On the Boy Abunda LGBT Award

LODESTAR By Danton Remoto

The invitation came from Bemz Benedito, the managing director of Make Your Nanay Proud Inc., the NGO set up by Boy Abunda to give honor to mothers everywhere.

Bemz said that I should meet him and the MYNP group of Dex Macaldo and Michee Fabunan after my show, “Remoto Control.” We would meet at Goodah!, which Boy co-owns with a group of friends. This famous resto now sits in the old location of Ozone Disco, which was gutted by fire two decades ago, killing hundreds of young people celebrating their graduation from high school or college.

My third eye be damned, I thought, as I said “Yes” to Bemz who said that Boy wanted to give me something that night. So after my show at Radyo 5, I took the MRT train, which arrived after I had waited for 40 full minutes. Mercifully it had just rained, and when I alighted at the Kamuning Station the air had turned cooler, but I am sure the cumulus dirt of the air was still there, hanging over the city like dark ghosts.

First, Bemz gave me a letter from Boy Abunda, which said: “Rainbow greetings! In celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, I am pleased to honor you with a trophy and a citation from the 1st Boy Abunda LGBT Awards (BALA).

“On April 12, 2014, I was recognized as one of the awardees of the GLAAD Media Awards for my ‘fair, accurate and inclusive representation of the LGBT community against the backdrop and the issues that affect their lives.’ In 2011, I received the Eric Butler Philanthropy Award for his ‘strong leadership in celebrating diversity and HIV/AIDS awareness.’

“These two awards made me understand the great responsibility I have in advancing LGBT life and rights in the best way I can in the public space that I work and live in. I also realize that if this country has the Ten Most Outstanding women, men, people, I figured , why can’t we honor outstanding LGBT people in the mainstream arena even if I had to do this in my personal capacity.

“I remember telling myself that I was exasperated of LGBT people being marginalized. This gave birth to the idea of the Boy Abunda LGBT Awards (BALA). This is personal. You are my personal choice. You, to me in diverse ways, have advanced LGBT rights and improved the LGBT life-condition in the country. I am happy to give you this specially designed trophy designed by Badon in recognition for all that you are and for all that you have done for the LGBT community in the Philippines.”

Naturally I was happy, for I am not a hypocrite, and all throughout the good dinner of Filipino food in my mind flitted images from the past 26 years that I have worked for the LGBT community.

I remember serving as a volunteer at the Remedios AIDS Foundation in 1991 and giving stickers and brochures on AIDS awareness to people and business owners, only to be turned away for promoting “a gay disease.” I remember joining the Healthy Interaction and Values (HIV) Workshop of The Library Foundation and felt my shoulders turn soggy with tears as the gay men on my left and right began to weep when the module on spirituality and family began.

I remember meeting every Wednesday night with Atty. Venir Cuyco, Jack Hernandez and Malu Marin at the office of CLIC, for three months, while we wrote and rewrote the draft of what would become the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Nobody knows that I took Management and Marketing classes at Ateneo de Manila University as an undergraduate, and my contribution to our discussion was that let us brand this bill as “a human-rights bill, because in the 1990s [when we were meeting], nobody would argue against a human-rights bill for everyone.”

After we finished the draft we founded the advocacy group Lagablab, to push for this bill’s passage into Congress. And then the offers began to come my way.

I had then begun appearing on television and speaking in the radio about LGBT rights, first at “Mel and Jay” and afterwards in the shows of Cheche Lazaro and Jessica Soho and Korina Sanchez, who all have become friends through the years. Party-lists would run for the first time in the May 2001 elections, and the air was electric with anticipation.

I was looking at some clothes in the mall when a well-dressed gay man in his 50s approached me and said, “Professor Remoto, I would forego buying a new Benz next year and donate the money to you if you will start a party-list and run for us.”

My jaw fell. He was telling this to me six months before an election that I was never interested in, and so I said I am not interested in politics. He gave me his card and said that I should contact him if I changed my mind. He asked me why I am not interested, and I answered that it takes years to form a real political party, with grassroots sinking deeply into the native soil.

So nada in 2001, because I also chose to apply for a Fulbright grant at Rutgers University to study World Literature, and I got it. And nada, too, in 2004, because I chose to apply for an Asian Scholarship Foundation grant at the National University of Singapore, to do research on Southeast Asian Literature. In short, to flee from politics I applied for grants abroad.

But in 2007, several young people talked to me and told me to found a political party that would advance LGBT rights in the arena of the legislature. I said we do not have money, but they said they have energy for the long and lonely haul, and that was when I founded Ladlad, which CNN has called “the only LGBT political party in the world.” For those in Europe, the LGBT political groups are allied with the Green Party or , in the USA, with the Democratic Party.

I accept this award on behalf of these young people, and ask them to continue the fight and run for Congress. As for me, let me leave politics and write my novels, in the peace and quiet of a room of my own.

Comments can be sent to danton.lodestar@gmail.com

 

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