B/PROUD: A BENCH/ Pride Month Special – Part 4 of 4

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Pia & Jaffrey Anwar (On Jaffrey: Shirt by BENCH)
Photography by Cholo dela Vega
Produced by Paolo Lorenzana with assistance from Ina Jacobe
Shot on location at 71Gramercy and Felipe & Sons

It’s fitting that the final part of the B/PROUD series comes out on the day of our country’s independence—a day we would not celebrate if not for those brave enough to stand up against external rule.

While we may have long broken free of another country’s church and state, personal freedoms are still being fought for today. Bishops and senators pound on bibles, limiting whom you can love and how you can enact that love. And in a society that sees gay men as a waste and gay women as simply acting out a phase, denial is still easier than declaring who you are.

National identity becomes stronger, of course, when the people who build it have a staunch sense of their own identity.

Since the best celebration of pride is out in the open, the final part of B/BLOG’s series captures the remaining #100HappyGays at 71Gramercy, the top of Manila’s tallest residential structure, and at Felipe & Sons, a traditional barbershop refined for the ages. From these towering and progressive standpoints are 18 individuals brave enough to declare their independence from shame and stereotype, and shout who they are and love out to the city.

Though meager in the grand scale of things, 100 is a start. Through 100 perspectives on acceptance, assertions of freedom, and proclamations of pride, we hope that whoever you are, you find a way to be 100 percent yourself.

Support the campaign and tell us what being gay means to you today. Our hashtag: #100HappyGays. 

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On Jaffrey (right): Shirt by BENCH

Pia & Jaffrey Anwar – Siblings 

24, Cinematographer for Seabiscuit Films // 19, Student

Pia: “I never thought it was necessary to announce it. [Our parents] never asked, either. But [Jaffrey] rounded up the whole family. He announced it.”

Jaffrey: “It was the gayest thing ever. It was on a cruise ship in Alaska and we filmed it ‘cause it was a big moment for me. I didn’t really feel like I was hiding anything ‘cause I knew that people knew. I don’t know, I just wanted to say it.”

Pia: “With me, I’m pretty sure my parents know. He’s already come out to the family. They still don’t accept it completely so that makes me nervous about actually saying it. He kind of beat me to it, so…when they’ve calmed down a bit and when they ask, I don’t mind telling them.

I think that’s kind of why [Jaffrey and I] got close. He talks to me when he’s got problems and I talk to him about other ‘gay issues.’ We actually weren’t this close before. Yeah, I guess I’m a lot more comfortable telling him certain things than other people just because I know he’d get it. I wouldn’t have to explain.”

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Jonas Bagas

36, Executive Director at TLF Share – an NGO for men having sex with men and transgenders

Jonas: “We’ve been pushing for the anti-discrimination bill in congress. We help community organizations to push for local versions of the bill at their own local governments. To be honest, I think it’s easier to push for laws than getting families to embrace their LGBT sons or daughters. It’s the mindset that we have to change. Policies are quicker to deal with pero yung mindset, yung consciousness of a republic, that’s where the challenge lies. In a way, the public embraces the stereotypical images of homosexuality but it’s not full acceptance.

That’s where I think campaigns like this are important. That’s how you change consciousness. You provide different images of homosexuality. You show that in the end, it’s all about us being able to exercise the freedom to love without being swallowed by the smallness of hatred.”

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Atchoo Ilagan & Amanda Monserrat

27, Entrepreneur // 25, Merchandiser

Amanda: “A high school teacher actually called my parents and told them about it. Everything happened so fast after that. I felt a little ambushed by it all. It’s definitely not the way I wanted things to happen and I felt that my family deserved to find out from me… I wanted to give them that. Everyone has a different ‘coming out’ story. For some people, it happens naturally. It’s a bigger struggle for some while others don’t struggle at all. Some are forced into it and others might not choose to come out at all. Each story is different but they’re all equally important and they deserve to be heard. If anyone is struggling with his or her sexuality, one story might make a difference. That’s what this month is about. I don’t know about you and you don’t know about me, but we’re all in this together. There’s strength in that.”

Atchoo: “We all believe in different things but that doesn’t mean we should not be able to coexist with respect and love for one another. That’s my wish for the future. I don’t want the whole world to agree on everything — that’s not realistic. This is about human rights. I want the world to give us our basic rights and protect us with proper laws. I want this for myself, for my partner, and for the children I hope to have with her in the future.”

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 Rich Garcia & Mike Apeluddin

26, Head Writer for ASAP 19 // 25, International Assignment Specialist

Mike & Rich:What is gay for us today? The thought that it’s the second week after our fourth anniversary and we’re still together.” 

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Ana Paredes 

25, Makeup Artist

Ana:Gay is freaking complicated. Like for me, my parents don’t know I’m out. This is gonna be a revelation to them!” 

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V-Neck Tee by BENCH

Benedict Bernabe

29, Yoga Teacher

Benedict: “It took quite some time for me to come to terms with my sexuality. I always thought about it in relation to other people, validating myself according to what other people think I should be. But deep inside, I hadn’t come fully into terms with my own sexuality. My yoga practice, sometimes we’re not there yet in the poses that we need to do and that’s fine. For me, it’s the same with your sexuality, it’s a process. Acceptance is a process, as well.

I think one of the most crucial things is when I went overseas to study in Japan when I was 18. I had a lot of friends from other countries and they didn’t really care what my sexuality was. I think growing up in a place where people try to shape your sexuality from childhood, it was a very different perspective. When I got back to the Philippines, I said, ‘I don’t really care about what other people have to say about my sexuality.’ It’s a big world out there and if you can’t accept me, there’s a lot of other people who can.”

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Sarie Cruz 

25, Director at Seabiscuit Films

Sarie: “I think being gay today is really knowing who you are and sticking to it. I tried dating guys before in high school and I kind of enjoyed it, I felt the kilig and everything. But when me and this guy finally made out and when I felt that it was getting serious and he was going to ask me to be his girlfriend, that was when I had to just stop. It wasn’t right. The guy was cute and we had a lot in common pero after we kissed, that was when I knew. I was figuring things out. It’s just not me. I couldn’t be a guy’s girl.”

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 Patrick Galang 

30, Fashion Editor at Mega Magazine

Patrick:I think being gay today is to live life by your own terms and not to worry what other people will think about you. You have to have courage and most definitely respect for others.” 

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Evan Tan 

28, Regional Communications Director at Freelancer.com & Yoga for Life

Evan:I think the way that we break stereotypes is that we disassociate it from other meanings like being gay is being happy or – I mean being gay… it’s a whole spectrum. At the end of the day, it means that you’re sexually attracted or you’re attracted to someone of the same sex, and that’s it. That’s the bottom line. You can be anyone you want to be, you can do anything, you can be – I hate to use the word masculine – but yeah, you can be masculine, you can be flamboyant or you could be not flamboyant. You can be basically anything.  I think that’s what we’re doing, that’s what the movement is doing. Basically to shatter every misconception about the word gay and what gay should mean and what gay should be.”   

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David Milan & Jeno Parde

27, Creative Director at YStyle Supreme // 27, Works at a Telecom Company

David: “I left the house because I was young, scared, takot mag-out. I left because I wanted to find a space na comfortable ako, na walang pressure, na I didn’t have to hide from my parents. Before I left the house, may naririnig na silang mga stories and they weren’t okay with it, so I left to avoid it and to prove na kung hindi kayo okay, might as well leave nalang. Then they realized na I was independent and they couldn’t question that. Now, I talk to my mom about Jeno. Alam niya na meron akong partner and they’re okay with it. I think they trust me enough na alam nila I’ll make the right decision, I guess. Hindi naman nila pina-feel na tinanggap nila dahil wala silang magawa. Before, takot lang sila dahil bata ako, feeling nila they can change me pa. Usually, ganon naman mga parents, gagawin nila lahat para pwede ka magbago. Now, they accept me and my partner for who we are.”

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Niccolo Cosme

Photographer & Creator of the Headshot Clinic

Niccolo: “It was called the Headshot Clinic Aware, our first-ever HIV headshot clinic. It was about bringing forward issues and making it relatable to people. When Wanggo [Gallaga] came out as positive in 2008, someone approached me in the audience—he was thanking me and he also came out to me as positive. He said he was empowered through that project, seeing all these people coming together.

It’s all about visibility. Recently, we were talking about the anti-discrimination bill and how it needed more attention just like reproductive health issues. It’s very rare that we see two men kissing in public but if we continually see pictures or videos, blogs, like what you guys are doing, it would definitely, definitely help.”

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Photo by BJ Pascual
Grooming by Owen Sarmiento and Hair by Buern Rodriguez

 Vince Uy & Nino Gaddi 

34, Creative Director at Preview Magazine // 31, Project Manager for Events

Vince: “I think the difference between the gays before and the gays now is that they’re more infectious. They infect everyone around them, from their girlfriends to guy friends. The things that they do easily spread. They’ll infect you with their taste for a great lifestyle. They’ll infect your with funny antics, pauso hashtags, and new ‘it’ words. They’ll infect you with how to make yourself better.” 

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Queersilver & Ira Briones

Queer Advocate & IT Service Coordinator // LGBTQ Rights & Welfare Activist

 Ira: “I come out again and again on various occasions. Many LGBTQ people usually do. It entails different amounts of risk every time yet just the same amount of courage. I have never really tried to hide my being queer but I think most people who knew me from way back believe my grandest coming out was when I changed the way I looked. I cut my hair really short and wore a combination of feminine and masculine items depending on my mood. In a way, this is really simple but in the context of a conservative culture like ours, these simple things are also very empowering. To be able to push boundaries and free myself in my own way are important.”

Queersilver: “The LGBTQ community needs much focus on policy, awareness, and education. Changing the deeply embedded cultural discomfort and hostility toward LGBTQ people will take time so every act of positive visibility, strategic advocacy, and celebration of identity is important. I hope for the LGBTQ community to be able to overcome internalized homo/trans/bi/queer-phobia, heterosexism, sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, and all other things that hinder our ability to love and live freely. It’s up to our diverse but unified community to assert our rightful and prideful existence.”

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Victor Platon 

33, NGO Worker

Victor: “I discovered I was gay back in 1987. I was seven years old and I always knew I was different. During that time, the gay stereotype on TV would be Roderick Paulate and the image is always binabatukan siya or drowned in drums. Because of that, I knew it was gonna be a hard road for me. I told myself that I should be strong enough to actually expect this type of behavior and I received the same feedback from relatives. People would tease you and stuff like that. Ako parang, ‘Bahala kayo, this is who I am and I won’t apologize for it.’ I had a Cabbage Patch kids backpack, 24 Barbie dolls, and my lunchbox was She-Ra, and I don’t know, people began to shift their perception of me: this person is who he is, he’s true to himself. People backed down and stopped teasing me in a major way. Since then, it’s always been my attitude. Why should I apologize for who I am? If this is what I like, so be it.”

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 John Paras 

29, Fashion Designer

John: “Being gay, you can’t be in the shadows anymore. You have to be confident about yourself. Being gay should inspire you to become a better person.”

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On Bogs & Mickey: Shirts by BENCH

 Mickey Lu & Bogs Castro

 28, Manager at Auto Services Company // 29, Owner of Food Stand, Tapa Out

Mickey: “I’m really happy that it is a little bit more accepted now. I’m not so scared about it. Unlike before in college, I was really closeted. Only a few friends knew. But with literature, movies, TV shows that are coming out, in a way it has become more acceptable to people. For me, we’re not as scared anymore, like if ever my dad found out about me. It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be easier for me to explain myself.”

Bogs:I’m more relaxed and comfortable in expressing myself compared to back when I was in high school and in college. Now, when I’m introduced to other people, you don’t need to say na, “Ah, he’s gay by the way.”  People don’t and shouldn’t care what your sexual preference is.” 

Mickey: “You know the show The New Normal? It’s kind of like that. Like for me, sometimes when I see someone really attractive, I’m half-expecting that person to be gay. It’s an added plus.” 

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Shirt by BENCH

 Michael Lim

39, Blogger – Fashion Pulis

Michael: “I was always very comfortable with who I am. Sometimes we view our inferiority complexes as motivation for us to work harder. You use your being gay as motivation to work harder, to excel in whatever field you want to penetrate. It has always pushed me to do the best in what I do.

That said, being gay can also be very tiring. People expect so much from you, especially sa medyo higher strata of the society. When you’re gay, people look up to what you wear, to how you present yourself—so you have to always be your best. I always like simplicity because I always feel like you can shine even when you’re simple. To be the best, you don’t have to be so loud or flamboyant.”

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 Alek Weber

22, Graphic Designer

Alek: “The thing is I am a transman but I am gay because I’m attracted to men. I’m a very special case in the trans community. Everyone’s mostly straight. I’ve always liked men but there was that point in time in high school where I was like, ‘I don’t feel straight, though (laughs).’ The word straight didn’t apply to me but I sort of liked guys so I sort of forced myself to be a little bi, to just say, ‘No, I’m LGBT.’ But at the time, I thought T meant transvestite, so… (laughs). It was only later that I found out that, oh my God, T stands for transgender—that’s what I am!

I’m still not good at getting people to understand. I feel like there’s a bit of kakulangan pa rin in terms of how I can better define my identity. Because in my head, even without an articulated explanation, I know who I am and I know what my identity is. I feel there’s so much we can still learn. We already know that sexuality has nothing to do with how you look or how you act. Gay doesn’t mean flamboyant. We also know that gay men don’t generally think of themselves as women even if they might sometimes be camp or whatnot. But when it comes to transgenders, that’s a whole new bucket that we’re still struggling to find our way around.

More often than not, I just say I’m gay but there’s also just the times when people meet me as someone who is trans. There’s a severe lack of trans visibility so oftentimes when we’re at events, if people will introduce me, it’s as the transguy because almost no one has met a transguy here, so it’s like that’s my token thing for the meantime.”

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Mark Wilson

53, Lighting Interior Design & Father of Two

Mark: “I’m realizing that the closest translation of the word ‘bakla‘ is faggot. I don’t think we have a word for gay here but I like ‘bading.’ It feels a little friendlier than bakla. Bakla is hurtful, like an insult, like a putdown. But gay also means light, fun, magaan. Bading has that quality. Now, dozens of years later from my childhood, when I was called kano or bakla while I was in Xavier, you appropriate those words and make them part of who you are and transcend them. I was asking Andre [my boyfriend] this morning, ‘If they invented a pill to make you straight, would you take it?’ I wouldn’t. I love being gay. I love my gay friends. I love the way they’re different from my straight friends. I love being around gay energy, it has that quality of lightness and humor and collaboration and support that for me is the essence of being gay.

Being a father, my daughter gets better jewelry than the other girls. She’s definitely better dressed. But seriously, I think because I’m gay and in a way, I’m also in a new relationship and she’s in a new relationship, I’m closer to her experience. She’s dating and I’m dating, but I think also because I’ve done a lot of self-realization and processing, it’s helped me talk to my children. That was a result of sorting out my sexual orientation and coming to terms with the fact that my children were kept from me for eight years. But I think gay people make exceptional parents. There’s now a second generation of children raised by gay people who are healthy and well-adjusted.”

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It's Cool Being Pinoy
B/PROUD: A BENCH/ Pride Month Special – Part 3 of 4
  • Poch

    Happily surprised to see a familiar face – Bogs! One of the sweetest baristas I’ve met 🙂 It’s been a long time! 😀

  • joseph

    Mike Lim? It’s hypocrisy to say that he is not loud. I never met anyone louder or more irritating.

  • True_Catholic

    It is sad to note that even within the LGBT community there exists discrimination.
    There is discord on who can be considered as “in”, “out” – and people are left on the fringes of the LGBT community even if they are persons with same sex attractions.

  • True_Catholic

    Are we really looking for freedom? or are we justifying a license – to do whatever we want?

    Watch this compelling video of persons who have really struggled to find their true identity in Christ, and found out that what they are feeling is not who they are!

    We will not be labeled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex or some other labels invented by those who seek to promote the homosexual agenda!

    We will stand together testifying to the truth that indeed change is possible through Christ!
    We will tell our stories from the pulpits, in school seminars, to every person who would care to listen – because we will be silent no more!

    Persons with unwanted homosexual attractions, who struggle to live chaste lives – exist!
    And we will fight this tyranny of gay media stereotyping and proclaim true freedom in Christ!

    http://vimeo.com/93079367