August 2006


Below are two op-ed articles from the country’s leading newspaper. The first, written by a former Supreme Court Justice. The second one, a rebuttal, was written by the grandson of the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth. Manila it seems is not as open minded as I had thought. And so like Manuel Quezon III, we must fight this kind of bigotry not just in the public but within ourselves.

‘Don we now our gay apparel’     

By Isagani Cruz Former Supreme Court Justice of the Philippines
Inquirer
Last updated 02:14am (Mla time) 08/12/2006

Published on Page A10 of the August 12, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

HOMOSEXUALS before were mocked and derided, but now they are regarded with new-found respect and, in many cases, even treated as celebrities. Only recently, the more impressionable among our people wildly welcomed a group of entertainers whose main proud advertisement was that they were “queer.” It seems that the present society has developed a new sense of values that have rejected our religious people’s traditional ideas of propriety and morality on the pretext of being “modern” and “broad-minded.”

The observations I will here make against homosexuals in general do not include the members of their group who have conducted themselves decorously, with proper regard not only for their own persons but also for the gay population in general. A number of our local couturiers, to take but one example, are less than manly but they have behaved in a reserved and discreet manner unlike the vulgar members of the gay community who have degraded and scandalized it. I offer abject apologies to those blameless people I may unintentionally include in my not inclusive criticisms. They have my admiration and respect.

The change in the popular attitude toward homosexuals is not particular to the Philippines. It has become an international trend even in the so-called sophisticated regions with more liberal concepts than in our comparatively conservative society. Gay marriages have been legally recognized in a number of European countries and in some parts of the United States. Queer people — that’s the sarcastic term for them — have come out of the closet where before they carefully concealed their condition. The permissive belief now is that homosexuals belong to a separate third sex with equal rights as male and female persons instead of just an illicit in-between gender that is neither here nor there.

When I was studying in the Legarda Elementary School in Manila during the last 1930s, the big student population had only one, just one, homosexual. His name was Jose but we all called him Josefa. He was a quiet and friendly boy whom everybody liked to josh but not offensively. In the whole district of Sampaloc where I lived, there was only one homosexual who roamed the streets peddling “kalamay” and “puto” and other treats for snacks. He provided diversion to his genial customers and did not mind their familiar amiable teasing. I think he actually enjoyed being a “binabae” [effeminate].

The change came, I think, when an association of homos dirtied the beautiful tradition of the Santa Cruz de Mayo by parading their kind as the “sagalas” instead of the comely young maidens who should have been chosen to grace the procession. Instead of being outraged by the blasphemy, the watchers were amused and, I suppose, indirectly encouraged the fairies to project themselves. It must have been then that they realized that they were what they were, whether they liked it or not, and that the time for hiding their condition was over.

Now homosexuals are everywhere, coming at first in timorous and eventually alarming and audacious number. Beauty salons now are served mostly by gay attendants including effeminate bearded hairdressers to whom male barbers have lost many of their macho customers. Local shows have their share of “siyoke” [gay men], including actors like the one rejected by a beautiful wife in favor of a more masculine if less handsome partner. And, of course, there are lady-like directors who are probably the reason why every movie and TV drama must have the off-color “bading” [gay] or two to cheapen the proceedings.

And the schools are now fertile ground for the gay invasion. Walking along the University belt one day, I passed by a group of boys chattering among themselves, with one of them exclaiming seriously, “Aalis na ako. Magpapasuso pa ako!” [“I’m leaving. I still have to breastfeed!”] That pansy would have been mauled in the school where my five sons (all machos) studied during the ’70s when all the students were certifiably masculine. Now many of its pupils are gay, and I don’t mean happy. I suppose they have been influenced by such shows as “Brokeback Mountain,” our own “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” (both of which won awards), “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and that talk program of Ellen Degeneres, an admitted lesbian.

Is our population getting to be predominantly pansy? Must we allow homosexuality to march unobstructed until we are converted into a nation of sexless persons without the virility of males and the grace of females but only an insipid mix of these diluted virtues? Let us be warned against the gay population, which is per se a compromise between the strong and the weak and therefore only somewhat and not the absolute of either of the two qualities. Be alert lest the Philippine flag be made of delicate lace and adorned with embroidered frills.

~~~~~~~~~~

‘The grand inquisitor ‘

By Manuel L. Quezon III Grandson of the former President Manuel Quezon
Inquirer
Last updated 02:41am (Mla time) 08/14/2006

Published on page A15 of the August 14, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

KURT VONNEGUT ONCE OBSERVED, “FOR SOME reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.” Vonnegut was pointing out the basic immorality of society’s self-proclaimed moral custodians. Hate the sin but love the sinner? But that opens to a possible debate on what is sin.

How much easier, more certain and eminently satisfying to decree, “Kill them all. God will know His own.” The result is the perversion of the finer instincts of religion into a false trinity—faith, hope and bigotry, setting aside charity which represents an inconvenient truth: Christ was friend to prostitutes and tax collectors, and He debated even with the devil. Must Christianity end with Christ?

Retired Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz says that his vigorous and vicious condemnation of gays, lesbians and transgendered people is not supposed to incite hatred and intolerance—or to be precise, that he is not invoking a blanket condemnation of all gay people. He only objects to some, not all. For example, he has nothing but the most generous and respectful thoughts for those who conform to what he finds tasteful and tolerable behavior. And what is tasteful and tolerable as far as his wounded sensibilities are concerned? A minority meekly and absolutely surrendering to the tyranny of the majority, a sub-culture reduced to the subhuman, in which the individual is instructed to live out, every day, a total repudiation of the self. Cruz demands the elimination of a diverse and rich culture—one that is as much a mirror of society’s larger complexities as it is an alternative to some of the worst instincts and features of the broader culture for which he has stepped forward as spokesman—because the minority displeases and disgusts him.

He would have me, and everyone else like me be a slave, a fugitive, a hypocrite and, most of all, a coward. And I find that disgusting. I find it neither reasonable nor acceptable. I do not even find it understandable. Cruz does not understand us, does not want to, would be unwilling to. Yet he says he hates only some, not all, of us, and expects “some of us” to embrace and thank him?

For what? That he reserves his scorn only for hairdressers and fashion designers? That he respects me, the writer, but heaps abuse on someone else because that someone uses slang I don’t use, speaks louder than I do, wears what I don’t wear—and those superficial differences are the things that guarantee me (and those who behave otherwise) Cruz’s respect?

I will not embrace him, not for that, much less shake his hand or offer him the opportunity for civilized disagreement. For he is blind to the civilization to which I belong, and to the fundamental identity I share with those he despises. Whether we have a little learning or not, whether we speak in the same manner or not, regardless of what we wear and what mannerisms we choose to exhibit, we are the same, for in the fundamental things—those we choose to love, to have relationships with and with whom we aspire to share a life marked by a measure of domestic bliss and emotional contentment—there is no difference. To permit Cruz to make such distinctions is to grant him and all those like him an intolerable—because it is fundamentally unjust—power to define myself and those like me.

When he casts the law as an instrument for prosecution, persecution and discrimination, he must be fought. That he discredits polite behavior by portraying civilized discourse as a fancy disguise for his uncritical obedience and intolerant enforcement of uniformity; that he defames religion by turning it into an ideology of hate; that he makes a mockery of filial piety by insisting that tyrannical instincts should be cultivated among the elderly and enforced upon their direction—these should inspire not pity for his moral dementia; these must provoke anger. And condemnation.

To be different is to be held in suspicion. The nonconformist is a subversive. Subversion and rebellion make societies become more generous, more diverse, more compassionate—and an individual more free. For the inability—or unwillingness—to see rebellion as a virtue and not a flaw is what provokes the uncomprehending hostility that makes the anxious herd stifle dissent and stamp out anything different. But humanity is not a herd, and being human demands a vigilance against the kind of provocations that start stampedes.

I will respect anyone’s convictions, but only to the extent you will respect mine. Goodwill inspires the same; tolerance results in cooperation. But I will not be told whom to love, whom to be friends with, what culture to represent, what mannerisms and interests to adopt and, much less, discard. I will not modify my behavior or limit my pleasures merely to please Cruz or bigots like him. The respect gays, lesbians and transgendered people experience is a brittle kind, but hard-won. Far more has to be won, in terms of actual legislation or in every sphere of our lives where discrimination virtually takes place every day.

The behavior Cruz finds so obnoxious is the price he and everyone else must pay for the pink triangles of the German concentration camps, the labor camps and prison cells of Soviet Russia and Communist China and Cuba, the merciless beatings and taunts endured by so many over so long a time. It is his punishment for representing a society whose instincts remain fundamentally murderous toward anyone different. If he weren’t such a hate-monger, he might realize it’s no punishment at all, and that society is all the better for the increased prominence of gays.

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I just popped open my 02 Beaujolais from Barton & Guestier. It was a tough choice between this and my fave wine of comfort, the 01 Montepulciano. But there is something about spending Friday nights alone that evokes Proust and Paris. So I brought out my lone decent wine glass (which is the surviving half of a Calvin Klein Home pair that Carter gave me for our anniversary a long time ago) and started sipping on this earthy spirit as I listen to Joni Mitchell sing hits from her Ladies of the Canyon CD. “Comfort and consultation, he knows that’s what he’ll find,” this genius sings in the song, Conversation. This is how I am spending this Friday night — I sit alone and have conversations with myself.

Tim is working in his show. I am seeing him tomorrow. Henry is out in SF. (I think BlowBuddies just got a lot of business.) Eric is having a date with this Texan he met a few weeks ago in Barracuda, this Chelsea bar. (I really hope that this guy is it for him.) Doug is in Montreal participating in the OUT Games. (I hope a few or a lot of Canucks are having a good time with this hot ex-Peace Corps volunteer.) Joel is off to Fire Island for the whole weekend. (I don’t need to worry about him in that place.) All my really good friends are out and about tonight. I know I could have arranged something if I really wanted to. But I opted for what was less consequential and more substantial. I chose to spend it with myself.

And, no, this is not that kind of pity party for one.

I went home after work and went to the gym to run my routine 3 miles. Keeping fit, I guess, is more necessity than vanity. But, then again, life is one fucking beauty pageant after another, which is what I relearned after watching Little Miss Sunshine last weekend. I just loved that movie. I always thought clapping after a movie was utterly tacky but I couldn’t help but clap with the rest of them when the credits rolled. (Maybe the free yellow shirt that read “Everyone Pretend to be Normal” they gave out at the start to celebrate the premiere added to my goodwill.) Other than my faves Toni Collette, Alan Arkin and Steve Carrell (whom I am lusting after) being in it — OK, Greg Kinnear too, (but he’s really more hit-or-miss for me) — I thought the whole story was most heartwarming and endearing in a more bitter but still sweet kind of way. It tells the story of a young chubby girl (played by Abigail Breslin in her earnest starturn) who enters a beauty pageant out-of-state accompanied by her madcap family. Everyone in this family was such a nutcase — the suicidal gay uncle, the Nietschze-reading teen, the cokehead grandfather, the obsessive parents — that it suddenly made my family look most desirable. Anyway, everyone learns something more about themselves and each other during the trip despite their differences, through their distinct extraordinariness. It seems to say that you can be a nutjob but never a basketcase. There is always that hope for something better but always through the other. In the end, it is the family knowing each other and caring for one another that overcomes all. (I really don’t want to say much more about the story since I don’t want to spoil it especially the ending which was one of the more surprising twists I’ve seen in a looooong time.)

Of course, you cannot care for someone if you don’t care for yourself. And you cannot care for yourself if you don’t know who you are. In this fucking beauty pageant that I call my life, I realize that my worst competition is myself. I am also always my worst judge. (I wish Steve Carrell would come and just crown me and all this willl be over.)

Tonight is one of those rare moments when I can just stop this competitive style of life and get to hang with only myself. (One gift of not going out on a Friday night is the absence of the agony over which outfit to wear with what pair of shoes. It gets harder as the seasons grow colder too. Layering is a bitch.) I can sit back and watch Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda on HBO and re-examine my life’s comedies and tragedies as I drink French wine and snuggle under my sheets. There is no pageant on tonight. The only show is what’s on TV later and Joni strumming her guitar right now. I am now not here to judge myself. I come to just be with.