Sometime in 2009, while she was helping organize the Miss Maanyag beauty pageant for gays and transgenders in Caraga and Butuan, Ysang Semacio Bacasmas said she realized that she could actually help better the plight of the LGBT people, particularly in the locality. “I loved helping in making activities for LGBT people happen – but I also loved doing things I know could help make society better,” Ysang said. “Advocacy was, simply, combining both.”
And so the group she helmed then – Ladlad Caraga Inc., which was also founded in 2009 – eventually evolved, from simply hosting beauty pageants (though they still do that these days) to more socially aware engagements more relevant to the LGBT people of Caraga and Butuan. As Ysang earlier said, at that point of their group’s evolution, “we aimed to be a leading group in pushing for social acceptance of LGBTs, and conducting of public services to both LGBTs and the mainstream population.”
Ysang believes there remain numerous issues that LGBT people in the Philippines need to focus on. “We’re still not accepted,” she said, adding that this could possibly be remedied by education. For her, “we need to face inter-connected issues,” such as the lack of anti-discrimination policies in place that affect access to numerous things – from education to employment to services – by LGBT people.
Ysang recognizes the difficulties faced by LGBT Filipinos may – at times – stem from within the LGBT community itself. “At times we’re too divided,” she said. “Too many agendas are being pushed, so we lose a unified voice.”
But Ysang remains optimistic. “See, in our community, every time we have activities, people rise up to the occasion – we see volunteers who do work out of the goodness of their heart,” she said. “The goodness of LGBTs is always there.”
Aside from helming, after establishing Ladlad Caraga Inc., Ysang is proud to have helped form Loverkadakids, a group that was a finalist in the national talent search for ABS-CBN’s Pilipinas Got Talent (Season 3), and the Miss Maanyag pageant. But getting known because of these activities and projects/events are add-on benefits for Ysang, who said that “it does not end there; all I want is to help and share my time to the LGBT people of Caraga and Butuan, and even the society at large.”
And so for now, Ysang aims to “continue to be an advocate; continue to conduct and create activities and projects/events for the goodness of the LGBT community, and for all,” she said. “At the end of the day, I will be happy knowing I lived a life with dedication to accomplished what I set out to do.”