Discrimination in Mister Laoag decried

mister laoag 2018

Laoag City could be one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the Philippines. A third of its elected councilors are openly and proudly gay. There’s Rbee Ablan who comes from a prominent political family, businessman Handy Lao, and Mikee Fariñas who happens to be a daughter of the power couple—the city mayor and vice mayor. All three city councilors ran on a platform of gender equality and promised to promote gender-sensitive legislation. True to their promise, they pushed for the passage of The Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Ordinance of Laoag City which is currently under review by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Moreover, Mayor Chevylle Fariñas is known to be friendly with the LGBT community, and gay people are highly placed under her administration. Gender discrimination was unheard of at the Laoag City Hall…

Until lately. It comes as a surprise that there is much resentment among members of the local LGBT community at this time because of an issue surrounding an event spearheaded ironically by Councilor Lao—the Mister Laoag pageant.

One aspirant is believed to have been rejected on account of his suspected relationship with a gay person. The basis? A photo of him in an intimate pose with a transgender. Note that the picture showed no nudity or any taint lewdness, but did give event organizers a hint that the aspirant could be in a same-sex relationship. During the interview held open to the public, the controversial aspirant (CA) was asked by the seven-member panel if it is true. Out on the spot, he denied it. The panel also felt at liberty to ask CA what roles he played in bed. Note that these questions were not asked all candidates.

Thirty-six applicants vied for 16 slots, and CA did not make the cut. In an interview, Councilor Lao explained to me that every aspirant was assessed holistically and that total personality of each aspirant was assessed. While Lao belived that CA was not rated based on one issue alone, the councilor did not deny that the issue could have, indeed, hurt his chances. It was a split-hair decision. Of the seven members of the selection panel, 4 voted to reject CA while 3 wanted him in. Lao was with the minority.

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Laoag Councilor Handy Lao

According to insiders, the organizers were worried at how having CA would affect the reputation of the show. Lao said they also wanted to protect the candidate from possible bashing and ridicule. They felt it was not time to have a candidate like CA in Mister Laoag.

There was outrage among LGBT members in Ilocos. Feeling insulted and rejected, they cried foul. They were quick to point out about hypocrisy and double standards. They felt betrayed by the bigoted act, especially because it was committed by friends. Those friends send the messages loud and clear: Having a same-sex relationship will deny you opportunities;  LGBT relationships ruin credibility.

Lao was well-aware of the outrage, and, in an interview with me, he confessed to have shed tears over the controversy. While he stands for the collegial decision of the screening panel, he accepts that shortcomings and excesses may have been committed. These, he said, will be seriously addressed in the next editions of Mister Laoag. As of our time of interview, the councilor is yet to reach out to CA or the members of the LGBT community. He said he was still collecting his thoughts and planning how to proceed.

“Needless to say, yes, something like that happened,” remarked Councilor Fariñas, promising to look closer into the matter. As an advocate for equality and respect that is due all human beings in the city, the councilor says he is disturbed by the issue. “I don’t think anybody should be judged based on their relationships because acceptance and respect inspire human persons to perform better and do well.” He said that the mayor is bent on gathering parties concerned to shed light on the unfortunate controversy.

Councilor Ablan, for his part, stressed that he will never tolerate discrimination. “I, for one, suffered from discrimination almost all my life. I know how it feels and I know what a person in this situation goes through,” he shared before asking, “Do we all have to have the same lives to enjoy the same rights?”

Aian Raquel, provincial tourism officer, makes this sad note, “Everybody knows what’s happening. No amount of sugarcoating and euphemism can hide homophobia even within the bakla circles.”

It is my fervent and sincere hope, dear karikna, that this issue is properly addressed so that we can honestly advance the right of individuals to freely affirm their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.

As for Laoag City and its illusions of LGBT advancement, the bubble has been burst. Only if we successfully shrug off the medieval, parochial, bigoted tendencies of people—especially those who make decisions that bear an impact on our collective consciousness—can we truly move forward.

We wish the Mister Laoag pageant well, and its pure, immaculate, unsullied reputation, and I seriously pray that this issue is settled in the soonest time. There should be no place for hate and hurt, not only because we will be celebrating the Laoag City Fiesta and Ilocos Norte’s bicentennial in the next days, but more because everyday we struggle in a world already filled with manmade misery and conflict, to live and let live.

Pasuquin’s Pride: oldest gay parade in Asia

Sunflowers
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN. Amor Albano is crowned as this year’s Queen of Sunflower Festival. Held in Pasuquin, it is the oldest organized gay parade in Asia. Richard Bumanglag, aka Kristina Cassandra (second from left), was adjudged as Miss Ilocoslovaklush 2014.
Richard Bumanglag, aka Kristina Cassandra, is Miss Ilocoslovaklush 2014  (photo by Inot Villanueva)
Richard Bumanglag, aka Kristina Cassandra, is Miss Ilocoslovaklush 2014 (photo by Inot Villanueva)
Queen Amor
Queen Amor

Pasuquin is arguably one of the most backward municipalities of Ilocos Norte. It is economically slow, unprogressive, and stagnant. The town’s tourist attractions, if any, are not as well-known as the mindless bickering of its political families. Its Biscocho, though good, has never made it big on a national or regional scale. Salt-making, once a pride of this town, is no longer exactly traditional as the rock salt they use is now imported by bulk from Australia. The town could have made it big if only they supported the idea of setting up a dragon fruit farm first broached by resident Editha Dacuycuy, but she instead set up her now-famous farm in adjacent Burgos town after Pasuquin officials showed little interest.

These said, Pasuquin may not exactly be a model town, but there is, dear karikna, one thing the town is proud of. Such is little known, little emphasized, but is actually huge: its gay pride.

The Manila Pride March bills itself as the “oldest gay pride march in Asia.” Its first edition was staged in 1994. But did you know that an organized gay parade is being held in Pasuquin for forty two years now, starting in 1975?

A group of successful gay professionals formed the Sunflower Organization in the 1972. Its first project was the Sunflower Festival, a drag parade that celebrates pride in gay identity and fosters camaraderie among its members. Surprisingly, the people of this small and tightly Catholic town welcomed the idea. Mothers and fathers were supportive of their gay sons. Town folks watched the festival participants not with ridicule or contempt, but only with respect and admiration. It was such an extraordinary phenomenon that led American filmmaker Shawn Hainsworth to produce the documentary “Sunflowers” which earned critical acclaim in the 1997 Chicago Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and other film fests in North America. The film brought the Sunflower Festival in the international gay radar.

It’s a puzzle, dear karikna, how gay empowerment has become ingrained in the culture and consciousness of Pasuquenos, but Benly Agudelo Academia, current Sunflowers Organization president, offers this insight: “Sunflowers was started by successful professionals who were respected members of the community.” That is why, he said, “at the end of the day, people looked at our talents and contributions, and not on our gender.” Truly, the organization, through its yearly parade, has shown everyone that success and honor is no monopoly of heterosexuals and so no gay must be forced to linger in the dark. Aptly, the organization is named after the Sunflower which is known to face the sunlight. Members call themselves “sunflowers.”

In the absence of any record that would prove otherwise, Sunflowers is the oldest gay organization in the Philippines, if not in Asia. The University of the Philippines Babaylan, the largest LGBT student organization in the Philippines, was oranized only in 1992 while Progay-Philippines was formed in 1994.

Continue reading “Pasuquin’s Pride: oldest gay parade in Asia”

Piolo the anti-gay

But first let me greet Cleng and Karmina. Nope, not Carmina who married the pre-Bebe Gandanghari Rustom Padilla, but Karmina Krenz Fagaragan Undonero who works at the Communication and Media Office of the Ilocos Norte Capitol. She and my dear kumare Clenntroy “Cleng” Guzman Magbual, also from the same office, are among the new breed of government employees striving to make a difference in the service. Efficient, hardworking, honest, and committed, these two women, only in their early twenties, show that there is a bright future for the bureaucracy if we get the right people and provide them with appropriate training.

*****

Now let’s talk about Piolo who continues to trend in social networking sites after her ex-girlfriend KC Concepcion, in an interview with fellow kalbo Boy Abunda, talked about their breakup. Her words were controlled and tempered but they revealed meanings even the dumbest of human beings could get. Facebook and Twitter users made explicit what KC didn’t on national TV: Piolo “Peejay/Papa P” Pascual, Philippines’ phenomenal male heartthrob, is gay.

I should be saying it’s not an issue and that we should leave the man alone. But no, it is an issue, not only because Piolo is a celebrity and thus a public property, but because the beefcake himself made it a sizzling issue.

A few years ago, Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby missed a shot at greatness when they sued Lolit Solis for libel when she insinuated in her column that the two may be lovers. The hunky actors went ballistic over Solis when they could have simply said, “we would not mind being gay, but just that we are not.” Piolo and Sam denounced Solis’ insinuations as if being gay debases human dignity. That incident defined for me how Piolo views homosexuality—that it is shameful, dishonorable, malicious.

The issue of Piolo’s homosexuality died down in recent years, although there are occasional write-ups and blind items about his alleged trysts with actors like Yul Servo, now a Manila councilor, and crooner Mark Bautista who is believed to be the third party in the Piolo-KC romance. But the stir created by the girl’s subtle revelations, I am sure, would leave a permanent dent on Piolo’s persona. To the uninitiated, the next paragraph sums up the megadaughter’s tearful discourse. Continue reading “Piolo the anti-gay”

‘Babaeng bakla’

OK, I’m writing about her again, and at the risk of being suspected as a paid PR.  But what can I do?  I am a fan.

Besides, it’s enough that God knows how much I value my integrity as a writer.  Never have I asked nor accepted payment, monetary or otherwise, for anything I write in this space.  Without rendering judgment on those who engage in it, journalistic prostitution is not my cup of tea.  I am young, and, when you are young, you are always idealistic, unless of course you are a juvenile delinquent or a Sangguniang Kabataan official, whichever is worse.

The last time I met Imee Marcos was in May prior to the elections.  During a barangay tour in Laoag, she spoke at a lightning rally incidentally held in front of our house.  Posing for a souvenir photo with my parents, Imee noticed my mom’s garden and told us of her love of plants.  Gloria, our househelp, was not to be outdone.  She approached Imee to say “thank you.”  Luzviminda, Gloria’s daughter, finished college as a Scholar ni Imee.  “Kumusta na si Luz?,” asked the then gubernatorial candidate.  “Nakapagtrabaho na po siya, at may anak na,” Gloria replied.  “Ang tanda ko na pala, may mga anak na ang mga scholars ko,” Imee replied, sounding pensive.

That, dear karikna, was the last time, but I manage to keep track of Manang Imee.  I am lucky to know some Capitol insiders who attest to the remarkable work ethic of the lady whose age I mistakenly put at 58 in a previous column.  (She’s actually younger, a bit.)  Ferdinand and Imelda’s eldest child is said to work long hours and is meticulous on how things get done.  True to her campaign promise, the gobernadora is determined to create more jobs here in the province where, as with the rest of the country, unemployment and underemployment figures remain high.  I am very confident that Imee will deliver.  In fact, I tell my students in the university, especially those in the lower years, that they are luckier than their seniors because more jobs would have been generated in the province when they graduate.

Yes, Imee is a hard worker, but not the nerdy type. Giselle Sanchez, in her Manila Bulletin column Gossip Girl, wrote about Miss Marcos’s lighter side in an article titled, “A birthday tribute to the original ‘babaeng bakla’.”  Sanchez attended the Princeton-educated governor’s birthday celebration here in the province last week.

“You know the saying that there’s a thin line between genius and insanity? Imee is a genius but once she cracks her witty one-liners, you are going to go insane,” the comedienne revealed.  She then went on to share what she considered as “the top 10 unforgettable quotes of Miss Imee Marcos,” to wit: Continue reading “‘Babaeng bakla’”

Brainless Bayani

photo taken by your karikna at a highway in Batac

Why, Bayani?  How different is “Lalakeng Kausap” from “Babaeng kausap,”  “Bading kausap,” and lesbiyanang kausap?

I knew all along that you are Hitler’s reincarnation, what I did not know is that you are also a remnant of our oh-s0-macho past.  I would not have thought you embrace such gender stereotypes.  After all, you painted Metro Manila pink.

Defending the bakla

I AM OUTRAGED, dear karikna, with the recent rejection of Ang Ladlad’s bid for party-list accreditation. This is the second time the group, which is at the forefront in advancing the rights and welfare of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT), is denied the right to be represented in congress.

In 2007, the Comelec ruled that Ang Ladlad did not have a national constituency and was thus undeserving to be accredited. This led me to write to Chairman Benjamin Abalos, and to members of the Comelec Second Division, composed of Commisioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Rene Sarmiento, and Florentino Tuazon, the three medieval musketeers who rejected the LGBT group’s participation in the polls.

The letter, which I personally delivered to their offices at the Comelec National Headquarters in Intramuros, thus read…

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Dear Chairman Abalos,

First, let me say thank you for your intention to make this year’s elections, the last one under your watch, fair, honest, credible, and safe.

I am a registered voter of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, Region I – Ilocos region, and this is to make a manifestation of my being a part of Ang Ladlad Party’s constituency which the COMELEC Second Division found questionable.

In the Division’s resolution dated February 27, 2007, it was stated that contrary to Ang Ladlad’s claims, “reports from our field offices reveal that it doesn’t exist in most regions of the country.” I am not privy to the manner by which your field staff conducted their verification process, but your records show that Ang Ladlad has no constituency in Region 1-Ilocos Region, please add my little voice to those of other citizens who have already stood up for Ang Ladlad’s accreditation as a party-list group. I know that an appeal is in order, and I pray that this manifestation is considered for all its worth.

Let me note that the constituency of a Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) group is a sensitive and tricky issue. Because of pervading prejudices, broadcasting one’s homosexuality is not as convenient as standing up as a woman, youth, laborer, peasant farmer,or any entity belonging to other marginalized and underrepresented sectors. This suggests that we go beyond a simplistic yardstick of constituency in determining Ang Ladlad’s worthiness for party-list accreditation. I am a very private person, and I would always rather keep my sexual persona to myself and the people close to me. Recent developments however demand not silence and passiveness, but courage against—and compassion for—those who continue to decide not to understand. And so this humble letter.

May the political representation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders be a part of the Abalos legacy in our electoral history, in particular, and our national life, at large.

Thank you for your attention.

*****

Unfortunately, the Comelec en banc upheld the thoughtless judgment of the Second Division, and Abalos is best remembered today for the NBN-ZTE scandal, and for the Hello Garci controversy.

But Ang Ladlad is not a group that is easily disheartened. It strengthened its presence in all regions in preparation for the 2010 polls. There is no way the Comelec can now claim that the group has no national constituency.

However, Comelec is denying, yet again, accreditation to Ang Ladlad, this time on grounds of immorality.

*****

The Pahayagang Malaya hit the spot right in an editorial published November 16. Part of it reads:

Homosexuality is now a contagious moral and spiritual disease from which our youth need to be quarantined?’

The Commission on Elections decision last Friday denying accreditation to the Ang Ladlad is the very proof that gays and lesbians are so marginalized they need to be represented in Congress.

They are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual preferences. They are powerless against the dominant culture that classifies them as aberrations of nature. They are victims of beliefs that treat them as moral misfits.

The Neanderthals in the Comelec, in effect, disenfranchised a class of citizens on the basis of a set of prejudices.

The grounds cited by the Comelec second division are laughable.

“Should this Commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to our faith,” it said.

It then gratuitously added that homosexuality is against Christianity and Islam.

Are Christianity and Islam now state religions that citizens who do not subscribe to their tenets should be stripped of their right to be voted into office? There is no religious test for running for office. This follows from the doctrine of separation of state and church. Let’s not confuse a sin with a crime. Gays and lesbians certainly have not committed any crime that would disqualify them from forming a political organization by preferring their own sex.

“As an agency of the government, ours too is the State’s duty… under the Constitution to protect our youth from moral and spiritual degradation,” the Comelec said.

Accrediting a party, which is fighting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, leaves our youth open to moral and spiritual degradation? What drivel is this? Homosexuality is now a contagious moral and spiritual disease from which our youth need to be quarantined?

Homosexuality, if we understand the Catholic doctrine correctly, is not a sin although acts are. These old farts at the Comelec are trying to be more popish than the Pope.

*****

This Nicodemo Ferrer added insult to injury by saying that there are already a lot of gays in Senate and congress, and, ergo, no more need for party-list representation. He is probably right, and I say gays are abound in all other institutions, including the media, the church, the academe, and even the military. But that LGBT’s in these institutions cannot “ladlad” on fear of discrimination and prejudice is the issue.   Otherwise, Ferrer could have named names.  Truth to tell, many “closet gays” are gay bashers par excellance.

Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby missed a shot at greatness when they sued Lolit Solis for libel a few years ago when the latter insinuated in her column that the two may be lovers.

The two hunky actors went ballistic over Solis when they could have simply said, “we would not mind being gay, but just that we are not.” Instead, Piolo and Sam denounced Solis’ insinuations as if being gay debases human dignity. All muscles, no substance.

*****

Hello to Daryl Velasco, a Legal Management student of Divine Word College of Laoag, who expressed to me his discontent over the Comelec’s rejection of Ang Ladlad. Outraged by the election body’s reasoning (or the lack of it), he vowed to join the struggle for the emancipation of the Filipino gay against stereotypes and prejudice.

Now is the time to come out. Now is the time to unite. Now na.

Scandal!

PIDDIG sex scandal, Burgos scandal, Pangil scandal, (rumored) Dingras scandal, 5-sisters scandal, Hayden Kho scandal, and all those campus scandals.

If you cannot beat them, join them? That we do nothing to kill the monster we call pornography; that we have accepted perversion as part of everyday life; that we have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of the least of women and children, our women and children, that to me is the gravest of all scandals.

How does one solve a problem like pornography?  This issue has always been the subject of fierce debate.  What delineates art from pornography?  Does censorship infringe on our freedoms of expression and of the press?  Is digital exhibitionism an inevitable consequence of modernity? Continue reading “Scandal!”