Thursday, December 22, 2016


I realized I was gay when I was very young, but only opened up to a couple of friends in high school. I never fully embraced my identity until college, when I discovered Malate and realized there was a thriving community made up of people who were just like me.

Bullying was just a part of growing up, during those times when I slipped up and acted less masculine than was “appropriate” at the time. At some point though, I grew up, realized I actually like who I was, and decided that I had to learn not to care about what people thought of me, if I wanted to live a life of integrity, one where I was true to myself.

In practical terms, what this means is that, each day, each moment, I have to draw a line on the ground, and remind people every time that they cannot cross that line. And every time someone crosses that line, every time someone engages in hate speech or says that some bakla needed to be punched in the face simply because he refuses to disappear or to change himself so he was less different, I have to speak up, to make people realize that that behavior is unacceptable, and that I will not allow it.

And the only way I could do this, I realized, is if I was smarter and stronger than everyone else. If I worked harder and earned my place at the table. And that sucks, because straight men get that seat at the table by virtue of their birth, while I needed to fight for it.

But that’s how you change people’s minds. Bullies only have power if you allow them to wield it. And if enough people say “no, this behavior is unacceptable”, well, you can change the world.

The people who play nice, who say “this is not my problem, I’m only going to look at the positive”, are those who aren’t affected by issues which define minorities, which are real struggles we have to live with on an everyday basis. Good for you. But realize that that means you live a life of privilege we only hope we can have one day—the privilege to live a life without fear or judgment or threat of violence.

Our fight may not be your fight, but it is a real one nonetheless. Don’t diminish it by saying we should only “look at the positive”. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


You were having tea this time, which I thought was strange, but everything else was almost exactly how I remembered it--the same coffee shop, the same seats, the same intimidating presence. Your broad shoulders have developed a firm muscular quality I don't remember them having, and shallow wrinkles have started to form at the corners of your eyes, but it's uncanny how little you've changed in the decade and a half since I last saw you.

We started with the usual pleasantries, which pretty much was as awkward as we both should have expected them to be. But we've always disdained small talk, so in that surreal, familiar setting, we dove straight to the point. 

"We had fun didn't we?" you asked. "We had a good time."


"But what did we have?"

Such a strange question to be asking 15 years after the fact, but I answered as best as I could. "We never really had the opportunity to define it. We never really needed to, but we did have a lot of fondness for each other, so I guess that was enough for both of us at the time."

"Do you remember how we broke up?"

"I honestly don't."

"You threw me out of your car."


"I remember that we drove around a lot, and we fought a lot. And at some point you said you can't deal with me anymore, so you asked me to leave. Then I said fine and left."

"Wow, I sound like an asshole."

You didn't respond except with a small smile, and a long sip of your tea. You raised your hand to scratch the scruff on your jaw, and I remembered how your beard used to leave small scratches on my neck.

"You look good," I said. "I honestly hoped you've gotten fat, and I think it's unfair you actually look more handsome now than you did when we first met."

You laughed, and I remembered that I've always enjoyed making you laugh. "You look great too. Seriously, you don't look like you've aged at all."

The conversation then took unexpected turns, and we spoke of past hurts in an aloof but unaffected manner, as if these were things that happened to other people, and not acts we intentionally inflicted on each other. We talked about the lives we've lived since we broke up, and found common ground in the general frustration we've both felt at the way the relationships we've had had turned out. We settled into that familiar rhythm we've developed years ago, when we were young and nights were long and the possibilities were endless, but this time without the anger or the bitterness or the resentment that seemed to permeate every conversation we used to have. 

"This is a little strange isn't it?' I said at some point.

"What do you mean?"

"I can't believe we're talking to each other like actual adults. Who would've thought that was possible?'

You smiled. "You know, I don't think we've ever had closure, and I'm not sure we actually ever needed it, but this was nice. It's really good to see you again."

I let out a small laugh, and gave you a small pat on the side of your face. I guess time does heal old wounds, if you let it. 

Monday, April 11, 2016


On the day I decided to come out as a gay man to my mom, I asked my friend Mike to accompany me on the long drive to my parents’ house to what I imagined would be a turbulent confrontation. I was feeling exceptionally vulnerable at the time, between dealing with the (sometimes inhuman) demands my job imposed on me, moving out of the apartment my ex-boyfriend and I shared, finding a place to live, and coming to terms with the disintegration of my 5-year relationship. I wasn’t getting enough sleep (partly because I had no time, and partly because I couldn’t sleep even if I wanted to) so my nerves were pretty much shot. At that point, I just needed a friendly face.

To his great credit, Mike simply agreed. "When are we leaving?" he asked. 


Think of a gas burner.

Now, imagine that each section of that gas burner represents an aspect of your life that you consider important or essential. In most cases, it will include these four: work, health, family, and friends.

There’s a popular idea going around that, for a person to achieve a measure of success in any of these aspects, he will need to “turn off” some sections in order to focus on the others. Basically, the idea is that you cannot have everything, and that, at some point, you will need to sacrifice some of these aspects for the sake of the others.

In my case, when I was younger, I made a subconscious decision to turn off the family section of my burner. Partly, it was because I needed to find out who I was as a person separate from my identity as the offspring of my parents, but mostly it was because I’ve always been a misfit in my own family and I felt that if I showed them who I was, they would have rejected me.

Worse, they might have tried to change me.

So I became secretive and distant. It was at this point that I started focusing on work and developing close friendships with some of the best human beings I’ve ever met. Though I suffered through the motions of performing familial obligations, the idea that I might have to interact with any of them and open myself up on a purely human and personal level actually terrified me.


We arrived at my parents’ house when the sun was close to setting. My mom was expecting me. I asked Mike to stay in the living room while my mom and I spoke in the kitchen.

Here’s the funny thing: the emotional turbulence I was expecting didn’t happen because I told my mom I was gay. While I was in the middle of my (admittedly long-winded) confession, my mom started crying, not out of disappointment, but out of relief. As soon as I was finished, my mom admitted that she had always known, but that she did not want to confront me until I was ready to tell her myself. The relief she felt was borne out of the fact that I was now comfortable enough with her to tell her the truth.

To be honest, I’m not sure if my mom would have been this open if I came out to her when I was younger. I think her mindset was also a lot influenced by the changes our society has undergone towards its acceptance of gay people. But, still, it was a pleasant reminder that, just because I turned off the family section of my burner, it didn’t mean my mom turned off hers, at least with respect to her relationship with me.

And, while I was sitting there listening to my mom talk and cry at the same, I realized how difficult it must have been for her to keep up this illusion of not knowing. I guess she understood, intuitively, that coming out is a personal choice that she couldn’t force on me.

Which is true. I think if she forced the issue before I was prepared to deal with it, I would probably have rejected her overtures, in the same way I was so afraid she would have rejected me. And, in the same way I was grateful for her acceptance, I loved that she also understood why I needed to be so secretive and distant in the first place.

After the initial drama, and as soon as she got back her composure, my mom asked me if I was dating anyone. For the first time in my life, I answered her question honestly.


It was a little past nine when my mom and I finished our conversation. Mike was still waiting in the living room, suffering through an interrogation conducted by my nephew who was wondering why there was a stranger in the house.

On the drive back home, my friend asked me how I was. I told him I felt tired, but also that I was okay. Actually, more than okay. Good even. And, as the words were coming out of my mouth, to my surprise, I realized I truly meant them.

Photo taken here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Love in the Time of Millenials

During a casual dinner in Rockwell with a few friends, my friend Monina asked, somewhat arbitrarily, “What differentiates millenials from everyone else exactly?”

I had some thoughts on the subject, and shared them with the group. In trying to sum up the defining characteristic of a generation of people (which, notwithstanding the countless articles on this matter, is still a daunting if ultimately pointless exercise), I explained to Mon a theory I’ve been developing.

“Young people tend to frame life experiences through its impact on their personal happiness. Which is why, say, when you’re talking to them about a job, the issues they usually raise is a general discontentment, or a lack of passion, or a feeling that the work they’re doing is not what they are supposed to be doing. And when you frame this against the concerns of older professionals working with millennials, the criticism that usually crops up is the typical millenial’s propensity to quit and move around. What about reliability, they would ask. What about faithfulness?”


When I was younger, my friend Percy once told me that he didn’t believe in long-term relationships. He explained that, once the initial thrill (“kilig”) of the romance is gone, he gets restless and moves on. He mentioned that there’s no point continuing the relationship because the people involved tend to stay the same, or worse, stagnate.

But what about love, I asked.

“It dissipates.”

“Then maybe you weren’t really in love in the first place.”

“Maybe, but who are we to say what love is or isn’t,” Percy argued. As far as he was concerned, he loved the people he was with, fully and completely, until he didn’t love them anymore.


When I was still living with my parents, my mom and I would sometimes find ourselves around midnight in our kitchen, while we’re both trying to scrounge up some leftovers because we were feeling hungry. And most of the time we’ll sit down and talk. Sometimes she’ll open up about her relationship with my dad.

And she’ll talk about promises kept and promises broken, and happiness and loneliness and sadness. But always, she will mention obligation, and responsibility.

“Your father is not a perfect man. God knows he is not the best husband. But he is responsible, and kind, and he is a good father.” And though she never said it, she obviously held a lot of love for my dad, even if the love has been re-forged and concealed by disappointment and some bitterness.

She mentioned that she tried to leave once, but that she thought about how it would affect her kids and decided not to. What was left unsaid, but was clear as day, was that she thought about how it would affect my dad too.


When my ex broke up with me, he said it was because he was not sure if he still loved me. What we had in the beginning is no longer there, he explained, and he felt we owed it to ourselves to look for something more.

But what about devotion, my mind asked. What about keeping promises? What about loyalty?

And if I was brave enough to voice my thoughts, he might have answered, “What about happiness? What about romance? What about passion?”

Ultimately, what about love?

And in remembering I think of two souls imagining love as two flames, one burning brighter than the midday sun, and another flickering, trembling, a light in the darkness.

Photo taken here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Endings, Beginnings

About eight or nine years ago, an anonymous blogger became notorious in the local (mostly) gay online community for two reasons: first, because of the quality of the posts he put up, and second, because he dealt with the subject of prostitution; specifically, his own life as an escort. The blog was particularly interesting because the writer was obviously an educated and sensitive young man, and his output revealed both an intelligence and a fierce sincerity that was rare and refreshing.

He wrote that he had a unique selling point to his clients: though sex was definitely part of the menu of services he offered, he also sold what he referred to as an “experience”. According to him, you weren’t just paying him for sex, you were also paying him for his distinctive set of skills.

An example: in one post, he told the story of a client (let’s call him Adam) who wanted him to act like Adam’s ex-boyfriend for one day. As part of their deal, Adam will, for all intents and purposes, treat him like the ex-boyfriend: he will use their pet names, they will go to the ex-lovers’ favorite dating spots, they will make love. Adam, apparently, felt like he needed closure from that relationship, and he wanted to have an experience, even a make-believe one, just so he can say goodbye to his ex-lover one last time.

A kicker: that day also falls on the anniversary of the day the ex-lover told Adam he loved him.

I’m reminded of this now, because I’ve been having some interesting conversations with friends about closure, and how closure becomes so necessary for us when an important relationship (romantic or not) disintegrates. And part of our realization is that the experience of closure is actually a rare thing: most of the time, the parties exist in a gray, emotional limbo that is bittersweet and frustrating.

And I guess it is important to remember that there are no endings in relationships that are (or were) truly important, because as good or as bad as that relationship got, you will always carry a piece of that person with you. And, in the context of moving on from a loss, you realize that beginnings are only beginnings when you, in your heart, decide that they are.

I got this quote from a friend earlier, which dives straight to the point:

“Look, in this life you won’t always find peace and closure. Some losses bury themselves into the heart too deeply to ever be entirely resolved or forgotten. Sometimes, the most you can really do is persevere until the pain is too small or familiar to harm you. - (Beau Taplin, Unresolved)”


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