Diary of a Transgender Filipina

Posts Tagged ‘Events’

President Barack Obama

Posted by pinaytg on November 5, 2008

Illinois Senator Barack Obama is the new president-elect of the United States of America. I am so moved and touched by this victory. Congratulations to the American people for believing in and voting for change!


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Amazing Philippine Beauties 2008

Posted by pinaytg on November 4, 2008


            A group of us went to see the coronation night of Amazing Philippine Beauties 2008 on 24 October 2008, Friday at around 10 pm at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex in Pasay City. I was not surprised that, when we got there, there was already a sizeable crowd waiting to enter the Manila Film Center, one of the many buildings in the CCP Complex and home to the Amazing Philippine Theatre (APT), which according to its web site is the biggest “transvestite” theatre in Asia and sponsor of the now prestigious beauty pageant for Filipina transgender women.


            According to those who have been watching the Amazing Philippine Beauties pageant closely, there was a time when the contest was not able to fill up entire rows of seats. The Philippines being a beauty-pageant-crazy country, that has been slowly changing in the last 6 years. And this year was a different story indeed. Not only were all seats taken it was also, in theatre parlance, an SRO (standing room only) crowd that night.



            Apparently some candidates invited entire neighborhoods including their boyfriends, relatives and friends to see the show. And they were not mere spectators mind you. I saw whole rows of supporters who brought various props to cheer their candidates on including flash cards bearing the number of their candidate raised up at moments when the candidate was on center stage and balloons which were waved in the air every time their candidate received a citation, mention or award.


            It was an okay show overall made more enjoyable by the very energetic audience. My main complaint is that it was too long and could have done without too many segments. Also for some reason it was very hot inside the Manila Film Center that evening. Apparently the Korean company which owns APT decided to cut costs and didn’t turn on the air conditioning full blast. The gay couple who accompanied us to the show couldn’t take the heat and just headed home.



          This year’s winner is Angelika Santillan shown above with judge Dr. Sam Winter, author of Transgender Asia Research, and her runner up, Rosa Garcia who I was rooting for. Angelika bagged several awards while Rosa won best swim suit and was just absolutely stunning in her long gown. Oh well, to be second best is better than nothing. Anyway congrats to both of you girls! You deserve it. J

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GALANG launch solidarity message

Posted by pinaytg on September 29, 2008

         Below is the solidarity speech I wrote for the launch of GALANG (Gay and Lesbian Activist Network for Gender Equality), a new LGBT organization working at the grass roots level here, at Café Rallos along Tomas Morato in Quezon City last 20 September 2008. I heard it was very successful and well-attended. Since I was out of town then, my good friend Sass Sasot, co-founder of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) kindly delivered it for me. I thank her and Anne Lim (the current president of GALANG) sincerely. J


Good evening! Congratulations to GALANG and welcome to the family of Filipino sex and gender rights advocates. Every time there is a new organization that will fight lesbian, gay, bisexual, bakla/bayot/bantut, tomboy and transgender or LGBT oppression, it is important that we as a community come together in support.


            It is important, particularly at this time, because the movement advocating for LGBT rights that we all belong to, have grown up with, and have come to love is almost pushing 20 years. That’s almost one score of rallying tirelessly in the streets, of relentlessly campaigning in and educating our communities, and of indefatigably advocating in our homes, schools, churches, places of work, legislatures and elsewhere. That’s almost two decades of truly hard work and solidarity and yet it seems there remains so much more to be done.


The fact is that after 15 years or so of LGBT activism in the country and in spite of one local ordinance in Quezon City there is no other law, municipal or national, that grants civil rights protections to LGBT Filipinos. Thus, many if not most of us remain vulnerable to violence and discrimination in education, housing, health care, the legal system, employment and other public accommodations; and this while our community is caught in the cusp of history. This year, we are not only commemorating the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR60) and the 30th year of the Rainbow Flag but also putting up the10th Pride March.


Surely these are milestones in our history and before we celebrate them, isn’t it time we paused and took stock of our community and the direction it is taking? I think that the time to ask ourselves the hard questions has come. It is now. After 10 years of declaring ourselves and our dignity in the streets, of proudly marching with friends, lovers, family and equals, has the quality of life of the average LGBT Filipino changed for the better? After almost 20 years of advocacy, have we instituted real social change that would increase and improve the life chances of the generation that will come after us?


            Just in the first quarter of this year, we all witnessed the sad story of Jan Jan whose rectal surgery was turned into a circus spectacle by the very practitioners who were supposed to give him competent and professional medical care; then we saw the raids by unscrupulous policemen of gay bars and bathhouses, which was also milked for ratings by several media outlets. After this we heard members of the Catholic clergy wanting to ban transgender people from joining the Santacruzan. This was followed by the Ice Vodka Bar incident where several of our own friends from the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) were refused entrance. A similar incident happened in Café Havana recently involving two other trans women from Cebu. Any day now, we will hear another story of indignity involving a member of our community.


Certainly, it is a good thing when young, enthusiastic and idealistic people like the members of GALANG and others who are here come along and say “I’ve had enough! That is oppression and I want to fight it!” but it is also equally important for them to be able to look back in the past and see where others who came before them have failed, have erred and could have done so much more. It is undeniably a good thing if our community can learn our lessons and vow not to make the same mistakes and do better next time.


            Because this is also ultimately how our activism will be sustained: always, always in the spirit of renewal. This is why every time a new group of people comes together and so decides to take on the challenge of advocating for LGBT equality and acceptance, we must rally behind them to show how much we appreciate it. For our community needs as many people who care as possible. Hopefully they will be fresh-faced, dynamic and vibrant people who will continue our struggle, who will explore new and inspiring ways of doing LGBT rights advocacy, who will not be afraid to face head on and challenge the institutions that oppress and marginalize us, who will willingly work together, listen to and learn from each other, and who will put aside their differences and agree to disagree but still be mature and professional enough to keep doing the work at hand. Hopefully they will not use our community for their own selfish interests but instead will always have the interests of the community at heart. Hopefully they will steer the community in the right direction and do it with integrity, humility, and unselfish service.


So GALANG faces a tall order tonight. J But it is always good to begin with high expectations because history will unquestionably judge us. When that time comes, let us hope that posterity will look back at all of us only kindly and say we did right by them. Soon our nation will face another Presidential election and a new race to Congress. And I say, there has been no better time to be an advocate for LGBT rights than now. Almost 10 years into the 21st century and already we can see that societal mindsets are changing. Even non-LGBT people are becoming bolder and are fighting back against one of our biggest foes, the Church because of the reproductive health controversy. The political landscape as well is shifting as it is peopled more and more by young and vibrant politicians who speak our language. Meanwhile, the international community continues to offer us their unwavering support.


I hope we can take advantage of this permissive climate and seize all these opportunities to further our cause. Indeed, this is the best time to get our act together as a community and solidify our unity. And a good way to start is by welcoming the efforts of people who want to put up new organizations like GALANG, brave young activists who will hopefully take the lessons of the past and harness them into a more dynamic, vibrant, collegial, intelligent, strategic and effective activism.  So congratulations GALANG! Mabuhay kayo at maraming salamat po!


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…and Pride season begins anew in Manila…

Posted by pinaytg on September 17, 2008

          There is a reason why I have not blogged in the past two weeks. I have not only been chasing various deadlines at work but have also been up to my neck with work for Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines. TFP, as some of you may know, is the network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations and individuals that has been organizing the annual Pride March in Manila since 1999.


            This year TFP marks a milestone by holding its 10th Pride parade. Although the Pride March in Manila used to be held around June in time for the Stonewall commemorations, it was moved to December at some point because of the monsoon season. June is a very wet month in the Philippines and we’ve had Pride Marches that got drenched in rain albeit the celebrations went on. To solve this weather problem, TFP members decided to hold the Pride parade during the first weekend of December instead as part of the World Human Rights Week festivities.


            This year’s Pride March is especially significant for three other reasons: 1) It coincides with the celebration of the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR60), 2) It will serve as the venue for the possible launch of the Yogyakarta Principles in Manila, which is an international declaration that applies international human rights law to matters pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and 3) It will be the first time TFP will be headed by two women of transsexual experience: myself and Sass Sasot of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP).


            When we had our first meeting in early August I was so moved by the turn out. We had around 9 organizations represented and 26 individuals present. We had members of Ang Ladlad, the national organization of LGBT Filipinos of which I am also part,  Boys’ Legion, a gay, bisexual and trans (GBT) youth organization, Circle of Friends (CoF), a socio-civic group of discreet gay and bisexual men, Gay and Lesbian Activist Network for Gender Equality (GALANG), an LGBT group working at the grass roots level, Female Artists and Musicians’ Evolution (FAME), an all women’s art and music group, Lunduyan ng Sining, an artist group for women loving women, Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Project, Inc., a policy think tank composed of LGBT lawyers, Team Pilipinas, a group of Filipino LGBTs who’ve joined the World Out Games and other international LGBT sports fests, and of course UP Babaylan, the first ever LGBT student group in the University of the Philippines System.


            Everyone is excited to work for TFP because it is aiming high this year. TFP members are raring to celebrate the 10th Pride March in a big way, with more color, festivity, glitz and glamour. There are so many plans and I will tell you more regarding that later on. This year also marks the longest Pride Season, the period of time, set by TFP wherein its member organizations hold various activities leading up to the Pride parade.

Our kick off activity was a forum on trans women’s issues sponsored by R-Rights last August 30 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. It was followed by a reproductive health community outreach activity by UP Babaylan on September 1. Then R-Rights in cooperation with LNS and Radar Pridewear, the first alternative lifestyle fashion line for women, held the 4th Dyke Dialogues featuring nationally respected women’s leader, Aida Santos last September 13. That was followed on Sunday, September 14, by the 2nd church anniversary of the Metropolitan Community Church in Quezon City (QC) and the ordination of their Pastor, Pastor Ceejay Agbayani. As you know MCC is a global Christian Church that is inclusive towards LGBT people.


            This week the LGBT community is getting ready to attend two other events that are part of Pride Season: the launch of INVOICE, a new LGBT magazine and GALANG. The INVOICE launch will happen this Friday, September 19 at Bed Bar in Malate while GALANG will be launched at Café Rallos, in Tomas Morato in QC on Saturday, September 20. After these two big events, TFP will celebrate the anniversary of LNS when they hold a lesbian love letter reading on the 27th of September. We are all excited about that. Anything about love and I am going. J There are other events lined up for this year’s celebration of LGBT Pride so stay tuned for that.


            The TFP team is also very proud of the theme we came up with this year. The 2008 LGBT Pride March will celebrate A decade of dignity: Our rights, our lives, our loves, our selves. I’ll tell you more about that later. For now, I’m just happy to announce that right now in Manila it is Pride season once again. And I hope you can help us make it a truly momentous and successful occasion.


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T community meeting

Posted by pinaytg on July 31, 2008

            Last Friday, July 25, 2008, The Library Foundation Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective (TLF SHARE Collective) held an “exploratory discussion” among members of the transgender community at Chopstick Restaurant in Cubao, Quezon City. In attendance were people representing Laguna, Marikina, and Manila. The meeting was meant for those present to talk about their “life situations, sexual health and rights concerns.” I was there and the coordinator of the event, Shane, asked me to give a “trigger” presentation about my life story. Of course, I was more than willing to oblige.


            After me, each participant was asked to react to anything I said that struck a chord with them. I started my story when I was very young. As far as I could remember, I always felt a certain difference about me compared to kids my age, a feeling like something was missing, a feeling of being incomplete. When I was 6 years old I remember feeling so jealous of my sister. It was her birthday and my mother had a dress made for her. The dress was simple and made of ruffles. It had tiers of cloth that moved from the lightest to the darkest pink. Just one look and I knew I wanted to wear it. One afternoon while my sister was away in school and my mother was downstairs in the living room watching TV, I snatched the dress from where it was hanging and giddily put it on. When I saw myself in it, immediately I was awash in pure joy. I was ecstatic. I thought I was the prettiest girl in the world.


            So naturally I just had to show off.  I crept downstairs and jumped in front of the TV. I thought Mama was going to be happy to see me. Of course I was wrong. She started screaming at me, yelling for me to take the dress off. At first I didn’t understand her anger. She grabbed a soft broom and started hitting me. Only then did I become afraid and begin to cry. From then on, I knew better. And until I was in college I did not once act on that feeling. Until now, long after I have reconciled with the person I know I must be I can still remember how it feels. It feels like something is not right, like you are unhinged, empty, missing out, lost, uncertain, unprepared, inadequate, undone, unremarkable, pathetic, dirty, a loser, unlovable, in the dark, ugly. It’s not a good feeling. Imagine having to carry it for almost 20 years.


            That is why I was very happy about this meeting that TLF initiated. It’s always good to meet people you have something in common with, people who are like you somehow, who went through some of the same things that you did. It makes you feel you are part of a community—one that values your story, who you are, where you came from. And if it is a community that listens, that cares, that welcomes you, accepts you, loves you, it makes you feel that you are not alone.


            This is just a first and there will be more meetings to come. I told the group that came last Friday that hopefully in the next meeting each of us could bring another person, a friend, a member of our community. So if you know someone transgender who would like to attend that meeting please pass this along. You never know. Maybe you will help that person feel, finally, that he/she belongs. J






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