Enter Doods, a pediatrician for northern Luzon. Doods is a late bloomer, having only dated in the early 1990s, long after graduating from medical school and having a private practice already.
Doods is conservative, believing in true love — one that demands preserving one’s self for the special one or that special first night. While Doods has the uncanny habit of falling for straight men, he also has fallen in love, and fallen real hard, twice with men of the same name — James. We all know when Doods is in love because he talks in a high-pitched voice and is constantly giddy. He is also rarely to be found.
Doods, like Melvin is generous when it comes to the men they love, so generous they border on spoiling the men. He is willing to forgo sex if the “partner” does not want it. This has been the source of strife among our other friends. Some have chided Doods for being naïve and pa-girl, saying that the Jameses were only after the material blessings bestowed on them. Doods has nonetheless kept his ground.
He is secure with his job, and the independence it gives him. He is mindful of his health. Most importantly he is optimistic that one day his prince will come.
Ramon is another doctor, among the top in his field, based in northern Luzon. Like Raje, Ramon seems to be always in the throes of a relationship, his present and more serious one being fostered over the past nine years. He and his lover do not live in together, but see each other at least once weekly, his lover having gotten married a few years back. A near confrontation between Ramon and his lover’s wife occurred on the eve of his lover’s wedding. Today we believe the wife knows but has kept a blind eye and deaf ears to preserve her sense of dignity, if not, her sanity.
During Ramon’s lover’s son’s baptism we all went to the province in full force to witness what promised to be a dramatic encounter. Decorum and civility, however, prevailed despite Ramon’s obvious anxiety. He admittedly was more tense than either his lover or his lover’s wife. The customary picture-taking was one for the books though. Ramon, his lover, the lover’s wife and the son cradled in Ramon’s arms, all three beaming from ear-to-ear at the altar, forever etched on our memories.
Ramon is tall, sports a mustache and if observed without actually hearing him talk can pass for a man. He has the unflinching fantasy of being a woman. When it comes to sex, he takes on the passive, receiving role and even refuses to be touched or pleased “down there.” He says he gets turned-off when touched down there as if his fantasy or self-image was being shattered.
JJ is a professor and researcher/writer. He espouses progressive politics that carries on to his private life. He believes that for a relationship to work out, both parties have to have some semblance of equality in all aspects. JJ is also steadfastly adamant when it comes to relationships wherein one is there for obvious material reasons. He says relationships should be founded on mutual trust, honesty, love and a healthy sex life. He is now involved with someone whom we all call Snaffy, after Snaffalafagus, the elusive Sesame Street character, because none of us has ever seen or met this guy. JJ says Snaffy is not yet ready to “come out.”
I shall reveal a little about myself as well. It is a standing joke among my friends that had I been born female, I would have gotten married right after high school to the perfect husband. I would have moved into a nice bungalow with a two-car garage, a white picket fence, raised some kids, have dogs, joined the PTA, cook and do crafts and gardening in my spare time. In short, my ambition/fantasy was to be a housewife. But I did go to university and occasionally joined pickets in white shirts and jeans, helped fence-off the campus in protest against a tuition hike, lived in a bungalow in El Nido, Palawan, but the only garages I’d been in were those of seedy motels in Pasay between my stressful production days in film. Oh, but I did eventually own a dog, Takeshi, who was a mongrel given to me by a friend.
I have never been in any relationship. I had lots: in the figments of my imagination when I was in elementary, high school and college. These boyfriends were good looking, athletic, loving, sweet, smart, funny (Think Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson in Hardy Boys). The problem with me is that I value my independent spirit too much to even endanger it by getting into a serious relationship. I also have a hard time sustaining budding romances. Deep down it is my unwillingness or incapacity to commit myself. I am a “commitment-phobe.”
My ideal relationship would be with someone who can make me laugh, talking to me endlessly on any topic or various topics till the wee hours of the morning. Someone who loves books, art, film. Someone who works and works out because why not?! Someone who at a moment’s notice will be willing to pack a bag and head to the beach or hie off to the mountains. Someone who in the morning would tell me he loves me. Someone who doesn’t live with me. My ideal mate would have to have a life of his own.
Getting together once a month is fine with me as I have other concerns to ponder, projects to complete and places to go to. We do not have to live together or see each other or talk or even send corny text messages or emails everyday. Once a month is fine for my heart.
So what do all these have to do with adobo? Filipino gays (and lesbians) and the men (and women) we seek, the relationships we have with them, like adobo, are varied. But the essential ingredients are present. Bill, Melvin, Raje, Doods, Ramon, JJ and I share a bond. We are all in our 30’s, witty, loving, great lovers of good food and wine. We cry at sad movies, sing with our favorite divas, dance upon hearing favorite beats. We watch beauty pageants and exchange beauty tips. We have had our share of heartaches and triumphs. We delight in our little dreams and cry with each other during bad breaks. This bond is born out of mutual respect for each other. Sometimes we are envious of each other’s time, seeking each other’s attention when depressed. But we also give each other the space, support and empathy.
So what does the Filipino gay/lesbian of today want? We simply want to be. To be able to love on our own terms. But to love, nonetheless. Because, to quote Ntozake Shange, “Our spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul and gender. Our love is too delicate to have thrown back on our faces.”
Let me now share with you Melvin’s adobo. It is made up of pieces of pork liempo covered just enough with a mixture of light vinegar, water, brown sugar, whole peppercorns, a leaf or two of dried laurel, green sili and a little salt. He lets this simmer uncovered over medium heat. When the liquid has almost evaporated completely, Melvin proceeds to pour in the soy sauce and turns down the heat to low. When the sauce thickens, it is in this stage where my variation of Melvin’s adobo takes place. I take out the pieces of meat (and potatoes) and quickly fry them on hot oil to give them a crisp outer texture while preserving the soft, moist inner part. Then I return the pieces to the original sauce. Just before serving, Melvin scatters crushed fresh garlic over the adobo. Feel free to improvise the dish. Our battle cry: Adobo ka ba?!
I wrote this piece in 2002 but never sent it for publication till now. All names have been changed to preserve the friendships fostered. They have no idea about this. But so much has happened since 2002. Bill has gone back and forth to Manila from Australia. He will be leaving again in four months. Melvin is still active in advertising and theater and as of last time we talked is seeing someone “really special.” Raje has broken up recently with his boyfriend of five years but is seeing three others on a less serious mode. Doods hasn’t aged one bit and is making his workouts and health his top priority these days. Ramon is still in good terms with his lover and helps raise the kid. In the meantime, Ramon is seeing some gorgeous guy from out-of-town on a monthly basis for the past two years. JJ has left Snaffy even before we were plotting to “out” the bastard. JJ is now living-in with a new guy. And he has just passed his doctorate.
I am based in Manila now for good after a fall-out with my older, homophobic brother. I still am involved in production but would like to pursue writing on a more regular basis. Raje and I are apartment-hunting right now.