Thursday, August 27, 2015

Endings 2

Fabcasting is dead. There. I said it. But the Fabcasters and the Peanut Gallery, that's another matter. :-)

It has been dying a slow death, really. Podcasting, the Fabcasters' way has lived its life, full if I may say.

Lobster Tony and I were 'inducted' into the group belatedly, after the original Troikasters (Miggs, Gibbs and Mcvie) invited us to join them for a podcast on Long Distance Relationships. AJ joined after and the group was formed. That was 8 years ago.

We have covered much ground since that time, a lot of it relevant to us and to the evolving gay scene. We started inviting guests to the podcast, guests who shared their views and even personal experience on the topics. Some of them became regulars. Thus was born the Peanut Gallery.

We recorded from cafes and other public venues. But eventually, we chose private residences to control for noise. I hosted quite a few Fabcasts in my condo, then in my house when I transferred. Some have been recorded in the different condos McVie has stayed in, and in Miggs' place. Hosting a Fabcast was actually a breeze. It was usually after dinner, and all we needed was some snacks, maybe dessert and that social lubricant called alcohol.

Fabcasting was actually a wish fulfilled for me. Years and years back, I read about the 'salons' of London in the 1900's, places where groups of people, men usually, would have spirited discussions about a range of topics, from politics to philosophy to science. Such discourses honed many skills including debate, critical thought and public speaking. I longed to belong to such a group, to engage people or even to just listen to varied opinions on topics that resonated with me. Then with the invite to join that podcast, I became part of one. I was fortunate to be in the company of intelligent, inquisitive maybe even intrusive minds where nothing was sacred.

Episodes that stand out in my memory:

The first, of course, on long distance relationships, where I was so candid about being unfaithful to a partner far away. And that was my first-ever podcast. I was still getting to know McVie, Gibbs and Tony yet I was baring my relationship soul. That transpired in a little coffee shop along Panay Ave.

I don't recall fabcast titles anymore. But I remember one where we had quite a heated discussion over the possibility of having a relationship with a former sex worker. It was amazing that some of us held such strong opinions. If my memory serves me right, we were in an old house that was being rented by one of us (Miggs?).

For relevance, that discussion over May-December affairs also stands out. Most of us were involved with younger partners. And they were there to talk about their points-of-view.

I wanted to cheat by backreading my posts. But I have to be honest and these are those I still recall (core memories? LOL #insideout)

Funny, too, how some of our guests made us swoon. Hahaha. True. #kilig over more than a few, actually. Because they are attractive. They were also honest and real as we grilled them. That made them even hotter. LOL No, I will not mention them. Not even those that made an impact on me. hahaha

Then there were the parties! That little circle of the Peanut Gallery expanded. Soon, we were hosting parties to allow everyone to meet (and mate) everyone LOL. Hosting those events didn't come easy or cheap. But we were motivated anyway, especially the single ones. hahaha. There were always stories that followed each party. Stories of drunken orgies. (Joke.) Stories of drunkeness, of hookups, of throwing up. We still recall with laughter all those. And even if you attended just one or two, we will try our very best to recall you and any story related to you.

Soon enough, the Fabcasts became less and less frequent. On the surface, there were the usual reasons - other priorities like work, new relationships, etc. But we also found ourselves not having topics to cover anymore. In a moment of introspection, we felt that our latter fabcasts were more self-involved ("navel-gazing" exercises).

We look around and see that we have covered much ground, talked about many topics that we end up repeating them. Though some of them remain relevant, we didn't have anything new to add to the matter. Even 'hot topics' like same-sex marriage have been taken up.

Of course there are other things happening, issues other than those related to the "gay agenda". But there seems to be no impetus to record that. Yes, we can talk about the upcoming elections but we quickly lose the interest to sustain it as a conversation. Ultimately, Fabcasting revolved around the issues relevant to us gays. That was what we liked discussing for others to hear.

But we are only as good as the novel POV we can bring into a topic. Nobody likes a broken record; and not one that ultimately will just lead to more 'navel-gazing.'

Podcasting ala Fabcasters and the Peanut Gallery has served its purpose, at least for us within that tiny circle. It has allowed me to fulfill a wish, to meet wonderful new people, to engage and become more aware. From the feedback we have gotten, the Fabcasts did affect quite a few people out there, hopefully more positively than negatively.

So Fabcasting also ends, after 8 years or so. Paraphrasing "Wicked"... I can't say that Fabcasting has changed me for the better. But it changed me for good.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Endings 1

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Today I served as lector for the last time at the parish. I turned in my resignation two weeks ago, to take effect on August 31, 2015. I mentioned that I would honor my August commitments. This 11am Mass was the last of those commitments.

I have probably been a member of the Word Ministry (that is what we call our group of lectors and commentators) for more than twenty years. I can’t even remember how old I was when I joined. I vaguely recall that my sister, Ate No. 4, was the first to join the Ministry, then I followed. This was probably in the late 80’s. We were part of the ‘youngblood’ that they were infusing into this apostolate. Till that time, the organization counted Blue Ladies and senior citizens as the majority of the membership. I used Blue Ladies loosely to refer to those matronly older women who go to Church everyday without fail, all coiffed and coutured. c3 would now refer to them as “Titas of Manila”. But back then, they would be Imelda Marcos’ Blue Ladies.

They are also very traditional and conservative, holdovers from a time when the Mass was still said with the priest facing the tabernacle, with his back to the congregation. They went to church with their lace belo (veils) and perfumed rosaries, blessed by Pope Paul VI. Retired or ever-homekeepers, they turned to serving the parish to make the most of idle time.

My sister and I joined the ministry surrounded by these ladies, and a few senior gentlemen. They welcomed having these young’ uns join them as they knew slowly but surely, their membership was dropping simply due to death by old age.

Eventually, more of people our age joined the organization and we grew. As it happens in organizations with two distinct groups of very different persuasions, namely the old ones, ready to defend the old order, and young ones, eager to make a difference and challenge the status quo, a power struggle evolved. I was one of the noisier ones then, and eventually, I butt heads with the president, that elderly woman who could have been a stern, strict high school principal in her demeanor. There was no major confrontation between us, just seething contempt. I abruptly resigned as I couldn’t accept her leadership. This was somewhere in the mid-90’s. That also neatly coincided with my relationship with then-boyfriend becoming open. And we indulged in the pleasures of casual sex in its myriad permutations and combinations.

That president soon resigned, although some would whisper ‘ousted’. I felt a yearning to go back so I re-applied. I was welcomed with open arms, by an organization now a lot younger and more dynamic. It was their desire to put me at the helm of the ministry. I accepted the path they laid out for me. And in about a year or two, I became president. If my memory serves me right, in my personal life, I also transitioned from that open relationship to a new one that was defined as exclusive. I found that alignment pleasing.

I enjoyed being a lector, much more than being a commentator. I honed my craft of proclamation. I practiced dutifully and made sure that I researched on the correct pronunciation of Bible names and terminologies. I would come 15 minutes early to rehearse. I felt I am able to proclaim His Word with justice. Not a few parishioners have come up to me to congratulate my style. Yes, it fed my ego.

My regular schedule would include all Fridays of the month for the 7am Masses, and two alternating Sundays for the 11am service. Admittedly though, that 7am service could be a drag, limiting my night-out options on a Thursday night. The Ministry meets every first Sunday of the month, supposedly for an hour-long meeting. But it would drag on usually for 1 1/2 hours. Again I admit that attending the meeting could be a chore at times.

I am sure everyone suspected that I am gay. I had remained single and unattached the entire time. But it was some sort of undiscussed topic, at least whenever I was around. Nobody dared to ask me anyway. So despite the Vatican's vocal pronouncements of its stand on homosexuality and homosexual acts, I felt that our own parish did not outwardly advocate condemnation. Some would call it 'tolerance' or just plain avoidance, but being quiet about the entire issue cut me some slack to continue serving and still be comfortable being gay, and being in relationships with men.

That detente continued for years and years. I felt I was serving a purpose in the parish by being a member. Beyond just being a 'good' lector, I also steered the organization into being more active, and structured. We engaged in reach-out activities, fund-raising events, apostolates that brought members closer.

But the world as we knew it continued to change, even more rapidly. Many issues Catholics have been grappling with were now being discussed - the reproductive bill, first and foremost. Our parish had to be more vocal of its own position, particularly during homilies. Though I was totally in support of the reproductive bill, I did not feel any cognitive dissonance with my service. Perhaps because I wasn't intending to 'reproduce'. hehe

Then came that SCOTUS decision in June. That issue is so central to me and my identity. I was so euphoric. Though it opened some nasty debates all over, I remained oblivious. I was happy that more and more countries were recognizing the right of same-sex couples to be married.

I was busy during our July meeting so I skipped that. I did, however, attend the August meeting. In the minutes of that meeting, our Spiritual Director was quoted
It is not called marriage because marriage is a union between man and woman with two goals: a) procreation b) foster love between couples; Sexual union is essential - the Church condemns homosexual union but not homosexuals (condemns sin but not the sinner).

I sat there stunned. This was the first time that I have ever heard any priest from our parish vocally express this official position. It felt like he was telling this to me, to my face, telling me that my homosexual union, currently with my partner, remains an abomination.

No more silence. No more avoidance. It was finally called out.

Something snapped inside and made me realize that my time of serving the parish had ended. I could no longer just turn away and act like nothing has changed. I am gay. I am in a gay relationship, with all the man-to-man sex that came with it, yes, but also with all the love and affection.

I turned in my resignation a week after. But I promised to honor my commitments.

Last Sunday was the last of those. I proclaimed the readings of that Sunday. I proclaimed them well and with.. finality. I was nostalgic throughout, knowing that I was not going to be at that rostrum again. I knew I was still going to serve Him, but in another manner perhaps. Bittersweet it was, for a moment, but in the end, I also felt so peaceful..

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Of Rites and Rituals

I remember from long ago, how Catholics were criticized as being ritualistic. We have memorized the lines and actions of Masses and novenas in observance of the prescribed rites. Because of this 'automation' we are dismissed for lacking sincerity and mindfulness when praying and worshipping. Moreover, they look at the traditions as holdovers of Roman paganism and this was something Jesus explicitly wanted to abolish.

With that in mind, some had broken away from Catholicism and set up their own groups. They started out not prescribing any set list of prayers and actions. They preferred to be spontaneous and prayed from the heart. They would 'go with the flow' and sing and pray. That was how a lot of these break-away groups started, in the 80's and well into the 90's.

Some of them remain up to this time. However, I have observed that for a lot of these groups, they have started to institutionalize their worship services. And though most of their prayers remain spontaneous, spoken by their heads and ministers, the worship activity itself has taken on form and structure, followed regularly by the members. I look at these and think that they have evolved their own rites and rituals.

I believe that rituals, institutionalized forms and activities, naturally 'come into being' in any organization. Even the most amorphous of organizations would eventually establish some regular, structured meeting, if only to be more efficient with its use of time and resources. In the readings of Friday and Saturday, the Lord God himself was prescribing the rituals to be observed by the Jews for the year, in much detail.

I didn't think Jesus was out to abolish these. He observed the rites of the Jews. He instructed his followers to follow them but not their example (of hypocrisy). He knew the need for these. And ultimately, the Last Supper was a similar prescription - "Do this in memory of me." But He did not just say "Do this." He added " memory of me", emphasizing the need to be "mindful" of the reason for the ritual, of the spirit behind it. This, for me, is another great example of what He meant by saying "I did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it."

Our formula prayers, one of which Jesus himself taught us, direct us to focus on the best way to express ourselves to our God. These were never meant to replace personal prayer, in my opinion. These were written by inspired writers to express their loving relationship with God and with the Saints. But we find such beauty in the prose, such eloquence and relevance that we could not help but adopt these as our own, to articulate our own personal relationship.

Yet, I do agree that there is a need to 'reintroduce' mindfulness in our observances. By carefully 'minding' the words in the prayers and novenas, you would delightfully come across terms that have not been in 'general circulation'. "Lamentation" "Sorrow" "banished children of Eve" "Clement" "Begotten" "Beseech" Re-discovering these terms and trying to use them in everyday language is quite a mental exercise. "I am sorrowful." "I have such a clement boss." "I beseeched my partner to watch the Madonna concert with me. " Hihihi These always make me smile.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It is a Choice.

I was still euphoric over the SCOTUS pronouncement. A few weeks ago, Time Magazine discussed this. At that time, it still didn't seem clear how the justices would vote, even Justice Kennedy (who later penned that moving statement). My timeline was filling up with rainbows all over.

It's not even the first country to declare same-sex marriage legal. But somehow, decisions in the US will always carry that much weight, by sheer economic power at the very least. Anyway, it carried much weight in my mind. I could just imagine how joyous every LGBT must been feeling!

Not too fast. Not everyone. Soon enough, I would read dissenting opinion. Reading these from outright gay-hating fanatics was of no surprise, of course. But eventually, reading a friend, a friend like me, gay, and his post of negativity started to put some dark clouds in my rainbow-filled sky. Eventually, as much as people were celebrating the decision, others felt that they needed to be just as loud about their feelings of disgust, of outrage.

Looking at my other, alter-ego 'professional' FB profile, I read more negative feelings and reactions, many of them from my friends. I could feel some vomit rising from my gut.

The feeling of hate and disgust over the negative, bigoted statements is real. That is part of my humanity. But I didn't want to stoke further anger so I chose to post something more benign - a sadness over the negativity I have been reading, in between the rainbows. Some were quick to tell me to 'unfriend'. I was tempted.

But I felt there was something inherently unsettling if I just immediately 'unfriend' them. Have they really become 'unfriends' because they chose to believe otherwise? Have they suddenly become mean to me because of that negative post or that hateful comment? Where have all the years of friendship, of genuine, reciprocal concern gone? Has that changed because they felt differently, even if strongly, from mine?

No, I cannot reduce their humanity into one negative post or comment. I cannot erase the friendship because of that difference. Now, if they choose to change their attitude and behavior towards me because we belong on opposite sides of a fence, then I cannot do anything about that. But until they do, I will not allow myself to hate these friends of mine just because their opinion differs.

It is a choice I have to make. I will fight the seemingly overwhelming anger I have started to feel towards them as I read their comments. I will choose to react differently and just let that pass. I make this choice because ultimately, it will build my character. Not letting my emotions 'click' for me will always be better for me.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

SAHC: 1st Sem Confusion

My elder sister was one year ahead of me in UP. During the first days or even weeks of school, I'd go to their tambayan to hang out and eat my baon. I thought that was the most natural thing to do. Be friends with her friends. After a few days she told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should find my own friends. And stop hanging out with her and her barkada.

Ouch. After having been quite popular in high school, I was suddenly this nobody, this invisible freshman, one of thousands. Since I wasn't comfortable with my blockmates yet, I was forced to roam Palma Hall alone.

But that didn't last. I resolved to start befriending my blockmates. And soon, I was hanging out with some of them, mostly those from the provinces. We all felt quite alone and we needed company. Beyond them, too, the block started to gel as one group. Though there were existing cliques, grouped by school, the shared experience of a boring Philosophy class, a challenging Botany course, and the ones in between (Psychology, English, Humanities) made it easy for us from such disparate backgrounds to stop being strangers.

We also decided to participate in those interblock contests. There were the volleyball and basketball competitions, both of which I avoided. But I joined the team in the Quiz bee (feeling brainy enough). More opportunities to bond as a block. And for me, I started to socialize more and my circle grew larger.

But I also started to turn my attention to the pretty ones in class. Psychology in UP always attracts some very pretty girls. I was determined to make ligaw. I wanted to know if I could do it: if I could have a girlfriend. And if it would silence the gay voice inside. I chose this sweet girl, cute and petite. Always in a skirt. She was always so nice to me anyway.

So torpe me did it the only way I knew how. I wrote her a letter. (Oh my, just thinking about that makes me cringe.) I professed my intention to get to know her better. (Ugh.) Thankfully, she turned me down in her sweet, sweet way. "I believe we are better off as friends." But though I still had a bruised ego, I felt my question was answered. No, I can't do it. I shouldn't do it. It's God's way of telling me that I should be myself, be my gay self. That first semester ended with more friends and some measure of peace.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

SAHC: Unang Yugto: Iskolar ng Bayan

I can't recall how I spent the summer after graduating from high school. All I remember is how excited and anxious I was about entering UP, my first taste of co-education after having spent at least 8 years in an all-male school. Very few of the batch was going to UP. The barkada was spread out - Ateneo, De La Salle, UST, UE, Mapua. I was going to this big university with virtually no friends. Afraid.

The much-talked about 'medical examination' at the infirmary was another source of anxiety. We were all going to be stripped naked. It both scared and delighted me. I just hoped that I would be with some interesting co-examinees.

But during the day itself, there was hardly any time to even check out the other students. I was nervous. We stripped down to our underwear. And we exposed our genitalia, and our rectal area only in front of the doctor. Much ado about nothing.

My first subject on the first day of school was Psychology. We were a block of about 20 freshmen. I quickly checked out my classmates. There were just two cuties. One of them was the cousin of a cousin. That one got crossed out immediately. The other one was Chinese, and borderline nerd. That got crossed out, too. The block was not going to be anything inspiring.

But on a deeper level, I made a decision to hide my sexuality. I wanted to give myself a shot at being straight. A fresh start. Maybe the presence of females as classmates would 'stimulate' my straight hormones. I went back to the closet in my first semester at UP.

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