Caption: Danton Remoto brings his pink army to the electorate. Photo by Pol Briana, Jr.
Pink Revolution: Ang Ladlad’s Danton Remoto
June 28, 2009
Will Danton Remoto be the Philippines’ answer to Harvey Milk?
Milk made history in 1977 when he became the first openly gay man elected into public office. Remoto is yet to do the same, but the impact he’s made on the Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is certainly as impressive as Milk’s history-making feat.
Remoto, with fellow writer J. Neil Garcia, was behind the pioneering “Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Literature.” Its effect on Filipino culture has been immense. Ladlad has gone through several editions, has resulted in the teaching of gay literature classes at the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University, and is credited for Ang Ladlad, the partylist that Remoto formed in 2003.
“We started in September 2003 with only one mandate — to help Akbayan push the Anti-Discrimination Bill which was filed in 1999,” he says of Ang Ladlad’s beginnings. “Congress is not really against it but they just think it is not as important. So lagi, ang mga bading, lesbians, transgender, bisexual, laging, kung baga cameo role lagi.”
Fighting for one’s rights is certainly nothing new for Remoto. With his father in the military, Remoto grew up with the belief that nobody should take any abuse lying down.
“My father was a military officer and we were trained to be amazons. Isa lang ang turo niya: You study hard, you study well at ‘pag may umaway sa inyo at umuwi kayo ng luhaan, papaluin ko kayo, you should learn to be tough and fight back,” he recalls with a laugh. “So ang nangyari ngayon, may mga pumupunta sa bahay namin na mga magulang, ‘Naku sir, ‘yang anak ninyong bading binugbog ang anak ko.’ Sabi ng tatay ko ‘Eh di, mabuti!’”
Remoto does the same fighting for the LGBT community. Whether it’s freeing hundreds of gay men being detained illegally or arguing for lesbians and transgenders who have been discriminated against for their sexual orientation, Remoto and his allies are always ready with a legal challenge and a witty retort.
“You have to show them that you will not allow this. If you show them that you will fight back, they will move away. Bullies are really cowards,” he says.
Remoto’s fight for equal rights would have reached its peak in the 2007 elections had Ang Ladlad been allowed to run as partylist, but the COMELEC refused to accredit the group, citing its lack of constituents. It is Remoto, however, who has the last laugh, as he is now planning to run for the Senate on an education platform.
“I’m running on a platform of education because I’ve been teaching for 22 years. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung alam na alam kong issue, ‘yun gay rights, kasama na ‘yan sa education. Open-mindedness
is a function of education, kasi ang tao kapag pinaaral mo, luluwag ang isip. Education is what we really need in this country,” he says.
To close June as the Pride Month, Danton Remoto lets it all out: about being gay in the Philippines, his vision for the Philippine LGBT community, and the possibility of being the country’s first openly gay senator. (RONALD S. LIM)
STUDENTS AND CAMPUSES BULLLLETIN (SCB): What led to the creation of Ang Ladlad, considering that the gay rights movement has been here in the country for quite sometime now?
DANTON REMOTO (DR): We started in September 2003 with only one mandate – to help Akbayan push the Anti Discrimination Bill which was filed in 1999. We wanted to help. Akbayan and Ang Ladlad are not enemies ah, si Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel whom you interviewed and I are very good friends. We went to Ateneo together but of course, I’m older than her, by only a few years. (laughs) Magkalinawan tayo noh. (laughs)
Congress is not really against it but they just think it is not as important. So lagi, ang mga bading, lesbians, transgender, bisexual, laging, kung baga cameo role lang…
SCB: How does that make you feel?
DR: I feel bad. One time, it almost got through, it passed the Lower House in February, 2004 but we needed a Senate version. So we called up the Senate, kanya-kanya silang dahilan. Senator A said, “I cannot push for it, my office just got burned.” Senator B said, “Bakit pa ninyo kailangan ng LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, eh ang yayaman naman ng mga bading?” I think they were talking about Boy Abunda o Ricky Reyes noh. ‘Yung isa naman, sabing ganyan, saradong Katoliko raw siya. Maraming bading ang nangangailangan. My house in Xavierville has an extra room. That became a halfway house for young people na pinalayas ng mga magulang. They stayed for a few months or as long as they wanted, until their problems get sorted out.
SCB: But it’s not really not a center?
DR: No. I’ll be honest with you, we have a lot of offers but we always ask where the money is coming from. Sa politika, some people they don’t argue where the money is coming from, so they can use you for the elections.
SCB: What about for the older gays?
DR: The old people naman like golden gays, we have an alliance with councilor Justo Justo of Pasay. What is sad is that they are not poor. Many of them sent their nephews and nieces to school. Kapag nasa abroad na, hindi na sila naalala, so itong si bading wala nang ngipin, kalbo na, mashonda na, wa datung. Councilor Justo helps them, house, water, light, and food. We want to have a center that will house these old and abandoned LGBTs, kasi ‘yan mga nagpaaral ng kapatid, pamangkin kaya lang inabandona. ‘Yung iba pa diyan, pagkakuha ng retirement, ‘yung pera ipapaaral o ipapautang sa pamangkin to set up a business, not all pero some of them are abandoned. Meron diyan dentista, teacher, they join the Pride March every December.
SCB: That is sad…
DR: We also want to promote LGBT-friendly businesses. In the US for instance, Levi’s is gay-friendly. I studied kasi sa US ang daming gay-friendly businesses that I hope we can also do here. Kasi dito, like the TV show “Out” only had one season, which is only 12 episodes kasi wala silang advertisement. Even if the ad agencies’ creative directors are gay, the owners did not want to advertise. So we have to push for that support, like all the gay magazines are closed now, Icon is closed, Generation Pink is closed.
SCB: What other laws are you pushing for?
DR: We are pushing for the Anti-vagrancy Bill to be taken out of the law, not all pero some policemen use that to extort from gay men. Vagrancy was a law during the American time, it was used to control the population. Kasi ‘yung ibang mga bading di ba nagpapahangin, mainit kasi, naglalakad sa park. So ikaw, as a bading, you bring an ID, you bring money at least R50 para meron kang pamasahe. In short, ‘pag wala kang pera, ‘wag kang lumabas, subersibo ka. So ngayon, ‘yung mga bading
na nagpapahangin lang o nag-aabang ng taxi sa Taft, hinuhuli ng pulis.
I remember, I would always go to the police station in Balic-Balic, CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), Camp Caringal, lahat ‘yan napuntuhan ko na, pinapakawalan ko ‘yung mga bading. Because the law says, you cannot detain somebody beyond 12 hours, the new law is 18 hours kung hindi, we can accuse the policemen of illegal detention and we have done that. Actually lahat ng kaso namin nanalo kami, dinemanda talaga namin along with the Akbayan lawyers, pupunta kami sa city hall for the inquest of fiscal. Like one time, there were like, mga 100 na bading ‘yun sa isang gay bar and they were being asked for a lot of money, and you cannot do that.
SCB: Does it still surprise you that young gay men are still being treated this way?
DR: There are cases like that until and unless, they got out from college and begin working. If you want an economic analysis, ang bading para siyang unit of production that only when he gives money to the family saka siya ginagalang. Again, it all boils down to Apple Macintosh or Nokia – “user-friendly.’’
Sa mga magulang at kamag-anak ginawang insurance, ‘yung mga bading na anak. ‘Pag wala pang pera ‘yan, inaapi, inaaway, ‘pag may trabaho na si bading, bida na siya. Like ‘yung mga nagja-Japan, the transgenders, the one with humongous breasts, sabi ko bakit ninyo ginagawa ‘yan? “Kasi ho sa Japan ‘pag meron po kaming breasts, mas popular kami, either as singers or dancers.” Eh saan napupunta ‘yung kita ninyo? Kalahati yan or more than half goes to our parents, brothers, sister the, ‘yung konti sa amin.
If you talk to any beauty parlor worker or transgender worker in Japan, pare-pareho ng kwento ‘yan, ang Filipino family, whether male, female, transgender, bisexual, lesbian or what, nakasentro lagi ‘yung family. So ‘yung mga bading, they only earn respect generally, if they contribute to the family.
SCB: How was it for you growing up gay in a Filipino family?
DR: My father was a military officer, now we were trained to be amazons (laughs). Isa lang ang turo niya, you study hard, you study well at ‘pag may umaway sa inyo at umuwi kayo ng luhaan, papaluin ko kayo, you should learn to be tough and fight back. Kaya nga marunong kami mag martial arts, imagine me, alam ko ‘yan, the basic self defense, tinuruan kami.
Now, sabi ng tatay ko, if the enemy is bigger than you, kumuha ka ng bambo, hampasin mo, kasi he’s bigger than you, he’s bullying you hindi ka pwedeng umuwi nang umiiyak. So ang nagyari ngayon, may mga pumupunta sa bahay namin na mga magulang, “Naku sir, ‘yang anak ninyong bading binugbog ng anak ko.” Sabi ng tatay ko “eh di, mabuti” sabi ko “Papa bully ‘yan eh” “Ano ginawa mo?” “Hinampas ko ng buho!”
SCB: So that is why you are so feisty…
DR: Hello, I grew up in a military camp during Martial Law. We would go to school with military escort kasi di ba ang daming NPA sa Pampanga, barilan kung barilan ‘yan eh. That is why I am not afraid of guns. We’re taught to fight back, ayaw ng tatay ko na iiyak ka. Diba ‘yan ang stereotype ng Pilipinong bading, iyakin, takot, ayaw ng away, ayaw ng gulo, cry na lang ng cry, hindi naman ganun.
SCB: Your father knew outright that you were gay?
DR: Of course! Grade 1, I was seated beside my classmate Robert, he’s now dead, hindi ko pa alam ‘nun ang word na crush. Katabi ko naman si Vivian na crush ko rin, parang bakit ganito? Tapos ang nakikita kong image na bading si Georgie Quizon, sa TV, kapatid ni Dolphy, in short, our role models were negative, sila ‘yung laging pinagtatawanan sa sine. Then later in high school, Roderick Paulate movies.
The only gay role models then were showbiz reporters or hairdressers.
SCB: How did your mother raise you? Did she counter your dad’s ways?
DR: My mother was a music teacher. Ang sabi ng nanay ko lang nun, kasi nung Grade 1, ang hawak ko sa book ganyan (holding a book against his chest) Sabi ng nanay ko, “naku magagalit ang tatay mo. Ang paghawak ganyan” (holds a book on his side). Tapos naalala ko nun may perya nun, may mga impersonators sabi ng tatay ko, ‘Wag mong gagayahin ‘yan.’’ I was 10 years old, and when you’re young you’re confused, wala namang role model.
SCB: Did your father try to “straighten” you up?
DR: Naku ‘neng, pinag-karate pa ako niyan, kaya marunong ako mag-karate, ang hirap nga ng karate, you have to memorize all those moves, hallu!
SCB: Were there no bullies when you were younger?
DR: Ang nanay ko kasi teacher sa elementary, ang tatay ko military. At saka first honor si bading! Wala na silang kokopyahan! (laughs) Sige, bakla pala ha, wala kang kokopyahan sa Social Studies
mamaya. ‘Yung presidents at prime ministers memorize ko, wala kang kopya. Pero pag math, pakopya naman! (laughs) Bobo ako sa math.
Hindi ako na-traumatize, hindi ako pinagalitan, hindi ako pinalo, hindi ako nilublob sa drum ng tubig. My parents were so civilized.
SCB: Kailan niya natanggap?
DR: I love it! When the book “Ladlad 1” came out in 1994, ‘yung kopya ko ibinigay ko sa kapatid kong babae, binigay niya sa nanay ko, nanay ko binigay niya sa tatay ko.
Eto na, sabi ko sa kapatid ko, ano response ng ating parents? Nakita ng tatay “Ladlad” ‘yung cover di ba half-naked man, tiningnan niya ‘yung loob, alam mo kung ano sinabi niya? “Oh, at least they used white paper for his book.” Sagot ng nanay ko “Oo nga.” Ayun, tapos! (laughs)
Kasi in the Filipino society, unlike in the film Philadelphia na aaminin mo sa magulang mo na bading ka, dito hindi naman inaannounce eh. Here, the gay person is the last person to know he’s gay eh. Meron pa “Alam mo bading ako” “Naku, noon pa naming alam bading! Halu, hindi mo pa ba alam?” (laughs)
SCB: You were saying that you were confused before? When was this confusion solved?
DR: I was 26 when the British Council sent me to the University of Stirling in Scotland! (laughs) Naloka ako sa classmate ko na si Brendan from Ireland, a football player, full of muscles. Then he told me he was gay, aba kaya pala sa swimming class namin, sa common bathroom kung makatingin, hindi ko alam, kapatid pala! Sabi pa niya “I like the color of your skin, where did you get your tan?” Sabi ko, “Oh, it’s natural!” Siya ‘yung naging first boyfriend ko. Ay hindi pala, si Stephen pala ‘yung una. Nakalimutan na! (laughs)
NO TO DISCRIMINATION
SCB: Have you ever been disadvantaged because you are gay?
DR: I’ll be honest with you. I used to get offers from big multinational companies to work for public relations, communications, kasi I went to Ateneo, I have a degree in Scotland, I went to the US for further studies.
‘Yan ang gusto ng mga multinationals eh, may master’s from abroad. Eh ‘yung ginawa ko ‘yung “Ladlad” wala na, lost na, wala nang nag-alok. Dati, every three months may offer letter na mataas ang sweldo, pero ano gagawin ko kung ayaw sa iyo, ‘di ‘wag.
SCB: Pero ‘yung mga lumalapit sa ‘yo na humihingi ng tulong?
DR: For example, like this transgender sa Ang Ladlad, Ateneo graduate siya, with MA in Sociology. Nag apply sa call center kasi konti lang ang trabaho ng sociologists. Apply siya, number one sa entrance, pagdating sa interview long hair, tigbog! Sabi ng interview, this is a call center (based in Ortigas). We cannot hire you because you’re a man with boobs. Sabi ng transgender “Why? Will my breasts do the talking for me?” Sabi lang niya, “Because the manager of the company is a Mormon. He does not want.” I’m just quoting him. Sabi naman ng HRD, but you have to remember that this call center follows American laws. That is questionable because we are on Philippine soil, hindi naman sila embassy, only embassies and consulates follow the law of the country. If you’re a call center here, you follow Philippine laws. So we asked again, gusto mo ba idemanda? Again, the problem with that, siya na rin mismo ayaw, so the victim who doesn’t even want to pursue it hindi na pwedeng ituloy.
Ten years ago, there was a lesbian, malaki ang katawan, apply siya sa Makati. Number one sa written, UP graduate, cum laude. Maikli ang buhok, talagang butch lesbian, hindi lang ‘yung tipong kargador sa pier, kayang buhatin ang buong barko, ganun siya kalaki, matalino. Sabi ng HRD, “Are you a practicing lesbian?” Sabi niya “Why?” Sagot nila “Well, because in this company we don’t hire practicing lesbians.” Sabi niya “Excuse me, I’m no longer practicing, I’m already good at it.” She wasn’t hired!
SCB: Do you get a lot of stories like that?
DR: Kasi, the Labor Code is silent about this, so wala. Sa Philippine military wala rin siya, sa US, don’t ask, don’t tell. Sa Philippine National Police, sa revised code of 1998, nakalagay dun, “There will be no discrimination in the hiring and firing based on sexual orientation.” Napasok namin ‘yan, kasi si Orly Mercado, then Defense Secretary, had a staff who was our lawyer and he was gay. It’s now a law.
Ang military naman, two months ago, I talked to spokesperson Lt. Col. June Torres.
Sabi niya walang diskriminasyon maliban na lang na gay male ka, as opposed to lesbian, ang suot mo talaga male attire ‘pag female ka, female attire.
You know, things are changing, this military spokesman, they talk about it dati they would not even talk about it.
SCB: What’s the worst discrimination you’ve ever experienced?
DR: I remember when I was walking down Katipunan, merong pick up truck. Hindi naman ako pinipick-up. There were a group of teenagers, sabi nila, “Bakla! Bakla!” I’m sure hindi sila taga-Ateneo kasi wala silang breeding. Alam mo sabi ko, “Halika, baba kayo dito!” Umalis! Kukuha pa naman ako ng bato! Kaya lang parang wa’ poise! (laughs)
SCB: That’s the worst?
DR: You have to show them that you will not allow this. If you show them that you will fight back, they will move away. Bullies are really cowards.
SCB: What’s the worst case of discrimination you’ve heard?
DR: Ten years ago, in Iloilo, this beauty parlor worker pinahabol sa aso. In Gen. Nakar, there was a mayor who closed down the beauty parlors kasi salot daw. Ang problema niya, ‘yung mga botante niya nagalit. Lahat ng mga bakla lumipat sa kabilang town, nagalit ‘yung mga babae kasi magbibiyahe pa ng jeep. Natalo sa eleksyon. Buti nga sa kanya.
Sa lesbians, pinapa-rape ng tatay. Kasi daw if they taste having sex with men they will stop being lesbian. These are documented cases. The last case that was reported to me was 2007. Job discrimination is still with us.
Dati sa Catholic school, the parents will sign a form that their son is not homosexual
before they could be accepted. How would you know? Ang anak mo ngayon straight, bukas sirena na! Nagbabago naman ‘yan. Kaya ikaw kapatid! (laughs)
SCB: People say that the number of gays is increasing. Why is this happening?
DR: Parang gremlin lang ‘yan, pag nabasa dumadami! Mas naging visible lang ngayon. Marami na ‘yan noon pa. Dati noon ang tawag diyan PB, pamilyadang bading, bading na nag-asawa. Statistics say na 10 percent although sabi ng ibang tao sa Pilipinas mas marami. Sa Greenbelt, Ang Ladlad diyan laging mabenta. Ang mga malls, urban centers, places na merong medical schools, nursing
schools. Kasi mga nurturers, healers. Mga babaylan! (laughs)
SCB: Are they younger now?
DR: Nako neng, nakakaloka ang mga bading, ang babata. I have a friend who told me “Yung mga bata ngayon sa Catholic school, kapag tumatawid, elementary pa lang, ganito na!” (makes hand gesture) Hindi kami ganyan nung maliit! Ayaw ng tatay ko niyan! ‘Yung tatay ko kasi is from the old school. If you saw me in college sa Ateneo, tahimik lang ako.
That’s the way they want to express themselves. There are conservative elements who say bakit kailangan kumendeng?
Well, malambot kasi ‘yung hips nila, pabayaan niyo na. Kanya-kanyang hips ‘yan. Katulad nung issue sa sagala. We have so many big problems in the country, like one third of the Filipinos don’t have jobs, pag-aawayan natin bakit nakasagala si bading o si BB? Pera naman niya ang ginamit
niya doon. There are bigger problems than men wearing the clothes of women.
SCB: Are you friends with BB Gandanghari? What is she really?
DR: She doesn’t want to undergo sexual reassigment surgery. For her, she’s transgender. Her mind and heart is a woman. The new meaning of transgender, according to my transgender friends, is that you don’t need female sex organs, breasts, as long as your being, sa isip, sa puso, sa kaluluwa – parang Panatang Makabayan! – girl ka, girl ka!
SCB: Some people may misconstrue that as them making a choice....
DR: According to them, kami talaga we were assigned the wrong gender. Some of them work hard, save money, to have sexual reassignment surgery. Another group doesn’t believe you have to undergo surgery. They’re not gay, they’re women.
One time I was in Thailand last year for a meeting with Asian Studies scholars. May tatlong transgender, may boobs na sila, punta silang Thailand para kompletos rekados na. Dumating kami ng Bangkok, tatlong bading nauna na. Pagdating ko, sabi ng matanda sa immigration “You, no breasts yet, no down there, you here for complete operation?” “No, I’m here as a teacher!” (laughs)
FIRST OPENLY GAY SENATOR?
SCB: So are you running for the Senate?
DR: I’ve been invited by at least three political parties to run as senator. They’re sending intermediaries. They want me to run with them. Bibigyan ka ng papel na puti, nakasulat ‘yung figure. Hindi statistics ha, datung! Nakalagay 10, 10,000 lang? Sorry, may pagkabobo! (laughs) Hindi sanay sa maraming pera! ‘Yan na pala ang halaga ng mga bading ngayon! And that’s only one politician! On record, we haven’t accepted a single centavo.
SCB: Are these major political parties?
DR: Of course! Tapos na ang independence days ko. People who promise you money don’t deliver. I think that they recognize that the 2010 elections will be a closely fought election. Ang mananalo diyan baka two million votes lang. Ilan ang bading? Bilangin niyo. Ten percent of the population. If we are 82 million, 8.2 million. Sabihin natin na 40 percent lang ang voters niyan. That’s 4.8 million.
SCB: How does it feel that the LGBT are being recognized?
DR: Ang haba ng hair ko! Blond! Naapakan mo na! (laughs) Alam mo kung bakit ako tumatawa na ganito? Ininsulto tayo ng COMELEC! We were not allowed to run kasi ang sabi nila kokonti lang ang bading. Hindi daw marginalized. May umamin bang bading sa Congress? Sabi nga ni (Imee) Marcos, siya lang ang bading diyan!
SCB: Why are you running?
DR: Because of our party list. ‘Yun lang naman ang gusto kong itakbo noon eh, to help Rissa (Baraquel) and Tita Etta (Rosales), and then go back to teaching. Eh ininsulto ang mga bading! Can you imagine Abalos telling us that we are phantom voters? In Tagalog, mga multong bakla? Imagine! Ang sabi ko “With all due respect, Commissioner Abalos, we are not phantoms. We are the opera!” Eh di naloka siya ng ganyan. Hindi niya na-gets. Binulungan pa ng aide niya. Nag-smirk siya. Eh ‘yung mukha niya medyo dry, kailangan ng moisturizer!
SCB: If you win, what will this mean for the gay community?
DR: You know what, I really just wanted to run for party list, push for the Anti-Discrimination Bill, and return to teaching. Ang buhay ng teacher masaya naman ‘yan eh. You don’t grow old. When I see my students “Tatay mo ba si ganyan? “Yes sir!” “He was my classmate.” “Bakit tatay ko kalbo na? Ikaw mukhang bagets?” “Plus 10 ka sa test, iha!” When you’re a teacher you’re always around young people, you’re always happy. It’s a job that doesn’t stress you so much.
Nung hindi kami pinatakbo, I ran as Congressman, natalo kami. Or so the vote count said. That’s ok with me, I never felt bitter. I don’t like this. I’m being invited. They will show me figures that I’m in the Top 12. Hindi ko sinasabing totoo ‘yan. What I’m saying is that I have seen figures. One day I’m in the Ateneo, these three military men, I don’t know them, say I’m number eight. Saan? Hindi naman ako sumali sa beauty contest. (laughs) Sa meeting ng NGO, sasabihin number ganyan ka. 2006, ayaw patakbuhin ang bading. Ngayon ang telepono ko ring ng ring.
It began last year, they were inviting us because they know that 2010 will be a closely fought election. Kaya ang sabi ko sa Liberal Party, ang kunin niyong vice-president, si Kris Aquino, para tapos na ang laban! Deal or no deal! Mananalo siya. She’s very, very strong.
SCB: If you win, how do you plan to change the perception of gays?
DR: I’m running on a platform of education
because I’ve been teaching for 22 years. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung alam na alam kong issue, ‘yun gay rights, kasama na ‘yan sa education. Education is what we really need in this country. One hundred ‘yan na papasok sa Grade One. Forty na lang pag-graduate ng elementary. Twenty na lang pag high school. Apat na lang pag college.
In the general elections, 60 percent of the voters did not finish Grade Six. ‘Yan ang haharapin natin. I will focus on primary schools, kasi makagraduate lang ‘yan ng Grade six, at least may basic skills. They drop out in Grade Four kasi they don’t have food.
It’s not all about my group. My grandparents were public school teachers. My mother was a public school teacher. My father lectured in UE for a while. We’re really a family of teachers. Malaki pa ang sweldo ng call center kesa sa teacher. Mas malaki pa sweldo ng pulis.
SCB: How would you rate the acceptance of gays and lesbians?
DR: Sa urban areas mataas siya. Sa probinsiya, it’s better, but it can be even better.
SCB: Marami pa rin...
DR: Ay oo, alam mo naman the Philippines, the closet capital of the world! (laughs) Lalo na sa business. Sa politics!
SCB: Is it better to be gay in the Philippines than in other countries?
DR: I can only compare it to the United Staes where I studied nine years ago. In the urban areas it’s like here. Pero in the rural areas, marami pa ring small-minded people. Open-mindedness is a function of education, kaya nga my main platform is education. Kasi ang tao kapag pinaaral mo, luluwag ang isip.
SCB: What’s the biggest challenge that gays and lesbians face?
DR: I say this not just to gays and lesbians. Ang biggest challenge natin is education. With 100 call center applicants, they only get three. The rest are retrained.
We need education that will make them stay in this country. We had a reunon in Ateneo, more than half of them are in the US. We are losing the best minds to work abroad. Education is the biggest challenge both of LGBT and non-LGBT Filipinos.
SCB: What’s next after the Anti-Discrimination Law?
DR: The Philippines has many, many laws but they’re not implemented. If it’s passed during our term, our next part is implementation. You need a group like Ang Ladlad and Akbayan as an oversight committee. You make sure that all the implementing rules and regulations are implemented.
SCB: What’s your dream for LGBT in Filipino society?
DR: It’s better now, but I hope that they don’t feel embarrassed that they’re LGBT. If you look at the West, many suicides are gay men. We have not done studies here but I have heard that some of those who have taken their own lives are gay men. I hope they will never be ashamed of who they are.
In the end, if you are working, you are a taxpayer. You pay income tax na masakit, madugo. And you are not given the right to do what you think is right for you? We’re all fighting for equal rights.
(Interview by RACHEL C. BARAWID, ANGELO G. GARCIA, INA R. HERNANDO, RONALD S. LIM, JASER A. MARASIGAN)