What the fuck just happened in 2015? Vacation and lots of fuck ups!
2015 has seen the best and worst of LGBTQIA movement this year. With the momentous Supreme Court of the United States ruling that same-sex marriage is legal, the long body of LGBTQIA literature written in the global north has indeed paid off! But here in the Philippines, much work has to be done.
US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton’s case on the murder of transwoman Jennifer Laude is overshadowed by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach’s pro-American friendship answer in the Q&A portion of the world wide pageant. Everything was forced backstage as the Miss Universe fiasco becomes the mainstream gossip this end of year.
Most of all, hate crime is continuously on the rise in the Philippines when it was reported in October 2015 that Danton Remoto’s cousin, Dennis Relato, who is also a Ladlad partylist coordinator in Albay, was murdered and robbed.
Adding up to the hot string of mess, the LGBTQIA movement in the Philippines, the movement we are fighting for, is utterly divided. Lots of factions and plural voices just seems to be healthy but the people inside, aggressively practicing ad hominem for ages, does not pave the way to this nation’s road in the passage of an Anti-Discrimination Bill and inclusion of LGBTQIA in laws of legal union.
And to no surprise by many, HIV-AIDS still continues as a serious battle for everyone (the numbers continuously rising every year, dude we need PROTECTED SEX AGENDA in the education system!). Queen Wurtzbach has also announced to the world her advocacy for HIV-AIDS awareness among the youth during her final Q&A at the Miss Universe 2015. We hope it’s not just lip service or she’ll end up singing Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” next year. Go Pia!
In light of that backdrop, three words for an emerging trend in 21st century Philippine Literature: gender sensitive literature.
There are lots of personals for LGBTQIA themed books published this year! The “I” is not much anymore just a self-absorbed pronoun but a channel or a repository of memory, nation, and culture. This self-obsession is a craze nowadays. Obviously, we’re a pageant-obsessed nation. We love the Self more than the Other!
If you were a fan of great literary queens, like J. Neil Garcia and his writings (from his phenomenal book on criticism of Philippine Gay Culture to his landmark Ladlad anthologies, which he co-edited with Danton Remoto) or of Remoto’s series of essays about gay life and culture (Bright, Catholic—and Gay: Essays, Gaydar: Essays and Rampa: Mga Sanaysay), then you’ll go gaga over these LGBTQIA-themed writing published last year!
From themes of growing up as a gay kid in Martial Law Philippines, battling life with HIV, a straight guy falling in love with a transgender woman, gay bromance, or memoirs of living the gay life be it here in the Philippines or in Saudi as an OFW, these literature narrate the bombshell of gender experience for 2015.
Here’s the list of Philippine LGBTQIA-themed publications which I was able to read in 2015.
- Ang Autobiografia ng Ibang Lady Gaga (Visprint)
MY TAKE ON IT: The best thing ever! It was written as a series of flash memoirs written in light Filipino prose. The power of poetry, love, deep-seated emotions, and memory merge as one in this powerful OFW memoir by Jack Alvarez, last year’s fellow to the UP National Writer’s Workshop. I don’t really have major favorites in the collection because everything was so well-written! In our MA class last semester, we were tasked to deconstruct “Pag-ibig” which was one of Alvarez’s iconic flash narratives in Lady Gaga. The book was previously self-published and so gives light and hope for young aspiring writers out there. There’s a future in self-publishing! Read!
- He’s Dating the Transgender (Anvil)
MY TAKE ON IT: If you want the kilig love story that goes beyond gender, then this is the book for you. It is a memoir about the romance between Art Sta. Ana and Trixie Maristela (Miss International Queen 2015, the highest transgender beauty pageant in the world), on how they met and how they struggled to stay in a relationship that lasts. The concept of loving in this memoir is beyond appearances. Quoting Art Sta. Ana, “I’m just an ordinary guy, but love changed me. We all have that capability. You need only to look at one person that you love in the eye… to make you realize that he or she has the same right to access the same privilege as you do.” Surely, #LoveWins in this work of memory!
- Gagambeks at Mga Kwentong Waratpad (Visprint)
MY TAKE ON IT: This is the story of an escape by a worker union’s superhero ‘Gagambeks’, Angelo “Gelo” Ballesteros from a hostage situation staged by business tycoon Mr. Go. He was called ‘Gagambeks’ by his co-workers for his very long legs. Mark Angeles’s work interweaved politics and personal history in a prose that is common nowadays, the Wattpad prose (a kind of language that is conversational, funny, and of course, very explicit). The unionism is just a backdrop to the whole bromance between Gelo and his hostage taker, Enrique Gil, and in the second part, between Gelo and his childhood friend turned riding in tandem bike driver, “George” (Coco Martin). The ending was sweetest with Gelo blushing to George’s last word in their pick up line, “Tayo.” Other of his stories focus on unionism, assassination, caregiving, kidney selling, suicide, agimat and the Katipunan, and child labor.
- Happy Na, Gay Pa (Anvil)
MY TAKE ON IT: It’s a fresh take from his three previous essay collection. This one reeks much of fandom for Icon Magazine and loads of priest quotes. Moreover, it’s utterly so intellectual and so empowering! The collection opens with the first person narratives of his love encounters as a young gay boy and his attempt to reason or make an understanding about it. Well, the essays I like the most here are his “Riot of Hormones” (where he makes comparisons with history and literature’s bromances like Florante and Aladdin!), “The Beautiful-Boy Drought” (which includes a survey about a gay’s Mr. Right adapted from The Unofficial Gay Manual by Kevin Dillalo and Jack Kumholtz), “It’s Quiz Time!” (head-on questions about heterosexuality), and “Safety Tips for LGBTs” (what gays, bisexuals and transgenders must do when hate crime strikes).
- Riverrun, A Novel (Anvil)
MY TAKE ON IT: What a stunning novel Prof. Danton Remoto! His use of a flash fiction style for most of his chapters (even though it has been done by many novelists before him) was definitely something I’d like to study in detail. I really like the lightness of his prose and the way all of his chapters have a powerful ending, the same catchy endings that flash fiction has. It is a work of memory and one that uses other texts (like feature articles, recipes, poems and songs) as devices to portray a life of growing up in near an American naval base and most especially, in the heyday of Martial Law. It does remind me of an autobiographical novel, RiverRun by Christopher Leach, which also tackles themes of boys growing up and rites-of-passage. Definitely, this novel showcases one of the Philippines’ finest for fiction in English.
- Remnants (Kobo, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, and Flipreads)
MY TAKE ON THIS: This is a landmark collection for HIV-AIDS Poetry in the Philippines! One of the first as I would argue. A poetry collection which doesn’t dwell on the negatives but shows the image of grief and acceptance. The collection by spoken word poet Wanggo Gallaga was inspired by Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids. It is definitely a good read for those poetry book lovers out there. It’s still sold online in epub format. Grab a copy! Gallaga is something to look forward next year. It’s not the typical gloomy death and wailing poetry that is commonly published in many HIV-AIDS poetry anthologies in the global north (US and UK). I hope he publishes more of his poetry in mass printing next year!
- Red Letter Days (Red Whistle folio)
MY TAKE ON THIS: Art and literature have never been this good looking! Kudos to Red Letter Days editors Mark Lester Lacsamana, Ronald Ramos,and Evan Tan! Spearheaded by pioneer HIV organization, Red Whistle, the folio showcased literary works from esteemed writers like J. Neil Garcia, Joey Baquiran, Jim Pascual Agustin, and Jack Alvarez. The folio also graced artworks from rising names like Rob Cham, Isobel Francisco, and Tokwa Peñaflorida. The works are stunning, with even my poem included in the collection, and this landmark folio goes to show how important literary folio and publications are to mainstreaming certain issues like the spread of HIV-AIDS in the Philippines. We need more writings like these. And so, the challenge for every aspiring writer is align and serve their writing with a purpose for the public and the critical mass.
Link to the Red Letter Days Folio. – John Toledo
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