Last night I finally found the courage to turn on the Christmas lights again, the same lights you painstakingly stapled to our outdoor ceiling one afternoon when we had nothing else to do.

Pa looked at me when he saw the lights after all these years, his expression somewhere between uncertainty and gratitude. Our family has never been good at moving on and moving forward (especially me, ha ha HA), but I’d like to think that we try.

I remember painting our walls yellow with you, sticking glow-in-the-dark stars in my room with you, lifting and steadying the fridge on top of the dining table while in the middle of a storm with you, fighting over “mistakingly” opened diaries and drawers with you, talking about unwelcome spirits in the house and the necessary feng shui with you, debating the merits of rallying with you, and finally praying for strength and wisdom throughout a life with or without you.

In dreams you still visit me, but always only braiding and unbraiding my hair the way you did for years when I was a child — a constant doing and undoing that seems to be the single, most accurate metaphor for my life since you’ve gone away.

Four years later and the pain is still the same blunt force to my heart that comes unannounced when I write about you and losing you and finding you in everything that is good and worth thanking for in my life. For four years, I’ve never had to walk outside under heavy rains because the rain always only begins once I finally set my foot inside the door (I believe this is your machination as a mother who now has godlike powers), as if the weather is a reminder for me to rejoice in your light as I go through life, and only to grieve when I’m finally alone.

Thank you, Mu. I love you for always.



Young Blood: Her name is Jennifer

It’s a shame that it took reports of an American Marine suspected of killing a transgender Filipino for us to be particular with how the media tackle transgender issues and, by extension, LGBT issues.

A quick Google search using the search term “Jennifer Laude” will show us an easily corrected but continuously peddled mistake.

In identifying the victim, a network uses “Jeffrey Laude alias ‘Jennifer,’” and another settles for “Jeffrey Laude also known as ‘Jennifer.’” An online news outlet explained its use of the name “Jeffrey Laude” by saying, “We based it on the legal documents. But we acknowledge that Jeffrey Laude was also known as ‘Jennifer,’ as mentioned in the story.”

They “acknowledge” she was “also” known as Jennifer? Excuse us all who raise hell over her name, but she was known to family and friends as Jennifer, and introduced herself as Jennifer. There is no other name she chose to identify with but Jennifer.

How hard is it to say her name?

Some question those who feel strongly about calling Jennifer by her chosen name, when legal documents say otherwise. But the outrage felt by LGBT advocates is not simply over a name. It is about the right to identity and to self-determination.

Article 3 of the Yogyakarta Principles states: “Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom.” Drafted and unanimously adopted by 29 distinguished experts from 25 countries with diverse backgrounds and expertise relevant to issues of human rights law, the Yogyakarta Principles address a broad range of human rights standards and their application to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Meanwhile, the LGBT media advocacy organization GLAAD has engaged the New York Times and the Associated Press to produce a style guide that addresses gender inaccuracy and homophobia in the news.

According to GLAAD, “A transgender person’s chosen name should be considered by reporters to be their real name, whether it has been legally changed or not. Often transgender people cannot afford a legal name change, or they live in a community where obtaining correct identification is difficult. All transgender people should be treated as though they have changed their name legally to their chosen name.”

Under no circumstance should a media outlet imply that a transgender’s identity is not real or that it is a lie. If one feels so inclined to mention Jennifer’s legal name, the best way to go about it would be “Jennifer Laude, who was named Jeffrey at birth.”

In one of many heated debates online, one pointed out that the word “transgender” is so misunderstood that it is easy to take that explicit detail as an implication, much like how the words “Chinese” and “black” carry with them a stereotype. In that case, he said, “people are all too ready to see that being transgender invites crime.”

But it is better to have the news reflect this supposed implication—this vulnerability to violence that the LGBT community is subject to—because it is more reflective of the unfortunate reality we live in, than to insist that gender is immaterial in a still patriarchal, still sexist, and, yes, still racist society.

After all, this isn’t the first time a transgender person has fallen victim to a crime, but the media have never been this involved in reporting such a case until now. That the suspect is a member of the US military or that the Philippines has flawed bilateral agreements with the United States is no coincidence. Given that the LGBT community takes, and has always taken, an active role in the Philippines’ political exercise and experiments, someone who identifies as an LGBT is as much of a stakeholder as the rest of society and, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, both are subject to the conditions and contradictions in which the state chooses to engage.

It is unfortunate that a crime like this had to happen if only to highlight the intersectionality between the LGBT struggle and that of society as a whole—if only to remind us that the struggles of LGBTs cannot be addressed in isolation, because their struggle is ours, too.

About two weeks ago, before news about the killing of Jennifer broke, I had a discussion with a reporter of a major news outlet regarding a report involving another transgender victim. I tweeted him my concern over his use of the word “bading” to refer to a transgender person who was brutally murdered, the body found with 18 stab wounds.

The reporter asked me, “What is of high value, labeling or seeking justice for the victim?” But this begs the question of seeking respect being mutually exclusive from seeking justice, and that should not be the case. The concept of human rights rests heavily on our respect for one another.

And when rights are violated, to seek justice is to also seek respect long-denied. If we have to begin with getting the victims’ names and gender identities right, then we should start now.

We’ve delayed long enough.

Marrian Pio Roda Ching, 26, is a human rights advocate who has done work in reproductive health, gender rights, and the Bangsamoro peace process. She says she believes that gender-based violence happens more often than we care to admit, and that class struggles cannot be discussed in isolation from struggles based on gender and ethnicity.

(Published both online and in print on 21 October 2014. This can be found on page A11 of the Philippine Daily Inquirer of the same date, and at http://opinion.inquirer.net/79470/her-name-is-jennifer)


To Meryl, On Patience

Patience does not mean encouraging disappointment, frustration, and a waste of energy — all of which you seem to be so strongly against. Patience is the act of rejecting all three.

Patience does not require you to lose your convictions, because only people who have no convictions will “waste time with what displeases or hurts” for no reason. “Cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature” are only tolerated by those who do not know how to draw the line between advice and abuse.

Patience does not entail losing your backbone. Patience demands that you strengthen it.

Patience does not mean letting yourself be disappointed or hurt pointlessly, it does not mean putting up with excessive and unreasonable demands, it does not mean making an effort 24/7 for everyone to accept you, let alone love you. Patience means having the wisdom required to learn to accept that which cannot be when you have done all that you can (maybe even more), and to find the courage to detach yourself from it and all that reminds you of it and the immense suffering that it causes.

Make no mistake, patience does not mean blind surrender. It means to endure, to think, to choose your battles, and then to fight. Patience means giving yourself more time to assess why you do what you do, why you stay when all things seem hopeless, and why you must leave when the right time comes. Patience does not mean giving others the license to take you for granted.

Patience has nothing to do with letting yourself and others be manipulated, has nothing do with putting up with pretense, and has nothing to do with subjecting yourself to gossip. Patience means standing up for yourself and for others, to actually stop in the middle of what you are doing and take a step towards correcting these wrongs.

But patience does not mean you have to change the world; patience only means believing in your capacity to do so.

Because patience is not something you only afford other people; patience is something you must constantly afford yourself, no matter how undeserving you think you are. You will commit mistakes, you will commit the same mistakes, you will never stop committing mistakes. It is patience that will get you through the dark days, it is patience that will hold you together, it is patience that will allow you to distinguish between what is essential and what is merely embellishment.

It is patience that will help you to accept that all life is suffering, and it is patience that will help you through it.


Pisay at 50

Una sa lahat, hindi po ako taga-Pisay. Madalas lang mapagkamalan dahil marami sa kakaunti kong kaibigan ay mula sa Pisay.

Kaya rin ang dami kong contacts na nagpalit ng profile pics into their Pisay grad pictures, at marami pang iba na hindi nagpapalit pero alam kong taga-Pisay because you know #truefriend LOL WHAT

Anyway, narealize ko lang na andami palang mahalagang tao sa buhay ko na galing Pisay bukod pa sa kapatid ko. May mga mentors ako na galing Pisay, at may mga minentor/nauto rin naman akong kids from Pisay kahit paano.

May group of friends ako na puro sila taga-Pisay, and they kept me together during the still undisputed most difficult year of my life, and kept me sane and laughing during one of the most difficult days of my life. To be fair, sila rin may pakana sa isa sa mga happiest days of my life <3 hihi. Hindi ko sila lagi nakakasama, pero lagi ko silang kasama sa mga pinakaimportanteng mga pagkakataon. Sobrang laking utang na loob ko sa kanila.

So, ayun, bukod sa MaSci siguro sa Pisay na ako may pinakamalaking utang na loob. Kapag naalala kong taga-Pisay ka rin pala, hindi na ako nagtataka kung bakit ang dali mong napamahal sa akin, pero nagtataka ako kung paano mong nakakaya na… ‘wag na nga lang.


Muni-muni sa pagkahuli kay Palparan

Hindi ko alam kung paano ko ipapaliwanag ‘yung pakiramdam nung nabalitaan kong nahuli si Palparan. Ni hindi ko nga alam kung ano ang sasabihin nung marinig ko sa radyo ang pangalan niya e. Magkahalong pasasalamat at pagkapraning. Magulo.

Pero mas hindi ko maintindihan ‘yung mga pumapanig kay Palparan. Tanungin daw ang mga sundalo kung paano silang inaalagan at tinratong mabuti ni Palparan. Biktima raw si Palparan. Wow. Ikaw na nga ang nasa position of power, ikaw pa ang oppressed?



Noong nasa maskom pa ako, mga 2007 o 2008 ‘to, may panahong palaging may umaaligid na puting FX tapos kinukunan lang ng pictures at video ‘yung mga estudyante at paligid ng Batibot at college mismo. Minsan may GA ng Cineastes ata ‘yun o Samaskom sa may steps, e may nage-ED nun sa org. Napansin ng mga estudyante na parang may nagvvideo sa kanila mula sa FX, so kinausap nila si kuya guard.

Kinatok ni kuya guard ‘yung FX. Hindi naman nagbukas ng bintana, pero hindi rin naman umalis ‘yung FX.

Madalas din akong tambay sa CAL nun. Gaya sa maskom, sanay na kami na ini-“intel.” May mga lalaking kumukuha ng pictures ng mga estudyante sa kubo, sa may Katag, basta pakalat-kalat. Minsan nasa kubo sila ng AME o kaya ng LF kapag walang nakatambay sa mga kubo. Tapos alam mong hindi sila estudyante, pero hindi rin sila driver ng kung sino. ‘Yung iba sa amin sinusundan pa hanggang gym, main lib, at (sa maniwala kayo’t sa hindi) sa EEE.

Sa totoo lang mahirap din maniwala kapag hindi ikaw ‘yung nakaranas na sinusurveillance o kaya sinusundan. Jusko, ako na ‘to, ha. Miyembro ako ng Alyansa at nagkataon lang na nasa “pulang colleges” ako. Nagrarally ako paminsan, pero sa totoo lang relatively mababa naman ang level of involvement ko kumpara sa ibang mga kaibigan.

Pero paano mo ieexplain ‘yung ganoong nuances kung kunin ka? Kung dakpin ka? Nung time na ‘yun kakadukot lang kay Karen at She, tapos sumunod si Jonas na sa Ever Commonwealth huling nakita. Nakakatawa siguro o ‘di kaya imposible para sa iba na isiping madadakip ‘yung kaibigan nilang nagrarally or student leader at least. Pero minsan nag-apply ako for a writing position sa AFP, tinanong ako nung isang heneral (and I quote), “ano ba ‘tong Alyansa sa orgs mo? Pula ka ba?” 



Isipin mo, kapag dinakip ka, wala nang paliwanagan ‘yun. As if naman maniniwala sila na hindi ka parte ng kilusan, na nagreresearch ka lang, na hindi ka “kaliwa.” Naramdaman namin ng ilang kaibigan, some more than the others, ‘yung takot over that for a long while.

Siguro ‘yun din ang dahilan kung bakit ‘yung iba sa amin natuto na lang gawing joke ang nakakatakot na posibilidad na ‘yun, pero sa totoo langthe more absurd it seemed, the more scary it was.

Minsan nagbibiruan kami ng ilang kaibigan sa Asterisk — ‘yung iba miyembro ng Stand UP, ‘yung iba taga-Kule, tapos ‘yung iba unaffiliated. May isang nagbiro.

“‘Pag madesap ako, ayoko ng candlelighting. Gusto ko magpalipad kayo ng lanterns. Ayaw ko ng white, red, o black na shirt, gusto ko nakapink lahat. Pero ‘yang si Ayrie Ching ‘pag nadesap may candlelighting dapat, ‘yung pulang kandila na may design na dragon gagamitin natin kasi Intsik siya. Pero yellow shirt tayo, ha, kasi favorite color niya ‘yun. Or blue. Magblue tayo para statement talaga. HAHAHAHA!”

Biruan lang siya at marami kaming natawa, oo, pero ‘yung takot? Alam naming lahat na hindi biro ‘yun. 


Cinemalaya X: Matapos Mapanood ang Dagitab (Sparks)

Kakatapos lang manood ng Dagitab (Sparks), ang unang pelikulang napanood ko sa Cinemalaya ngayong taon. Ang pakiramdam ay kapwa pamilyar at kakaiba: pamilyar dahil sanay nang may tanong na nakababad sa hanging hinihinga at hindi alam kung paano sasagutin dahil hindi rin sigurado kung ano ang tinatanong, kakaiba dahil bagaman ay sanay sa kawalang-kasiguraduhan ng patunguhan ay hindi sanay manghula ng susunod na hakbang mula umpisa hanggang matapos sa panonood. Ito mismo ang Dagitab para sa akin — isang pelikulang kay raming gustong iparating, pero may ilang naligaw sa sukal ng mga sandali. Minsan makata sa paggamit ng imahe (nakahiga sa dalampasigan kasama ng mga alon, pagtapos ay may halikan), minsan ay walang bahid ng inarte (nag-aalmusal ang isa habang naririnig ang pagdumi ng sinta mula sa bukas na pintuan ng CR). Minsan may mga kwentong alam mo nang mangyayari pero kailangan mong makita (ang kwento ng dalawang workshop fellows) at meron din namang kwentong sana hindi na lang inumpisahan kundi rin naman mapapanindigan (ang kwento ng pamumundok at pag-aaklas, at ang lalim ng kilusan). Sa huli, marapat pa ring panoorin dahil kahit papaano ay nailahad ang katotohanan ng buhay  — may mga kasinungalingang mistulang nagiging totoo, mga pag-ibig na nawawala pero hindi natatapos, at mga buhay na sa hindi inaasahang pagkakataon ay naghihiwalay at nagdudugtong. Marahil ang pinakamalakas na metapora para sa pelikulang ito ay ang pamagat nito mismo — ang “dagitab” ay kuryenteng dumadaloy, samantalang ang “sparks” ay alipatong nagbabadya ng init na maaaring magningas o maglaho sa hangin. May kalituhan sa pagsasalin mula sa pelikula patungong puso, pero may naramdamang nagbabadyang apoy. Bagaman parang kulang, baka sakaling sapat na ang naramdamang iyon. image


I need to write this down

I thought difficult meant dealing with the consequences of having way too many feelings for one person — all the confusion, all the questions, everything that comes with having way too many for my tiny heart to handle.

Apparently it means feeling one thing and not having the opportunity to say it out loud, not being granted the chance to act upon it with the kind of passion I devote to the many things I am committed to such as the truth, especially when the biggest truth in my life right now is that I love you and that it pains me to feel that love with regret, as if instead of saying I love you what I really need to say is I’m sorry.

Difficult. Not hard, but difficult.