparison of the length of a deodorant spray with his penis, wearing a see-through underwear, and teasing his latest sexual collaboration.
Standing out in a platform where hundreds (even thousands) of alters saturate news feeds is a challenge. After all, it is not an easy feat to attract someone’s attention — what more to make them like, share, or follow an account.
For FUCKER Daddy (a.k.a. @ako_daddy), therefore, it all comes down to the type of content being posted, not just being well-endowed, willing to perform bareback sex, or how often the face is shown.
A licensed professional who has a son, FUCKER Daddy started as a “lurker’ (i.e. one who lurks, or just consumes content/views profiles) on Twitter. At that time, he wrote “my real-life sex stories, hoping it will pick up from there,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, alter peeps seem to be more into live action.”
And so FUCKER Daddy met someone from Telegram, without realizing that the person was “sort of (a) big (personality) on Twitter.” This guy discretely took a short clip of their sexual encounter, and then posted it on his alter account. “It was hit. (And) the rest is history.”
By August 2019, FUCKER Daddy said his inbox started receiving direct messages from different users – e.g. asking for more, congratulating him, wanting to collaborate, and so on.
He actually now has several sex videos in his cam. But he still doesn’t make recording the primary thing when engaging in sex “as my goal is to have hookups; videos are only secondary.”
Besides, he said that “I do not want to spoil the moment for sex and think only of it as merely for Twitter.”
But every time FUCKER Daddy posts a video, he said his over 95,000 followers respond to them “with enthusiasm, getting more curious and intrigued.”
Making a living
The concept of alter, however, isn’t set in stone.
For one, there are actually alter accounts whose owners prefer to use their real names and show their faces (like Onin), mixing their personal and private lives along the way. Following the Batman/Bruce Wayne and Superman/Clark Kent analogy, there are also people who follow the Tony Stark/Iron Man mantra, i.e. openly announcing that they are one and the same.
Secondly, monetizing is actually possible.
Also, one may be part of the alter community without knowing it – i.e. one engages in alter activities without recognizing it as such.
“I do not even know that I am involved in the world of alter,” John said, adding that he did not even know what the term meant until it was presented to him. Instead, his account is used to “promote my RentMen and OnlyFans accounts”, just as he also promotes his availability for “personal appointment to people.”
John actually used to work as a brand ambassador, but because of this change in his work, he “can no longer work (in) that (field) because I am doing porn.”
He admitted that “this type of thing is double-edged.” On the one hand, “you can earn a great amount of money,” he said, “but there will be sacrifices.”
He noted, for instance, that the perception of people about me changed; most people judge you right away because of what you do, and not because of who you are as a person.”
But he ignores the naysayers; “I do not mind because this job gives more than what I expected!”
Like John, Onin also promotes his JustFor.Fans (JFF) account on Twitter to respond to the requests of his followers.
“They (my followers) want to see me in action and they are willing to subscribe too,” Onin said, with his exclusive content including: he and his partner having sex, and collaborations with other alters. “You will not earn that much, but pretty enough to compensate for the contents that we are posting.”
Not all alters think alike, obviously. FUCKER Daddy, for instance, won’t monetize his content, saying: “I value sex as it was created. I never sell any (videos) because I think it is something that is worth free. I simply treated it as making memories while those (who) watch put up the numbers.”
Behind the handles
The world of alter has actually already caught the attention of researchers.
For instance, in a study by Samuel Piamonte of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Mark Quintos of De La Salle University Manila, and Minami Iwayama of Polytechnic University of the Philippines, it was found that the alter community may seem overtly sexual, but there is more to it than that.
“The sexual aspect of alter is the core of alter, but it has been enriched by more complex social benefits to users such as including formation of new friendships, sharing of information and advocacies, reciprocations of emotional support, and provision of a ‘safe space’ for those who wish to express their sexuality but find that doing so outside of the alter community could be met with stigma from their peers and family.”
Kurt sees his alter account as an avenue for him to tap his inner self and show the Twitter universe his kalat. Onin uses his alter account to broadcast his sexual side (together with his partner). And FUCKER Daddy uses his alter account as “a constant source of info, hookups, convo… and to learn social demographics as well.”
The evolution, indeed, continues.
Hate from within the community
Yes, yes, yes… with increasing numbers of followers, multiple likes and shares, and the creation of alter “celebrities”, this has not been spared from criticisms.
And sadly, said Kurt, at least in the Philippine setting, the prejudice against alters comes from within the community. “Kapuwa LGBT ang nagsisiraan at nagpapataasan sa isa’t-isa,” he said. “I know… that I cannot please everyone (but) for me it is okay, as long as I know that I am not doing anything wrong.”
Perhaps a “surprise” is the audience’s inability to “appreciate” the free content given them, with Kurt noting that there are times when “they are also pissed off with the things I post.”
This seems to contradict the findings of Piamonte, Quintos and Iwayama, since – here – the alter community can become a fearful place, too.
John, like Kurt, noted how people resort to demeaning others when they do not fit preconceived notions. But he just laughs this off, saying: “Do not hate me because I look good and make money (from) it. Life is too short to be a bitter person. If you do not like what we do, then shut the fuck up.”
The Pandora’s box, so to speak has been opened; and lessons learned along the way can just “make you stronger and bring out the best in you,” said Onin, who like many alters, “just focus on my goals.” And it is exactly because of the existence of this interchange – the content creation, and the love-hate reaction to what’s created – that alter is not going to disappear anytime soon (or at all).
Details and photos of sexual encounters were lifted from the Twitter accounts of the interviewees.
Anti-discrimination ordinance passes final reading in Zamboanga City; awaits mayor’s signature
Zamboanga joins the growing number of local government units that now has an anti-discrimination ordinance.
The rainbow rises in Zamboanga City.
The 1st class highly urbanized city in the Zamboanga Peninsula of the Philippines, Zamboanga, joins the growing number of local government units (LGUs) that now has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO).
As helmed by Hon. Lilibeth Macrohon Nuño, the ADO passed the third and final reading at the Sangguniang Panglunsod of the City of Zamboanga on October 6.
The ADO is actually not only specific to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Instead, it is a more comprehensive ADO that also prohibits discrimination based on race, color, civil and social status, language, religion, national or social origin, culture and ethnicity, property, birth or age, disability and health status, creed and ideological beliefs, and physical appearance.
The ADO now goes to the desk of Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar for signing.
As the sixth most populous and third largest city by land area in the Philippines, Zamboanga has a population of 861,799 people (as of 2015). The ADO was pushed by local LGBTQIA organization, Mujer-LGBT Organization Inc.
Covid-19 and the freelancer’s dilemma
The Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. But Covid-19 responses actually do not include them, so what happens to them now?
Kate is a visual artist. She resigned from her day job to pursue her passion two years ago. Painting and creating origami, her income mainly came from the sales of her artworks; supplemented by home-based art classes to elementary and high school students.
Nicole is a freelance makeup artist. Her clients varied from celebrities to socialites to brides and debutantes… and everything in between. Nicole used to earn a minimum of P3,000 per client, with the amount increasing depending on the type of service being offered.
Lumina is a drag artist, a common face in dance clubs and in events. Aside from her “talent fee”, she also used to get “tips” from customers.
But when the Covid-19 related Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) took effect in Luzon starting last March 17, their capacity to earn a living was also put on hold. And people like them – a.k.a. “freelancers” – are many.
In May 2019, PayPal (the payment system company) reported that the Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. In fact, this is a segment that is fast becoming an influential part of the Filipino workforce and a key engine driving the growth of the country’s economy.
The terms used to refer to them may vary – e.g. In October 2019, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that of the 73,528,000 population in the Philippines, ages 15 years and over, 95.5% are employed. And 25% of them are “self-employed workers”. Freelancers also fall under PSA’s categorization.
And ECQ has been devastating to these Filipinos.
“The current lockdown left us, freelance workers, in a complete halt — events and shows were cancelled. It technically made us jobless since we do not have the option of working from home,” Lumina said.
Like Lumina, Kate said freelancer workers are “so tied to the situation.”
“Even if I want to sell my work or earn a living, I cannot do anything right now,” Kate added.
What gov’t support?
There are supposed to be government support for workers affected by the ECQ.
In a statement released last March 17, for instance, the Department of Labor and Employment stated that they “may be able to address the pressing needs of the rest of the affected workers in the quarantined areas.”
DOLE developed the following mitigating measures: “Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program” (CAMP), “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers” (TUPAD), and “DOLE-AKAP for OFWs”.
CAMP will serve “affected workers regardless of status (i.e. permanent, probationary, or contractual), those employed in private establishments whose operations are affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.” TUPAD “aims to contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive growth.” The program is “a community based (municipality/barangay) package of assistance that provides temporary wage employment.” And the DOLE-AKAP specifically caters to overseas Filipino workers who have been displaced due to the imposition of lockdown or community quarantine, or have been infected with the disease.
DOLE reiterated that the only qualified beneficiaries are the underemployed, self-employed and displaced marginalized workers. To help these people, “employment” is offered – i.e. the nature of work shall be the disinfection or sanitation of their houses and its immediate vicinity, and the duration will be limited to 10 days. The person will be receiving 100% of the prevailing highest minimum wage in the region.
Another government body eyeing to supposedly help is the Social Security System (SSS), where employees of small businesses may apply to be considered for the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program.
To add, the government agency is also geared up to pay some 30,000 to 60,000 workers projected to be unemployed due to possible layoffs or closures of Covid-19 affected private companies.
Some arts-focused institutions like the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) also developed their own “disaster-triggered funding mechanism” to help address the “lack of support from the government.” In FDCP’s case, the program aims to help displaced freelance audio-visual workers—from talents, to production staff and technical crew members.
But note how all efforts are mum on freelance workers.
Making ends meet
And so many are left to do something they never did – i.e. rely on others just to survice.
In the case of Nicole, she relies solely on what her barangay provides: relief goods and minimal ayuda.
“Sobrang hirap ng sitwasyon ngayon. Hindi ko alam kung saan ako kukuha ng panggastos. ‘Yung ipon ko paubos na, tapos kailangan ko pa magbayad ng renta sa bahay at ibang bills (The situation now is very hard. I don’t know where to get money to spend. My savings are almost gone, and yet I still have to pay for my rent and the bills),” she said.
Lumina, for her part, is “lucky” because she still lives with her family, and “they have been providing for my basic needs since the lockdown started.”
Her luck isn’t necessarily shared by many – e.g. Human Rights Watch earlier reported that “added family stresses related to the Covid-19 crisis – including job loss, isolation, excessive confinement, and anxieties over health and finances – heighten the risk of violence in the home… The United Nations secretary-general has reported a ‘horrifying‘ global surge in domestic-based violence linked to Covid-19, and calls to helplines in some countries have reportedly doubled.”
To add: “In a household of six members, I think the goods that we are receiving from the government is not enough,” Lumina said, hoping that “every freelance worker also receive benefits from the government that would in a way cover the earnings that we lost.”
In 2017, when PayPal conducted a survey of over 500 freelancers in the Philippines, the results showed that the country had a “very optimistic freelancer market”, with 86% of freelancers claiming they anticipate future growth in their businesses. In fact, at that time, 23% of the respondents said their business is growing steadily, while 46% said their business is stable.
But Covid-19 turned everything upside-down for many.
There are rays of hope.
A Toptal survey, for instance, pointed out that 90% of companies depend on freelancers to augment their professional workforce, and – get this – 76% of surveyed executives intend to increase use of independent professionals to provide expertise either to supplement full-time talent or to access skills and experiences they lack in their workforce.
This may be particularly true to those whose works do not involve face-to-face engagement (e.g. graphics design, BPOs).
And so for the likes of Kate, Nicole and Lumina — and many other freelance workers for that matter, whose works rely on being with people — the way to get through now is to just to make do with what they can grasp on… while trapped inside and hoping for a better future, where reliance (including in a non-responsive government) is not in the picture…
Keeping the faith at the time of COVID-19
Many ask where God is at the time of #Covid19, including #LGBTQIA people who – prior to this – already experienced difficulties because of their #SOGIESC, and now have a hard time with their expression of faith. But #LGBTQIA faith leaders say that this is as good a time as any to also highlight humanity and, yes, the rainbow #pride.
LGBTQIA people are “no strangers to isolation, hardships and the stress of being alone,” said Bb. Kakay M. Pamaran, Director for Field Education of the Union Theological Seminary Philippines. And while stressing that she is, in no way, trying to “romanticize this, but I think of all people, we know what this level of isolation feels like because we’ve been there… many of us have been there.”
Bb. Pamaran was referring to the isolation/stress of being alone and hardships brought about by Covid-19, with many countries – the Philippines included – forcing people to stay indoors, else risk getting infected. The World Health Organization (WHO), itself, acknowledged that “as the coronavirus pandemic rapidly sweeps across the world, it is inducing a considerable degree of fear, worry and concern in the population at large and among certain groups in particular…”
There are those whose (religious) faith is getting them through; but there are also those who, in times like this, start questioning their faith. This includes LGBTQIA people whose lives, as it is, are often marked by religious persecution. And so for those of faith and who belong to the rainbow family… how does one keep the faith at the time of Covid-19?
“When people are afraid, they turn to God,” Bb. Pamaran said. “And the church, for the longest time, has been God’s mouthpiece.”
She, therefore, believes that “the church has a huge responsibility where this is concerned.”
This April, the WHO released “Practical considerations and recommendations for religious leaders and faith-based communities in the context of COVID-19”, which eyes to provide “practical guidance and recommendations to support the special role of religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and faith communities in COVID-19 education, preparedness, and response.”
WHO’s practical recommendations include: discouraging non-essential physical gatherings and, instead, organizing virtual gatherings through live-streaming, TV, radio, social media, et cetera; regulating the number and flow of people entering, attending or departing worship spaces to ensure safe distancing; management of pilgrim sites to respect physical distancing; and actual isolation of those who get ill/develop Covid-19 symptoms.
As stated by the WHO: Faith-based organizations (FBOs) “are a primary source of support, comfort, guidance, and direct health care and social service, for the communities they serve. Religious leaders of faith-based organizations and communities of faith can share health information to protect their own members and wider communities, which may be more likely to be accepted than from other sources. They can provide pastoral and spiritual support during public health emergencies and other health challenges and can advocate for the needs of vulnerable populations.”
Bb. Pamaran agrees – to an extent.
“It is very important, it is imperative for church leaders (and) faith-based organizations (FBOs) to deal with Covid-19 in factual, scientific ways,” she said. This is because “the things you say in the pulpit or all of the platforms that are available to you must always be based on scientific, medical evidence. And you have to exhaust all possible efforts to do your research because people tend to believe whoever is speaking behind the pulpit.”
Bb. Pamaran added that “people turn to superstition if scientific answers are not available. So as faith-based leaders, it is our responsibility to fuse rationality and factual scientific inquiry in these desperate (concerns).”
AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE
According to Rev. Alfred Candid M. Jaropillo, Administrative Minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)-Ekklesia in R. Mapa St., Mandurriao, Iloilo City, Covid-19 is an “eye-opener for us that human as we are, we are finite beings, and we don’t have the control of life.”
But Rev. Jaropillo added that this ought to make people see that “people have contributions to the suffering of life, and the suffering of Mother Earth.”
RAINBOW IN FAITH
As FYI: In 2015, the Pew Research Center (PRC) noted that about 5% of the 2014 Religious Landscape Study’s 35,000-plus respondents identified themselves as members of the LGB population. And of that group, a big 59% said they are religiously affiliated. But only 48% of them reported belonging to a Christian faith group, compared with 71% of the general public.
Meaning: Although many members of the LGBTQIA community may feel that most major faiths are unwelcoming to them, a majority of them are still religiously affiliated (though not necessarily as Christian, but also as part of smaller, non-Christian denominations).
Bb. Pamaran noted that LGBTQIA people may not be going to churches because these are unwelcoming, or “they just don’t go to church because they gave up on church altogether. It was difficult for LGBTQIA people to express their faith pre-Covid-19; and now with Covid-19, it would be harder for them, I would imagine.”
Rev. Jaropillo added that it is, therefore, the church’s role to “open its doors… in ministering to people who need God the most: the vulnerable, poor, women, children, the displaced…”
There are, of course, open and affirming (or ONA, the term used by the United Church of Christ/UCC) churches and/or faith-based organizations, or those that affirm the “full inclusion of LGBTQIA and non-binary persons in the church’s life and ministry.”
And they are just as affected by Covid-19.
According to Bishop Regen Luna of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit Philippines, which is based in the Province of Cavite, the mandate to socially distance meant they had to (temporarily) close, so “Covid-19 had a big impact on us.”
Among others, they had to forego masses, Bible studies, weddings, baptism, et cetera.
“Ayaw din namin magkahawahan (We also do not one to infect each other),” he said.
Added Rev. Joseph San Jose, Administrative Pastor of the Open Table Metropolitan Community Church: In the context that we’re a small church, “we don’t have as much of the resources, the facilities that other churches have.”
For instance, the Roman Catholic Church and bigger Protestant churches can broadcast live their masses/worships, “we are unable to do that.”
The composition of the church membership is also proving to be a challenge, geographically speaking. Rev. San Jose, for instance, is in Laguna (approximately 100.3km from Mandaluyong, where the church is located); and members are from the City of Taguig, Quezon City, et cetera. “This is an issue with the Covid-19 lockdowns (that limit mobility of people),” he said.
Bb. Pamaran said that, largely, faith expressions involve corporate worship/gathering in one space. “Without that, faith expressions… significantly change.”
But Bb. Pamaran wants people to draw something from this experience.
“It is also a good demonstration to non-LGBTQIA persons that this kind of isolation… is the normal for LGBTQIA persons even without Covid-19 as far as going to church is concerned, and in belonging in church communities,” she said.
For Bishop Luna, the pandemic is (similarly) showcasing the resilience of LGBTQIA churches.
“Sanay na kami sa hirap (We’re used to hardships),” he said, adding that they now know how to “stretch the budget to sustain a small church.” This is even if their main source of income (i.e. donations, for holding of sacraments like baptism, marriage/weddings, et cetera) is affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Covid-19, on its own, isn’t the only problem; just as problematic are its effects on other issues.
In the case of Bishop Luna’s church-goers, for instance, “we have members who are also living with HIV.” Issues re access to life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) medicines have been reported on; particularly affecting those who have no access to treatment hubs/facilities, again because of immobility.
Rev. San Jose admitted that it’s a “personal struggle as a pastor” not being able to help out, particularly at a time when people are asking what churches are doing to help the needy. But “with our situation, it’s almost impossible for us to mobilize in the same way that other churches (have been mobilizing).”
DEALING WITH ‘NEW NORMAL’
Covid-19 introduced a “new normal” even to FBOs – here, largely dictated by going online.
Union Theological Seminary, for one, introduced online courses. Metropolitan Community Church hosts webinars and online conversations. Catholic Diocese of One Spirit Philippines has online services – though, as Bishop Luna said, holding sacraments (e.g. weddings) are still not done this way (thus the rescheduling of pre-booked events to next year). Meanwhile, Open Table Metropolitan Community Church’s Rev. San Jose records sermon/homily for Sunday online “gatherings”; which is also the time when members videoconference to discuss their faith and, yes, Covid-19.
“I think that’s going to be the trend,” said Bb. Pamaran. “This is going to be how we facilitate conversations moving forward.”
Rev. Jaropillo – whose UCCP-Ekklesia also has worship services – said that while churches now also use technology in ministering to people, “we don’t stop there. Aside from virtual worship services, we concretize the love of God through relief operations. We address two things: the liturgical/spiritual ministry through virtual worship services, and the physical need of people. Churches should have a holistic approach (to this).”
“It’s best to respond with creativity,” Bb. Pamaran said.
At the time of Covid-19, Rev. Jaropillo said that “it’s very natural to doubt and it’s human to question one’s faith: ‘Natutulog ba ang Diyos (Is God asleep)?’ But I believe I don’t need to defend God. God understands the doubts of the people nowadays. So as a church, we need to journey with these people who are in doubt, especially at times of crises like now.”
Bishop Luna agrees.
“Some people ask why God would let something like this happen,” he said, adding that while these questions are unnecessary, that they are asked at all is “natural”/understandable. But he said that times like this offer lessons from God, and people should listen. “We believe in a loving God… We believe that God is teaching us – e.g. how to look after the environment, health, and respect of other creatures. We’ve forgotten these. We also live fast lives; we don’t even think it can end in a blink of an eye.”
For Rev. San Jose, it may be worth echoing what Pope Francis said when asked by a child why there’s human suffering. “Sometimes we just don’t know. It is what it is. There is a mystery of suffering and pain. And it would be very arrogant for us to try to answer very difficult and almost no-answer questions. The progressive faith compels us not to ask where God is, but to ask where we are and what we are doing at this time to be the channel of God’s love, comfort, hope for ourselves and for others.”
For Bb. Pamaran: “It’s a common question to ask where God is in all these. But perhaps it’s the best time to ask where humanity is in all these. It is the best time to look into our humanity and our creativity, our innovative imaginations to pull through this.”
LGBTQIA OF FAITH
To LGBTQIA people of faith, Bishop Luna calls for prayers – “unified prayers” – while spending time with loved ones, and looking after oneself (e.g. mental health).
“Ibigay natin laat ng ito sa Panginoon (Surrender everything to God),” Bishop Luna said, adding: “We believe that this, too, shall pass.”
LGBTQIA people are resilient, continuing to face hardships in life. “We can survive this, too,” he said, “and pass this with flying colors.”
It is also the resilience of the LGBTQIA people that Rev. Jaropillo wants to highlight. That LGBTQIA people find joy/laugh even in dark times is something that can be shared to cheer up communities. “Continue to shine as a rainbow, to inspire other people.”
Covid-19, said Rev. San Jose, is also a good time for the LGBTQIA people to reflect on social justice. “There is a need for us to be more active in engaging in the issues faced by the country, by our community,” he said. “There is really a great need to organize and mobilize.”
“No sector of people understands isolation more than the LGBTQIA community. We can imagine, we can grasp the loneliness and isolation that Covid-19 brings. And so try to remember how you pulled through all these years, and then try to help others do the same,” said Bb. Pamaran.
In the end, “now more than ever, the world needs color; the world needs our color. So be that… for yourself and for others,” Bb. Pamaran ended.
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