let them pee in peace

Manila, 17 August—Filipino transgender woman Gretchen Diez is at the forefront of something remarkable. After being barred from using the women’s restroom in a mall in Quezon City, she is now leading the charge in elevating to the national stage the discussion of LGBTQ+ rights issues, specifically transgender women’s rights. Quezon City, which has an ordinance prohibiting such discriminatory actions, is the perfect battle ground for this fight. Now, we can test the effectivity of such local pronouncements, and in the process, be able to pinpoint areas for improvement and collaboration.

With transgender woman Rep. Geraldine Roman and SOGIE bill champion Sen. Risa Hontiveros in the mix, it’s the perfect time to reach out and educate those tuning in to the issue about the importance of SOGIE and the harsh realities of discrimination and hate against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

That said, it’s been a mix of inspiring and disheartening so far, watching the news and following discussions on social media. There’s still a lot of hurtful language out there, and most of it are because people just do not know better. On the bright side, this issue has also been an opportunity for allies to speak out in support. I am happy to see my friends being vocal and rallying behind Gretchen and the passage of the SOGIE bill. It takes a lot of courage to lend one’s face to battles like this—battles that may be exploited by politicians, for example. I hope we’ll be able to focus on the core issues at hand and not allow ourselves to be distracted.

Rec your SOGIE resources please

Hey Queers website update

Thanks to those who have taken the time to answer our survey and even rec their artist friends! We’re super thrilled and excited to get to know you better :)

Take part in our survey here

Happy weekend! Xo,

K

a postscript on family

Manila, 12 August—Something strange happened to me over the weekend: I witnessed a family showdown. I know I don’t usually talk about my family, outside of my semi-regular introspection about our dead mother, but the events of last weekend were really so baffling that I have to write them down.

It begins with my mother’s youngest brother. A year younger than auntie, this uncle was more of an older brother figure to me, my sister and our cousin, back in the day. I was not even ten, and that made my cousin seven years old and my sister, six.

My mother’s house was everybody’s house, so that meant we constantly had our aunts and uncles over. This uncle used to drive us to and from school; sometimes in the mornings, he let me operate the stick shift of our terminally old Tamaraw whenever we drove through the then-relatively abandoned roads of our village. In the summers, we played Battle City on the Family Computer; in fact, he bought us all our video game consoles: A Sega first, then a PlayStation 2.

An engineer by profession, he was among those who worked on the first SM in our neighborhood. And then, like most Filipino engineers, he left us to work abroad in the mid-90s. From seeing him every day at home, I did not see him at all, except whenever he visited, maybe once or twice a year, if at all.

He’s not the first OFW in the family—my other aunt married a seafarer, and my father used to fly out often—so it wasn’t a big adjustment. It was the norm. People sought greener pastures all the time to provide for their families. Who do you think were named Inquirer’s Filipinos of the Year the year he first went abroad? That’s right: Overseas Filipino Workers.


I tell you about my uncle because he’s the only way I can introduce my cousin, his daughter, who is ten years younger than me. Sunday’s showdown occurred in a hotel corridor, just outside the restaurant where twenty of us—aunts, uncles, cousins, partners, nieces—were supposed to be sitting for dinner. There was news that my cousin was introducing her boyfriend of two years to the extended family.

And then there was Twitter.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually watched an actual confrontation spawned by tweets. Catty ones, sure, issued by my brother, who couldn’t care less about how he comes across. In truth, I’m a fan—every now and then, I find myself biting my tongue in self-censorship on several matters. Not my brother—he speaks his mind, regardless. Even when it’s against family.

As a matter of context, I suppose it bears mentioning that, like most families post-2016, our family has also strained under the weight of the polarizing and divisive results of the last national elections. My siblings and I have been more or less aligned in our political views—UP, LGBT, and middle-class, we have always denounced this administration’s wanton disregard for common decency and human rights, to name a few issues. Given this, I think it’s also fair to conclude that we are also against the rise of many authoritarian leaders all over the world, including and most especially in the US.

I mention this because this is the core of the showdown: Political differences on Twitter spilling over to real life, thereby ruining homecomings, reunions and otherwise majestic Chinese dinners.

It’s easy to say #FamilyFirst—that’s what I said when I assured my uncle earlier that when it comes down to it, my siblings and I know where to draw the line and recognize family to be the priority it is. But the truth is, it did come down to it, when they called my brother out of the restaurant and cornered him at the elevators, in what was an absolutely unnecessary dramatic stunt, and in that moment, I realized that it was not up to us to draw whatever lines.

There was no line; there was just this edge, to which he’d been roped toward despite sitting at the furthest corner of the table, in the interest of a little peace.

Also, I have proven once and for all that I truly am not made for conflict. For all my posturing, here’s what I did while my brother and cousin duked it out in front of Auntie and uncle: I stood there quietly, unable to parse the proper words required of me as the eldest of this brood.

I stood there quietly, unable to say anything, even as my cousin pointed a finger at my brother, raised her voice at him, asked him if he knew how rude he was being, told him that her friends were essentially monitoring his feed and sending her his tweets, and even asked him why he bothered to join the dinner, even as he tweeted his lack of interest in her recent life development.

I stood there quietly as Auntie tried to play referee, as she tried to diffuse the situation, as she parried my cousin’s blows and called her out for essentially wanting to kick my brother out of the dinner.

In the midst of all that, I said nothing. I said nothing. I said nothing.

My cousin walked out, boyfriend in tow, declaring she’s done. Uncle, so defeated, just walked them to their car. She’d been around maybe a couple of hours, so maybe it was really so intolerable, to be with this family. Maybe it’s hate; maybe it’s something much deeper, much more complicated. Something that’s enough, I hope, to justify walking out on a table full of elders, at the very least.

I was stunned stupid. I tried going back to the table to begin dinner; they’d already served everything, including the orange chicken my cousin had ordered. But I couldn’t eat. Instead, I found myself so angry, I was in tears.

Noticing that I was on the verge of a breakdown, C—yes, C was at this dinner! Because I also introduced her to the extended family! We did not need to cause a scene, despite being lesbians! What a world, right! anyway—C took my hand and led me to the bathroom. My chest was full of the stacked up words I hadn’t been able to say. I was mad and frustrated—that I hadn’t spoken up for my brother when he was being berated, that I hadn’t spoken up for Auntie when she was being talked over, that I hadn’t spoken up for everybody else who was disrespected that night when they up and left without so much as a proper goodbye.

I felt as if, as the oldest of us, her behavior was somewhat a reflection on my poor leadership or example. Oh man, I just thought, catching the sentiment. Maybe I am getting old. I mean, crying in the middle of an angry outburst? Old, definitely.

But really, come to think about it, what is there left to do?


We ended up finishing dinner and hanging out until close to midnight, drinking Johnny Walker and shooting the breeze drunkenly, post-event. We talked about what the elders like talking about when they’re drunk together: Being young together in the province and the attendant shenanigans—you know, the whole nine yards.

We video-called our cousin in Kansas as soon as he woke up, and told him and his wife all about the drama—all before breakfast in their timezone. In return, he told us about how our dead grandfather paid him a visit—perhaps to remind him that it was his birthday, a couple of days ago.

Repetitive reminiscences, overseas calls and ghost stories—though apart, these are just some of the things that have kept this family intact all these years.

Now, I don’t know what kind of family my cousin thinks she’s demonizing—her issues are hers to work through, and I still think it was grossly unfair for my brother to have been dragged into them and made into a scapegoat for whatever coping she is clearly not doing.

All I know is, from where I stand—on the back of three plus decades of building this family, taking its wins, absorbing its losses—I know where the lines are, and they are clearer than ever.


I’m writing this down because I need to remind myself that I have to do better by this family. And I swear to God, I will.

t.g.i.s. (+ hey queer makers)

Manila, 11 August—Coming of age in the mid-to-late 90s is incomplete without television. As a child who lived in the outskirts of Metro Manila (pre-city Bacoor reprezent), I was late to everything: We had no phone, no cable TV, no desktop computer, no Internet until I was in high school. This meant that I spent most of my childhood out on the street, picking fights over basketball in the summer, or watching good old free TV during the rainy season.

At the time, TV was at least a solitary experience, or at most a family one—while watching, you either interacted with family members in the living room with you or waited until the next school day to talk to your friends about whatever it was—no watch parties or trending hashtags or live reaction feeds or whatever. Word of mouth was word of mouth; no army or algorithm could manipulate or game it.

I wasn’t too attached to mid-90s weekend afternoon teen shows because they aired on weekend afternoons, which were my sacred time for play. Looking back, my ten-year-old self had the correct idea—I wish I could still protect my personal playtime against television or other distraction with the devotion I held as a ten-year-old.

But more than that, I really did not find them interesting—their concerns were a bit older and more on the romance side, which I truly could not bring myself to care for. They lived in a posh village, had parties in a club house, had cars and went to bars in baggy pants.

It was probably a reflection of affluent mid-90s teens at the time, but it really did not reflect me.

I did, however, go to a school full of affluent teenagers. In Alabang. So yes, it was quite impossible for me not to hear about TGIS, which aired on local TV from 1995 to 1999. It was mostly word of mouth—somebody casually saying something about the last episode, or someone saying they’re off early on a Saturday because TGIS is airing soon, or someone fawning over the show’s main ship, Wacks and Peachy, played by Bobby Andrews and Angelu de Leon.

It’s been twenty-four years since TGIS first aired—undoubtedly the mother of all teen shows thereafter, alongside its contemporaries Gimik (which started airing a year later) and Tabing Ilog (started 1999). After that, I grew out of touch with local teen television mostly, as the original runs ended and the relative novelty wore off—or at least, for me.

I suppose every generation has its own TGIS—what was it, for the generations afterward? What is it, for the generations today? My knowledge on these updated teen trends was put on the spot when I attempted explaining TGIS to someone who was unfamiliar with the show and its stars. (This conversation actually started when I mentioned Bobby Andrews as a tangent to the whole Julia-Gerald-Bea issue and the Bobbie Salazar memes it later spawned, but this is another topic altogether.)

For some reason I could not capture TGIS’ spirit accurately, nor could I translate it, modernize it, or compare it with shows from more recent years. I could not go the route of, “Para siyang (relatively new local show), pero mid-90s at lahat ng lalaki nasa gitna hati ng buhok” because what relatively new local show? I was at a loss.

I ended up saying that it was like “Skins, with generations, but with less drugs.” Hay. Not a perfect effort, but the best as it is.

Rec an obscure local teen show to me!


Hey, Queers!: A small project alert

We’re thinking about making an online hub for Filipino queer makers! I have been sitting and sitting and sitting on this idea for eight years, and at this point, I think we have a fairly good idea of where to take it.

Are you interested? Can you holler at me in any way: Reply to this email, @ me on Twitter, say hi on Instagram—Just so we know to send you a heads up specifically when the next development comes up.

Better yet: Take a few minutes for this form, maybe?

Hey Queer Makers! A survey

Thank you!

Happy long weekend,

K

information diets

Manila, 3 August—How does the rain make you feel? It’s been raining nonstop for days, and I’ve been feeling a bit… slowed down by it. It’s been ten years since the 2009 Ondoy floods, which for me was a truly pivotal moment, one that set the new harsh rules for city living moving forward: One, that the city is always just a few hours of rain away from chaos, and two, urban survival is also about being buoyant and waterproof as it is about being street-smart and financially sound. In other words: Mahal at mahirap at mabaha.

But more than hampering mobility, the rains also have this slowdown effect mentally. It’s been a packed week, post-El Nido field work, and I’m thankful for the respite of this rainy weekend: It means I could slow down guiltlessly.

Slow down and guilt all too often come hand in hand for me, and I know they shouldn’t. I mean, I’ve been burnt out before; by now I should know how important it is to slow down. Lately I’ve been starkly reminded of how finite my energy and attention resources actually are. It used to be that I could go on and on and subsist on a few hours of sleep; what a child I’d been, so cruel to my body, always spreading myself thin and so needlessly too.

Anyway, we’re working on remedying that. On the physical front, we’re getting off the proverbial couch to live a relatively more active lifestyle, and we’re trying to watch what we eat in a manner that goes beyond the “I watch, I eat” tongue-in-cheek logic. Maybe it’s the mid-30s; maybe it’s a mid-life crisis if we project to live only to about 70-ish.

On the mental front, I’ve been reading up on a different kind of diet—an information diet. This means being conscious about the information we consume and engage with. In 2009, during the floods, there was something else happening for me: I became much more entrenched in my social networks. At the time, Twitter was having its heyday as the most useful post-flood social media network, and that sealed my fate for me. The moment we started using it as news lead generator, I knew I was done for.

Ten years later, I’m still undoing the damage of this ultra-connected, always on lifestyle that has been both exciting and exhausting. On the one hand, imagine having all this knowledge from all parts of the world at all times, right? We could be at our most informed, most learned, because of all this information so readily available at our fingertips.

But we are not. Because on the other hand, we are at all times parrying distracting notifications. While it is a different kind of flood, information flood is paralyzing and exhausting on its own.

More than access to excess levels of information, I need access to curated, processed information: What does this all mean? What’s important and what’s just drivel? What important things do we have to dig out of the rubble, covered-up by orchestrated efforts at obfuscating the truth or some other disingenuous attempts at gaming algorithm systems that issue rewards based on metrics that can be manipulated?

So yeah, that’s very much a work in progress. I’m trying this thing where I try not to join every Rage Twitter Bandwagon (lol) by asking myself, Will people still be angry at this in 48 hours? Because my rage, even when it abounds, is limited by my flagging energy levels. I no longer have the luxury of being constantly angry at things on the Internet, thanks to being constantly angry at things on the Internet for the last ten years.

Anyway. Now that I have permitted myself to be angry less often, I now have time to do other things, like listen to podcasts and come to the page at least once a week in the form of this letter.

Speaking of podcasts, here’s a good one on managing digital distraction c/o Fast Company’s Secrets of the Most Productive People on Spotify. Distilling some tips below re: how to cut down on your digital diet without giving up your devices:

  1. Schedule your internet and email use.

  2. Rank your emails/notifications in terms of urgency and importance.

  3. Set clear online hours for yourself. Just because you have your devices with you all the time, doesn’t mean you should use them all the time.

If you’re more into reading stuff, James Clear has a fantastic selection of Minimalism readings on his website here.

How do you manage your digital distractedness?

Share your hacks please! :)

Have a happy rainy weekend,

K.

PS: I have a playlist I listen to when I have to write while angry LOL. It has a lot of Fall Out Boy. If it helps.

we were in el nido

Manila, 30 July—I may not be much of a traveler, but believe it or not, if there’s one thing I do enjoy, it’s traveling for work. Last week, work took me to El Nido, Palawan.

It was hella rainy in El Nido when we went around, but despite the downpour, it was such a sight. One day, we’ll be back—for pleasure I hope, and under much brighter sun.

Anyway, the rains held me back from taking lots of photos, but I was with my photographer colleague Byron Santiago, who graciously let me borrow his photos for this post. He has more photos on his Instagram here.

Lagi kong tanong kay Byron yung bakit pareho lang naman kami lagi ng pinupuntahan pero laging mas maganda yung pics nya sakin lol

While we were there, we joined a tour and our guide was Kuya Vic, who took care of us as we hopped from one island to another. A native of Dumaguete, Kuya Vic journeyed to Palawan to find work, and found himself in the tourism industry. He says that in places like El Nido, which capitalize on their natural resources, tour guides must truly act as guardians and protectors.

We did this interview under pouring rain lol.

Anyway, while we were there, news broke that the government was mulling shutting parts of El Nido down, just like Boracay, for rehabilitation. Considering how many local businesses were displaced in Boracay as a result, I can’t help but think about what Kuya Vic and his colleagues would do, should the rehab also close El Nido down.

Anyway, we flew into El Nido via Airswift/Lio Airport and stayed in Lio Beach, which was about an hour’s drive from downtown El Nido. It was a quiet space tucked away from everything. I’d love to come back and chill sometime, maybe read a book by the shore or drink a rum coke. Someday, when it’s sunnier.

For now, have a photo of me in a purple lifejacket at the Snake sandbar something or other:

It’s always summer in my heart lol xo

K.

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