Thursday, December 5, 2013

one with the elements

4 days trip to the town of Ilocos (Brngy Navarcan by the sea and Brngy Gregorio Del Pilar, 1 and half hour trip up the mountain.) ATP (Association of transgender of the Philippines) was invited to Navarcan to give a talk for the World Aids Day and then we're going to ATP member, Krizia's hometown, Gregorio Del Pilar where she was invited to participate in scoring the local beauty pageant.
2 days ago 1st December Sunday, we took an express deluxe bus near Cubao, destination Ilocos (720 pesos), the bus sign says Vigan so it must be a neaby place. Left around 915am and reach destination around 630pm so its around 9hours bus trip. The bus stop twice for bathroom and meals break. Our destination is this town called Narvacan then we took tricycles to this place called Villa Gloria beach resort. Dindi met her anak-anak which she hasn't met for 2 years, so its was like a reunion and to catch up with things. They work there at the Villa and we stayed there for one night.
The reason we were there also was because Kate,Dindi and Krizia of ATP (Association of Trangender people of the Philippines) was invited to give a talk on the World Aids Day and also about the trans101 and the Hiv awareness and prevention.
That night Dindi's anak updated her whats going on since she left the place 2 years a go. And i witness how Mother Kate,Dindi and Krissha talking to the community about Trans 101, like for example its best to avoid the term 'Bakla' and use 'Transwomen' instead because of the negative connotation from local cultural history it represents and also about HiV awareness work with the community. Dindi's anak also invited a transwoman who's living with Hiv condition to share her story tommorrow during the event. It is world Aids day and the local municipal council is managing the event and also invited other school, and institution to the event.

The place that we stayed have a nice beach seriously, it was deep blue in colour and the sea is very calm, the mountains is green, few horses here and there, (an army infantry nearby), this is such a refreshing view from the visual/audio noises of metro Manila.

2nd December, yesterday morning from the Villa resort we went to the Navarcan town for the World Aids day parade, it was organized by the Muncipal of Navarcan Aids Council. (I know, even in a small town like this its so progress, people are open up to things like addressing the Hiv and Aids awareness via World Aids day, everyone is participating not just the local Lgbt community but also marching band from what look like primary schools children, local police, the entire Navarcan council and the mayor. It is quite an eye opener.

Then after the parade we went back to the villa where the main event of the day where MdmKate and Dindi was invited to give a talk about ATP and what they're advocating, trans101, gender identity/sexual orientaion and expression and also Hiv and Aids awareness. After the even finished we pack up and go back to town where Mdm.Kate have to leave back to her home in Muntinlupa because of her work, then me, Dindi and Krizia hope on Krizia's brothers 4wd and head for the mountain, a small town called Gregorio Del Pilar. It took around 1 and a half hour and 2 stops for the photo opportunity and a pee break.( like in Malaysia, when we stop for pee in the jungle we ask for permission like datok i ask for permission to pee here while here its the same intention in a form of word 'Bari-bari'.)

What fasinated me here in the Philippines was the LGBT orgaization here often work closely with the LGU(local government units). I just took a picture with the vice mayor and the council member of municipal of this town Gregorio del Pilar. I was told even without appointment they often accomodate people and he just shared his story with me his recent trip to Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highland.
(Short history: Gregorio del Pilar is the last general of thr Philippines army who was hunted down and killed by the American army. That's where this town got its name from.)
Here is a picture of us i'm with Rica Dukey one member of the local community who work at the municipal office as Municipal Planning and Replacement Officer.
Dindi will work with her on the local version of Anti discrimination law soon next year.
Now it is so hot here, Dindi said its because of global warming, normally 10am its cold up here. The plan for today is hiking up the mountain but at the moment it is very very scorching hot, so we're just hang out at the municipal office and looking at the fiesta down there, eating some local sticky rice (local delicacy with brown sugar added) but not that sweet and sipping pepsi from the bottle.

I just realize today afer watching the parade passing by Krizia's house is maybe my long, buried dream longtime a go was to be a marching band captain. Because i really like the costume worn and the moves and leading the whole marching band seemed so cool.
Tonight Krizia is going to be tabulating the scores of the beauty pageant so i was told to participate as well, my job is to give the sache to the beauty one of the contestant. Later in the afternoon after lunch at the municipal office we went back home and rest,then Krizia manage to hire 3 local boys for us to take us for sightseeing, i brought some extra sarong the plan was to take a dip in the river and we took off. We stop at some spots for the beautiful picturesque scenery. Some scenes makes me think this is like New Zealand version of Philippines, green hills and mountains as far as the eye can see and the serene river with some buffolos around reminded me of the old waterfall paintings we hang at home during the 80s. We stop at a river, Krizia swims but since i didnt bring any towel i just walk on the shallows side of the river.Then we stop at a barangay where Tonet stays and visit her grocery shop and have a little chat about the event tonight. After that we left and back at Krizia's house, take a rest for awhile and prepare for the beauty pageant tonight.

Apparently 2 days a go ( and the point we are here is because of) 'The' town 114th Anniversary Celebration of the Tirad Pass and Annual Town Fiesta 2013' and the beauty pageant that Krizia's going to participating as the judge is just part of the program last night and it is the fiesta here not to be missed!.
I was told as well many Local Government Units(LGU) apparently the whole of the Philippines oftenly work closely with the LGBT people to get the function/work going because they are reliable and often successfully make an event a great event. Like yesterday or last night i've seen Rica who works as the MPDC officer and also Tonet, and Krizia and other transwomen who are working for the event and make it successful. It was just like other pageant but the local community work hard to make the event successful and superfun. The city mayor came to officiate the event, they were so many policemen with guns as well at their disposal.

Started around 9pm, and finished around 2am, i think i slept around 3am but the sisters just hang put outside and drink until 6am. It was an interesting event indeed. I was told as well that the city mayor or her name Luz isn't that fond of the Lgbt people but apparently she's the minority here and nobody take her seriously. The event went smoothly and we see some costume was definitely creative, some were made of recycled styrofoam boxes. Some are like the traditional pageant style with extended accesories at the back for the extravagant effects. Long feather boa hats and tail. Sexy night gown and traditional costumes. The participants are quite young, they're around 16 years old
Today 4dec is our last free day here, afterwards Krizia going to take us around the neighborhood walking around on our last, free and easy day. Gregorio Del Pilar is indeed a unique town with a long history. I was given a pocket book from Rica about the history of this town and besides the name that come from a hero general who was killed in battle with the American soldiers, its a small community town where everyone knows each other and here theres no crime at all reported, you can leave your things around and nobody will take it. The Town history books says "Crimes like killings, kidnapping and stealing are virtually out of the townfolks vocabulary. One can sleep with windows and doors open at night and safely leave his/her produce at the farm for weeks. The townfolks love to celebrate barangay and town fiestas, weddings, baptisms, death anniversaries, feasting in the natives styles-opportunitis to display their native cultural dances, songs and ballads."
"Generally speaking the people depend on their farms for living. However, some have already sought employment as laborers and as domestic helpers abroad while others are employed in the govenment. No family is considered so rich to have servants, yet nobody is so poor as to be homeless and squatting on somebody else's land."
After Dindi and Krizia woke up we eat a little bit, bagoong, ikan jacket,rice,etc.Then we walk to the cemetary to visit Krizia's late father and her younger brother. Then we walk slowly and stopby at Rica's house talking about marriage equality, Rica's been living with her partner for about 16 years and adopted a child which is around 5 years old. Dindi was saying there's only 1 company here in the Philippines 'Thompson Reuters' who give benefits to couple who have 'domestic partners', couple who stayed together for more than 5 years but without legal papers or marriage recognition. The only company seemed progressive enough compare to other corporations. Then we also talk about violence towards our community where her gay friends got killed and stabbed for 61 times, but because the court is late in coming out with the arrest warrent, the perpetrators is loose.
We also talk about the situation in Mindanao where Dindi's contact Chris Lopera from an NGO 'Shine socsargent' told her that the imam declare during the sermon that the transpeople have no place in Mindanao. And also there was a case in Marawi city where a transwoman got stone by the locals for just being a transwoman but she manage to escape.

The town here at night reminded me a little bit of Nepal, there isn't much light pollution and we manage to see the stars as far as the eyes can see at night, its really, really beautiful. Like million infinite diamonds rolling all the way out to the dark abyss of the sky. It is so diffrenet than yesterday during fiesta, now at night its totally quite and darkness and there's only few lights coming from few houses, maybe some 4 street lights, but it is safe here and peaceful.
Then we walk back to the house and have the red whine that Dindi and Krizia bought before coming up the mountain. "For the future of trans people" chink! We toasted.

Next morning we woke up early around 530am but because of tired we woke up slightly late than plan, then eat breakfast, shower (mountain spring water, cold but so good), say goodbye to Krizia's mom and family then off to the municipal office and wait for our ride, a local Jeepney drove us down the mountain back to Navarcan town. The downhill ride at around 10am in the morning was so gorgeous, the view of the geenary, mountains, rocks, terrace padi fields, small rivers, rocky ride on the dried stony river bed, the air is ao fresh its hard for me to imagine letting go of this fresh air, probably my lungs is crying and was sending me the message. I took many deep breathes and trying to memorize and register the mountain fresh air of Gregorio Del Pilar.

Dindi told me she participated in some of the beauty pageant in some of the district down the montain, she use to travel around with her friends participated in the beauty pageants along the small district or town, she won around 5000pesos and share the money with her anak-anak, this is about 1997/1998 long time ago.
We reach the Navarcan town, put pur bags at Dindi's friend salon, buy oursleves some souvenir in a form of locally made cakes. Go back to the place we left Kate, and we took our bus at 1030am. The whole trip the conducter played the movie The Avengers, Avatar, and a local Ilocan comedy show. The bus stop at the same stop when we're going to Ilocos, but one of the stop we left our poridge halfway unfinished because the bus is leaving quickly. Dindi and Krizia get down at North Sm near their house and i get down at the place where we took the bus at Cubao. Took a taxi back to the hostel and my flu is getting worse. This morning i bought the flu medicine that Dindi mentioned, but until now, ic an't forget how priceless was the whole trip, i felt lie iw as one with the elements. I miss the soft breeze and the calm sea by the beach and the mountain fresh air and water. Ultimately the quite and calm away from the statice noise of the metro manila. And now im back in the grids. Truly miss the nature.

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