by Roger B Rueda
The Ladlad series is one of my much loved books. For one, the books have been with me in my formative years as a writer. They have made me sensitive of my orientation and understand myself. Ladlad 1 and 2 were bought for me by my father in SM Fairviewk, without his knowledge. The money I bought for the books was my father’s very last money in his wallet, but since he really did not know what I was going to pay the money for, he gave his two crisp one-thousand-peso bills. Perhaps, he thought that I was going to buy books I would need come June. I was excited that summer of 1997 because I thought that I would not borrow my roommate’s copy of Ladlad any more. Then certainly when I arrived in Iloilo City, I was the first person to have a copy of Ladlad 2, with its beautiful crimson cover. Many of my friends borrowed my books, especially the two books of Ladlad. I covered them with plastic and took care of them not so they wouldn't be soiled or crumpled. But my books were not returned. The two friends of mine seemed to have forgottem to return my copies.
The Ladlad series explores the emotional life of gays in a heterosexual world; they are brilliant expositions on the gay experience. For gay readers, the enjoyment of Ladlad can be simply in seeing their lives—too frequently disregarded—reflected back at them on the pages of the series.
The two earlier series made me dream of becoming a writer, too. My early influences are the best contemporary writers in the country: Danton, J. Neil, Ronald Baytan, Ralph Semino Galan, and Felino Garcia. Reading them, I found out how beautiful their minds are and how imaginative they are/ I must really have to endeavor hard to be like them: artistic, vocal, confident, intelligent, perceptive, and fascinating. Their poems and short stories or even their essays are classics that every gay must read and find delight in.
By living outside what are considered gender norms because of the experiences I have gotten from the Ladlad books, I am now more open to seeing across boundaries of sexual category and gain admittance to a less dualistic attitude on the nature of life. Because of Ladlad, I am far more attuned to the needs of a fast evolving society in which quickness and nimble thinking are in demand and traditional religions are beleaguered with internal conflicts, exposing inherent contradictions between organized religious conviction and the true nature of God. Thus, I am more positive of myself as a human being and as a child of God.
Ladlad made me buy Panorama, Free Press, and Graphic every week and Star every Sunday and Monday. I need to follow these writers who write for these papers. After reading and savoring the works of the Ladlad writers, I have now become a published writer, too, in some national papers and the Mantala, an NCCA anthology edited by Leoncio Deriada. And I have developed a reading habit since then. Now I am crazy about Cirilo Bautista and his Breaking Signs—and Butch Dalisay, too, after reading his Oldtimer. I like Krip Yuson’s column, too. I have become aware of other writers, even if they are not gays.
Moreover, I began to attend writers' workshops. There I met Vicente Groyon III and Jaime An Lim. Well, recently because of the Ladlad, I have published my grammar book for my university/foreign students. And since the germ of Ladlad’s influence has mutated, I now have an assemblage of English-Hiligaynon/Hiligaynon-English vocabulary in order to help students in the West Visayas in their translation work.
Last year, after stopping hoping that my two friends would return my books, I decided to buy new Ladlad copies. Well, since there was only newsprint copies of Ladlad 1 and 2, I did not have a choice but to get the newsprint copies. Actually, the reason that I was able to buy the books was that one student of mine gave me a new, hardbound edition of Harry Potter. But since I have read it already, I went to National Book Store in SM City-Iloilo and had the book changed to Ladlad and other gay titles.
In Ladlad3, I like the rewriting of Alice in Wonderland into a poem, the gay children’s story, and the account of a beauty salon employee who is part of the underground movement. The book also contains legends, allowing the downbeat elements that traditional society and religion have placed on homosexual identity to be transformed and given a lift.
A lot of gays have suffered from the typecast that homosexuality is a terrible blight and source of sorrow and suffering, but because of the brilliant writers of peculiar sexual orientation and discovered their sexuality can also give them great elation, talent, success, and love. So, I really hold the three Ladlad books in the highest regard.
The Ladlad series showcases the many shapes and faces of being gay. And what I am now—an ESL teacher and a writer—is because of the Ladlad books that made me see the writer and individual in me.
Roger B Rueda has a degree in mass communications from the West Visayas State University before going on to study governance in graduate school. Now, he divides his time between editing, teaching writing/grammar, and doing his own writing. He has contributed to several magazines and an anthology and is hard at work on his first novel and his Hiligaynon-English/English-Hiligaynon dictionary. He’ll soon be all of thirty-one.