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Op-Ed

When the Country Turned Yellow

Though Ladlad Partylist did not win in the May 2010 National Elections, the winning of Benigno Aquino III as the country’s president brings with it promises of hope. Will he actually be the hope that LGBT Filipinos need?

We are told to remember the idea not the man, because man can fail, but an idea persists even after his death.

The idea to continue fighting until equal rights is something not to be fought for anymore. The idea to educate people about the truth and what’s been happening in the LGBT community.

It is the same idea that gave hope to the LGBT community last election to be represented and be heard in the Congress. It is the same idea that is lost but not forgotten. It is the same idea that translates to democracy.

May 10, 2010. The country voted the Bicolanos, the security guards, the tricycle drivers their party list representatives – they were among the top choices of voters. But a gay party list that stands on the platform of equal rights, retirement homes for the aged, and the chance for anyone to enrol for a loan to start a small business was not prioritized by voters.

When in fact the members of which are the gays in the salons they rely on to get their regular grooming every weekend; the lesbians who you come across every time you ride the MRT; who works so hard to experience a normal life; and the “straight-acting” gays who monopolizes the call center industry in the country. People who dream that one day, they can come out to their families and be accepted for what they really are. All disregarded and forgotten.

When being different became immoral, the country turned yellow.

Everyone was smiling. Everyone was hopeful. It was 1986 when the first Aquino made a promise to an idea – to have an honest government that will answer every citizen’s cry for a democratic country every Filipino can be proud of. She died fighting for it. Twenty-four years since, the idea still exists.

***

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What makes a President?

Will the Aquino euphoria keep Noynoy’s image as the “Messiah” for six years?

Or will the people, eventually, wake up from their illusions and see reality?

Will the promises he made during his speeches save us from hate and inequality?

Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning.

But will his actions offer the same meaning as his words?

***

Nicole is a 26-year-old transgender. She didn’t finish college and it was not her choice, her family didn’t have enough money for her to continue.

At 24, she grew tired of waiting for her family to send her back to college. She strived on her own. She borrowed money from her friends and applied in different offices, but she was either turned away or ignored.

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A friend of hers gave linked her to the call center agency where he was also employed, asking Nicole to apply.

She passed the exam and the interviews, she trained for three months. She got good reviews from her team leader, and his colleagues admired her patience when attending to calls. Her evaluations were satisfactory.

And just before the fourth month entered, one Monday morning, Nicole got a message from the account supervisor, asking her to meet him at exactly 1:00 PM in his office.

Nicole wore her best dress, fixed her long shiny hair, painted her lips with red and topped it with gloss. She entered their building perky, smiling at everyone. She thought this is the day that her supervisor will ask her to become regular.

She walked slowly in the hallway leading towards the office. She went in.

After 30 minutes, she went out. Her head held down. Her smile faded. She rushed out of the building and waited for a cab.

Nicole was requested not come to work the next day or ever. According to the account supervisor, their company have a good reputation and was afraid to gamble it by hiring a “ladyboy”, and even though she was qualified for the job, the company’s reputation is far important than her.

Months later, Nicole got a job in a television show as an assistant of the executive producer.

Until now, Nicole still feels insulted.

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When the country turned yellow, Nicole was unsure; will she be afraid or be hopeful that the discrimination will stop?

There’s something terribly wrong in this country.

***

Mr. Aquino, Nicole is the most hardworking person in her family, and she didn’t deserve what happened to her. She only wants to have an honest and decent job to buy food for her family and medicine for her dad.

The previous government never showed any concern for the LGBT group. No matter how many rallies were made to scream and protest that the LGBT group is not immoral, and that we are just as normal as you – nothing has been done.

Mr. Aquino, Winton Lou Ynion is a Palanca winning writer. He was murdered, he was found with nylon cords around his neck and hands. He didn’t deserve what happened to him. He could have written the best novel piece of this generation and be kept in the library next to Shakespeare.

No one showed compassion to Father Robert Tanghal, Melchor Vergel de Dios, Enrique Esguer and many others, when they were strangled and left to die. Their cases were unsolved; the suspects are still at large. The government called it as petty crimes.

Mr. Aquino, the LGBT killings will not stop, the hate will not stop, until the government finally imposes something.

They only have different perspectives that they openly express, and perspectives are to be listened to and not reason to be killed.

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Mr. Aquino, have you met Humphrey Gorriceta? He’s HIV positive. He came out in the open to educate the LGBT community about the danger of the disease. He speaks in different forums and events to let everyone know that being HIV positive is something one shouldn’t be ashamed of, but something to deal with. We salute him.

Wanggo Gallaga, son of critically-acclaimed filmmaker Peque Gallaga, came out in the open as HIV positive, so people will hear his story and be educated, to remind everyone that being HIV positive doesn’t mean it’s the end of their lives. We salute him.

Mr. President, do you have plans for the growing number of HIV cases in the country? Will the HIV patients in San Lazaro Hospital be attended to properly and received proper medical supplies? Have you finally decided what your stand is on the RH Bill?

This is an appeal to the government to make everything right.

***

A man as smart as you, Mr. Aquino, has already made a plan. A man as smart as your, Mr. Aquino has already made a decision. We just hope the LGBT community is part of it.

This country needs more than a “Promised President”. This country needs more than hope not promises, but results.

At the end of the day, no one is to blame. It was never really the fault of the previous government fully. If you’re looking at whose fault it is, who’s guilty why things didn’t go the way they should be, no need to look anywhere, just look in the mirror. And when the people start to realize it, that’s when the government should come in, to be the backbone of every citizen who stood up.

An idea is an inch of everything. It is small and fragile; we should never let them take that away from us. It is the only thing in the world worth having. It is the only thing in the world that we should never be allowed to be taken away from us. Ideas are bullet-proof.

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Drags will continue to sing. Impersonators will continue to perform. Advocates will continue to write. Activists will continue to rally. Until, “equal rights” is for everyone to enjoy.

When the country turned yellow, the LGBT community was (once again) awakened.

There’s no certainty, only opportunity.

Pass it on.

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