According to a survey by the US-based Pew Research Center, the Philippines is one of the few truly gay-friendly countries in the world.
How true. All of us, without exception, are exposed to gays practically from the time we are born. Every family has its gay or lesbian members, and they are never kept in the closet, figuratively speaking. They are accepted for what they are, which is a good thing.
Unfortunately, there are many cultures where gays are taunted, vilified and made fun of. Centuries ago, they may have even been burned at the stake or fed to the wild dogs.
I have to wonder, since gays (and lesbians) are so widely accepted hereabouts, was this also true in pre-Hispanic Philippines when datus or sultans ruled their pocket kingdoms?
Like most heterosexuals, I must admit that I used to have some discomfort in the presence of gays. Specifically, I couldn’t much stand the kind of gays commonly known as “screaming faggots.” I know, I know. It’s a politically incorrect term, and I acknowledge that.
But growing up, this type of gay used to visit my mom at home. He sold jewellery and was some kind of distant relative, I recall. And boy was he stereotypically gay. Whenever my mom said something that he did not quite agree with, he would go “Haaayyyyy!!!” at the top of his voice, which was often.
He also liked to pinch me in the cheeks and when he came close I would gag at his smell. He always used too much baby powder, it seemed, and I would inhale a lot of the fine dust he had on him. I must have been six or seven years old when he first entered our house.
During my grade school years, we kids were already aware that some of us were “different.” Since this was our pre-puberty years, it was not yet clear where our sexual inclinations would go. But the ones who could be considered effeminate stood out. Not for them the sports that most of us enjoyed, notably basketball, football and handball.
For some inexplicable reason, the effeminate guys in the clas—it was an all boys’ school—were always among the top students. They received the honors and frequently represented the school in outside activities. By graduation time, one of “them” was in the running for valedictorian, but lost out to two others who received slightly higher averages.
Come our high school years and we knew what gays were. They were our classmates who didn’t like to meet the girls at the parties that we had as frequently as possible. I had a barkada like any normal teen, and one of us was an out and out gay. He was accepted as one of the guys, which meant he was protected. Outsiders dared not make fun of him without passing though us straight dudes.
That gay member of the gang would end up working in the United Nations. Very recently, he has been in touch with the surviving members of our group. He will retire next year and is planning on building a house in Hillsborough and another in Tagaytay. Obviously, he’s retiring with a huge nest egg.
He was with the Human Rights Commission, which means he did his bit to make this world a better place for all. It’s guys like him—his name is Joey—which explains why the Philippines is a gay-friendly country. Given the chance, they can make a difference.