A moment for the sunset beauty queens.
First published in Outrage Magazine. Posted with permission.
It was a beauty pageant like no other, with many even seeing it as akin to a slapstick show. But the Miss Golden Gay 2014 highlighted aging among many members of the LGBTQ community in the Philippines, who remain forgotten though they are arguably more in need of support not just from other LGBTQ people but society in general.
The event was not grand, and there weren’t even many in attendance. But the happiness and the sense of belonging felt by those who participated was immeasurable. It was, after all, an afternoon devoted to the lolas of The Home for the Golden Gays.
It was the Miss Golden Gay 2014, held at the Andres Bonifacio High School in Pasay City by Trippers Philippines.
It was a beauty pageant like no other. Arguably, many may see it as akin to a slapstick show. But really, it is more than just the aging beauty and the funny punchlines. It was to showcase the elderly members of the LGBTQ community.
Sixteen lolas participated, each of them had a unique personality and a story to tell. And though they seemed to only flamboyantly parade their wares in front of the audience, the celebratory atmosphere wasn’t lost on them.”
“Alam naman namin na temporary lang itong kasiyahan na ito, kaya we are just living the moment. Dahil pagkatapos nito, babalik na naman kami sa kanya-kanya naming buhay, sa paghahanap ng pagkukuhanan ng sapat na pera para panggastos namin sa araw-araw. Pero kahit na ganito kami, masaya kami. Masaya kami dahil kasama namin ang isa’t-isa kahit na magkakalayo na kami,” Sophia Lorraine, an 85-year-old Golden Gays member, said with a laugh.
GATHERING OF LOLAS
“This is the second year we’ve been doing a project for the lolas of The Home for the Golden Gays,” Joseph Antony Zingapan, secretary general of Globe III cluster of Trippers Philippines, said. “We want to give something back to the community, and with this kind of effort, it only proves that clans, like Trippers Philippines, can have functions beyond merely forming camaraderie.”
The nine-year-old all-gay organization has been making various efforts that, in their own way, reach members of the LGBTQ community who are in need of assistance. After registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) three years ago, their efforts doubled. The gathering of the lolas is proof of this.
Particularly, Trippers Philippines’ effort for the lolas was designed while bearing in mind UNDP’s Millennium Development Goals; one of the eight goals is to focus on the elderly.
“We have an advocacy for the elderly within our community,” Romrico Salgada Luga, national president of Trippers Philippines, said, adding that “we might as well concentrate on them.”
HOME FOR THE ELDERLY
The Home for the Golden Gays officially closed its doors when its founder, Justo Justo (known to many as JJ), passed away last 2012. All its members were asked to vacate the house by the family of JJ, supposedly telling the former residents that “now that Justo is already gone, we’re closing our doors to you.”
“Simula noong nawalan kami ng tirahan, nagkahiwa-hiwalay na kami. May mga iba sa amin na sa kalye na lang natutulog. ‘Yung iba naman, umuwi sa mga distant relatives nila. Nagkakasama-sama lang kami kapag may mga ganitong activities. Kaya we’re very thankful for this wonderful opportunity for us para magkasama-sama uli, and of course, napakalaking tulong para sa amin yung maibibigay nila,” Ramon Busa, president of The Home for the Golden Gays, said.
PERFORMANCE OF THEIR LIVES
The beauty pageant lasted for almost two hours. Some of the lolas continued to perform even after the actual pageant, as everyone waited for the judges to tally the scores. Some of them sang familiar songs from the distant past, and some of them narrated stories, delivered with witty punchlines. At that point, it became unlike other beauty pageants where there is pressure among the contestants to win for winning’s sake.
It became an afternoon for the lolas; an afternoon that, even if brief, eyed to make them smile.
“Hilig ko talaga kahit noong bata pa ako na magsuot ng magagandang damit, mga gowns, ang rumampa sa entablado. At my age, kaya ko pa rin yan. Lahat kami sa Golden Gays, nakakaramadam kami ng panandaliang saya at nakakapagpasaya kami kapag nasa beauty pageants o kapag nasa outreach at ibang activities kami. Pakiramadam namin, kapamilya namin ‘yung mga nanonood at pumapalakpak sa amin. Napupunan nila yung kulang at nawala na sa amin,” 60-year-old Rica Ramasamy said, tearing up.
Five lolas eventually won in the pageant. And as the members of Trippers Philippines crowned the winners, the lolas were happy, some of them even teary-eyed.
And so, even for a while, spotlight was shone on the almost forgotten members of the LGBTQ community.