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Posts tagged ‘Capiz’

Beginnings and Endings: The Year that was my 2013

I usually do a recap of my last twelve months at the start of every year. I do it to psychologically “close” the past and look forward to the next few months. It gives me an idea of how much I accomplished for the year, and often, various trips and travels are part of its highlights. With 2011 and 2012 being so hectic, I did not expect my 2013 to be any different. I was prepared to embark on numerous travels and official trips as is my wont. However, I did not expect it to start so soon as in January.
Due to some leftover work before the year ended, and of some upcoming travels I was anticipating, I had to begin travelling by second or third week of the new year. Thus, I found myself contending with the Sinulog fever in Cebu which had me scrambling for accommodations and for plane seats on the few flights which weren’t fully booked already. While I was happy to experience this popular festival in honor of the Sto. Nino for the first time, I was quite wary of the big crowds. Besides the hotels, the restaurants and malls were all so full of people. Fortunately, my official business was taking me to the distant towns of Barili and Tuburan so I was able to leave the madness in the city.
I have been to Cebu numerous times already and it has always been a favorite destination of mine. It is “urbanized” enough to have the usual comforts of city-life – the malls for quick shopping sprees, the familiar fastfood restaurants for the unadventurous palate, and yet, it was near enough to the beaches and other tourist spots one can easily escape to for an enjoyable vacation. This time though I was excited about discovering Cebu province’s other areas. Although I knew both Barili and Tuburan were poor municipalities, I have heard of Cebu’s natural resources as one of its greatest secrets. And so, just as I was fortunate enough to see the town of Loon’s mangrove monkeys park in Bohol, I was able to see Barili’s four “mini” waterfalls and hydro-power plant at Mantayupan, as well as its local church which is one of the oldest parishes established by the Spanish friars. On the way back, we passed by the city of Carcar, famous for its chicharon and ampao delicacies. Accidental tourist that I am, I stumbled upon another treasure – it’s old church of St. Catherine’s and it’s perfectly preserved and renovated dispensary-periculture facility. Once a local pharmacy and mini hospital for mothers and young children during the American Occupation, it has now been turned into a local museum with an impressive display on Cebuano cultural heritage.
The next day, we headed out of Cebu City in the other direction for Tuburan. Traversing the mountainous side of the province, the scenery reminded me of Tagaytay -cool and foggy. Even the fruit stands by the roadside were reminiscent of the Sta-Rosa-Silang, Cavite route. Ironically, we chose this “shortcut” to quickly get to Tuburan which was actually a coastal town on the other side of the province. It faces Negros island and serves as a small port for travelers to and from Negros Occidental. Having finished with my official business interviewing social pensioners, I ventured into its small, fledgling museum in honor of its famous son, military General Arcadio Maxilom. At the mayor’s instructions, I was also taken to see their gigantic, centuries-old tree and the freshwater spring in Molo-Bolo which empties out into the sea.
I remember that these few remaining research locations were the last to conduct our social pension interviews in. They got left to me because no one else wanted them and everybody else had finished with their assignments already. So by default, the choice was made for me when I got assigned Cebu City, Barili and Tuburan. Had I not accepted, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit these amazing places. I understood then why we must be like the leaf sometimes – to blow with the wind and go wherever it takes us; because sometimes, when we suddenly wake up, we may find ourselves in a much better place.
Before the month of January ended, I had my first out-of-the country trip which was LGBT rights-related. I was invited by the Dutch Foreign Ministry and COC Netherlands to speak at a special seminar they organized for embassy and consular representatives of European Union member countries. I was the only Filipino and only Asian there to give them an idea on how their investments and funding policies can help protect and promote the human rights of sexual minorities. I never imagined myself to be speaking before consular officers and embassy representatives of big European nations; conducting a lecture on an area of human rights that was so unpopular and unknown to some government officials and legal professionals. And so I did the only thing I knew how, something I do best – I spoke from the heart.
It was a proud moment for me, but I never realized that all the SOGI rights advocacy work I was doing could have such an impact in the world, as months later the EU States accepted the European Commission designed LGBT rights “toolkit” into a full-blown, Gender and Development manual of sorts for use by European countries in their engagements with Third World nations.
In the month of February, it was back to local travels for me as I did the last leg of social pension program interviews in Negros. Having finished with Bacolod in December, I now headed for Cadiz City. Although this was declared a “city”, records showed economic disparities in the area qualified some senior citizens as social pension beneficiaries because they were considered “indigent”. Amidst an ocean of sugarcane plantations, black pepper and prawn farms, Cadiz was also known for its succulent seafood. This fact failed to impress me, however, because of my food allergies.
But as I headed back to Bacolod, I was able to meet up with some local LGBT friends and do a short talk for them on SOGI rights. This was quite significant because it was meant to inform them and assist in the anti-discrimination ordinance they were pushing for in the local council. It was also the last provincial lecture I would be doing for Rainbow Rights Project, that ground-breaking LGBT rights NGO I founded in 2005. While I promised to still do LGBT advocacy in my own way, I said goodbye to a “project” of mine that I never thought could influence LGBT rights advocacy in the Philippines – one that bridged the different LGBT groups across the country and truly empowered Pinoy LGBTs by educating them about their basic human rights, and familiarizing them with entitlements and protections under Philippine law.
March found me taking advantage of my annual bonding time with my Mom and special leaves. As part of my continuing LGBT rights advocacy, I was called upon to go to Nepal for a regional conference on human rights and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. I was one of only a handful of representatives from South East Asia, and this time, I spoke about the unique strategies for engaging our national governments in the promotion and protection of LGBT rights. Looking back now, I never thought I could bring my advocacy work to such international levels. While I only sought to make things better for myself and fellow LGBTs in the Philippines, I didn’t think other countries would follow suit and take the cue from Filipino LGBT advocates.
2013 was also an election year, and our LGBT party, LADLAD made another bid for a congressional seat as a partylist representation. Honored as I was to again be elected as a nominee, I had to withdraw because of the new COMELEC ruling on government employees running for public office. My changing priorities in my personal life drove me to make this very difficult decision late in 2012 although I continued to “campaign” for LADLAD in my own way. Thankful as we are for the increasing support from other sectors and partylists, I still believed it was a great opportunity for any marginalized community to have its own voice in the legislature. If only the LGBT sector finally realizes this and manages to unite for a common goal like my beloved senior citizens, instead of “sabotaging” each other with such pettiness.
The middle of 2013 found me slowing down, not even taking advantage of the Holy Week and summer months exodus to the provinces. Somehow, the Fates threw me a bone and I got the chance to finally see Roxas City in Capiz and Boracay in late May. Albeit I was working and on official business, it was still a treat for my 43rd birthday. Indeed, the white sand beaches and spectacular sunsets was quite a sight. But after having been to Patar beach in Bolinao, Pangasinan and Alona beach of Panglao island in Bohol, I was no longer that impressed. On vacations, I usually turn “anti-social”, and I especially despised the crowds in Boracay. The sheer number of people seemed to shatter the essence and idea of a holiday escape. Thus, the “lazy pace” and the reasonable prices of “tourist traps” in Roxas City and Pan-ay in Capiz held more appeal for me.
In June, I went back to Tuguegarao with my partner, Toni and our little Venice. It was the first time in eleven months that she had been home to see most of her family members. I was there also to meet them officially and ask their permission before we had our commitment ceremony. A true daughter of Cagayan Valley, Toni toured me in the city, showed me some local haunts, and as I requested, went with me to visit Our Lady of Piat. I have cultivated a devotion for this pilgrimage site since I noticed it keeps on answering my prayers – and Toni was one such answered prayer. When I asked Apo Baket of Piat for a new love in 2012, I didn’t expect her to play favorites and gift me with her fellow Cagayana.
The next few weeks passed by uneventfully until September when I finally got to visit our Field Offices for some technical assistance and monitoring for senior citizens concerns. The very efficient senior citizens Focal Persons for regions X, XI and V were resourceful enough to provide a venue and occasion for some RA 9994 updates. The other regions had to wait for another month or so to get some technical assistance. But once I began, it started to get hectic for me all over again.
October started off with the whirlwind that was the annual Elderly Filipino Week celebrations. After a special forum for DSWD Central Office retirees and consultative conference on elderly concerns at PWU, DSWD-NCR had me giving the first RA9994 training for OSCA Heads of Metro Manila – a co-sponsored activity with Makati City. This was followed by a week-long appearance in Baguio City for DSWD-CAR and Field Office I whose senior citizens Focal Persons were fortunately able to coordinate their events with my schedule. This trip was extra special since I was travelling with my sister Giselle and it was Venice’s first time in Baguio. Reliving our childhood memories, we made sure Venice also enjoyed Baguio like we once did as kids. In between, I also did talks for government offices like the Bureau of Customs and some LGUs like Muntinlupa City.
Meanwhile, November was coming up and I always had to work on Toni’s birthday. So this time, I managed to time it with an official visit to Field Office II. While I did my lectures, she at least had time to visit her grandmothers and other cousins. I guess it sort of made up for the past two years, but this is really no surprise since I do official DSWD work even on MY birthday.
Upon our return, I dashed off to a few more regions – namely, Davao, CARAGA and region III. Like Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, Davao City is another one of my favorite destinations. “Citi-fied” enough yet the usual tourist spots just within your grasp for some rest and relaxation. It was also a delight to travel to CDO and Davao because I had some local LGBT friends I liked to reconnect with every so often. That November, I also got the chance to do another first – see Butuan City for the first time.
Before year ended, I was able to squeeze in quick visits to the Ilocos region, Cagayan de Oro, Legaspi City in Albay, and Dipolog City in region IX. Those first few days of December was a tour of all four provinces of Ilocandia – Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. What made it tolerable was that I was able to meet up with my Mom in Vigan and Toni finally got to see my hometown for a change. Somehow on official trips like these, my fatigue quickly diminishes when I begin enjoying myself in the company of loved ones. My fourth “firsts” for the year was finally reaching Zamboanga del Norte and seeing Dipolog and Dapitan. While the area is famous for its seafood as well, what I truly cherished was experiencing Rizal’s Dapitan as he lovingly wrote about it. Dakak resort was also a sight for sore eyes and really impressed me.
With the Christmas travel rush slowly bearing down, I noticed the airport become more crowded and frenetic than usual. Utterly exhausted, I refused to do any more travelling and made my Bicol run the last for the 2013. While I caught part of its local food festival, I was in too much of a hurry to get back to Manila already to begin my own holiday preparations.
2013 was year for “ending” some relationships and beginning better partnerships. It also meant being confident enough to strike out on my own, being patient and relying on my own abilities. Some people tested my mettle and showed me who I really was. Some friends also showed me the value of their friendships and I realized the importance of spending time with family and loved ones. 2013 taught me what a Life is truly made of – and those are each and every significant little moments that comprise our everyday.