Friday, May 6, 2016

The Thoughts of An Eternal Optimist

I want to see the silver lining in this super-acrimonious election campaigning reaching fever-pitch levels. It's getting harder and harder as I find it more and more difficult to read social media posts of friends without raising my eyebrows, rolling my eyes or cringing. But I will still try.

With so many presidential candidates to choose from, it is still anybody's guess. I sometimes think of the simplicity of a two-(dominant)-party system, just like in the US. One aligns with a party idealogy first. Then the party chooses its standard bearer. And that process could be just as bitter and dirty. But eventually, the electorate will settle with the two major candidates slugging it out.

But this is not the case for the Philippines, of course. Our political-economic circumstances somehow prevent clear idealogical battle lines as basis for party-building. So we have all these parties with no clear party stand on anything. But instead of sighing, perhaps there is something good to be said about this current state we are in.

My bold, maybe naive, conclusion: the plurality of choices is raising political consciousness of the majority. With no clear black and white choices, the masses have started to think for themselves. I think that in previous years, the majority of the electorate (more rural than urban, more of the have-nots and have-less) are confined to just 'going with the flow'. They vote based on personalities, on the choices of their leaders, religious or otherwise.

But now, I hear of people truly debating one another on a political plane. More people are thinking for themselves about their choices. More people are starting to choose based on considering the impact of political outcomes on their lives.

Do I want a president who will solve the problem of crime I fear most about? Who is talking about my family starving in the drying rice fields? Who will change the circumstances of traffic in the Metro to allow me to go to work on time? Who will make sure that my children will have equal opportunities when looking for jobs?

People have started to think for themselves. Despite all the hurtful, hateful things being said now, I see this as progress.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Travel Must-dos: SG

A friend once posted "Don't know what else to do in SG. Been here so many times." My first thought - why'd you go there in the first place. But I wonder if that is a popular predicament, now that people are much more mobile. Although there a zillion other cities to visit, inevitably one finds visiting certain places more than once.

My advice: Start out by listing places you want to visit again. A 'must-do-everytime' list. This will probably include fave restos, even tourist spots or sceneries and shops. I build on top of that places crowd-sourced, either from friends and family or lately, from online apps and sites like TripAdvisor and Foursquare. There's always an updated list of trending restaurants, shops and must-dos.

In our last trip to SG, some of the regular must-dos: shopping at this specialty store in Ion Orchard. My mom collects dollhouse miniatures. I discovered this brand (https://www.reutterporcelain.com) from Germany in my previous trips to SG. The shop Das Erzebirge-Haus carried the brand among so many other collectibles. The detail is so intricate. You can find the shop at the top floor of Ion Orchard.

Another mall I like visiting is Orchard Plaza. This 'fashion-forward' place houses shops and stores that have a 'hipster'-feel to it. From accessories to bags to even furnishings, I like the mix of stores here.

During my last trip, the bakeshop Lady M was high on the trending list. I finally got to try the layered crepe that made this shop famous. It was good, not too sweet. I like the airy interiors of the place, located inside that mall, too.

I just love the croissant at Tiong Bahru Bakery. I usually visit the one at Tang's along Orchard. Freshly-baked, with the right butter-creamy taste, crisp and flakiness, the croissants also come as sandwiches.

Finally, a trip to SG won't be complete without having an attendance check at Neil Road's rainbow bars. Between Tantric and Taboo, I like Tantric better. It's actually like choosing between a bar and a dance club. I happen to like bars better, I guess. I saw a lot more foreigners in Tantric, too, as the locals converge more in Taboo.

So far, that's what I have on SG. Next up, Boracay.



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Friday, March 25, 2016

For They Know Not What They Do… Or Say.

I believe we are at the cusp of major change in world view, a hazy demarcation point when attitudes about gay love are changing. And at this point, we will encounter a lot of people, friends and family included who are also transitioning, some stuck in the old world view, as well meaning as they are.

What Boy Abunda mentioned, as he reacted to Manny Pacquiao's statement likening this to the fight of African-Americans or even women for equal rights was spot on. I try to imagine myself during those times when the tide was just about to change maybe as an American of color…

At the macro perspective, political discussions have started, a lot of them heated and even hurtful. But these have not filtered down to individual lives yet. They would seem abstract and even alien. A part of me would watch the news, listen to the commentaries. But at the start, these remain so far from me, an impossibility even to imagine.

I would go about my life as a black man, obeying the laws and complying with segregation. But I would also imagine that not all my friends would be black. I would have white friends, workmates, neighbors maybe. Some of them would be geniunely nice to me. We would consider each other as friends. Our personal relationships would be color-blind even as we all led lives of conformance. Yet the discussions on equal rights would already be brewing.

Our lives go on, our friendships would develop no matter. But as the discussions start to become more viral, it is harder and harder not to take notice. I begin to know some friends who are ‘participating’ in the conversation, some more active than others. Some of them join the protests. It is now becoming real to me, ordinary person, and even to friends of whatever race or color.

Slowly, we form opinions regarding it. Some would articulate such opinions in social gatherings, maybe even during religious meetings. I am sure I would start to hear some of my friends, some of those whom have treated me genuinely with care and affection, to be voicing such contrary opinions. Some of them will justify the status quo of segregation, on whatever grounds, including religion.

A bulb suddenly turns on inside me, a paradigm shift happens within me. I understand at the deep, personal level that I am disadvantaged. I do not have the same rights as others just because of my color. But I also know that some of my friends, especially white friends, will not have the insight. They may even vociferously against what I have begun to believe. Will I start to hate and despise them?

I replace ‘color’ with ‘sexual preference’, ‘black’ with ‘gay’. And it seems to unfold in the same way. And I am asking myself if I should start blocking them, hating on them as they defend ‘marriage’ and Catholic faith and Manny Pacquiao and deny me my right to love and for my love to be recognized by the State?

Could it be that they simply cannot go beyond their training, their education, their religion, their old world view. They just cannot step beyond that. Some would say that these people WILL not step beyond. But sometimes, I wonder how willfull could one be? Is it possible that they ‘simply know not what they do?’

Could this be at the heart of what Jesus said when He asked for pardon for those who have sent Him to his suffering and death? These people, from the crowds who asked for his crucifixion and jeered at him during the Way of the Cross, to those Roman soldiers who actually inflicted all that pain on him, right up to nailing him on the cross, could they really “not know what they do” because they are just so ‘trapped’ in their world view? And that is the reason why the Lord Himself asks for mercy and pardon on their behalf?

Perhaps, I can still believe that these same people are good and loving people. Perhaps, instead of hating my ‘friends’ who have such contempt for what I am (as gay love is what I am), as I read their pro-Manny Pacquiao posts and statements, I can simply show some love and mercy, for they ‘know not what they do or say’, even if they state to the contrary.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

AQAG #9





Maraming bakla ang nagpaparlor pero hindi naman lahat nasa parlor. Meron ding mga guro, doctor, driver, abogado, engineer, empleyado at marami pang iba. Hindi naman mahalaga kung ano ang trabaho mo. Ang mahalaga mahal mo ang ginagawa mo. At ginagawa mo ito nang bonggang-bongga.

Stereotypes. Labels that have a life of their own.

I remember previously how I detested the label "shoke". That was the worst sounding of all the terms used on gays, used on me. It was laden with so much contempt for being 'not like the other boys'.

I don't even know how that term evolved. I know though, that images of a Dolphy character, Fifita Fofongay Vda de Falayfay, best exemplified that term. And if my memory serves me right, he actually worked as beauty parlor hair stylist.

The association with parlor, persists. But that 70's term "shoke" faded away.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

AQAG #8






Tinatanong sa akin sa tuwing malalaman ng aking mga nakikilala na ako'y miyembro ng LGBT community. Marahil ay nagtataka sila o nagugulat na malaya akong kumilos at manamit ayon sa aking tunay na nararamdaman. Bakit ka nga ba hindi matatanggap ng iyong pamilya? Ito ba ay isang kahihiyan? Dahil ba ito sa takot o hindi pagkaunawa? Hindi ba katanggap-tanggap ang pagiging totoo sa iyong sarili?

Coming out to one's family remains to be a very sensitive issue among a lot of friends. It is a very personal decision, laden with so much anguish. I am one of the lucky ones, blessed actually, that I am very much accepted, and loved, by my family for who I am.

Initially, I wanted to focus on one aspect of her response - "when people I meet know that I am a member of the LGBT community." - particularly the word "LGBT Community". I was thinking then that even though I am gay, I do not feel like I belong to a 'community'. I still felt like my 'community' is Gay, not L-G-B-T and all the colors of the rainbow.

In an instant, all this changed for me. With simply one callous, bigoted statement from PacMan, I saw the "LGBT community" emerge. I suddenly found kinship with each and every person who has been labeled "masahol pa sa hayop". I felt the collective indignation as only a community could feel.

Tanggap man ako o hindi ng pamilya ko, ng opisina ko, ng parokya ko, ng boksingerong sikat ay hindi kasing halaga ng pagtanggap ko sa sarili ko. At dahil tanggap ko na ako ay isang tao, taong nagsusumikap maging mabuti, wala kang karapatang tawagin ako, at ang aking ginagawa sa loob ng silid ko, ng anumang pangalan, lalo na ng 'hayop'. At dahil tao ako tulad nilang lahat, ang mga karapatang tinatamasa nila ay dapat ring tinatamasa ko.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Temptation of Jesus

Today's gospel talks about how the Devil tempted Jesus during the 40-day fast he was observing.

I just noticed how Jesus rebukes the first two attempts of the Devil by quoting the Scriptures. But on the third attempt, the Devil himself quotes the Scriptures and uses it to tempt Jesus to prove His credentials, i.e. the Son of God.

This dramatizes how the Word of God could easily be used not for the good it was intended to do. Don't we hear so many accounts of so-called religious folk who justify their words and actions using Bible verses, with vile or even heinous outcomes?

It is so easy to be led astray by wolves in sheep's clothing. I believe that the best guard against this is to truly be reflective, analytical of His Word and the Scriptures in an ongoing manner. Ultimately, it will be our consciences that must be empowered to discern. But our conscience will only develop such power if it receives the training, a training within the context of a humble heart eager to seek out and listen to His Wisdom.


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