It would be appropriate to start this missive by noting the year of our recorded civilization: 2013; and by including a recent headline reflecting our current state of affairs: "Obama urges U.S. high court to allow gay marriage in California." In other parts of the world, at least the more progressive parts, the public discourse has since advanced from individual gay rights to gay marriage. However, after reading the following widely-circulated articles online about you, my dear Philippines, I realized that you are still stuck in the dark ages.
Uganda and the Philippines have a common source when it comes to what influences public attitude towards homosexuality: Christianity. I would hope that in 2013, Filipinos had already unshackled themselves from the oppressive nature of organized religion, or at the very least, questioned its overarching purpose in contemporary life and national progress. But who am I kidding? Filipinos dream of a Filipino Pope despite how that might curtail the burgeoning women’s rights movement. Have we already forgotten that Jose Rizal’s fictional heroine Maria Clara was fathered by a powerful parish priest, an all too familiar reality from our raucous colonial history under Spain? In fact, my late godfather, another parish priest, had children. We are used to controversy, but when it comes to anything remotely biblical or anyone who propagates the "word of god," Filipinos are mum.
Sometimes I wonder if we are a damaged people. Colonized twice, occupied once. Christianized forever. Catastrophes, natural and human, alight with the closing and opening of our eyes. My late father and his friends who survived the Japanese concentration camps during the second World War used to tell me that along the route of the Death March, many Filipinos just watched and did nothing and how very few risked their lives to give the marching soldiers food and water. It is very disturbing to me how fear takes root in the heart of the Filipino people, and how it lingers and becomes the language of hate and indifference. But I also know this is not always the case. In New York City, I am surrounded by very intelligent, open-minded and outspoken Filipinos who contribute to America’s intellectual and cultural mosaic. They are critical thinkers, not prone to group-think and submission. Some of them continue to practice Catholicism, notwithstanding obvious polemics.