Love lives among The Golden Gays
(The Philippine Star) - August 1, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ask them where they live, and they would tell you they live “in love”.

In a small, makeshift room lent to him by the barangay chairman, Lola Rica – donning a cutout shirt for a blouse – peacefully eats lunch and muses about life, its beauty, and their beauty.

“Kapag nagsasama-sama kami, iisa lang ang pinag-uusapan namin: ‘Mas maganda ako sa’yo!’ at pangalawa, ‘Mas marami akong lalaking nakuha kaysa sa’yo!’” Lola Rica bantered.

Lola Rica, 60, whose birth name is Federico Ramasamy, is one of several “Lolas” in a group more popularly known as the “Golden Gays” – elderly gay men were gathered in the spirit of beauty, love, care, freedom, and understanding.

In a rude awakening, the death of their founder, former councilor and LGBT advocate Justo Justo, interrupted their once harmonious lives in a quaint hospice on David Street in Pasay.

“We were devastated,” Lola Rica said in Filipino, when their founder succumbed to spinal problems in 2012.

A bigger loss loomed – they had to vacate the hospice premises immediately.

“Isinasara na namin ang pinto ng Home for the Golden Gays,” Lola Rica recalled hearing JJ’s wife tell a GMA 7 reporter during an interview.

“Hindi na kami pwede sa bahay na iyon,” he said.

After their eviction, the group was left to their own devices – some headed back to their relatives, others who were not lucky enough had to dwell in Pasay’s streets.  The Golden Gays, once together in bliss, were no longer gay.

Fast forward to 2013, Ramon Busa, JJ’s successor, started rounding up the group once again to pick up where they left off. He scoured Pasay and nearby cities to locate each Lola, some of whom had passed on to the other side of the rainbow.

The Golden days

Though still homeless, the Golden Gays still find ways to bring back the golden days through their all-time favorite activity – the beauty pageant. Whenever they chance upon kind-hearted sponsors, Ramon, the undisputed Miss France going by the name “Monique de la Roux”, said that a “BeauCon” had to be done.

“Tuwing may activity, lagi naming nire-request na may beauty contest kasi ang mga lolas mo feeling beauty title holder pa rin, at siyempre, nakaka-energize daw pag rumarampa na ang mga lola!” Ramon said.

Sa araw na yun talagang nawawala ang mga stress ng mga lolas, tumitigil ang ikot ng mundo kaya yung ageing process, stop!” he continued.

Ramon said that compared to other elderly people in hospices, the Golden Gays still feel very much alive.

“Hindi papayag na tawagin sila [ng kamatayan] na ganun-ganun lang! Kailangan rarampa muna’t rarampa,” he said.

Last June 25, the Golden Gays were an honored guest at the Metro Manila Pride March held at the Lapu-Lapu Monument. The sweltering heat did not stop them from donning makeup, wigs, gowns, and high heels, drawing flocks of people to take pictures of and with them.

“Tuwang-tuwa nga yung mga young generation kasi nakita ulit nila yung mga Lolas nila in glaring, kasika-sikatan ng araw!” Ramon said.

The Lolas were not just there to show their wares; they wanted to remind everyone about the necessity of creating an LGBT hospice for elderly people.

“Kailangan nating mag-establish ng isang sanctuary para sa mga LGBT na pag dumating yung ganung panahon o ganun edad, meron silang pupuntahan,” Ramon said.

A home that love builds

Love can only go so far, as the Lolas are still looking for a permanent place to call home. They are hopeful that they will be given attention, maybe after the government finishes its campaign against criminality and drugs. They also hoped to seek an audience with Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, the first transwoman in Congress regarding the plight of elderly LGBT individuals.

“Kailangan namin ng bahay, hospice, para kung saan pwedeng tumira yung matatandang mga neglected na mga bakla na talagang hindi na binibigyang pansin ng mga kamag-anak. Doon na lang kami magsasama-sama,” said Rica.

Once na nagsasama-sama kami, nandun yung sinasabing love, care and understanding. Nararamdaman namin na kahit kami mga bakla, may pag-ibig, may pagmamahal kami sa mga kapwa namin, na hindi namin nakita sa mga magulang o kapatid namin, lalo na ngayong matatanda na kami.”

Though they don’t have a roof over their heads, one thing that can be said is that wherever they are, the Lolas always manage to build a home.

 

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