Channel: Move.PH
Mark channel Not-Safe-For-Work? cancel confirm NSFW Votes: (0 votes)
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel.

Senior high school student pays tribute to taxi driver father


FATHER AND SON. "Presensya at pagmamahal mo pa lang, busog na busog na ako," said Ryan. Photo taken from Ryan Russel Reyes' Facebook page

When I was in college, I hated the word “enrollment.” For me, it signifies sleepless nights, thinking of ways to pay a 5-digit tuition fee in half a year.

While my mother’s company was generous enough to grant me a scholarship, it still wasn’t enough to get us through the down payment. She had to borrow money from her friends  – something that was hard for me to swallow. We never had to ask for money before.

So when I saw this photo posted by Ryan Russel Reyes, a fresh senior high school graduate from the Philippine Christian University (PCU), memories came rushing through.

LUMAPIT SAKIN SI PAPA AT BUMULONG: "Nak, pasensya na wala pa ako pera eh, kain sana tayo sa labas, kahit jollibee lang...

Posted by Ryan Russel Reyes on Tuesday, June 4, 2019

“Actually, appreciation post lang po talaga sana ang post na iyon for my papa, ‘di ko po in-expect na mag-te-trend po siya (It was actually just an appreciation post for my father. I didn’t expect that it would go viral),” he said.

In an interview with Rappler, Ryan shared the story behind his photo which already has more than 80,000 reactions, and 16,000 shares since it was posted last June 5.

It was his graduation day. When they arrived at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), his father, Hector Reyes, a taxi driver, told him: "Nak, pasensya na wala pa akong pera eh, kain sana tayo sa labas. (I’m sorry, son. I wanted to treat you to Jollibee but I don’t have money).

Ryan recalled that as soon as he assured his father that it was all right, he turned his back to keep himself from crying. It pained him to hear his father apologize for being unable to give him a graduation treat.

Ryan understands their situation. Coming from a broken family with other siblings who also need financial support, getting a graduation gift or eating out is the least of his concerns.

I, too, had to go through financial difficulties in school. The anxiety of having a costly school requirement and wondering if you will be able to pay it is overwhelming.

In Ryan’s case, while his father borrows money from friends, he also looks for ways to support his own education. Aside from being a freelance makeup artist, he also accepts events hosting jobs to pay for his school fees. He budgets and saves what is left from his allowance to help ease their expenses.

“There's nothing permanent in this world. Kung sa ngayon ay nakakaranas kayo ng hirap at mga pagkukulang pinansiyal, darating din yung punto na makakagaan tayo sa mga bagay, hindi man sa ngayon kung hindi balang araw. Samahan lang ng sipag, tiyaga at diskarte sa buhay (There’s nothing permanent in this world. If you are experiencing financial hardships, there will come a time you’ll be in a better place. Maybe not today, but someday. Just be diligent and have perseverance in life),” he said.

But what made Ryan’s story extra special is the kind of relationship that he has with his father. “Never po naging problem yung pagiginggay ko (Being gay was never a problem),” he said. His whole family knows and accepts his sexuality. He said that he and his father are close and would often bond through cooking.

Last June 15, Ryan finally got the chance to celebrate his graduation and father’s day with his dad courtesy of Jollibee at the PGH Taft branch.

THANK YOU, SON. Ryan’s father, Hector, is also grateful for having a thoughtful and loving son. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Sobrang blessed and happy, at the same time overwhelmed ako sa mga taong naka-appreciate sa akin at sa papa ko sa mgasacrifices niya (I’m happy and blessed, at the same time overwhelmed with the people who showed appreciation towards me, and my father for his sacrifices),” said Ryan.

In a message he gave to his guests, he thanked his father for all his efforts and hard work to help him finish Senior High School. He also shared how he’s grateful to have parents who accept him as he is. 

Ryan dreams of lifting his family out of poverty. He promised his father that he’ll do well in college to become a journalist or a TV and radio broadcaster someday.

DOUBLE CELEBRATION. Ryan thanks his friends and families who came to celebrate both his graduation and father's day with his dad. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Huwag na huwag susuko. Laging mong isipin kung para kanino mo ginagawa ang mga bagay (Never give up. Always think of why you do what you do),” he said.Isipin mo yung pangarap mo at yung mga taong naniniwala sa iyo (Think of your dreams and the people who believe in you.)”  – Rappler.com 






IN PHOTOS: Artworks by political prisoners show their plight


'LET THE BIRDS SING.' A painting made by a political prisoner is displayed at the Commission on Human Rights. All photos by Justin Francia/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Artworks and products made by political prisoners were exhibited on Saturday, June 15, during the relaunching of rights group Kapatid.

The event, held at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), showcased works including sculptures and cross-stitches, among others. The works are also a means to gain financial aid for their legal fight.

The artworks, according to Kapatid, reflect the vigor and struggles of the detained activists and human rights defenders. (READ: Powering through a crisis: Defending human rights under Duterte)

According to rights group Karapatan, there are at least 500 political prisoners in the Philippines.

Kapatid is urging the government to immediately release political prisoners. 

"[The number of political prisoners] is on the rise as police operatives have settled on a trend of filing trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which are the easiest to fabricate," the group said.

Kapatid was first established in 1978 as a response to repressive government policies under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Its relaunch in 2019 focuses on calling for the release of political prisoners, promotion of basic human rights, building support avenues, and seeking to reform laws that are not aligned with human rights-based governance.

 – Rappler.com

Justin Francia is a Rappler intern. She is a graduating political science student at the University of the Philippines Manila.

Our Ausome Anton: A mother’s journey with her son on the autism spectrum


“If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism,” so goes a famous saying in the autism community. But outside these circles, it has become more of a battle cry, as we would realize throughout our 3-year autism journey with our youngest son.

Before all this, my knowledge about autism was confined to brief interactions with my two younger male cousins on the spectrum. They had learning disabilities, 'tantrums' (I would learn later on that these were called 'meltdowns,' which were a whole lot different from tantrums), and overall, acted 'weird.' (I know, I was young and ignorant.)

DAPPER GENT. It's a challenge getting Anton to pose for a photo because he is hyperactive. Photo by Nonie Tobias-Azores

At 2 years old, Anton exhibited none of these behaviors, but there were red flags. He lined up toy cars, stacked everything in sight, and loved to spin at dizzying levels. He wasn’t responding to his name, had difficulty making eye contact, was absorbed in his own world, and had the emotional availability of a wall—so different from his Kuya who was tremendously sweet and affectionate when he was at that age. Perhaps the 'reddest' red flag of all—he wasn’t speaking a word, except for “Mama,” and even that was rarely spoken.

So I did what every rational person in the internet age would do—I googled his symptoms. And there it was in Google’s bold, blue letters: Warning Signs of Autism. What’s the first stage of grief again? Yeah, denial.

I confided to my husband what I found out, and ever the calmer and more collected spouse, he reminded me that Google is not a doctor. We were lucky to have set an appointment with a reputable Developmental Pediatrician within weeks with the help of a family friend. It usually takes at least 6 months to get an appointment with these doctors. The virtual lines are long.

And so a month after his second birthday, our Anton was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I remember crying, but not a lot. From denial, I went straight to acceptance. There was no room for grief, just a firm resolve to do whatever it takes to help our son. 

In no time, our family of 4 was on-board with his early intervention journey: Occupational Therapy sessions twice-a-week, enrolment in a mainstream progressive pre-school, and Speech Therapy. We let our eldest son join his sessions so that he would develop empathy towards his little brother and other special-needs children. We’ve also chosen to not be silent and share our journey with family and friends. Our experience can inspire and empower other families who might be going through the same thing.

BIRTHDAY BOY. The family celebrated Anton's 3rd bday at Puzzle Gourmet Store & Cafe, whose kitchen and waiting staff are made up of people with autism and the 'differently-abled'. Photo by Nonie Tobias-Azores

By the time he was 3, Anton was speaking in full sentences, albeit bulol (garbled). When he turned 4, his Dev-Ped went out on a limb to say that he’s on the 'high-functioning' end of the spectrum and that it’s even possible for him to have 'autism recovery.' We hadn’t heard of that term until then but we feel that even if he doesn’t lose his autism diagnosis, it’s ok. We love him just the way he is. 

At 5 years old, his OT sessions went down to once-a-week, and he no longer needed Speech Therapy. Before, it was wishful thinking to hear him say “I love you,” but now, he speaks it freely at the most random moments, whether he’s pooping in the toilet or playing on his iPad from across a crowded room.

JON SNOW. For someone with ASD, Anton's not very sensitive to fabric textures, so he's really 'game' with wearing different Halloween costumes. Photo by Nonie Tobias-Azores

The stages of our autism journey were earmarked by 3 types of comments:

1) ‘Pag boys, delayed talaga magsalita. (When it comes to boys, they really take longer learning to speak.)

2)‘Pag autistic, gifted ‘yan! (If they're autistic, that means they're gifted!)

3) Mukha naman siyang normal. (He actually looks normal.)

Comment 1 always gets me thinking: What if we listened to well-meaning advice and didn’t have him assessed? I shudder at the thought. Better early intervention than sorry.

Comment 2 is one of the many ASD stereotypes, and it doesn’t apply to everyone on the spectrum. Having said that, we now know that Anton is massively into drawing. He may or may not turn out to be a gifted artist and we’re ok with that.

Comment 3 is the trickiest. It sounds like a genuine compliment but is problematic at times, rearing its ugly head whenever we’re lined up at Senior Citizens/PWD lanes. We’ve lost count of the number of lolos and lolas who tried to cut us in line because they didn’t see a person with a visible disability. Those moments are a true test of character. 

But even if you’re not a grumpy senior citizen, you’d really think Anton is normal because he doesn’t manifest the more obvious signs of autism. We’re very grateful for that and we recognize that we have it easy compared to other autism families with more severe cases. But that’s not to say we don’t have our own struggles.

SPEAKING UP. Anton made a short speech during his Junior Kinder Graduation in April 2019. Photo by Nonie Tobias-Azores

Compared to his Kuya when they were the same age, Anton is a bit behind when it comes to communication skills. He’s still hyperactive, hyper-focused, clumsy, gets into self-accidents a lot, displays odd behaviors, and overall, has the makings of a future weird kid. 

There, I said it. And I thought of the many times when, as a teenager, I secretly laughed at the campus weirdo, and as a young adult, I avoided the weird officemate.

Could they have undiagnosed high-functioning autism? I wouldn’t know. All I know is that I was ignorant and mean and I wish I was a better human being. I wish I made the effort to know them to understand why they were the way they were. Because that is the very same thing I want people around Anton to do for him.

Hopefully, with the growing awareness on autism, the world will be kinder and better to the likes of Anton, the not-so-visibly-disabled but not-quite-ordinary either. – Rappler.com

Nonie Tobias-Azores is a Creative Director working in the advertising industry for more than a decade. Hint: She would’ve had an 11th-grader by now. This older millennial mom takes pointers and inspiration from her in-house digital natives—a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old—to accelerate her own digital pivot, career-wise.

To the moon and beyond: Life as a teacher of children with autism


I have been teaching in a progressive play-based preschool for 5 years, and I’ve encountered children of various shapes, sizes, and abilities. During my first year, I did not quite expect that I would already be having differently-abled children in my class. Having little background about special education, I was extremely nervous. Naturally, I got confused and frustrated because I was at my wit’s end on several occasions. I just didn’t know how to help them.

As I progressed in my work, I came across terms such as 'red flags' and 'developmental milestones' that I needed embedded into my mind 24/7. With each passing month, quarter, and year, I have had to observe each child in my classroom and find out who among them may need to seek professional help. I needed to collect evidence like anecdotes, pictures, and videos, and speak to parents about what we see and who they can reach out to for consultation.

You can do all of that and more, but no amount of this can prepare you for welcoming a handful of students that are differently-abled to go along with 'regular' kids. You will find yourself running after the former when they leave the classroom or when they start climbing the tables and the shelves. There will be days where you’ll find yourself sitting with your colleagues with tears of exhaustion flowing from your eyes, saying to yourself, “I can’t take this anymore.”

It took years of tears, readings, and failures for me to understand that all that these children need is our genuine, unconditional love. The answer had been in front of me all along, but I was just so caught up with labels like 'special' and 'different' that I failed to see that all they want from us is our care and support. All I had to do was open my heart and see for myself that they are just like any other child.

My days with Stella

Stella was a student of mine back in 2017-2018 who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. She was a fun-loving, joyful, and affectionate girl who would greet others with a pleasant “Hi!” paired with a heartwarming hug. My conversations with Stella ranged from who her favorite pony was on My Little Pony to the trips she took with her parents. Stella was also an active girl who enjoyed playing outdoors and would even be caught doing a few yoga poses during class. To put it simply, Stella liked doing things a lot of other kids do.

My time as Stella’s teacher went by so fast. During the time we had together, I saw her use her curiosity to openly ask questions about the world around her. She would also show compassion to her other friends who were feeling down or sad by consoling them with her words or her signature hugs.

There were also times when she would be the one who’d need compassion and understanding. For instance, she would panic over hearing the mere mention of a song she strongly disliked. The moment she heard the actual song, she would begin to yell as if she were being tortured. Hearing Stella calling out for help as if the song was burning her ears challenged me a lot, because I really didn’t know what was going on. My then-partner and I would look at each other in confusion, wondering what it was about the song that made her feel that way. Whenever we would struggle understanding Stella’s actions, we sought the guidance of her amazing, hard-working parents.

Stella’s parents were outstanding partners because they were open to all our queries about their daughter. Figuring out how to best help Stella was a breeze because of her parents’ initiative and dedication to giving her the best life possible. Talking to them about how to better facilitate Stella’s interaction with her peers or how to navigate power struggles with her was easy for us, because they were also transparent about their struggles at home. They would keep lines open for our comments and questions and would also forward them to Stella’s team of therapists, which then made creating the necessary and appropriate adjustments and accommodations a lot easier. 

I have seen Stella grow from quietly reading books to co-narrating an entire short skit during our 2018 Christmas Program. Though I was only her teacher for a year, I still kept in touch with her teachers from this past school year about how much she has progressed while in our school’s care. Now, she is on her way to 1st grade in a prestigious private school equipped with facilities and a program that can accommodate her needs and allow her to flourish just like any other kid.

Making room at the table

It warms my heart seeing posts about people with autism working in malls and fastfood chains, finishing college, and even making headlines as lawyers and singers. News like this gives me hope that my students can excel regardless of their perceived 'disabilities,' because they are capable of becoming amazing individuals. The challenge for our society now is to make this the norm.

Growing up, I’d hear old schoolmates and even elders carelessly call someone 'autistic' as if it was a dagger to the heart. In media and television, you would see world leaders and public figures make fun of not just people with autism but people of different abilities. As a teacher, my heart hurts as much as my blood boils each time I see comments and videos of people on the autism spectrum being made fun of. If we are to make the world more inclusive, then we need to start educating each other on how to better accommodate the needs of people with autism.

All across the country, there could be a child with autism that needs help, but has little to no means to access it. We should continue to strive for the inclusion not only of people with autism, but people with all sorts of abilities through research and policy-making. I know for certain that the time will come when people with autism will become well-represented in different professions as well as in mainstream media. We must strive to make people of all abilities a normal part of our day-to-day lives, and contributing to its fruition is all the thanks I need. – Rappler.com 

Jolo Lagman teaches in a private preschool in Makati, where he has been for 4 years. He is also pursuing his Masters in Early Childhood Education at De La Salle University. When he’s not busy molding the minds and character of his students, he makes time to play video games, read, and watch cooking videos.

Has the sinking incident in the West PH Sea polarized Filipinos?


MANILA, Philippines – On the evening of June 9, a Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat in the West Philippine Sea, sinking the boat and leaving 22 fishermen adrift. A Vietnamese vessel rescued these fishermen hours later. 

News about the incident broke, ironically, on June 12 – the day Filipinos celebrated 121 years of independence from Spanish rule. However, instead of uniting Filipinos, the event seemed to have pitted countrymen against each other.

While some Filipinos were agitated about what happened, others also came to the defense of China and justified the Philippine government's lukewarm response to the issue.  (READ: WATCH: How alleged Chinese ship sank Filipino fishing vessel in West PH Sea)

Sentiments online see-sawed between pro-China and anti-China sentiments. Here's a sampling of how Filipino netizens' opinions clashed with one another.

Who's wrong and who's right?

Clashing opinions could also be seen in reaction to the takes of popular social media personalities. 

In a now-viral post, for instance, blogger Jay Sonza explained why he doesn’t believe the narratives of his fellow Filipinos and is instead inclined to believe that of China's. 

According to Sonza, he found some of the statements of the Filipino fishermen questionable, citing the impossibility to swim approximately 5 miles just to get to the Vietnemese vessel. 

Sonza’s post has garnered over 11,000 reactions and 6,600 shares, with some netizens echoing his arguments.

However, other Filipinos stood by the fishermen's insistence that the Chinese abandoned them as their ship sunk. On social media, they demanded that the government support its fishermen and hold China accountable.

These netizens also slammed political blogger Sass Sassot for trying to discredit the narrative of the Filipino fishermen, accusing her of being unpatriotic.

The falsehoods and pitfalls of taking sides

Despite what appears to be polarization among Filipinos, however, is there really a clear divide?

According to Dr Jonathan Corpus Ong, co-author of Architects of Networked Disinformation, social media reinforced the impression that there were two opposite camps or ways of viewing the issue.

"The whole aim of the game is to destroy your enemy and point out the stupidity of their argument. In reality, there are more people with more complex or ambiguous positions on the issue. But those voices won't go viral. Social media favors a shouting match approach to political conversation," Ong said. 

The issue of patriotism may also take a blow because of this. According to sociologist and Ateneo de Manila University professor Jayeel Cornelio, viral statements in favor of China were written to reframe the dominant narrative about the incident.

"These statements are less about their seeming loyalty to China than their commitment to protecting the administration," Cornelio said. "All of this is in the hope of cushioning the impact on Duterte’s administration."

For Cornelio, the sinking incident has affected Filipinos in two different aspects. The issue is not just a matter of geopolitics. It also has an effect on Filipinos’ everyday relations with Chinese workers in the country.

"We have pundits online and on the radio who vent their anger on the Chinese as a whole, which of course is a mistake," he said.

He is also afraid that Filipinos’ distrust of China will eventually turn into everyday hostility towards Chinese workers in the country. "It is the kind of patriotism that engenders racism." (READ: Only 2 in 10 Filipinos believe China has good intentions for PH)

The other matter has to do with exhausting different diplomatic means to assert the country’s concern with China’s intrusion. "The DFA has done it. Yet it is a missed opportunity that the president has refrained from making stronger remarks about this incident," Cornelio said. 

Meanwhile, for Ong, patriotism could become sharply divided in social media and expressed as either loyalty to President Duterte, or anti-China with a tinge of racist anti-Chinese sentiment. But Ong noted that in-between positions on the issue that were more measured, ambiguous, or undecided were absent or even ignored.

Shades of gray

Ultimately, despite what appears to be a black-and-white divide online between Filipinos, it would not be wise to conclude that the sinking incident was polarizing. Narratives, as Ong and Cornelio have explained, can be fabricated and steered, and emotions can be influenced. 

One way to avoid being party to a false narrative is avoiding knee-jerk reactions on social media. Before reacting, do you have all the facts? From where are you getting these facts, and are they reputable? Do you feel pressured to take a certain stand because everyone else is? A little presence of mind can go a long way. – Rappler.com 

Read stories related to the incident:


Son of junk collector graduates from UPLB, dedicates achievement to parents


LAGUNA, Philippines – 27-year-old Thomas John Tenedero proved that his loved ones' many sacrifices were worth it.

In a Facebook post, Tenedero shared how his parents, especially his father, worked hard as a scrap collector to support him in achieving his dreams. 

He said his father would usually work for 12 hours a day to make ends meet, earning P200 to P700 per day. 

"Nakakarga na sa kaniyang trolley ang sako-sakong mga kalakal. May mga bote ng mantika, bote ng gin, bote ng ketchup, sirang batcha, mesang walang paa, bakal, sirang electric fan, karton, at kung anu-ano pang pwedeng ibenta sa junkshop para mapakinabangan," Tenedero said in his Facebook post. 

(My father's trolley would be loaded with sacks of scrap materials. There were empty bottles of oil, gin, ketchup, broken basins and tables, steel, electric fans, cartons, and anything that could be sold at the junk shop.)

Not ashamed to be poor

Despite being raised in a poor family, Tenedero was never ashamed that they lived in an informal settlers' area. Instead, this fueled his passion to dream even more.  

"Mahirap tumira dito. Ilang beses na kaming sinabihan na papaalisin kasi aayusin na daw 'yung Philippine National Railways (PNR) pero buti naman hindi na natutuloy. Binigyan kami ng option ng relocation sa Kay-anlog, Calamba, pero dapat daw bayaran pa namin," Tenedero told Rappler.

(It is difficult to live here. There were a number of times when we're asked to leave to make way for the PNR renovation. Good thing it never pushed through. They offered us a relocation at Kay-anlog, Calamba, but we would have to pay for it.) 

In 2005, he started to dream of studying at the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños, so after finishing his secondary education, he took the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT). Unfortunately, he failed. (READ: For UP hopefuls, the struggle starts with UPCAT

This didn't stop him from pursuing his dream, however. He then applied for a reconsideration and eventually got accepted to UP Los Baños.

Tenedero recalled the time when his father sold whatever he could to pay for his enrollment. 

"Nagbenta agad-agad si Papa ng mga kalakal nang malaman niya 'to. Mas excited pa siya sa'kin. Binenta ni Papa 'yung dati naming poso. Saka iba pang kalakal para makapag-enroll ako," he wrote. 

(My father immediately sold scraps when he learned that I was going to UP. He was more excited than I was. He sold our old water pump, as well as some other things, just so I could enroll.)

Braving the challenges

Despite getting in, life in the university was still filled with challenges, as his family struggled to financially support his studies and their household on the whole.

"Sobrang hina ng kalakal tapos kahit nanghihinayang na siya, kailangan niyang ibenta ang kalakal dahil wala kaming pambili ng pagkain, o pambayad ng kuryente noon, o kaya naman wala akong pambaon noon," Tenedero wrote.

(Despite the cheap rates he received in exchange for the scraps, he sold them anyway because we had no money to buy food, pay for electricity, or give me an allowance.)

To ease the burden, Tenedero worked as a student assistant in UPLB's Department of Humanities from 2012 to 2017. While he said the work itself had been easy, it still took 30 to 40 hours from him per month – time he could have spent studying. 

However, he continued to juggle his studies and work because it earned him at least P4,800 a month. It was barely enough to cover his daily expenses at home and school, but it was something. 

Success dedicated to his parents

Tenedero said he owes his success to his parents who exhausted all means for his studies. Despite everything, they remained hopeful and supported him in every way possible. 

"Walang ama na hindi kayang tiisin ang lahat ng sakripisyo para sa pangarap ng kaniyang anak. At walang anak na hindi nakikita ang hirap ng kaniyang magulang para sa kaniyang pangarap," Tenedero wrote on Facebook. 

(There is no father who wouldn't be able to endure sacrifices just for his child's dreams. And there is no son who could ignore the hardships his parents have gone through for him to reach his dreams.)

On June 22, Tenedero will be graduating from UPLB with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics. He also works as an administrative office assistant in the university's Department of Social Sciences. 

"Noong 2005, nagsimula ang pangarap kong makapasok sa UP. At ngayong 2019, lalabas na ako (In 2005, I started dreaming of entering UP. And this year, I will be graduating from it)," Tenedero said.   Rappler.com

Alessandro Alfred Perez is a Rappler intern. He studies BA Sociology at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

‘How hard is it to be seen as human?'


MANILA, Philippines – The LGBTQ+ community’s fight for acceptance is a continuing struggle.

On Saturday, June 15, MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, held its 3rd weekly online conversation for Pride Month, asking readers to describe what real acceptance is for the LGBTQ+ community. (READ: 'Celebration, freedom, and equality:' Netizens speak up about pride)

‘We are equals’

To treat people as equals is to recognize that they are persons who deserve the same rights just as anyone else.

Twitter user CJ Dominguiano says it begins with perceiving LGBTQ+ members as equals. This was echoed by Alyssa Alvarez, who said acceptance begins when we see one another as human beings. 


UPLB Babaylan, the main LGBT organization of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, and individuals Toby and Roentgen tweeted about true acceptance coming hand in hand with with rights.


Other netizens took things further by differentiating “tolerance” and “acceptance”. Russel Patina stressed that tolerance actually denies the LGBTQ+ community of their rights.


For Twitter user @fxndesu, acceptance is easier when people are educated.


Marc Martinez highlighted how acceptance must also entail action, or "walking the talk."


Members of the LGBTQ+ community have been struggling to fit into a society where institutions are biased towards heteronormative policies and cultures. (READ: [Dash of SAS] Tolerance isn't acceptance, charity isn't governance

To this day, many LGBTQ+ Filipinos still experience discrimination in various forms. Even a measure such as the Anti-discrimination Bill was debated over for 3 years only to go back to square one when the Congress failed to pass it. (READ: 'Tolerated, but not accepted': Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination)

Below are highlights from the conversation:

How do you think can we strive for real acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community? – Rappler.com


Stanley Guevarra is a Rappler intern and an incoming AB Literature major at Ateneo de Manila University.

U.P. transwoman professor talks about workplace discrimination


Hermie Monterde is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of the Philippines Manila. Photo from Hermie Monterde Facebook account

MANILA, Philippines – At the age of 5, Hermie Monterde already knew she was a girl even if her assigned sex at birth was male. She was fascinated with dresses and high heels. She would wear them in front of her mom and sister, who would applaud her and cheer her on.

Despite her family’s support, however, life had remained difficult for Hermie as a transgender woman. In fact, it had gotten even more difficult when she became a working professional. (READ: Transgender women in PH: Accepted or merely tolerated?)

Hermie is currently an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila. Teaching in UP was a dream come true for her. When she got the job, she felt relieved, because she believed UP was a liberal academic institution that celebrated diversity. She thought that she would be free from the transphobia that was quite prevalent in the Philippines.

But Hermie was wrong. In a viral post, she recounted the times she experienced discrimination in UP.


“Being an instructor was a tedious job since I had to juggle a teaching load close to 20 units while studying for a graduate degree, on top of the vexations that inevitably came with HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and the people who make work difficult,” said Hermie.

The trials of transitioning

In an interview with Rappler, Hermie confessed that she has been experiencing discrimination from her colleagues ever since she started her career in 2011, paired with her efforts to physicially transition from a male to female body.

“I thought I had a good start in the department. I made acquaintances with some interesting people and made a few good friends. Then I started to realize that my presence made some colleagues uncomfortable,” said Hermie.

In her Facebook post, Hermie recalled how bullied she felt, receiving unsolicited comments from colleagues about her physical appearance.

“In one of the department meetings years ago, a colleague claimed that all males should dress up as males and all females should dress up as females. I looked at the faces of the older colleagues around, and they all nodded their heads in agreement,” wrote Hermie.

Hermie even experienced discrimination whenever she used the comfort room for females. “I am a woman, so why would I use the male comfort room? Some of my colleagues were raising their eyebrows.”

A lot of this was happening because her physical appearance had not caught up yet with her gender identity.

“Transition is a process. Hindi naman gaganda agad in an instant. (I won’t turn beautiful in an instant.) It won’t happen overnight,” said Hermie.

The tenure issue

Having taught in UP for 8 years, Hermie decided to apply for tenureship. It was denied, citing “professional and interpersonal concerns.”

“What’s the reason behind that?” Hermie exclaimed.

In the comments section of her post, some suspected that Hermie was rejected for her tenure simply because she is a transwoman.


The fight for equality

For Hermie, the Filipino LGBTQ+ community’s struggle for acceptance is far from over. (READ: 'Tolerated, but not accepted': Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination)

Illustration by Alejandro Edoria

Acceptance means you don't only accept the person. You should also accept the SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression) of the person, and other attributes inherent to the person such as race etc.,” said Hermie, stressing that the LGBTQ+ should enjoy the rights straight people have.

Hindi niyo kailangan mahalin ang isa't-isa. Kailangan niyo lang maniwala na both of you have the same right,” said Hermie. (You don’t need to love each other. All you need to do is to believe that both of you have equal rights.)

“Tolerance should not end. Tolerance should lead to acceptance,” added Hermie.

To ensure a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community, according to Hermie, universities and other institutions should start with educating people about their struggles and issues.

“We have to make sure that companies and educational institutions offer gender sensitivity programs to everyone,” said Hermie.

For so long, the LGBTQ+ in the Philippines has lobbied for the enactment of the Anti-discrimination Bill. The legislation can be traced back to 1995 when Representative Rey Calalay filed a bill proposing to recognize the “third sex” as a sector. Since then, different legislators have followed suit. Two decades later, however, a national law protecting the LGBTQ+ remains elusive. (READ: [OPINION] Life without bullies? Why Senate must pass anti-discrimination bill)

Hermie said that she hopes the bill will be tackled in the 18th Congress.

“Hoping. But I'm not hopeful. I mean they want to align themselves to the president. And I don't think we can expect in this administration. We can hope but as for me, I am not hopeful,” she said. (READ: The long road to an LGBT anti-discrimination law)

‘You are not alone’

Hermie said that her story might not be representative of the transgender community in general. She encourages other members of the community to speak up about their experiences because their truths are also valid. (READ: 'Celebration, freedom, and equality:' Netizens speak up about pride)

“Our personal experience, after all, is a political fight. And it is every person’s right to be fully protected by both law and practice,” said Hermie.

Asked for a message for her detractors, Hermie said, “I wish them well. And if not for them, I'm not the strong person that I am. What they did to me was unnecessary but it made me a better person.” – Rappler.com

[OPINION] Maguindanao is a forgotten crisis


Distribution of water kits to families displaced by the armed conflict in Shariff Saydona Mustapha in Maguindanao province. The activity is part of the emergency response being implemented by the project consortium of Oxfam, United Youth of the Philippines-Women, Community Organizers Multiversity, IDEALS Inc., CARE Philippines, ACCORD Incorporated, and Kalimudan sa Ranao Foundation with support from the EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid. Photo by April Abello-Bulanadi/Oxfam

When a humanitarian emergency fades from the headlines there is a tendency to forget that many people displaced by armed conflict continue to face difficulties and uncertainties to survive. This World Refugee Day, just like many days before, we stand together with thousands of internally displaced families who remain in need due to conflict in Maguindanao. Their situation is compounded by vulnerability to various hazards, like typhoons, flash floods, and landslides. As aptly classified by the European Commission, the Maguindanao conflict is a 'forgotten crisis.'

Latest figures from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) show that there are at least 50,720 people displaced in Maguindanao. Experience tells us that this is a conservative estimate. Rapid mobility of families forced to flee their homes due to armed conflict and the lack of grassroots protection monitors to track their movements have proven time and again to be barriers to locating those who need help the most. Further, the displacement is cyclical and protracted. This means many families are forced to alternate between living in informal camps, evacuation centers, or with community hosting – most of which are not fit for the purpose.

Constant artillery shelling has been reported by the communities we work with as a major threat to their lives and deterrent to finding dignified shelter solutions. Individuals without legal identification documents cannot access humanitarian assistance. Their choices are severely limited and they would have to endure living in the poorest conditions without access to food, clean water and sanitation services, and safe and dignified shelter.

The situation is particularly dire in the area the military refers to as the SPMS Box, which includes the contiguous towns of Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Shariff Aguak. Military-imposed restrictions and law enforcement operations have limited access to some areas inside the Box. Conflicts between the government and armed groups, and between clans, have created a climate of fear and insecurity. The crisis hurts women and girls the most. 

Oxfam and its partners have been providing aid in the form of food, water and sanitation facilities, emergency shelter, and protection. We have learned crucial lessons along the way.

A significant step forward would be addressing monitoring gaps and easing registration procedures so that displaced families and individuals can more easily access humanitarian assistance. This would mean significant investments in mobilizing trained protection monitors, who can assist in identifying the needs and concerns of the internally displaced, as well as accurately tracking their movements. This can be done by increased collaboration between various humanitarian actors, including the government, the private sector, and non-government organizations.

Collaboration, however, is not enough without laws and policies in place that go over and beyond defining the structures, roles, and obligations of response actors.

Consistent with the principles enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, the International Humanitarian Law, including the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, a national policy that details all the rights and entitlements of internally displaced people and provides mechanisms for their protection is urgently needed to adequately and systematically respond to the forgotten crisis endured by displaced families in Mindanao due to conflict. At the moment, there are several bills aiming to protect and promote the rights of internally displaced persons languishing in both houses of Congress.

Evacuation should not be a way of life. We need to put displaced people at the front and center of our legislative action in order to respond effectively to the many forgotten crises of our time. – Rappler.com

Rhoda Avila is the Humanitarian Manager and leads Oxfam’s work on enhancing local humanitarian leadership. Oxfam, along with local partners, is  providing life-saving support to families displaced by the recent conflict in Maguindanao.

If Rizal were alive today, how would he tweet?


MANILA, Philippines – If Jose Rizal were alive today, would he have a Twitter account? And if he did, what would he tweet about? 

On Rizal's 158th birth anniversary on Wednesday, June 19, Rappler held a Twitter conversation encouraging people to share what they thought Rizal would tweet if he were alive today. (READ: LOOK: Jose Rizal as Google Doodle for 158th birth anniversary)

As Rizal is known for his quote, "Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan (The youth is the hope of the nation)," Twitter user @WanderlustWeng touched on the insistence of 34-year-old Duterte Youth chairman Ronald Cardema to represent the youth sector. (READ: Too old to be youth official, Cardema now says he represents ‘professionals’)

Given the recent news of a Chinese vessel ramming a Philippine boat in the West Philippine Sea, the issues of foreign influence and territorial disputes also came up. (READ: TIMELINE: Sinking of Filipino boat in West PH Sea by Chinese ship)

Here are more creative tweets from netizens: 

Do you think Rizal would be a social media influencer? Rappler.com

IN PHOTOS: Treating patients in world's largest refugee settlement


THE BRIDGE. Healthcare workers from Médecins Sans Frontières walk along a bamboo bridge to get to the refugee community. All photos courtesy of Médecins Sans Frontières

More than 68.5 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced for many reasons: war, persecution, conflict, natural disaster, destitution, and repression. Half of the world’s refugees and displaced are children.

The world’s largest refugee settlement is right in our backyard – Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Over 900,000 Rohingya people have lived in the district’s numerous camps for almost two years now since the mass exodus in 2017. They remain vulnerable to serious health risks like infections, outbreaks, and psychiatric conditions.  

It might be hard to imagine how it’s like to be a refugee. Fortunately, two Filipino nurses who served in projects for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Bangladesh documented their day-to-day interactions with them. Through their photos and words, Jose Vincent and Darwin hope to show how they improvised to deliver free and quality medical care in a challenging setting.

CROWDS. It's hard not to be overwhelmed with the number of patients they see every day.

We typically receive more patients at the beginning and end of the week, which are Sundays and Thursdays in Bangladesh. We see an average of 500 Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi patients every day at the 3 MSF primary healthcare centers located in Jamtoli camp, a smaller camp beside the huge Kutupalong-Balukhali megacamp. We have to manage the influx of patients to be efficient.

ORGANIZING. A simple sorting system was key to attending to each patient and seeing quickly what they can do for them.

Due to the high number of patients coming to our centers every day, our staff were trained to do proper triaging or sorting to prioritize patients according to their needs. They also take vital signs and guide patients on what to do next. This keeps the flow of people organized and manageable.

CRAMPED. They treat diseases that are common among people who live in small spaces.

Poor hygiene and sanitation greatly affect the quality of life in refugee camps. Common diseases among many of our patients include acute watery diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infection, and skin diseases. In overcrowded and poorly ventilated conditions, outbreaks like diphtheria and chickenpox can occur and spread very quickly. A number of vaccination campaigns were already done across the camp but so long as living conditions remain poor, the risk of a potential outbreak remains.

SANITATION. The community has to store clean water and maintain proper hygiene.

Clean water is essential for good health and sanitation. The simple practices of drinking clean water, washing one’s hands, and using a well-maintained toilet can prevent a lot of the diseases we treat. Our colleagues – especially our water engineers and sanitation experts – work with the community to install and maintain water and sanitation infrastructure, and to educate people on how to maintain good hygiene practices. The megacamp is a few kilometers wide and virtually every area has a refugee shelter.

RAIN, RAIN. Activities in the camp slow down during monsoon season as the heavy rains cause muddy roads and floods.   

Trucks traverse the camp carrying heavy loads of bamboo that are used to build structures, including temporary shelters and health facilities. This truck was in front of our vehicle and tipped over due to the muddy  rough road.

ADJUSTMENTS. People in the camp adjust and improvise with what they have, so the doctors do the same.

The makeshift shelters in the refugee camp sit on top of a hilly landscape. Landslides happen frequently, especially during the rainy season. In our health facilities, as in the other structures in the camp, sandbags reinforce our fences and serve as improvised protection from floods and landslides. We also set up temporary bridges using bamboo and sandbags so our patients can reach our facilities.

BASICS. Providing the best care can sometimes be about finding simple solutions.

A Rohingya patient named Abul Kalam had a wound for two years before we first saw him. Due to misuse of medicines, he developed antibiotic resistance. He also tried to relieve the pain by persistently scratching or cutting scabs over his wound. Our team made sure to continuously follow up on his case so he received proper treatment.

We also made a crutch out of wood for Abul Kalam. We covered it with cotton and bandages and fixed it with elastic tape. This helped him walk around without exposing his affected foot to mud and dirty water. He recovered quickly.

LIFE GOES ON. The work continues at the refugee camp.

A beautiful sunset over Jamtoli camp calms us after another busy day. Most of the time, we feel there’s more work to be done. Other days, however, we know that small and big efforts alike bring us closer to providing the best quality of care possible for the community. – Rappler.com

Jose Vincent Pagarugan and Darwin Diaz are members of Médecins Sans Frontières. They are both working at the Jamtoli camp in Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh.


Rappler Talk: What it takes for the LGBTQ+ to #ResistTogether


MANILA. Philippines – How can the Philippine society help eliminate discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community? (READ: 'Tolerated, but not accepted': Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination)

The Philippines has been ranked as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, making it to the 10th spot out of 39 countries. At least 73% of Filipinos believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to the Pew Research Center.

For so long, the LGBTQ+ in the Philippines has lobbied for the enactment of the Anti-discrimination Bill. The legislation can be traced back to 1995 when Quezon City Representative Rey Calalay filed a bill proposing to recognize the “third sex” as a sector. Since then, different legislators have followed suit. Two decades later, however, a national law protecting the LGBTQ+ remains elusive. (READ: [OPINION] Life without bullies? Why Senate must pass anti-discrimination bill)

In partnership with Metro Manila Pride, Rainbow Rights Philippines, and ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Rappler will be hosting What it takes to #ResistTogether and advancing the LGBTQ+ agenda in the Philippines on Friday, June 21. 

Tune in here or head over to fb.com/rapplerdotcom to watch the discussion live. – Rappler.com





IN PHOTOS: Filipinos participate in 2nd nationwide earthquake drill for 2019


QUEZON CITY. Corazon Elementary School pupils in Batasan, Quezon City, participate in a simultaneous nationwide earthquake drill on June 20 2019. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – People from different parts of the Philippines took part in the second quarter nationwide simultaneous earthquake drill (NSED) on Thursday, June 20.

The National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), joined by local officials, held a ceremonial program for this at the Bayugan city hall in Agusan del Sur.

The NSED is a quarterly drill that seeks to instill a culture of disaster preparedness among Filipinos and promote disaster awareness. It's also done to evaluate the effectiveness of the local governments' contingency plans and protocols in relation to earthquake scenarios and other similar events. (READ: All you need to know about preparing for earthquakes

During the first quarter nationwide simultaneous earthquake drill for 2019, the NDRRMC held the ceremonial program in Iloilo City in February. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Iloilo City leads first nationwide earthquake drill for 2019)

On Thursday, government employees, students and teachers in elementary and secondary schools, and police officers from various city and municipal stations joined the nationwide simultaneous earthquake drill. (READ: CHECKLIST: What cities and municipalities should prepare for an earthquake)

Below are some scenes of shake drills from different parts of the country:


EVACUATE. Pupils of Salapungan Elementary School in Angeles City, Pampanga. Photo by Helen Juguilon

COVER. Students of Salapungan Elementary School in Angeles City, Pampanga. Photo by Helen Juguilon

PARTICIPATE. Salapungan Elementary School students in Angeles City, Pampanga. Photo by Helen Juguilon


ASSIST. Students and staff of the San Isidro National High School are assisted by members of the local police. Photo from Catanauan Police Facebook page

LEAD. Police officers help lead the conduct of the nationwide earthquake drill for students and staff of the San Isidro National High School. Photo from Catanauan Police Facebook page


DEMO. Employees of the Isabela Provincial Capitol. Photos from Isabela Public Information Office Facebook page

ISABELA. Photo from Isabela Public Information Office Facebook page

Davao City

DRILL. Ateneo de Davao University senior high school students. Photo from Ateneo de Davao University Senior High School Twitter page

Quezon City

COVER. Corazon Elementary School pupils in Batasan, Quezon City. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

QUEZON CITY. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

Marikina City

HOLD. Students and staff of San Roque National High School in Markina City. Photos by Jr Casimiro


E-Magsasaka lets you buy fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers


FRESH PRODUCE. Vegetables and fruits delivered by E-Magsasaka. Photo courtesy of Eden Familara

I enjoy going to wet markets. The combination of the sound of different vendors calling their sukis to buy their meat and fish, the smell of fresh seafood, and colorful displays of fruits and vegetables make me look forward to waking up early every Sunday morning to go to the palengke.

While people like me are lucky enough to live near a palengke and shop there weekly, some don't have the luxury of time.

Luckily, there are things like E-Magsasaka. It was built not only for the convenience of people who want their weekly  supply of fresh fruits and vegetables delivered right to their doorstep but also for farmers wanting to increase their profits by directly connecting with the buyers.

“The main reason why the number of Filipino farmers is steadily decreasing is because they do not earn enough money. With E-Magsasaka, we aim that the farmers get their fair share of profit and in turn encourage more Filipinos to venture into agriculture,” said Aaron David, head of operations and co-founder of E-Magsasaka.

Aside from Aaron, Gorby Dimalanta, EJ Tamayao, Jay Garcia, and Anjo Santos help manage the business. They are currently working with 5 farmer cooperatives in region 4A (CALABARZON), each having on average 100 individual farmer members to make this happen.

The business concept started in 2017 as a school requirement. Asian Institute of Management requires their students to join external competitions. So, Aaron, together with his other schoolmates joined and won the East West Seed Innovation Olympics. After graduating, they decided to pursue the concept full-time.

 UPLIFTING LIVES. E-Magsasaka's goal is to uplift the lives of the Filipino smallholder farmers through technology. Photo courtesy of E-Magsasaka

They have a huge supply of pinakbet variety of vegetables like squash, ampalaya, eggplant, and sitaw. Their farmers are also able to grow lettuces, herbs, and fruits such as papaya, avocado, and banana. Currently, they deliver produce in Makati, Taguig. Pateros, Pasay, Manila, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Las Piñas, Parañaque, and Muntinlupa. They encourage a minimum order of P400 to maximize both the farmers effort and the customer’s shipping fees.

“This platform is perfect for people like me who don't have the luxury of visiting a local market weekly. Produce are fresh & more affordable compared to the grocery. Major plus points for the zero waste packaging and of course, the inclusive growth of the farmers too! Hope they'll offer garlic and onions soon,” said Katrina Magat, an E-Magsasaka supporter.

E-Magsasaka doesn’t only help our farmers gain more income, they also contribute in reducing plastic pollution by using only bayongand wrapping leafy and small vegetables in banana leaves which buyers can exchange for a new one or reuse the next time they order.


PLASTIC-FREE. E-Magsasaka uses bayongs and banana leaves to pack fruits and vegetables. Photo courtesy of Maria Aurora Garcia

Even though the company is still in its infancy, Aaron is thankful for the overflowing support coming from their customers.

“Thank you for regularly ordering and helping support our Filipino farmers. We also appreciate your patience and understanding as we’re a young company and still refining our operations process. We hope that we remain partners as together, we help uplift the local farming industry of the Philippines,” he said.- Rappler.com

#GoodRap is a weekly column that aims to feature lighthearted yet meaningful stories from here and around the globe. We hope this provides an oasis for anyone who wants to take a quick escape from the gloom and doom of the everyday world.















#LabanHermie: U.P. community stands in solidarity with transwoman professor


MANILA, Philippines – UP Babaylan, an LGBTQ+ organization in the University of the Philippines, launched a signature campaign to show its support for Hermie Monterde, a transwoman professor who spoke about her experience of being discriminated in the workplace.  

Using the hashtags #LabanHermie, #NoToDiscriminationInUP, and #SolidarityWithHermie, university organizations such as UP Alyansa and Akbayan Youth also posted the campaign on their social media pages.


According to James Montilla Doble, Education and Research Committee Head of UP Babaylan, they launched the campaign to let the LGBTQ+ community know that they are not alone. (READ: 'Tolerated, but not accepted': Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination)

“We want to let Prof. Monterde and the larger LGBTQ+ community know that we are with them in their fight,” said Montilla Doble.

As of this writing, the campaign has garnered more than 600 signatures from students, faculty and staff of the university.

In an interview with Rappler, Hermie confessed she had been experiencing discrimination from her colleagues ever since she started teaching in 2011, paired with her efforts to physicially transition from male to female.

“I thought I had a good start in the department. I made acquaintances with some interesting people and made a few good friends. Then I started to realize that my presence made some colleagues uncomfortable,” said Hermie.

The need for SOGIE Bill

As Hermie came forward with her experience, Doble stressed the need for the SOGIE Equality Bill to be passed.

The LGBTQ+ movement in the Philippines has lobbied for the enactment of the Anti-discrimination Bill. The legislation can be traced back to 1995 when Representative Rey Calalay filed a bill proposing to recognize the “third sex” as a sector. Since then, different legislators have followed suit. Two decades later, however, a national law protecting the LGBTQ+ remains elusive. (READ: [OPINION] Life without bullies? Why Senate must pass anti-discrimination bill)

At the university level, the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies together with UP Babaylan and Babaylanes, Inc. have drafted the UP SOGIESC policy (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics) that aims to protect the UP community from discrimination based on SOGIESC.

“Professor Hermie’s story highlighted the work that still needs to be done,” said Montilla Doble.

Montilla Doble added, "UP, as an institution that stands for social justice, should be explicit in their support for the LGBTQ+ community by enacting policies that will make the university a safe space for everyone, regardless of their SOGIESC."

You can show your support for Hermie by signing here. – Rappler.com

Why the term 'bakla' can be more closeting than liberating for some


Labels and templates are constraining – even in the context of gay rights.

In the Philippines, if you are to look around and spot people who fall under non-normative sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE), you will more likely be faced with the image of flamboyant, screaming, and seemingly care-free males who often dress like females. This is the image of the bakla.

The bakla conflates SOGIE even though these 3 are independent of each other. Gender identity is one’s inner sense of self as a man, a woman, or neither; gender expression is the set of external characteristics that a person exhibits; and sexual orientation refers to one’s emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to members of the same or the opposite sex. In many LGBT discourses, as in this article, the bakla is defined more in terms of gender identity than sexual orientation.

The identity of the bakla, moreover, oftentimes represents the plethora of identities constituting the community of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and other sexualities (LGBTQIA+). Conversations on the rights of the LGBTQIA+ members typically include one phenomenon: coming out of the closet, loosely translated to the vernacular as paglaladlad

The concept of coming out of the closet is no stranger to Filipinos. This is especially evident in the middle class, where coming out serves as a template for recounting personal stories. It is mainstream knowledge that telling others about your sexual orientation is a difficult yet liberating experience that enables people to come to terms with their identity. However, the lived experiences of some LGBTQIA+ members show that this is not always the case.

In April 2019, I was in a rural area in the Northern Philippines doing research on the experiences of poor teenage bakla. A common experience exemplified by their responses is that people have already called them bakla based on the effeminate way that my interviewees acted when they were young – too young, perhaps, for them to even understand the full gravity of the label that was thrown at them.

It is commonly assumed that acceptance of someone’s deviant SOGIE is a liberating experience. However, growing up with the tag of bakla weighs heavily on the shoulders of many, due to the expectations of who the bakla should be. These are highlighted by the fact that some of my interviewees do not conform with the mainstream conception that the bakla is attracted to another genitally male individual. In fact, some of them are bisexuals and few of them still have not figured out their sexual orientation.

Nonetheless, they are afraid of telling both their relatives and friends about their sexual orientation because they fear stigmatization and resentment from people who are close to them. This is arguably their version of the dreaded process of coming out – saying that they are not attracted, at least only, to another male. They are afraid to say it because by doing so, they will change from an identity that is perceptively tolerated by their community to an identity that may arouse further criticism and resentment.

There is a societal expectation that the bakla should be attracted only to biological males, so the baklas who are attracted to other sexual identities become even more socially deviant.  In this respect, therefore, the label bakla can closet them into the performance of an identity that does not necessarily resonate with what they feel inside.

Labels have power in shaping a person. The rural and poor baklas grow up with an idea of who they are, and this idea can direct the choices that they make and actions that they take. In the context of rights, self-concept and identities are important because they affect what people think are crucial for them to live a life of dignity.

All are equal and are entitled to a life without discrimination and to be protected by the law. Paying attention to which kinds of protection that people need, then, significantly depends on the challenges brought about by the identity that they and the society recognize.

The lesson here for fellow gender rights advocates is simple: asserting and exercising human rights are not linear nor one-directional. They require retrospection and introspection. They necessitate the scrutiny of the very concepts that we use to define ourselves and other people. They need us to free ourselves from the limits of templates. Asserting human rights require us to recognize that the use of labels are loose instead of fixed, and because these labels are malleable, they can be shaped and reshaped, owned and denounced, constructed, and deconstructed by the very people they define.

In the fight for equality, moving forward is looking backward, and in terms of the rights of the LGBTQIA+, we can advance only if we are able to look back and understand how different labels and templates have manifested differently across individuals. When we therefore fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA+, we must also consider that one of the rallying experiences and one of the rallying identities that we employ may actually be limiting to some.

Finally, it is important to see the constraining dimension of the process of liberation. The more we understand this, the more we are able to push for human rights and assert them in the face of a government that sits on the violations of these rights. – Rappler.com

Athena Charanne 'Ash' R. Presto graduated summa cum laude and teaches at the Sociology Department of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She is currently taking her MA in Sociology at the same institution. She tweets at @sosyolohija.


Youth groups slam government's ‘inaction’ on sinking of Philippine boat


Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines– Various youth groups condemned the Duterte administration’s “continuing negligence” following the sinking of Fishing Boat Gem-Ver.

On June 9, a Chinese vessel sank the Philippine fishing boat in a collision in the West Philippine Sea that left 22 Filipinos on board “at the mercy of the elements.”

Echoing the Chinese foreign ministry, President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed the sinking of the boat as a “maritime incident.” The statement was made 6 days after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana exposed the incident on Independence Day, June 12. (READ: TIMELINE: Sinking of Filipino boat in West PH Sea by Chinese ship)

League of Filipino Students (LFS) described Duterte’s response as a betrayal to the Filipino people and condemned the dismissal of “outright harassment and plunder of China against ordinary Filipino fisherfolk.” (WATCH: Boat sinking at Recto Bank from indignation to dismissal)

“Duterte’s inactions and deliberate disregard on the welfare of our Filipino fishermen is a display of his cowardice to foreign plunderers. His nerve to paint this gruesome incident as a ‘simple maritime incident’ reeks of betrayal to the people who have been genuinely defending our territorial waters and natural resources,” LFS national spokesperson Kara Taggaoa said.

Kabataan Partylist Vito Cruz pointed out that the sinking of the Philippine fishing boat in West Philippine Sea is not the first time that China has clashed with Filipino fishermen. In 2018, videos show that the China Coast Guard has been habitually taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off the coast of Zambales province.

Cruz asserted that the administration’s neutral response to incidents of harassment by China in Philippine territory shows that the government gives precedence to China over the Filipino people.

Ang pagiging neutral sa harap ng sunud-sunod na paglabag sa karapatan pantao ng Pilipinong mangingisda at maging sa desisyon ng internasyonal na korte ay pagpanig sa mapang-aping Tsina,” it said in its statement.

(Being neutral in the face of continuing violations of human rights of Filipino fishermen and the decision of the international court is siding with oppressive China.)

University of the Philippines School of Economics Student Council said that China’s abandonment of the Filipino fishermen proves that territorial disputes over the West Philippine Sea have not ended, even after the Philippines won the case in 2016, nullifying China’s claim.

It urged the government to seek accountability from the Chinese that were aboard the vessel.

“We demand for the Philippine government to serve at the best interest of its own people...It is high time that we reevaluate our diplomatic relations with the Chinese government, especially after several bouts,” it asserted in its statement.

The UP College of Education Student Council likewise called on the Duterte administration to conduct a course of action that would give justice to Filipino fishermen who were victimized at the hands of the Chinese. (READ: Owner of sunken boat: I feel like we’re slaves of China)

Ang pagtapak sa karapatan ng mga Filipino ay hindi kailanman katanggap-tanggap (Stepping on the rights of the Filipino is never acceptable),” it added.

In UP Visayas, the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council slammed the “subservience of the Duterte regime to the imperialist Chinese.” The statement also slammed the administration’s “anti-Filipino” policies, such as the TRAIN Law, and the War on Drugs.

The College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Student Council echoed their statements, and added that fishermen are one of the poorest sectors in the country and are deserving of the administration’s support.

Ang mga mangingisda natin ay kabilang sa pinakamahirap na sektor ng ating bansa kung kaya’t madali silang opresahin at patahimikin. Hustisya at naaayon na tulong mula sa ating gobyerno ang kailangan ng 22 Pilipinong mangingisda, at proteksyon mula sa mga nang-oopresang dayuhan,” the statement said.

(Our fishermen are among the poorest sectors in the country, which makes them easy to oppress and silence. What the 22 Filipino fishermen need from their government now is justice, the necessary material assistance, and protection from oppressive foreigners.)

Youth groups were not alone in calling out the government. The Iloilo chapter of the All UP Employees Union, condemned the Duterte government for disregarding the interests of the fisheries sector, and urged the UP Visayas community to take action regarding the incident.

Since the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (CFOS) is our flagship college, U.P. Visayas cannot be silent on this issue that directly affects the fisheries sector. The main reason for the existence of CFOS is precisely to address the lot of the poorest sector – the Filipino fishers,” the union said. – Rappler.com

Related stories, in-depth reports, analyses, videos, podcasts: The sinking of a Philippine boat in West Philippine Sea

UPLB graduate wants to help farmers like his grandfather


LOLO'S BOY. University of the Philippines Los Baños graduate Romel Arrobang says his grandfather influenced his passion for agriculture. Photo by Romel Arrobang

MANILA, Philippines – "I am honored to be a farmer's grandson."

These words rang throughout the DL Umali Freedom Park as top University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Master of Science (MS) in Agricultural Engineering graduate Romel Arrobang delivered his graduation speech on Friday, June 21.

Arrobang took the podium to recount how his grandfather, a hardworking farmer, influenced his passion for agriculture and led him to where he is today.

"I grew up in a place where the shore meets the rice fields. Lolo Carlito went to the rice fields before the sunrise with my childhood friend, his carabao. After plowing the field all day long, he would greet me with a wide smile on his face and hug me with his muddy arms as if he was never tired. He is a hardworking man, and a jolly person as well," Arrobang narrated in his speech.

Inspired by his grandfather

At an early age, Arrobang witnessed the realities and struggles of a farmer when his 74-year-old grandfather took him to the rice fields when no one at home was around to look after him in Roxas City, Capiz. This made him learn a lot about carabaos and plowing the fields.

"I learned to value the food on my plate because of my grandfather. Bawat butil pinaghirapan ng Lolo ko (My lolo worked hard for every grain)," Arrobang stressed.

Inspired by the passion of his grandfather, he pursued agricultural engineering.

In 2011, Arrobang graduated cum laude with a BS Agricultural Engineering degree in UPLB and passed the board examination. He pursued his master's degree through the Department of Science and Technology - Engineering Research and Development for Technology scholarship in 2016.

"I became an agricultural engineer because of my grandfather. I saw his struggles growing up. Planting rice was never easy but my grandfather was passionate with what he was doing. I remembered him saying, 'Kung hindi ako magtatanim, paano kakain ang mga tao? (If I will not plant, how will the people eat?)'" Arrobang added.

In an interview with Rappler, Arrobang said that for him, being involved in agriculture means accepting his grandfather's legacy. Because of Lolo Carlito, farmers have a special place in his heart. 

"Masisipag ang mga magsasakang Pilipino, walang duda doon. Kailangan lang talaga nila ng suporta (The Filipino farmers are hardworking, there's no doubt about that. They just really need our support),"Arrobang said. 

Hopes for farmers

As he continued his venture into the field of agriculture, he learned about the struggles and challenges that farmers like his grandfather face. (READ: As crop prices drop, netizens call to support local farmers)

"I saw that my lolo and other Filipino farmers in general have been marginalized and are not well-appreciated. Because of that, I want to uplift them, break the stigma about farmers, and give them the respect they deserve," Arrobang said.

Arrobang previously worked in a private company in the livestock industry. He was also involved in various projects which gave him the opportunity to meet farmers, listen to their stories, and learn about their needs.

"Most of them take pride in what they are doing. Pero may mga iba na nagkukuwento kung gaano kahirap ang maging isang magsasaka dito. They wished to have some more support. Nagkukuwento din sila about their struggles kapag nasasalanta sila ng bagyo. Makikita mo sa kanila yung panghihinayang," Arrobang said. 

(Most of them take pride in what they are doing. But there are other farmers who would tell stories about how hard it is to be a farmer in the Philippines. They wished to have some more support. They also told me stories about their struggles when faced with calamities. You can see their regret.)

Hearing the narratives of the Filipino farmers cultivated his eagerness to help them. He believes that farmers should be given support in terms of education and training to enhance their skills and maximize their productivity. (READ: E-Magsasaka lets you buy fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers)

"Introduce them to new technologies that could help them in farm operations. Maybe we need to look into the idea of credit financing in which farmers could borrow money with minimum interest. This should be enough safety blanket whenever unfortunate events happen to them," he added.   

Arrobang hopes to be involved in one of UPLB's projects in agriculture. Through his profession, he aims to help the agricultural sector uplift the lives of farmers by giving them other options in cultivating their lands through agricultural mechanization and the use of new technologies.  

He said he wants to encourage the younger generation to also be involved in agriculture just like how his grandfather inspired him. 

Although Lolo Carlito is no longer attending the rice fields today, he still continues to herd cows. 

"Lolo was my original inspiration, it grew more as I knew other farmers along the way. His struggles manually cultivating the field. Nakita ko iyong pagod niya pero he went home with a smile. Hanggang ngayon, uuwi si Lolo pagkatapos magpastol ng mga baka na may ngiti. It never changed." (I saw how tired he is but he went home with a smile. Until now, Lolo comes home from herding cows with a smile. It never changed.) – Rappler.com  

Groups urge Filipinos to defend Philippine territory after boat sinking


DEFENDING SOVEREIGNTY. Various groups wave Philippine flags along Manila Bay as they show solidarity for the Philippines and resistance against China during a protest on June 22, 2019. Photo by Lito Borras/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – After the sinking of a Filipino boat in the West Philippine Sea, various groups echoed the call to defend the country's territory as they held a protest at the Rajah Sulayman Park in Manila on Saturday, June 22.

Clad in black, protesters carried Philippine flags in a bid to show unity and take a stand for the country's territorial and sovereign rights.

They stressed the importance of standing in solidarity with the Filipino fishermen, even as the Duterte administration echoes China in downplaying the sinking of the boat as a "maritime incident."

"Hindi dapat tayong magsawang ihayag ang katotohanan. Nilapastangan na tayo. We have to educate. Kailangan malaman ng gobyerno na may taong katulad natin na ipinaglalaban ang Pilipinas," said activist-comedian Mae Paner, popularly known as Juana Change.

(We should not get tired of revealing the truth. We are already being disrespected. We have to educate. The government needs to know that there are people like us who will fight for the Philippines.)

Some Philippine officials have held back in condemning China for the boat sinking, while others cast doubts on claims made by the Filipino fishermen. (READ: Owner of sunken boat: I feel like we're slaves of China)

Bart Guingona of the Art Forces of the Philippines, a group of artists, emphasized that the Duterte administration's handling of the incident should serve as a wake-up call for Filipinos. (READ: Youth groups slam government's 'inaction' on sinking of Philippine boat)

"Simple lang, binangga ang ating mga mangingisda. Ngayon, sinasabi ng gobyerno na walang kasalanan ang mga bumangga. Kailangang magising ang mga mamamayan sa realidad na niloloko tayo ng kadiliman," he said.

(It's simple, our fishermen were rammed. Now, the government is saying that the one who hit us is not at fault. The people have to wake up and face the reality that we're being fooled by those with ill intentions.)

Nitz Gonzaga of Kilusang Mayo Uno also denounced the alleged pressure on the fishermen to reverse their account of the incident.

Gem-Ver captain Junel Insigne had backtracked on his earlier assertion, saying that he was now unsure that a Chinese ship intentionally sank their boat. This was after a closed-door meeting with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol at a house heavily guarded by cops.

"Pataksil ang ginawa ni Agriculture Secretary [Piñol].... Ang gamitin niya ang posisyon niya [at] ang mga militar para takutin ang mga mangingisda, mali 'yun. Tinuturuan niya ng kataksilan ang mga mamamayan. Tuta siya ni Duterte. Kitang-kita ang pagpanig nila sa China," said Gonzaga.

(What Agriculture Secretary Piñol did is a betrayal.... It's wrong for him to use his position and security forces to threaten the fishermen. He's teaching acts of treachery to Filipinos. He's a blind follower of Duterte. It's obvious that they're siding with China.)

Anabelle Lee, a first-time protester, underscored that they are not after war, but only the rights of the fishermen and Philippine sovereignty.

"Nag-alab po ang aking damdamin dahil naawa po ako sa mga kababayan nating mangingisda sa Mindoro. Halatang-halata na binangga ang kanilang barko pero parang kinampihan pa po ng gobyerno natin ang Tsina.... Hindi naman tayo naghahangad ng giyera. Ang gusto lang natin ay ipakitang meron tayong boses at hindi tayo sang-ayon sa ginagawa ng gobyerno natin," she said.

(I got fired up because I felt pity for our Filipino fishermen in Mindoro. It's obvious that their boat was rammed, but our government seems to be siding with China.... We're not seeking war. We only want to show that we have a voice and we don't agree with what our government is doing.)

Carol Araullo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan echoed her sentiment, and added that she hopes millions of Filipinos would also show solidarity, similar to the protests in Hong Kong.

"I hope in due time, we would be as many as the rally is in Hong Kong. I hope more people would be outraged." – with reports from Patricia Angela Echano/Rappler.com

Related stories, in-depth reports, analyses, videos, podcasts: The sinking of a Philippine boat in West Philippine Sea

IN PHOTOS: ICRC President visits Marawi, notes 'the work is not yet done'


WELCOME. ICRC President Peter Maurer with ICRC Regional Director Boris Michel,
ICRC Head of Delegation Martin Thalmann, and ICRC Sub-delegation Head Roberto Petronio are welcomed by PRC staff and volunteers at the Bualan Spring Project in Lanao Del Sur on June 3, 2019. All photos by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC

MARAWI, Philippines – On his second visit to the Philippines on June 3, International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer walked through the ruins of Marawi City more than two years after the armed conflict happened on May 23, 2017.

"In my visit to Marawi City this week, I saw a community dealing with the physical and psychological impact of conflict. I met a family of a missing person that hasn't lost hope that news about their relative will arrive soon.” Maurer said. (READ: 'Longing': Images of Marawi evacuees)

Two years on, there are still close to 100,000 people displaced from Marawi, unable to return to their homes. These people face various problems, such as dealing with psychological trauma, accessing essential healthcare, and finding potable water, among other things.

Jumping off from this, he also thanked the thousands of volunteers and humanitarian workers for their unrelenting support that helped uplift the spirits of the displaced people.

BUALAN SPRING. ICRC President Peter Maurer meets with community leader Datu Caloy Amer, of the Bualan Spring Project on June 3, 2019. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC

PROGRAM. Maurer shares a light moment with Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon during the visit to the PRC Marawi chapter. They are flanked by ICRC regional director for Asia and the Pacific Boris Michel and PRC secretary general Elizabeth Zavalla. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC


TOUR. Maurer tours around the city and sees the the devastation in the most affected area (MAA) of Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC   

DEMOLITION IN PROGRESS. Two years on, there are still close to 100,000 displaced people, unable to return to their homes. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC

Maurer shared his thoughts after talking to high-ranking officials and emphasized that the people need to be able to count on the authorities to be responsive to their needs. He explained, “I felt a commitment and resolve to find effective, long-term solutions to humanitarian issues of concern, despite considerable constraints they deal with.”

“Nevertheless, in talking to victims, responders and authorities, I can see that the work is not yet done," Maurer added. He stressed there was still a lot to be done to rehabilitate the city and the people, adding all members of society have a shared responsibility to provide reprieve to those affected by the armed conflict.

“We all need to do more in our respective roles. We need to do better at addressing the consequences of conflict, but also, we need to do better in preventing or reducing those consequences," he also said, promising the ICRC – along with the Philippine Red Cross – with will continue to serve their primary responsibility of addressing the humanitarian concerns of the people, no matter who or how far they are.

WE NEED TO DO MORE. Demolition site in the most affected area in Marawi City. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC

IN MARAWI. Maurer walks along the streets of the most affected area in Mawari City. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC


PRC AND ICRC. From day one, the ICRC has been working with the Philippine Red Cross in providing aid to people affected by the Marawi crisis. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC

COMMITMENT. Maurer emphasizes the organization’s commitment to support Philippine Red Cross’ capacity to respond to emergencies and armed conflict situations. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/ICRC

 – Rappler.com