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Stories from Samar

LGBTQ+ narratives from the town of San Julian were told in a virtual exhibit, ‘Tigaman: Telling Stories, Telling Life,’ bringing to fore a diversity of voices and lived experiences

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Queen Reyienne Camartin

During Holy Week, San Julian Pride Advocacy Group, an LGBTQ+ organization in the costal town of San Julian in the central portion of the province of Eastern Samar, presented a virtual exhibit posted on its Facebook page.

“Tigaman: Telling Stories, Telling Life” was released in four installations from 1 to 4 April, featuring seven stories each.

Johane Tiu

“Tigaman is a Waray word that means ‘emblem’ or ‘symbol,’ a marker that sets one apart.

These stories are what make us unique as gay men, trans women, bisexuals and queers,” explained San Julian Pride founder Roel Andag. “Each storyteller owns their story; they embrace it like a badge. These stories show the uniqueness of each personal journey. At the same time, they tell us what are common in our human experience: struggle, identify, sacrifice, success, life, loss and love.”

“We hope that our Tigaman stories can serve as points for reflection, empathy and even inspiration,” he added.

The real-life narratives were mostly expressed in Waray, the predominant language in Eastern Visayas, which mainly consists of the islands of Leyte and Samar. The stories of the Holy Week exhibit were culled from their previous project, “Tigaman,” which collected numerous, different stories of LGBTQ+ persons in their locality and the lived experiences of the group’s members from 2018 to 2019, posting them, one every week, in their Facebook page.

Menan Elardo Singson

“Tigaman” started on April 1, Maundy Thursday, with the stories of Pablo Colico (“Anod han Inup”), Pauline Abaratigue (“Tattoo), Randy Lazaro (“Pagbangon”), Julius Luteria (“Sa-ad”) and Marino Organista (“Love and Letters”), telling their experiences, some of them love stories.

In “Concubine’s Conscience,” trans woman Ririh Ganda recounted her a fling with a married man, which was more pleasant and also sad.

Mano Itchai Orcuse Moscosa, in “#lovewins”, related his relationship: “Isa pang masasabi kong highlight ay noong ipinakilala ko siya sa family ko at ipinakilala nya ako sa eldest sister nya.

Ang parents nya sa phone ko pa lang nakakausap and eventually sa videocall kasi sa US sila naka-base pati ang elder brother nya.

Okay naman so far both sides though ang kuya niya medyo may hesitations pa sa relationship namin at naiintindihan ko naman iyon kasi youngest sa magkakapatid ang partner ko (Another highlight is when I introduced him to my family and he introduced me to his eldest sister. I only met his parents through phone call and eventually through video call because they are based in the US with his elder brother.

Jordan Caraga

It was okay on both sides though his brother had hesitations about our relationship, and I understand because my partner is the youngest among the siblings).”

The following day, 2 April, the organization released seven more stories including ones on sex, sexual assault, aspirations and love in different forms.

photographs courtesy of san julian pride advocacy group
Pauline Abaratigue

“Nanay Tatay” by Judy Operario was about adoption and single parenting, recounting experiences of raising a child: “Masaya at mahirap maging isang ina at ama pero sulit ka na kapag nandiyan ang anak mo sasalubong sayo pag uwi mo. Walang katumbas na saya at ligaya.”
In “Barangay Love,” Milkie Pomarca divulged his bittersweet love story.

“Feeling ko kapag ang isang lalaki pinakitaan natin ng kabaitan kahit gay tayo natututunan nila tayong mahalin.

Kasi dumating sa point na pinagseselosan niya na lahat ng ina-add ko sa FB, maski sa text. Naging baliktad lahat na dapat ako ang gumagawa ng ganun.

First season ng relationship namin ako ang nagbibigay ng pera then kalagitnaan bigayan na kami – pag meron siya nagbibigay siya, pag wala siya ako naman. Sa sobrang mahal na namin isa’t isa nag plano kami mag live in pero sad to say nagka baranggayan (I think that men, if we show them kindness, even if we are gay, are capable of loving us.

Ria Sebollino

Because there came a point when he got jealous on anyone I added on FB and even the ones I texted to. I was supposed to be like that but it was the other way around. In the first part, I gave him money but midway we gave each other.

If he had some money, he gave me and when he had none, I gave him. We were so in love that we were planning to live together but, sad to say, we ended up in the barangay hall),” he wrote.

“Sa may Blumentritt nangyari yung nag usap usap kami sa barangay pati parents at mga kapatid niya hiwalayan ko daw si Kevin.

Iyak ako ng iyak nung tym na yun kasi mahal ko na talaga siya pero ang good dun is niya. Kung pwede ko lang irecord lahat ng sinabi niya sa barangay lalanggamin talaga ako, di ko po inexpect yun (It was in Blumentritt in the barangay hall when we met his parents and siblings, who said that I should leave Kevin.

Xyrus Anthony Beraye Tombado

“I was always crying at that time because I really loved him. It was a good thing that Kevin defended me in front of his parents. If I recorded his words at the barangay hall, I would attract ants. I did not expect it).”

The Good Friday installment of short personal essays also included “Kurtina” by Chelito Jaradal; “Hi Melody han Panahon han Militarisasyon” by Melody Banaldia; ‘Future Designs” by Queen Reyienne Camartin; “Golden Kuhol” by Philippe Corado; and “Kasisidman” by Kendyle Andrade Pajado On Black Saturday, Tigaman stories included Johane Tiu’s story coming from a “broken family.” In “Unbroken,” she narrated: “Dara nga broken family kami mas natatagan lugod ak hin pagigin positive para ma-achieve ko it ak mga goals, para hingadto ak hin kaupayan.

RIRIH Ganda

Asya dama it naghahatag ha ak hin rason kun kay ano nga nagigin matapang ak ha kinabuhi. Asya it ak binabasaran, asya nala it ak ginhuhuna-huna. An ak pinaka-worst nga na-experience han nagbubulag pala hira, 14 years old ak. 18 na ak yana. Kay nakita ko an aktuwal nga pagkastigo ni Tatay kan Nanay. Malain an ak inaabat, nanluluya ak pero nasiring ak nga kakayahon ko in.

Milkie Pomarca

Nasuporta hi Nanay hit ak ka bayot (Our being a broken family is giving me a reason to be positive so that I can achieve my goals, to be a good person. It also gives me a reason to be strong in life.

My worst experience was when they separated. I saw how my father physically hurt my mother. I was 14 years old then. I am 18 years old now. I felt so bad then. I felt weak but I said to my self that I have to endure it. My mother supports me being gay).”

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF SAN JULIAN PRIDE ADVOCACY GROUP
Melody Banaldia

On the other hand, Xyrus Anthony Beraye Tombado, in “Biyahe,” recounted his heart-rending experience coming to Metro Manila, becoming jobless and homeless.

“Habang nasa bus ako iniisip ko lahat kung anong buhay ang haharapin ko sa lungsod. Wala akong baong pera. Nakarating kami ng Maynila pero hindi kami tinanggap ng magiging amo namin dahil daw bakla kami. Napilitan akong sumama kay Ervin sa Parañaque sa kapatid (During the bus ride, I imagined the life I was going to face in the city.

I did not have any money. We arrived in Manila but we were not accepted by our boss because we are gay. I was forced to go with Ervin in Paranaque, to his sibling),” he related.

Randy Lazaro

Other stories included “Bayot, Babaye, Gugma” by Phony Pascua, Jr., about having a gay man having a relationship with a woman; “Kaligayahang Nakaipit” by Alias Ipitinna, about a sexual episode; “Panalong-Panalong Tinapay” by Edgie Calinaya about his rise from poverty; “Ako ngan HIV” by Jordan Caraga, about undergoing an HIV test; and “Tatay, Hain ka?” by Ria Sebollino, about longing for a father.

The last installment, on Easter Sunday, comprised stories revolving around themes of self-identity, coming out, mental health, beauty pageants, escapism, and a wedding in the essays “Tuig nga Pag Gawas” by Rosas de Baybay; “Journey” by Joel Desalin Colongon; “Happy Ending” by Baby Tsina; “Forever Beauty Queen” by Julianna Altamerano Palada; “Siplat Han Rebelde” by Raicah Erica Suasba; “Trans at Totoo” by North Dixie; and “Tell Me About Yourself…” by Menan Elardo Singson.

These diverse voices and experiences have always been ignored and erased just because of their gender. Now, it is time that they tell their stories.
“We will document more Tigaman stories. We are determined to have them published in book form,” Andag said.

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