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.
Indeed! GOD LOVES BAKLA!
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