On my recent trip to Las Islas Filipinas I finally snagged a copy of Ladlad 3: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing (2007, Anvil) edited by J. Neil Garcia and Danton Remoto (see Danton's blog here). The term ladlad connotes shedding off something, to disrobe, or also to unravel, hence, in Filipino gay-speak it is commonly associated with coming out.
The first Ladlad was published in 1994, followed by a second installment in 1996. I remember furtively requesting for the first two editions of Ladlad at the Filipiniana section of UP's Main Library. And then I'd look for the most remote desk in the reading area while regularly searching the crowd around me for any familiar face.
Anyway, I could not remember most of the entries in the first two Ladlad editions but overall I was struck by how assertive the authors are about their homosexuality. Many of them reflect the resistance of gay men against the prevalent macho culture. Others seem to provoke, while also a number celebrate their "gayness". In other words, Ladlad then were very political, if not activist.
Whereas the first two Ladlad were firm in dispelling stereotypes and were determined to create an alternative popular image of gay men, the recent edition is more introspective. If the third Ladlad book indicates anything, it appears that there is a shift in the attitudes of Filipino gay men, mainly a move towards a sense of confidence.
Ladlad 3 is therefore more about individuals who happen to be gay... but they are also sons, friends, lovers, or colleagues.
In the short story section for instance, M. Protacio de Guzman's Epiphany goes into the mind of a man mulling over what he thought was a lackluster relationship, whereas J. Neil Garcia's Kitty and Vergil is about the quirky relationship of gay men and their fag hags, and Ino Manalo's Pakiramdam (Intuition) describes one man's dilemma on introducing to his family his lover of eight years.
If there's one obvious politically-oriented short story, that has to be Giyera (War). Honorio Bartolome de Dios tells us the story of a local beautician, Bernie, who is part of an underground, guerrilla movement. But then, Bernie is a rebel against a political and economic system that takes advantage of a community and he just happens to be gay.
This "they just happen to be gay" theme is also carried over in the second half, the poetry section. Many of the poems do not have an "obviously gay" voice or at least are sexually ambiguous.
In as much as I'm not a big fan of poetry per se, I liked more pieces in this section than among the short stories, to be quite honest. Some of the standouts for me are Ronald Baytan's Distance and La Puta del Mundo, Carlomar Arcangel Daoana's The Long History of Kissing Boys, Nestor de Guzman's Sa Kapisan, Ralph Semino Galan's Your Name, and Remoto's The Ring.
A number of poems poignantly touches on the relationship of gay sons and their parents. Christopher Cahilig's Sa Inyong Kaarawan, Itay (On Your Birthday, Dad), Eugene Evasco's Hardinero (Gardener), Alex Gregorio's Sad Movie, and Roel Hoang Manipon's Irreconcilable Differences should resonate with many gay men raised in a paternalistic society.
So while Ladlad 3 veers from its two more militant predecessors, it does not completely depart from making statements on the more fundamental issues confronted by gay Filipinos. Perhaps the book reflects how the "gay movement" has evolved to encompass the different realities of being a homosexual in contemporary times. Also, perhaps it is a testament of the success of the strong advocacy of the "gay movement" which has somehow ameliorated the largely homophobic stance of the society, hence there is no pressing need to be overtly political either.
Foiled it may have been, the attention - and to a certain extent, support - that Ang Ladlad received in its unsuccessful bid to run as one of the party list representatives in the last elections (was that 2006?) nonetheless shows how the gay movement is inching its way towards wider acceptance. Now Danton is even resolute in running for the Senate in 2010, and that is definitely something all gay Filipinos need to fully support.
To finish this post, I shall include here my favorite poem in the book and perhaps this also sums up everything that Ladlad 3 is all about.
(This is obviously a copyright infringement as I did not ask permission from the authors and publishers. Paumanhin po.)
Bago ang Bading
(Pasintabi kay Rebecca T. Anonuevo)
by Ralph Semino Galan
Mabuti nalang at sa panahong ito ako
Ipinanganak na bading.
Hindi ko na kailangang tumili o tumalak
Para marinig ang aking voice.
Hindi ko kailangang magdamit babae
Kung hindi ko carry,
O umastang machong lalaki
Kung feel kong magpa-girl
Sa bahay man o opisina.
Hindi ko kailangang magpahaba ng hair
O manggupit ng hair para mabuhay.
Hindi ko kailangang magpakasal
Sa mujer na hindi ko mahal
Para maging respectable ako sa madla.
Hindi ko kailangang ipilit ang sarili
Sa straight na mhin na ayaw sa akin.
Hindi ko kailangang magpa-cut ng notes
O magpadagdag ng boobs
Para makumpleto ang aking pagkatao.
Hindi ko kailangang i-forget
Na isa akong tao
Bago isang bading.
* From Ladlad 3: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing, Edited by J. Neil C. Garcia and Danton Remoto. Anvil Publishing, 2007.