I put up my own theater company in 2013. It was the natural evolution after all my years in the theater. Although success has come in critical acclaim, the challenge for any local theater company that only does ‘straight’ plays (non-musical), is profit.
There was no drama or fanfare (to my coming out). There was a struggle of course, when I was younger. The coming out was something that just happened naturally. Friends and family just accepted it.
(The gay community in Manila is) Alive and kicking. Fabulous.
(Advice to my younger self) Be brave. Take more risks.”
Syd, in his own words:“In my opinion it’s not that hard to be gay here (Manila) I think people are more accepting now. I work in advertising so people don’t care really if you’re gay or not. To date here is easy, I think, with Grindr and Tinder and Facebook. People just add each other on Facebook and start talking. But in a way that makes it more difficult because I think in the back of people’s minds they have too many options so it’s hard to choose. I think that’s a problem now. Technology and social networking, there’s so many options so people can’t settle with one.”
Sanchus, in his own words:“Through the years, being gay for me has evolved into different ways of how I view the world. When I was younger, I thought of it as a vile secret that I have to keep if I didn’t want to live with shame. It ran the gamut of definitions from mundane to philosophical. I feel that being gay now doesn’t equate to being totally different from other people, it doesn’t separate us from the rest of the population. It’s like any other fact of life – everyone has to keep jobs, fight for what they think is right, and struggle. I personally think it’s a healthy way of looking at things.
After my studies, I always had a nagging question about where I should work so I can be myself and be comfortable. That was one of my last adolescent struggles, I believe. Real life, of course, presents more questions than that. When I joined the firm I currently work for, the first thing I wanted to know was if there was an LGBT support system in place. As luck would have it, I came in at a time when the Manila office was just about to form one. Being upfront and talking too much, funnily, led to me being assigned to lead that group for three years, and I still serve in a leadership capacity until now. It’s fulfilling to give back to the LGBT community at work, especially when there’s such a huge support coming from the bosses. We started with 8 individuals who were looking for the same thing, in less than a year we’ve had membership grow to nearly 1,500 (the biggest global chapter in the firm). We’ve joined Pride parades, sponsored HIV symposia, networking activities for LGBT members who want to further their careers and many other things. Collectively, one of our biggest successes before I stepped down from being the head of the group is, finally, getting the approval for domestic partnership benefits for LGBT employees. Considering where we are, I’d say what we were able to do was a good thing.
My coming out story isn’t filled with stuff made for movies. In college, I spent most of my days with 6 lesbian couples. I had an idea about where my preferences lie, but I’ve never acted on it, so I never identified with being gay until I was 16 or 17. These set of friends were the first ones to know, they were very respectful to inquire about what they should say if anyone asked if I were gay. I found that very sweet. I told them that I was ok with other people knowing. Apparently, not a lot of people cared if I was gay or not. I guess, coming out to my family had the same tone. I told my younger sister that the guy always sleeping over at the house was my boyfriend at that time, her only question was “Who’s top?” My parents just acknowledged things in an offhand manner – in the middle of a crying fit after breaking up with a partner of 8 years, I was just asked “The guy you’re sharing your home with has left and broken your heart, eh? You’ll survive; don’t bawl your eyes out! Want us to pay for next month’s rent?”
The gay community in, predominantly Catholic, Manila has always been small. Because of this, the degrees of separation between social groups in the community would be very minimal. Present in the city are the usual suspects found in the gay spectrum – we have our millennials (all fashion and tech-savvy), the aesthetically-focused boys, the individualists, the meek, the rebels, those who are socially aware, the career-oriented corporate titans, the fashionistas, the models, the artists, etc. The influence of social media and Western TV has brought about open-mindedness to the gay community in Manila. Where you used to find an elite group of intellectuals who never hung out with the rowdy club kids back in the 70s to the 90s, now you’ll slowly find groups of friends who have healthy mixtures of individuals. In my opinion, the Manila community still has a long way to go. We still have to develop an appreciation for bears, we still have to improve our views regarding our transgender sisters, we still have to acknowledge that people can be bisexual or queer; we still need to respect the decision of other guys not to be out. Manila’s gay community is a work in progress, who knows what it will be like in a few years?
If I were to give any sane advice to my younger self, it would be: “Most of the drama at your age is all just hormones. Don’t panic now; things will all mellow as you get older.” I guess, I’ll say that to save my younger self from all the worries and fears I had while growing up. Oh, also, I’ll tell my younger self to accept my father’s offer to go to a boarding school somewhere in Europe, had I known I’d develop a penchant for blonds I would have taken it without batting an eyelash!”