Thursday, July 15, 2010

God Loves Bakla

God Loves Bakla

A Book Review/ Reaction/Reflection

By Luis Batchoy MCCQC

Warning: Spoilers ahead

" I am a 43-year-old Filipino gay man currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In July 2008 I completed a book about my life in the closet, which I hope will help people better understand homosexuality and homosexuals. Raised as a Catholic, I believe that God created me bakla and loves me as bakla. Since coming out of the closet in 2001, I have never been happier or more fulfilled as a person and as a Christian. I have come to realize that the Catholic Church is wrong to condemn homosexuality, which is actually a special grace from God."

- Raymond Alikpala

God Loves Bakla is a memoir written by Raymond Paolo A. Alikpala. At the outset, let me say that I always take memoirs with a grain of salt. I am not so sure how far one can truly look back, remember, be objective and not romanticize or embellish a recollection. This is just however a personal bias I have with memoirs and ‘diary’ type books. For the purposes of being unbiased, let us just take then the author’s word at face value. After all it is his story. This piece is more of a personal reflection or reaction paper rather than a book review. Again, this is just me and my personal biases.

God Loves Bakla is the life story (so far) of the author. How he grew up in a very Catholic Family, was educated in a Catholic School, later on becoming a Lawyer, then a worker in Cambodia, and his struggle with living in the closet, his spirituality (or religiosity for that matter) acceptance of the self and later on, embracing and celebrating his homosexuality, and that proverbial quest for the Holy Grail: finding that one true love. Though the book is centered on the author’s religious and spiritual temperament and how he dealt with his homosexuality, it also touched on issues of national and even international importance. He recalls his own experience of the People Power Revolution and the ouster of the dictator, his struggles academically, his life in the novitiate of the Jesuit order, his expulsion from the novitiate, his work with the refugees in Cambodia, living the gay life in Cambodia and Thailand, his brushes with that love that dares not speak its name, and the eventual ‘happily-ever-after’ moment with his life partner.

Generally, the book is easy to read, and light. The events are chronological in order and the ending satisfying. I must admit though that his story telling could have been more streamlined, and at times the author would go to great lengths in repeatedly saying the same thing over and over again: inconsistency of his sexuality with his faith, his aversion and internalized homophobia, his spiritual/religious gripes - that sometimes borders on diatribe. I understand though that these points are important to him and for him to tell his story and bare his soul to the reader, and eventually make his point. Though I expected a more ‘epiphanic’ revelation from him or to have given or written more on how it was to have finally broken free and come out of the closet, I understand that it could have been a very confusing yet at the same time liberating experience for one who has been cooped up and closeted all his life. The happiness and wonder could have caused him to be less introspective thus glossing over that very particular stage in his life. Then again, this is his life, and this is his story.

I can relate to the author as I was brought up a catholic and educated in a catholic school – to be exact- a Jesuit school myself. My elementary years were in Santa Maria Catholic School (now Ateneo de Iloilo) and I too subscribe to the Jesuit worldview of being ‘men and women for others’ and the motto of ‘Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam’. There were times though that I did not agree to or approve of his decisions, such as him telling of his ‘sin’ to his Novice Master leading to him jeopardizing his Novitiate. He knows for a fact, having been subject to stringent homophobic doctrines that this would possibly spell the end of his ‘religious calling,’ then again, this is his story and his life.

The book is wonderful, and his story, amazing and inspirational. If his being a virgin until the age of 32 is not something to marvel about then I do not know what else could. I even jokingly told Rev. Ceejay that the book is a little less interesting because sex comes at a very late part. Where’s the rough, body convulsing, death defying, world shattering, soul severing sex? But of course that’s just a joke. I may not be in agreement with the author with a few things, but that’s the charm of his story. I do not have to necessarily agree with him, yet the story remains fascinating.

His story is insightful and captivating. It discusses faith, politics, homoeroticism, breaking free and celebrating one’s sexuality. It offers by example, practical advices on coming out, dating and looking for love, the kind of love that dares not speak its name. The book made me think, rationalize, ratiocinate, be depressed, cry, laugh at the absurdity of life and other people, socialize, criticize, sympathize, empathize, celebrate his freedom, romanticized and be thrilled about the prospects of finding my own happily ever after. Again, I can relate with the author as I am a law student too, a developmental worker and a human rights advocate as well. The other thing that fascinates me is how he is able to write in an ‘unlawyerly; fashion. Simply put, he just bares his heart and soul for the world and sundry, complete with pride, ego, fears, joys, aspirations, hopes and dreams.

I hope seeing myself buying truckloads of copies so I can send them to my priest friends who are still hiding behind the cloth, to my lawyer friends who suffer from internalized homophobia, to my openly gay friends, to friends who have dilemmas coming out, and to a whole lot of people whom I believed will be touched and inspired by this book. I congratulate the bravery of the author in coming out with this book. I celebrate with him his acceptance of his sexuality. I romanticize with him his searching and finding his one true love. Incidentally, that specific quote stuck to my mind. He was telling of how he got angry at his partner for making him wait and missing their bus. He said he had been waiting for a whole day, and his partner answered him “I have been waiting for you all my life!” Saccharine!

With a sigh of relief, I told myself... Too bad there wasn't MCCQC yet for him when he was lost. Good thing there is MCCQC now for the rest of us, and him too, should he feel like coming over.
Come to MCCQC you guys!

Grab a copy. It’s a wonderful read!

For Copies, you may contact MCCQC

Mobile No. 0915.1814963 globe
Hotline: (02) 508.35.23


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quo Vadis Baclaran?

It's my friend's last night in Manila.

He did not want to go clubbing. He had enough of coffee. We both don't drink and he did not want dancing. He asked me to take him somewhere interesting. I only thought of one thing. Besides, I also wanted to go visit again that place and to surprise him with the oddities of the place. Unknowingly, I was the one surprised...

I took him to Baclaran. He admitted to me that he has never been there so I was kinda excited. As we turned from Roxas Boulevard to the alley way I knew so well I began to doubt it if I lost my way. Why the streets were clear and the stalls were all on one side. I thought it weird and I kept checking for the land marks I knew should be there, just in case I took the wrong alley. They were there all right, but I still couldn't believe how the place looks vacant and really different.

I went to a shop that I frequent. I know the 'manang' there and I asked what happened. She told me that as soon as the new officials took office, they also stripped the place and drove away the stalls and the sellers there. I had a mixed reaction. Almost 70% of the stalls were no longer there. Even those along the LRT line were also no longer there. The roads looked wide and passable now, but I could only surmise and guess whatever happened to the people who were removed from there. What now of their source of income and livelihood?

My friend saw my concern and the sadness in my face and he asked me if I was alright. I was just thinking about the many families who have been displaced here and where they would be without their livelihood. I know that these are streets and the stalls there are a blight, but I was still caught between feeling for the vendors and the good thing that clearing the place could bring. Does the benefit outweigh the harm done? Is it really a good thing? I can not really readily say because all I know is that the stall vendors there are trying to make a decent and honest living. What now? I was really heartbroken at the sight of the empty streets.

I became doubly sad with the fact that my friend - it being his first time - would never see Baclaran as I saw it. My heart sank and instead of going elsewhere, we headed back home, me very disturbed and with a heavy heart. My friend told me that hopefully, these people were given relocation sites for them to ply their trade. I certainly hope so.

Quo Vadis, Baclaran Vendors?

Photo Credits:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Stories From On High... A call for submissions and an entry.

Part of my Baguio sojourn is meeting up with the wonderful and talented young writers from the Cordillera's; the Ubbog writers group. I was lucky enough to be invited to one of their meet ups, which was mainly the reason for my stay-over after the pride march. They are coming up with a call for entries to commemorate the 20th year of the Baguio earthquake.

You do not need to be a creative writer to submit. A powerful line or two would be enough to show solidarity and a collective remembering. Here is the call for submissions.

Existence throws us in the middle of paradoxes. Life is renewed at the same instance that death is confirmed, concretely as with the 1990 July 16 Luzon earthquake that hit Baguio hardest. We come together during its anniversary to observe solemnity for losses … but at the same time express jubilation for the triumph of the human spirit over adversities.

As years go by, the commemoration of this tragedy becomes more and more personal. The city now might show no sign of the destruction that crushed almost everything to the ground twenty years ago. But apart from physical restoration and reconstruction, the consciousness and the psyche, too, copes with this shattering experience. It is in these arenas invisible to the eye that imprints of destruction are almost always permanent. This day is most remembered by individuals who survived and lived to tell the story – those whose lives have been forever changed by what happened.

Piecing together written personal accounts of that historical day, we are aiming at collecting strength, celebrating survival, and creating/recreating solidarities. We share painful memories in the thought that things shared become more bearable. We remember losses, create meanings and make sense of human existence. We recount devastating experiences to discover what we have gained and how far we have moved on. We recall images of destruction to see the heroism and humanity manifest within us and the people around us. We revisit moments of ruin and weakness to keep our humility at the same time show how high and enduring our restored and reconstructed inner posts are.

Commemorating the 20th year of July 16 1990 earthquake in the form of an exhibit of stories may not leave a permanent marker in this city like a monument for the lives lost would. We hope that perhaps in this form, we add emphasis on remembering and healing, moving on and letting go.

Those who survive go on living. In this instance we veer away from paradoxes: stories of life reaffirmed and renewed likewise reaffirm and renew other lives.

contact us*email us your stories*
*any language*300 words maximum*
*deadline July 10**

And in support, here is my submission.

Para sa mga magkahagugma nga ginlamon sang paglinog sa Baguio
Ni Luis Batchoy

Indi na lang ta magdalagan,
Pagwa diri sa atun nahamtangan.
Dunganan ta na lang ang pagtay-og
Agud mas madasig matapos ang linog.

Indi ta na gid lang ka pag buy-an,
Mas hugot ta pa gid ka nga uyatan.
Halukan agud mapunggan ang pagkawas,
Sing kakugmat sa atun mga lawas.

Akun ka na lang nga dapi-ugan,
Bag-o kita rus-agan sang balibung-an.
Palig-unon agud mapanas ang hadlok nga nabatyagan,
Sa atun pag hirup, nyan masalapuan ang kaluwasan.

Agud sa tion nga ila na makalkal kag ma ukay,
Isugid sang atun nga mga bangkay,
Ang sugilanon sang gugma nga wala'y sarang makatay-og
Bisan pa sang pinakamakusog nga linog.

Para sa mga magsing-irog na nilamon ng paglindol sa Baguio
Salin ng may-akda
Ni Luis Batchoy

'Wag na lang tayong tumakbo
Palabas sa kwartong ito.
Ang pagyanig ay atin na lang sabayan
Para matapos ng mas mabilisan.

Hinding hindi na lang kita pakakawalan
Mas mahigpit pa kitang hahawakan.
Hahalikan kita upang mapigilan,
Ang pag apaw ng hindik sa ating mga katawan.

Ikaw ay akin na lang dadaganan,
Bago tayo guhuan ng bubungan.
Palalakasin upang mapawi ang takot na nararamdaman,
Sa ating pagsinta, sakali'y matagpuan ang kaligtasan.

Upang sa oras na kanila nang mahalukay,
Ikukwento ng ating malalamig na mga bangkay,
Ang ating pag-ibig na 'di kayang yanigin,
Pinakamalakas man na lindol, di kayang daigin.