Lodestar for the elections

by Prof. Danton Remoto
Remote Control

Lodestar for the Elections

The following is my introduction to Ladlad 3: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing, edited by J. Neil Garcia and myself (Anvil Publishing). It is now flying off the shelves of National Book Store and Power Books.

Three days of the week, I teach English at the Ateneo, telling my students “sematary” should be “cemetery,” “high school” is spelled two words, and that even if I wrote an erotic poem in their Filipino textbook Hulagpos, I was not, am not, and will never be the persona sitting on another man’s lap in that scandalous poem. I am also taking my last three exams for my Ph.D. in English at the University of the Philippines. And once a week, I have my political meetings.

It is on a day like this, on a fine Saturday afternoon, that I am going to the Manila Yacht Club for my next political meeting. When Ang Ladlad, our lesbian-gay-transgender-bisexual (LGBT) political party filed our papers for accreditation in the party-list elections for May 14, 2007, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) blanched and said “No, you didn’t have enough people for a national constituency.” Yeah, right. To paraphrase the Pussycats, “And don’t cha!” Don’t cha say that without checking, too, the membership roster – with real names and addresses – of the many other party lists of dubious provenance that were allowed to run in the last, super-messy elections.

My reading was that the powers-that-be were threatened by Ang Ladlad. They must have thought that if we got at least two seats – and surveys said we would – that would be two seats against the administration. But how did they know about that? We only had two political statements arrived at through a consensus: 1) No to Charter change and yes to a Constitution Convention of duly elected members; and 2) A stop to political killings of activists and journalists. That was all. Nothing about impeachment, resignation, and such for the sitting President. When I learned of this and actually read a memo that allegedly came from the powers-that-be, I smiled: the political party that began with a book has become a force to reckon with. And why not? Of the 45 million Filipino voters, 4.5 million would belong to the LGBT voters’ niche, if cross-country studies are to be believed. Why do you think politicians fell all over themselves endorsing Ladlad for party-list accreditation in the last elections? I grant them good will, of course, but also I grant them shrewdness and political acumen. They sniffed the wind, and what they sniffed was this: the Pink Vote has arrived. Were you there among the throngs of people registering for voters in the last elections? If you were, did you ask the transgenders why they were signing up? Who were they voting for in the party-list elections? Ask them, and ye shall know.

The uber-origin, of course, of this political party is the book you are now holding in your hands. Our first anthology came out in April of 1994. By June of that year – and appropriately enough, the Pride Month of the LGBT movement – all 2,000 copies of Ladlad were sold out. Salesgirls at National Book Store would tell me of gays stud-looking enough to qualify for Ginoong Pilipinas asking, in their deepest, lowest voices: “Miss, saan ang Ladlad?”

The second installment of Ladlad came in 1996, and together with the first outing, the two books with pink covers became permanent fixtures in the Philippine Books section of National Book Store. I was helping NBS and Power Books then, dispensing free advice on book-selling, and I suggested that they change the word “Filipiniana” into “Philippine Books,” for certainly, when you entered Barnes and Nobles in LA you do not see a section called “Americana.” They complied. And then I also said that Philippine books ought to have pride of place and displayed prominently, on the first shelves, of the Books Section. So any book-lover who enters the store would see the books at first blush, and come near, and open the pages, and inhale the very words of his or her own writers. To their credit, NBS also did that.

And so now, when you go to the more than 50 branches of National Book Store all over the country, you would see the Ladlad series of gay anthologies – as well as the other books of J. Neil Garcia and myself – there on the first shelves. Standing tall, breasts thrust out, bottoms pointed up, and one foot forward.

The anthology gave free mileage to the Ang Ladlad political party, especially in the urban areas where the students congregate and where – as studies show – gay men eventually come out, because of the liberal education in the schools, the company of peers, and the books that are now out there, for them to hold and to cherish.

We also have to give credit to Mrs. Lourdes Vidal, my former English teacher at the Ateneo, who published her romance novels in Tagalog, and gave me thousands and thousands of free copies to give away. Marked with “Donated by Ang Ladlad,” these freebies went around the country, were read avidly and passed from hand to hand, and added to the word-of-mouth campaign that we were waging.

There was also the Internet, where we have a huge and colorful presence, with our website and discussion groups and e-mail exchanges. Our alliances with more than 30 LGBT groups nationwide also bolstered our ranks, as well as the support of straight people – brothers and sisters of LGBT Filipinos, friends and relatives and such – who rallied around our cause. I also appeared countless times in the tri-media of television, radio and print, and toured the Bicol Region – my bailiwick – for a whole month in the summer of 2006, talking to students, teachers, market vendors, farmers, fisher folk, government officials, and priests. In short, from 2004-2007, we worked on our pre-election campaign strategy, and I swear to Nefertiti, we did work our butts off.

But the Comelec – as stodgy and as ancient as their wooden building that later burnt down – would not, could not, budge. To their eternal discredit, because it soon gave way to the mess in the accreditation of the party-list groups, the madness that was the elections, the lunacy of the counting that was slower, slower than a snail climbing Mount Fuji.

The day after the elections I felt so relieved. I got my copy of Elizabeth Jennings’s book of poems, Extending the Territory (Carcanet Press, 1985) and began to read. For many months, the book had languished on the table beside my bed. I felt sad during the campaign season for one simple reason: I could not read anymore. Every day I would go home, tired beyond belief, my feet aching from the day-long sortie, my hands sore from all that shaking, my face painful from all that smiling. The moment my back rested on my bed it was nirvana: I would wake up the next morning, only to campaign once more. Erwin Oliva of the Inquirer online edition asked me what I missed most during the campaign and I told him, “The time to read.” He said he would do a survey of the books the politicians read before the campaign, and I told him, “Good luck, my friend.”

And so I was relieved because I could read again, and return to my old life as an absent-minded professor with what my students called “a fearsome” reputation (translation: I made them read books without movie versions). I began my post-election life by reading Elizabeth Jennings’s Extending the Territory, which Douglas Dunn, writing for the Glasgow Herald, called “poems outstanding . . . [for their] wisdom, hard-earned from grief and religious faith.”

Even so on a day like this I have another political meeting. I am happy because after the meeting, I would go to Makati to buy books. The person I am meeting had sent over his chauffeur-driven SUV, shinier and bigger than my library, to pick me up and bring me to Manila. I said I could take the LRT 2, get off at the Recto station, and then take a cab to the Manila Yacht Club on Roxas Boulevard. But he said that is a “no-no for our senatorial candidate in 2010. You are an important cargo and you have to be handled very carefully.”

“Uh-oh,” I think to myself now as I remember his exact words. Most of the time, I feel like a speck of moissanite, but these guys make me feel as if I were a ring of diamond. Invariably, they are all kind and polite. I must remind them so much of their stern English teacher in college. But today, the sun shines brightly. Our SUV flies over the Katipunan overpass, down to C-5, circling Makati, seemingly gliding on air. Smooth as silk, as the airline ads would put it, with a blast of cool and subtly perfumed air that makes me forget I am in sweltering Manila.

The person I am meeting is a pleasant man, whom I had met twice, and he is asking me to join them in the 2010 presidential elections. He is not the candidate, but one of the assistants of the candidate. He suggests that I draw up a budget for my own campaign, and he would show it to his boss for approval. I tell him he is the third person I am meeting after I lost in the May 14 elections, with the same agenda for discussion, and I ask him, “Why do you really want me to join your group?”

He says, “Because you have no skeletons in the closet. It’s easy to campaign for you.”

I answer, “Oh, I have no more skeletons in the closet. In fact, I am now out of the closet.” The man nearly chokes in his callos and laughs.The memory of his laughter makes me smile now as his SUV drives me to Makati. After his laughter that broke the cavernous silence of the Yacht Club, he said, “That’s why we like you. You’re quick on the take. You don’t have to memorize your answers. By the way, who’s your speech writer?”

This time it was my turn to laugh. I told him my campaign is too poor to hire a speech writer, and I just make things up as I go along. “I’ve been teaching English,” I tell him, “for 21 years. You survive those students, you can survive anything.”

Then he turned serious and asked me: “Professor Remoto, we admire your bravery and your work. What, really, makes you tick?”

It made me feel like a clock – or a time bomb about to explode – but this question burns in my mind now as I write this Foreword. What makes me “tick” is the knowledge that what I am doing is right. It is the thing to be done, right here and right now. Some say that books are mere vessels and words have no bones. But revolutions have been waged, and countries liberated, because of mere books, simple words. As the famous text message every New Year puts it, we should be like birds always poised forward into the future: we should leave behind all regret and bitterness and pain.

It is in this spirit that we are offering you Ladlad 3. The pieces in this book show that, especially the pieces that throw a new light, give a new angle, to gay writing in the Philippines. Alex Gregorio rewrites Alice in Wonderland into a poem. Ian Rosales Casocot gives us a gay children’s story called “The Different Rabbit.” Honorio Bartolome de Dios shows us a beauty-parlor worker who is part of the underground movement – a link, you could say, to another story by Rands Catalan in Ladlad 1. Ino Manalo gives us gay characters that have the delicacy and strength of the pineapple fibers in his story. Michael Andrada gives us the many different kinds of male bonding in “Boy Scouting,” while Zack Linmark shows us that Hawaii is no, never, blue. Paul del Rosario’s character beats up a bully and Neil Garcia, of course, tells us of another, creative use for the razor blade.

Goethe once said that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. We have come, as National Artist Jose Garcia Villa said, and we are here. Brandishing Ladlad and our many other books, waving our words like flames in the wind, we will you see you again in 2010. And that’s a promise we intend to keep.


Jurado on Tamano MOA Stand

“The person I admire most in the fight against that controversial and admittedly unconstitutional memorandum granting the MILF its Bangsamoro homeland is Adel Tamano.

Being a Muslim himself, Tamano has placed national interest above self. He is the kind of a Muslim we need in government. And I can predict he’ll go places.”

(Emil Jurado, To the Point, Columnist, Manila Standard)


Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” R. Tañada III
Club Filipino, Greenhills, San Juan
10 August 2008

Magandang gabi sa ating lahat!

Sa ngalan ng buong pamilyang Tañada, taos puso po akong nagpapasalamat sa inyong pagpapaunlak sa aming paanyaya upang muling ipagdiwang at gunitaain ang kaarawan at naging buhay ni Senador Lorenzo M. Tañada, ang Tatay ng aking Tatay, ang aming Lolo. A man whose first and last name I carry and carry proudly but whose shoes are too large to fill. He would have been 110 years on this very day as old as Philippine Independence.

My role as the program indicates is to give the family response. At first, I objected to the idea because I was not the eldest grandchild. The honor should be reserved for Ate Karen, being the eldest grandchild, who has made Lolo proud in the struggle for freedom, nationalism and democracy during the Marcos Dictatorship. For the information of our guests I am the 14th grandchild. I am not saying that Lolo is not proud of all of his grandchildren. He is proud of ALL his grandchildren. I just believe that as the eldest grandchild, Ate Karen speaks for the third generation of Tañadas.

Since democrary is practiced in the Tañada family, the Events Committee voted that I be the one to speak. I had no “Garci” to call for a recount and so I accepted the task assigned to me. Now, I know how my Tatay Bobby feels when he is asked to speak in behalf of Lolo’s children.

Before I continue, I want to acknowledge all my cousins who worked hard to make this 110th commemoration of Lolo’s birthday a reality. This was not the idea of the children of Lolo and Lola. This was the idea of the third generation, the grandchildren. The second generation provided guidance, direction and the names of the people to invite.

For those who still are unaware, Lolo and Lola has 10 children. One died before she reached the age of one.

Of the remaining nine children who contributed to the growth in the Philippine population in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, six are present with us Lorenzo Jr. (Tito), my tatay Wigberto (Bobby), Ma. Elena (Myrna), Ma. Milagros (Millete), Ma. Anastacia (Tessie) and Leonardo (Learny). The three other siblings are with Lolo and Lola celebrating today. The nine children produced 47 grandchildren.

40 of the 47 grandchildren have their own families, which resulted in 87 great grandchildren.

It’s a good thing Population during Lolo’s time was not an issue and there was no Responsible Parenthood Bill filed in Congress or else 1/3 of the people we have today in this hall will not be around including myself.

But if there was a bill on Responsible Parenthood at the time Lolo married Lola, it still would not matter. The numbers will still be the same and maybe even more. Why you may ask will it not matter? It will not matter because the children of Lolo and Lola will unanimously declare that Lolo was hardworking, responsible, and was a good provider for his family. How did he achieve this? Aside from being a public servant by being a Senator, he was also a practicing lawyer and a Professor of law in UST, FEU and MLQU. But his being able to practice and teach law was not the secret why he was able to provide for his family. I will let you in on the secret why he was able to be a good provider for his family…Lolo was kuripot. I think some of the children and grandchildren have inherited this trait. I am one of them…

Seriously, as I stand here before you, my fondest memories of him quickly rushes through… not as the solicitor general who prosecuted the Japanese Collaborators…, nor the popular Senator who authored meaningful legislations… not as the Grand Old Man of the Opposition who united the political opposition against Marcos…, or the Grand Old Man of the Parliament of the Streets who led workers, farmers, students and other sectors of society in the fight for nationalism, democracy, human rights and good governance… much has already been said today about his public life by Senator Salonga, Senator Arroyo, Under Secretary Padilla and in the articles written in the past few days by Prof. Liling Briones, Jarius Bondoc, Randy David, Rina Jimenez-David, Prof. Ed Garcia and Joma Sison among others. I remember Lolo simply as Lolo Tanny, the family man with simple hopes and dreams for his children and grandchildren.

Children always look up to role models as they grow up and may I humbly say that I didn’t have to look far to find my own role model. As if on cue, my parents even named me after him, no less, and there he was during my growing and formative years – my Lolo.

What is the legacy he has left his family?

Prayerful… Lolo was a prayerful person. This was one of the values he inheritted from his parents specially his mother. He never forgets to pray the rosary and always carries a rosary in his pocket. A habbit that the children and grandchildren have picked up. As a matter of fact, Lolo Tanny and Lola Dading prayed the rosary together everyday with their children as a family. In our family, as I and my siblings were growing up, I remember that we would usually pray the rosary with Tatay and Nanay during our trips to Novaliches, Baguio and Tagaytay.

Love for his Family… It was the LOVE within the family that Lolo gained his strength from considering the kind of public servant Lolo was. He was not called the “Don Quijote – The Man from La Mancha” for nothing. The battles he fought in the Senate and those he fought in the “Parliament of the Streets” led to more defeats and frustrations than to victories. But when it came to raising a family and showing LOVE to Lola, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren there is no doubt he was victorious. Lola and the family were the “wind beneath Lolo’s wings” that permitted him to soar to greater heights and dream for what he believed was best for the country.

Lolo expressed his LOVE for his family by having family time with them whether it was at their home in San Juan or later in New Manila or the picnics they had at Novaliches or the vacations at Baguio. Lolo and Lola’s LOVE for the family was further cemented when their children had their own respective families. Lolo and Lola made it a point to have reunions every other weekend in New Manila, Novaliches and later in Tagaytay. Baguio during the summer and after Christmas was a yearly sojourn and pilgrimage. It was specially fun for our generation because we all stayed in one house and had a room assigned for each family. It was one week of seeing Lolo and Lola and the cousins — playing and eating together. In Tagaytay, our generation all slept on the floor and Lolo had fun trying to make it to the desk in his study without stepping on any of his grandchildren only to find out that when he got safely to his desk there was still another cousin sleeping underneath.

Lolo loved his grandchildren and was very happy to have all of them around. He knew all our names and had a term of endearment whenever he kissed us — bunggoy for the males and bunggay for the females. Once he brought the young male cousins, including myself, to Cartimar to buy generic soccer shoes. He didn’t buy any of the famous brands so he could give the grandchildren who went with him. If he bought us branded soccer shoes like Nike or Adidas, maybe only one or two of the grandchildren would have gotten a pair because of the price he would have had to pay. This shows you that Lolo was not kuripot but smart.

Lolo also had his supply of rubber bands and candies ready to be distirbuted to all his apos everytime there was a reunion. In our young minds we could not understand the logic of the rubber bands but I believe Lolo was particularly more concerned with the event as a way of consolidating the family and renewing ties with family members and friends. Eventually, the grandchildren would learn that it was not the gifts that make the holidays meaningful but the bonding it creates among us brothers, sisters, cousins and other relatives. The family reunions is a meaningful practice that is very much alive in the family however simple it may be.

Lolo also recognized the accomplishments of all the apos whether in sports, academics or the arts by rewarding them with cash, or a book or treating them to ice cream .

But Lolo Tanny loved Lola Dading foremost amongst us. He can really be romantic with Lola especially when he teases her with a kiss in front of his children and grandchildren. Lolo makes it a point that when he gives his gifts to Lola, he makes sure that his children are around to witness the event. This is his way of expressing his undying affection and love to Lola Dading. And to us grandchildren, it was always a treat to see both Lolo and Lola with those endearing gestures. Mind you, when it comes to gifts for Lola, Lolo forgets that he is kuripot. He just makes sure that the store he buys his gifts from allows payment by installments.

This Love for Family to this date is very strong in the family as evidenced by this commemoration of his birthday spearheaded by his grandchildren, the third generation. This is why we cousins are very close to each other. It is the thread that weaves us Tañadas together no matter where we are or where we reside.

Lolo leads by example. Honesty and truthfullness were the core values he believed in. He consistently practiced what he preached as he is likewise one of the most self-disciplined persons I could ever have imagined. Managing his time being a Senator while at the same time being a law professor in two universities is quite a feat considering the demands he had on his time. But likewise, he saw to it that what he fed his big family came from honest, hard-earned money and not from the public coffers which he could have easy access to being a Senator of the Republic. As a matter of fact, he is the only Senator upon retiring who was recognized by his peers for returning accumulated unused allowances. His specie is now rare to find and probably extinct. We yearn that we may find even a little speck of his dust in the leaders of the government we have today were the word TONGPATS is unknown, not practiced and even never heard off.

Yes…Lolo is frugal, he believed in simple living. He defies expensive and lavish social norms. Lolo’s katipiran has permeated deeply within the clan, especially with my father and even myself when I too became a public servant.

A lot people mistook this as “kuripot” or parsimonious or simply — tight fisted. As a matter of fact in the last election, my oponnent called me kuripot because I only put P20 in envelopes handed to me for donations in the barangays I visited. I explained to my constituents that “Di bale nang kuripot, Huwag lang kurakot!” Part of being a public servant is to educate the people. There is a limit to what or how you can help and that it should always be within your means.

Just as we value our own hard-earned money, my Lolo even places a higher value of our people’s money. He believes that if the people’s money is spent, it should be accounted for judiciously. He disdained ostentatious living and abhorred graft and corruption.

Lolo, Tatay and I are constantly being compared with other politicians with huge wallets. But we would like to keep this part of Lolo’s trait with us because this would keep our feet constantly on the ground. After all, for Lolo, one should measure a politician by his willingness to serve the people, honestly and with selfless dedication, and not the size of his wallet.

Nationalism… His love for the country and his courage is of course known to us all. It need not anymore be expounded on since the speakers had already touched this subject matter.

They say that children stand on the shoulder of their parents and for that matter, their grandparents. For the Tañada legacy for which my grandfather built and for which my father and the rest of the clan continue to build on, I am thankful.

Lolo’s brilliance as a legislator cannot be replaced and perhaps cannot be matched by another Tañada – although, we hope someone will. But this is not what Lolo expects us to be. Inside and outside the political arena, he wants us to be our own person but never forgetting the core values and principles he stood for — prayerful life, honesty, nationalism, human rights, justice, democracy and good governance. These are what we the third generation re-affirm and commit to abide and live by.

Lolo Tanny has been gone for 16 years now but I know and feel he is still very much around us, in our minds, in our hearts and in the very passion by which we do our work in our own little way, in serving our people. Perhaps it is the main reason why we are all here together tonight. We love this country the way Ka Tanny loved it and dedicated his whole life for it.

As we end tonight’s celebration, permit me to share with you my own personal experiences with Lolo through a short lettter of gratitude I composed in my thoughts…

Dearest Lolo,

Your family, friends and admirers are gathered here to celebrate your 110th birth anniversary.

Thank you for opening my eyes to the Marcos Dictatorship at the young age of 13 by allowing me to read the Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

Thank you for allowing me to attend the rallies of LABAN at the young age of 14 whenever Tatay would accompany you.

Thank you for allowing me to speak to the leaders of LABAN in 1979 during the meeting at your home in New Manila on the importance of orgainizing a youth arm of LABAN.

Thank you for your wisdom and the speeches you delivered. It helped me understand more the problems the country was facing and the need for nationalism, freedom, democracy, human rights and good governance in solving these problems before 1986 and more so today.

Thank you for bringing me along to the different meetings with cause oriented groups. These meetings helped develop friendships that up today are continuing and unforgettable.

Thank you for the shared moments we had while I was working part time in the law office specially in 1988 when I was arrested speaking in front of the US Embassy against the US Bases. You remarked jokingly… “Lorenzo, Nakatikim ka na rin ng arresto..” I replied “Kasalanan po ninyo dahil kayo po naman ang nagmulat sa akin tungkol sa US Bases…” and we both laughed.

Thank you for your advice to always know and verify the facts because no one will be able to fool you if you have the facts in your fingertips.

Thank you for attending my graduation from law school in 1989. You surprised me and made me tear when I received my diploma and hugged you. You were already 91 years old and didn’t really have to attend. As a matter of fact, Tatay and Nanay did not attend because the ceremony would take at least 4 hours.

Thank you for the encouragement you gave me when I didn’t pass the bar exams the first and second time. You told me you knew that I would pass and become a lawyer. You told me to continue to have faith in the Lord and the Lord will not let me down.

Thank you most of all for being still alive when I did pass the bar. You had the biggest smile on your face when I visited you at your bedside to bring you the news. You were so happy and you called Lola to bring to you the envelope. I saw that the envelope was thick and my mind was already thinking maybe a thousand or even two or even three…I even remarked, Wow Lolo ang kapal ng envelope…!” You handed the envelope to me you told me to open and count the contents. It was not two, it was not three but five…five hundred pesos in P5 bills.

You left us three weeks after I passed the Bar and after you knew Tatay made it to the Senate for his second term. There are other stories to tell specially from my cousins. Those will be shared in the future with our children and their children.

I am sure that you Lolo are fondly looking down at us with one arm resting on Lola’s shoulder and the other with his clenched fist and loud voice booming “LABAN…LABAN…LABAN!”

You are a tough act to follow, Lolo! We continue to miss you especially in these difficult times. But your words, wisdom and how you lived your life will remain to be a beacon of light for us to lead this country out of the darkness that it is now in. We shall continue the fight. Ipagpapatuloy po naming ang laban!


PS. I am sure you are having a big party up there celebrating your birthday with Lolo Vicente, Lola Asiang, Lola Dading, Tito Gregg, Tito Nats, Tita Annie, Tita Teresita, Tito Andy, Tita Chona, Tito Adrian, Rhett, Gustavo, Samantha and all your friends. By the way, if President Diosdado Macapagal happens to drop by and greet you, please kindly ask him to whisper to his President Daughter that her term ends in 2010 with no extensions.

Mabuhay si Lorenzo M. Tañada

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas

Maraming salamat and magandang gabi sa ating lahat!

We are family

Posted August 20, 2008

In the mid-seventies my father had a trading firm in Quezon City and his accountant was a lesbian. How did I know she was a lesbian? She had short hair, a robust body, and she wore blouses that looked like shirts. She walked with a swagger and had a gentle face wreathed in smiles.

She would visit our house every quarter to look at the books. After her first visit, my father walked her out of the house into her car, a cool, blue Datsun. My mother and I were sitting in the living room, and suddenly she said, “Do you know that Tess is a lesbian?”

I was in high school, tall and lean and shy, my face full of pimples. I just looked at my mother, and then she added: “But that is all right. She takes care of her old parents and sends her brothers and sisters to college.”

I was confused. Does that mean it was all right to be a lesbian? Or was it all right to be a lesbian if you care for your old folks and send your siblings to school?

My hairdresser’s name is Dessa. I go to him not only to have my hair shampooed and trimmed and oiled; I also go to him for my month’s supply of stories. Sometimes scandalous stories, yes, because his parlor is near two places dear to his heart–a military camp and a construction site. He likes his men straight and dark and hard of sinew, and he has a cache of stories about soldiers and workers who can be seduced with an excellent haircut or a bag of hot pan de sal and Coke.

But like Tess, Dessa is also the family breadwinner. Sure, his parents are now permanent residents in the United States, after having been petitioned by his sister, now an American citizen. But he still has other brothers and sisters—and their gaggle of children—who come to him with their interminable needs.

Sometimes, he would be cutting my hair and his nephew would climb the stairs and ask him for some money to buy milk for the baby at home. Dessa’s round eyes would just look at me, he would shrug his shoulders, then dip his fingers into his small, brown handbag.

Gay market?

The columnist and UP professor Michael Tan said that there is no such thing as a gay market in the Philippines, in reference to the slew of advertisements talking of gay-niche marketing. In the Philippines, he said, there is only the gay (and lesbian) breadwinner.

The Filipino family in the new millennium is no longer composed of the father who works, the mother who stays at home, and the children who go to school. Since the 1970s, with terrible poverty besetting the land, millions of Filipinos have left.

There are now eight million Filipinos abroad, fully 10 percent of our population of 89 million. These Filipinos are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts. They left behind children, nephews and nieces, siblings to be fed and clothed and educated.

Some of those who left are gays and lesbians who remit the dollars that prop up our dismal economy. Some of those who stayed here are gays and lesbians who care for the children their parents left behind. They work by day, go home to tutor the children, make sure they are fed and cared for. Along with the grandparents left behind, they, too, constitute the new Filipino family.


In this nation of migrants, the fabric of the Filipino family has not been torn, it has been altered. It has been patched, with new designs and new colors added. It has verily become a fabric different but still the same. It has been said that the Filipinos are some of the warmest and most spontaneous people in the world. You only have to attend family reunions to see vivid examples of these.

But in these reunions, the gay uncle is quiet because he does not want to be asked when will he marry, and the lesbian aunt is busy puttering about the house, making sure everybody is fed.

These are stereotypes. Gays and lesbians in the millennium have changed, too. Some of us are into relationships with fellow gays, or with fellow lesbians. There are still those who sleep only with straight people, with dire consequences for their pockets and for their self-esteem.

But more and more people in our community are into relationships based on mutual love and respect. The relationships last for months, for years, even for decades. Love, like desire, springs eternal in the human breast.

And as the years pass, more and more are adopting children—the children of their poor relatives, the children of their house help, the children left on their very doorsteps, like in the melodramatic Tagalog movies. So the mainstream protest has shifted to same-sex parenting.

In 1998 we hosted an afternoon of discussions with presidential candidates. One of those who graciously attended was the late Senator Raul Roco. We asked him if there is a provision in the Family Code that would prevent a same-sex couple from adopting a child legally. The context of the question is an opinion from the Department of Social Welfare and Development that a lesbian or gay couple (or individual) cannot adopt because there would be no role models for a male or female parent.

Senator Roco said that was only an opinion and it has no legal leg to stand on. He even suggested that we could do a test case here and go to court.

Condoms and contraceptives

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have separately issued statements supporting the rights of gays and lesbians to adopt. Categorically, they have affirmed studies done over the last 20 years that “there are no notable differences between children raised by straight or gay parents.”

Ironically, the Marriage Law Project—an organization whose mission is to reaffirm the legal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman—commissioned analysts to examine the 49 studies in which researchers found no difference between children raised by gay and straight parents. Shaking its head, incredulous even, the Marriage Law Project had to concur with the validity of the scientific findings.

You can see this miasma of confusion in the current debate between the Catholic Church and the reproductive-rights advocates. The end-point, from where I stand, is that the Church should continue teaching people in their natural family planning clinics how to count correctly so their natural family-planning method would work.

As it is now, with illiteracy and innumeracy hounding the poor, they cannot even understand the basics of the natural family-planning method. On the other hand, health centers should carry condoms and other contraceptives, as well as accessible information on family planning, so that the poor could limit the number of their children.

For the very poor who has P10 in his pocket would rather buy a packet of noodles to feed his children than a condom for himself. In the end, I think it all boils down to choice.

Sexual violence

Moreover, there is the silence of the church on the sexual violence inflicted on young members of the flock. Even Pope Benedict has publicly apologized for what the pedophile priests have done in Australia and the United States. Gobbledygook, a member of a gay yahoo group, said, “It’s truly sad that the Catholic hierarchy condemns homosexual [acts] when it has treated its erring gay priests and lesbian nuns who figured in molestation/rape/sexual harassment cases with kid gloves. If there are closeted gay clergy who engage in homosexual practices, what does that make of the Catholic hierarchy that condemns homosexuality? I think it only makes the Church look ridiculous.”

Mr. Brown adds: “There are some gay priests hiding in the confessional boxes, afraid to come out in the open. What we get from the newspaper headlines are only a few isolated cases. Most of the young and helpless victims are afraid to speak out. Yet we hear of condemnation of gays high up in the pulpit.”

In fairness to the Catholic Church, when I asked a bishop about this, he said the CBCP should be given a written letter about incidents of pedophilia, and they would investigate the matter at hand. So the table is now open for a test case.

Luigi, Mika

I want to end with a self-referential story.

My sister’s husband recently died of leukemia. Now she has to raise Luigi, her now 12-year-old son, who wants to go to medical school. She works hard and has saved some money, but I do not think it is enough to send a son to medical school in the next few years. So I told her I will help send her son to school.

Moreover, I have also adopted the daughter of our yaya of 20 years. Mika is now seven years old, a big-boned and bubbly girl who is topping her class in grade school. I am sending her to school and one of the pleasures of my life is to call home every night and ask her what she good thing she did in school today.

Thus, happy-go-lucky me who only buys books and clothes for myself and who lives abroad every two years on writing grants and scholarships now has to send two kids to school. Our house is loud with a teenager’s voice and the poem being memorized by a bright girl.

Every night I check if the aircon is not too cold for them, and if the yaya has tucked them well for the night. I think of vaccinations and medicines and sweat drying up on their backs. But in turn, the boy breathlessly tells me stories about what the manga he has drawn, and the young girl calls me “Daa-dee.”

I do it not out of a sense of obligation but of love. And now that these two children have another “Daa-dee,” our little house on the prairie is complete.

Tamano answers MILF Panel Member’s Insults

Yesterday, at a forum on the MOA on Ancestral Domain at the College of Law, University of the Philippines, one of the MILF Peace Panel members, Atty. Musib Buat, told the audience at Malcolm Hall, which was also broadcast live to students at U.P.-Mindanao, that I was a “former Moro” and a “traitor” because of my opposition to the MOA and my filing a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the signing of the agreement. I was one of the panel reactors to the talks on the MOA given by, among others, Atty. Buat and GRP Peace Panel member, General Garcia.

Candidly, I was angered by the Atty. Buat’s statements as they were, to my mind, most unfair and unbecoming; fortunately, I decided to focus on rebutting the personal insults point by point in a manner that was consistent with peaceful dialogue. The following is the text of my reaction, which I believe is instructive also on issues on the MOA as well as my stand that while I, a Moro, oppose the MOA and secession, I do support federalism and greater autonomy for Filipino Muslims. To his credit, Atty. Buat apologized after my response. –

“Greetings of peace to all of us who genuinely believe in peace.

Allow me to make a personal statement since I have been personally insulted, fairness dictates that I have the right to answer.

I had come here today hoping for a true dialogue – a sharing of ideas in peace and respect. This is an academic forum after all, in the University of the Philippines no less. It is most unfortunate that instead of a dialogue, Atty. Buat has chosen to insult me personally. Atty. Musib Buat has called me a “former Moro”, essentially, a “traitor”, and that my color is yellow. Yellow, of course, being the color of cowardice. If it were not out of my respect for law and respect for my elders, I would show Atty. Buat how incorrect he is in his assessment. Anyway, Ninoy’s color was yellow and so I consider myself in good company.

Bapa Musib you have disappointed me greatly – this is beneath you. How sad it is that you have gone to the level of name-calling and ad hominem arguments. I refuse to go down to that level and to call you – and the MILF – similar names as well.

However, if that is how you will treat Filipino-Muslims who dissent and who disagree with your – or the MILF’s – views, that you will resort to threats and name-calling, then, in all candor, I would rather not be part of the society that you hope to create.

Historically, this is called “Takfir” – done by Muslim radicals making judgments on the piety of other Muslims, something that Muslim moderates would find totally unacceptable – and throughout Muslim history many people have been oppressed and killed because of this type of puritanical thinking.

In fact, out of respect for my elders in the MILF, I have not made any statements against the MILF and have lain the blame of the problems of the MOA squarely on GMA. I have done this in spite of hate email and hate text – even death threats – directed against me for the simple reason that I opposed the MOA. Let me make my position clear and I am not the only Moro who takes this stand, the MILF does not speak for all Moros: I support federalism and autonomy for Moros but I oppose the MOA.

In my view, the fatal flaw in the whole process of creating the MOA – even going beyond the constitutional issues – is that the MOA was crafted in the shadows beyond the pale of public discussion and debate. The marginalization of the stakeholders to MOA, which not only include the MNLF, the Lumads, the Subanons in Mindanao, the Christian communities that are to form part of the (BJE), the Congress that will be duty-bound to enact laws to effect the MOA, but, more importantly the public-at-large who have an interest in a matter of this transcendental importance, fatally undermines the MOA. It must be obvious that there can be no final peace settlement unless all stakeholders are part of that settlement.

Final Point

Allow me to make a final clarification of my stand on the MOA and why I believe it is doomed to failure. The MOA and the stand of the MILF intensely focuses on our differences – the differences in culture and religion between Muslims and Christians – and fails to consider what unites us.

Why is it that in so many other countries, people of different faiths, creeds, and races can come together in peace and unite under the concept of one nation? Are we not one race? How ironic it is that 54 years after the landmark Brown v. Board decision in the U.S. expressing the belief, which has been the trend of modern history, that the solution for a minority’s discrimination and oppression is not separation but rather genuine integration and here we are now, through this MOA, expressing the opposite belief – that in the Philippines Muslims and Christians must live separately to achieve peace. My position is simple – I am a Moro, that is my birthright that no one, not even the MILF may take away, and I am also proud to be a Filipino and I will fight, through all constitutional and legal means, to keep our nation whole.

I like the color yellow, it’s on the Philippine flag.”

Behave, The Kids Are Watching

Behave, The Kids Are Watching
By Perla Aragon-Choudhury

2007 was a good year for the Filipino family. There were more responsible television programs last year than in the past, according to the Southeast Foundation for Children and Television (SAFCTV), an award-giving body that recognizes child-sensitive, family friendly television shows.

“This is one of the rare times when networks come together for a good cause,” says Mag Cruz Hatol, secretary-general of the foundation. The group hands out the Anak TV Seal for outstanding TV programs that can be watched by children with little or no adult supervision.

Anak TV began as an initiative of the ABS-CBN Foundation under Gina Lopez, now chair emeritus of the SAFCTV. The awarding ceremonies are always held close to the National Children’s Broadcasting Day, set on the second Sunday of December by Republic Act 8296. Every December 9 is observed as International Children’s Day of Broadcasting in the country.

For 2007 the Anak TV Seal went to 94 programs, up from 87 in 2006 and 68 in 2005. During the ceremonies TV executives awarded Anak TV Seals to rival shows, and .producers congratulated one other and smiled as they posed for posterity with the Board of Trustees of the SAFCTV.

The top child-friendly shows were formally recognized by Raul Alvarez, president of the Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA), and Alice Panares, executive director of the National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT), a body mandated by the Children’s Television Act of 1997 (R.A. 8370).

The following are the top 10 favorite and most admired shows for 2007:

TV Patrol (ABS-CBN)
Pilipinas, Game Ka Na Ba (ABS-CBN)
24 Oras (GMA-7)
Wish Ko Lang (GMA-7)
Rated K (ABS-CBN)
Maalala Mo Kaya? (ABS-CBN)
Imbestigador (GMA-7)
Maging Sino Ka Man (ABS-CBN)
Deal or No Deal (ABS-CBN)
Art Angel (GMA-7)
Edgardo Roces, president of the SAFCTV, said in his welcome address, “In setting aside figures on advertising… we are all champions.”

ABS-CBN got 14 awards. Interestingly, among its winners were Chuy, Okiddo, Northern Catch and Salam, which Hatol describes as unheralded programs of ABS-CBN’s regional stations but which had clicked with the national jurors as child-safe.

ABS-CBN’s sister station, Studio 23, received 10 awards, among which were Badminton Extreme, Sports TV and Y Speak.

The National Broadcasting Network bagged the Anak TV Seals for 14 family-friendly shows – its best showing so far. ABC-5 got 13, including for blocktimers Once Upon a Saint, Light Talk and Kerygma TV.

GMA-7 had seven awards. Among those recohnized were Kakasa Ka Ba sa Grade 5; Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho; Art Angel; and Wish Ko Lang. Its sister station, Channel 11- QTV, a member of SAFCTV only since 2005, got 12, including for the noontime newscast Balitanghali and Mga Waging Kuwento ng OFW.

RPN-9 had 10 winners, including Parenting 101, Kapatid, Pinokyo, Game Plan and One Morning. IBC-13 was honored for six of its shows, including Mommy Academy and Ating Alamin.

Southern Broadcasting Network-Channel 21 received a seal for Oras ng Himala, and Net 25 got eight awards for programs like new winners Gabay sa Kalusugan, Kapatid sa Hanapbuhay and Drive It.

And there was more, in the form of recognition of the most admired television personalities:


Julius Babao
Mike Enriquez
Gary Valenciano
John Lloyd Cruz
Piolo Pascual
Aga Muhlach
Edu Manzano
Arnold Clavio
Ted Failon
Sam Milby


Korina Sanchez
Mel Tiangco
Sharon Cuneta
Christine Bersola Babao
Angel Locsin
Jessica Soho
Karen Davila
Bernadette Sembrano
Sarah Geronimo
Toni Gonzaga

In her brief thank-you speech, Korina Sanchez said, “It is good when your efforts are given due recognition. It is from the eyes of children that you see the truth.”

Gary V. could not remember if it was his third or fourth year of winning but he acknowledged how he is always reminded by the Seal to be prudent because he is being watched by children.

Similarly, Mike Enriquez said, “This award tells us that we are indeed being watched, and that children are among our viewers. To me, it is the most significant award because it is given by the people.”

The awards, says Hatol, “recognized the true heroes on the local boob tube, shows and personalities who, by shunning sensationalism and gimmickry, are able to offer unadulterated entertainment. Such sincerity is paid back by audiences with well-deserved adulation.”

Hatol said a national survey preceded the awarding. Thousands of mature audiences from every corner of the land were polled. They were asked who among television’s hundreds of denizens they thought were worthy of emulation and respect of their households, particularly their kids.

“The top of mind survey yielded an enormous number of names: from preacher Eli Soriano and award-winning actress Gina Pareno to long-gone child star Julie Vega to opposition spokesman Adel Tamano,” said Hatol.

Anak TV asks member networks for tapes of what they themselves consider as child-friendly productions, and then shows these tapes to schools, civic groups, affiliates of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and passengers of Negros Navigation, farmers in barangay assembles throughout the country. The local ratings are then validated by a final round of consultation.

Roces said, “It has been a most difficult year as we scrapped the bottom of the barrel. But we overcame the difficulties through the sheer drive and dedication of our staff, volunteers and supporters. To them go our admiration and … gratitude. … We leave it up to former children to decide if the next generation deserves care from adults.”

Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, official spokesperson of Anak TV, asked for support from potential sponsors: “The challenge and immense difficulty just to advance this advocacy all boils down to lack of resources for what we’re doing. Do we just throw the project or cry for even more help? There are more mountains to climb and many more hurdles to clear. Please mull over this advocacy; and decide if child welfare is worth its weight in financial investment. Yours is a vital role in the future of our beloved families and country.”

Don’t stereotype Moros as terrorists, opposition spokesman appeals

08/20/2008 | 01:44 PM

MANILA, Philippines — The spokesman of the United Opposition (UNO) on Wednesday appealed to the public not to stereotype Filipino Muslims as “terrorists” as a result of the unprovoked killing of unarmed civilians allegedly by renegade members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Central Mindanao last Monday.

Adel Tamano, a Muslim scholar and lawyer, said such unfair characterization would be “a serious threat to the peace-process in Mindanao.”

“While all-peace-loving Filipinos must condemn the attacks on civilians by MILF, we must strongly resist the temptation to stereotype all Moros as violent or terrorists,” Tamano said in a statement.

“The vast majority of Filipino Muslims are law-abiding citizens who want nothing more than to find decent jobs and education for their children, just like all other Filipinos,” he added.

“We must not allow the situation to degenerate into a generalized anti-Muslim sentiment which is unfair and will ultimately be a death-blow to the dream of creating a lasting peace in Mindanao,” he said.

Tamano earlier said the unprovoked attacks on civilians “certainly does not help convince those against the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain between the government and MILF negotiation panels.”

He called the attacks “immoral, Un-Islamic and un-Christian.”

Tamano, along with former Senate President Franklin Drilon, and Liberal Party President Sen. Mar Roxas openly supported the opposition raised by Mindanao local officials against the proposed MOA. They were able to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court to stop its scheduled signing last Aug. 5 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

At the same time, Tamano said all peace advocacy groups, whether they supported the MOA or not, should now take a firm stand against the recent atrocities in Central Mindanao that has claimed dozens of lives and displaced thousands of villagers..

Tamano earlier called on all Mindanao leaders “to make a strong and unqualified call to end all hostilities between the government and the MILF.”

“Now is not the time for blame and finger-pointing but for statesmanship on all sides. I challenge all our leaders to set aside their own agenda and make an unequivocal call for peace and unity,” he said.

Election Campaign E-Book by Eero Brillantes

An E-book on analyzing the “Disposition of Forces in Election Campaigns” is now available for viewing or downloading as a pdf file. It is written by Eero Rosini P. Brillantes as a sneak preview to his book “Election Ops: Strategy. Deployment. Victory.” As the 2010 national elections heats up next year, the book will serve as a field manual for election campaigners, political operatives, and communication specialists. To access the e-book, please go to www.brainbang-mindbullet.blogspot.com.


Atty. Adel A. Tamano, AB, JD, MPA, LLM

I received information that war is imminent in Mindanao because of the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the MOA on Ancestral Domain pending before the Supreme Court. According to one message, the Supreme Court was “adding fuel to the fire.” The proposition is that if the MOA is declared to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, then hostilities would break out between the MILF and government. Also, in media and in numerous fora, the supporters of the MOA argue that those who support the MOA are for peace in Mindanao and those who oppose it, like myself, are, therefore, are not only against peace but are anti-Moro. This is preposterous.

Firstly, that argument implicitly characterizes the MOA as the cure-all for the peace problems of Mindanao, so much so that if you are opposed to its implementation or disagree with its effectivity, then you must ipso facto be against peace in Mindanao. This characterization grossly oversimplifies the problem and underestimates the human capacity to find creative and even better solutions to the problem. The MOA essentially creates a separate Moro State; the obvious stand of the MOA proponents is that this is the only answer to the Mindanao conflict. There are other approaches to the peace problem in Mindanao, such as enhanced Moro integration, providing greater autonomy to the ARMM, creating a culture of peace, intensive Muslim-Christian dialogue, or even establishing federalism in Mindanao, which – unlike the MOA – does not create an unconstitutional State within a State. Apparently, the MOA proponents do not find merit in these less drastic, and yet more effective, solutions.

Unfortunately, making the MOA a panacea to the peace problem only creates unreasonable expectations that, ultimately, will cause greater disappointment and even heightened conflict in the long-run. Sadly, because the terms of the MOA are undeliverable because of their inconsistencies with the Fundamental Law and the inability of GMA to convince the public to support her moves to amend the charter, the MOA is, by its very terms, doomed to failure.

Secondly, it is another gross oversimplification to argue that those against the MOA are anti-peace and anti-Moro. On a personal level, being a Moro myself, that is absurd and I am not the only Moro who opposes the MOA. Other Moros share my stand that while we are against the MOA for being unconstitutional and done without proper consultation with stakeholders, nevertheless we are for greater autonomy and federalism for Filipino Muslims. It is true that some non-Moros who oppose the MOA are driven by interests not related to the peace process, such as preservation of their private lands or fear of loss of political power. In truth, some Christians may even oppose the MOA because they discriminate against Moros. That is a fact that we must admit in all candor and it is, of course, most unfortunate. However, the whole truth is that discrimination is not a one-sided affair. There are Moros who discriminate against Christians as well and we must condemn that as strongly as we condemn Christians who discriminate against Muslims. Additionally, fairness dictates that we must accept that there are Christians who oppose the MOA on principled grounds and who do so out of a sense of patriotism and even a genuine concern for the interests of Moros.

Thirdly, opposing the MOA may have little to do with being anti-peace and anti-Moro but have everything to do with being anti-Gloria. GMA has never been shy about her desire to amend the Constitution. In 2006, she attempted to do this via the aborted People’s Initiative, which was struck down by the Supreme Court. Also, she has explicitly stated in her State of the Nation Addresses that charter change is part and parcel of her administration’s agenda. It has become obvious to many that her support for the MOA is another sinister attempt to amend the charter for the purpose of staying beyond 2010. GMA’s claim that she will amend the Constitution only to conform to the MOA is belied by the fact that there is no such thing as a “surgical amendment” of the Constitution. Once constitutional change is discussed, whether by a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention, the assembly or convention has plenary power to consider any amendment, which of course may include term extensions, not merely amendments to conform to the MOA.

In my view, the fatal flaw in the whole process of creating the MOA – even going beyond the constitutional issues and whether or not it was negotiated by the government in bad faith – is that the MOA was crafted in the shadows beyond the pale of public discussion and debate. The marginalization of the stakeholders to MOA, which not only include the MNLF, the lumads in Mindanao, the Christian communities that are to form part of the BangsaMoro Juridical Entity (BJE), the Congress that will be duty-bound to enact laws to effect the MOA, but, more importantly the public-at-large who have an interest in a matter of this transcendental importance, fatally undermines the MOA. It must be obvious that there can be no final peace settlement unless all stakeholders are part of that settlement. The MOA is only between the government, as represented by the peace panel, and the MILF. If consultations had been done, if we had a full and fair debate on this issue, then we would not be where we are now, which is at the verge of war. Let us put the blame squarely where it belongs – not with the MILF who had every right to negotiate for the best terms that they could obtain, not the Supreme Court that is merely fulfilling its constitutional duty to hear the cases on the MOA, not the petitioners who oppose the MOA, and not the political opposition who see the MOA as a Trojan horse for charter change – but with the person whose administration has been characterized by secrecy and repeated claims of executive privilege, who will use any means, even tearing our country apart, to perpetuate herself in power. The blame lies with GMA.

Young Turks at UP NCPAG: poster is out!

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