Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Celebrating and Recognizing Trans-Pinay Rights

By Nicole Silvestre

Women's month is a celebration of women’s success and contribution to our society. Inclusion has been a long standing issue in the movement towards equality, and for LGBTQIA+ women it is a bigger struggle to remain visible. During dictatorship in the 1980’s, the lesbian community struggled to be visible to the public due to subsumption of their rights between women’s rights that were previously heterosexual in nature and gay movement that previously regarded them as female version of homosexual men. It is already 2019 and the same struggles can be seen happening in the trans community.

Photo by Raine Cortes
History of Trans Women in the Philippines

Contrary to popular belief, transgender women or trans women did not just pop-up in the 20th century. Several accounts in Philippine history prove that trans women had played important roles in our society even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines. The most popular of which are the Babaylans or Visayan Shamans, who were respected by the community because of the belief that they have the ability to heal and the authority to speak with divinities.

In Luzon, we also have the Lakapati of Tagalog mythology, who is known as the Transgender Goddess of Golden Rice and Fertility in pre-colonized Philippines. Our ancestors believed that personification of Lakapati as intersex has been attributed to the indigenous view that an intersex shows the 'balance deemed by nature'. This may be the reason why Lakapati became the second most loved deity by the people, next to the supreme deity Bathala.

In efforts of spreading Catholicism in our country, priests made the people believe that the gender-crossers were witches, which led to prosecution for some. As a result, our beliefs of pre-colonial deities gradually faded and seemed to have become myths.

Fast forward to today, Filipinos are fascinated by the beauty of trans women. Difficulty in distinguishing trans women from cis gender women has been a point of pride for trans women - being called“passable” or “babaeng babae (so girly), walang bahid (passable), walang buking (no trace of being a man)”.

Photo by Nicole Silvestre
It is also to this fascination of their beauty that pageants became the typical platform for trans women to showcase their beauty and talents, which has also become the main source of income to some. Filipinos undeniably love beauty pageants. As specified by Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, it is one of our 3 B’s along with basketball, boxing. But does this mean that Filipinos have already accepted trans women and recognized their rights in our society? Or is it mere tolerance and not necessarily acceptance?

Photo by Bubbles Rosos

What makes a woman a woman?

When Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen was asked about the essence of being a woman, she answered, “Just being a woman is God’s gift that all of us must appreciate. The origin of a child is a mother, and is a woman. She shows a man, what sharing, caring and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.”

This answer has been hailed as one of the best answers in the history of Miss Universe pageant but has also become the basis for the usual argument of people who refuse to regard trans women as “real women”.

It is important to note that both cisgender and transgender women have estrogen, or female hormones in their bodies. In this sense, both can be identified female even before genitalia was formed inside their mother’s womb. Also, even the bearing a child argument cuts off cis women who are unable to bear children. With the arguments being considered, it is not really a physical matter at this point. Perhaps, we should consider looking at the definition of a woman in terms of gender, which is a cultural and social construct.

Thus, being a woman is more than having female genitalia or having the ability to give birth, it is more of how one identifies herself. Lack of in depth understanding of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) is usually the root cause of apathy towards trans women’s fight for recognition. By definition, transgender women are women whose identity, expression, behavior, or self-perception do not conform with the assigned sex at birth.

Becoming Politically Recognized

Some trans women have made their mark and became popular in mainstream media. We witnessed the coming out and transitioning of BB Gandanghari and Angie King, listened to the TED talk of Geena Rocero, elected Heart Diño in USC of UP Diliman and Geraldine Roman in the Congress, and tuned in to the stories of Rica Paras in Pinoy Big Brother and Mela Habijan in ‘Asawa Ko, Karibal Ko’. While their contributions can be regarded as a step forward, their presence at the limelight still cannot invalidate the horror stories that normal trans women are still experiencing.

Photo by Raine Cortes
It is not uncommon to hear stories of trans women experiencing harassment and discrimination on a daily basis. In seeking for employment, trans women are often forced to choose working in sub-standard labour conditions due to discrimination that prevents them from accessing formal employment. Some universities and companies enforce dress codes that are restrictive of trans women’s choices.

In 2018 alone, the following ignorant incidents against trans women happened in the country:
  • A trans woman was asked by two security guards to leave the courtesy lane designated for women, elderly and persons with disabilities at the Ayala station of MRT-3 as “boys” are not allowed in the said lane.
  • A trans woman was disallowed by an H&M staff from trying on swimsuits because men are not allowed to fit women’s swimwear.
  • Impersonator KaladKaren Davila was denied entry at a bar in Makati for being “gay”.
Aside from these occurrences, there are  trans women who do not have the opportunity to learn about their SOGIE and available services such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The country also still lacks a specific law or policy for providing legal gender recognition for transgender people in general. In fact, RA 9048 (Clerical Error Law of 2001) makes it effectively illegal for transgender persons in the Philippines to change their first name and sex in their birth certificates.

Harassment and discrimination can be harmful to one’s self-esteem, especially to those with trans identities who become targets just for showcasing who they are on a daily basis. The continuous refusal of the government to pass laws and policies, such as the Anti-Discrimination Bill (SOGIE Bill), that recognize the rights of trans women, paves the way to a more non-accepting Philippines.

In today’s society where being different is still considered being less of a human, the women of the LGTBQIA+ community are not asking for any special treatment. What the community hopes to achieve is having an equal opportunity and treatment from everyone. Passage of the SOGIE Bill will not only achieve this, but will also give way to a more inclusive, understanding, and respectful environment. Perhaps by then, everyone will be able to understand what it means when someone say, “Trans women are women”.
Nicole is an openly transgender woman who works in the BPO industry. She is an HIV counselor and an advocate of Trans-rights. She promotes SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression) awareness for everyone to be more gender sensitive most specifically in the LGBT+ community.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Pia Wurtzbach Amplifies Everyone’s Courage at Love Gala 2019

By Love Gala Secretariat

(Manila, Philippines). More than four years after winning Miss Universe 2015, Pia Wurtzbach has remained committed to her causes, especially on HIV awareness campaign as she headlines “Love Gala 2019: Courage Amplified” – an event powered by the LoveYourself, Inc. 

The Love Gala, the Asia’s premier charity and awards event that supports HIV awareness and education campaign, will be held on May 11, at the ABS-CBN Vertis Tent, Quezon City. 

Wurtzbach, a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific, will also be joined by Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who is a volunteer-ambassadress of the LoveYourself – a non-government organization that promotes HIV awareness and education campaign in the Philippines. To join Wurtzbach and Gray on this cause, tickets for the Love Gala are available at

LoveYourself founder and Executive Director Ronivin Pagtakhan said that Wurtzbach was chosen to be one of the Love Gala ambassadresses along with Gray as they both have the strong passion and desire to use their voices on the HIV advocacy. 

“The Love Gala is an opportunity for people to be brave and show their support on the cause. We can all do our part to help minimize the cases of HIV by showing that we are united in our advocacy, and by taking actions to make a difference,” Pagtakhan said. 

The Love Gala continues the global movement by uniting individuals and organizations in a night of exquisite musical entertainment and worthwhile fundraising and a perfect venue for people to learn more about what they can do to support the cause. 

The gala night will also honor outstanding advocates who have greatly contributed to their communities at the second Ripple Awards: five (5) individuals, three (3) organization and one (1) project of the year. 

Institutions and organizations supporting Love Gala are Absolut & Olmeca, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Business Mirror, Cognizant, Department of Health, Durex, Gilead Sciences Inc., F1 Hotel, Inspi Store, Mass TV, MP School, Mont Albo, PhilHealth, Philippine National AIDS Council, Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc., Rotary Club of Quezon City, Save the Children, Shopee, The LoveYourself Incorporated, UNAIDS, Victoria Court and World Health Organization.

Wear Love for More Love

As part of the fundraising activities, Wurtzbach is also one of the faces of the “Wear Love for More Love” shirts – a limited edition tops released by the LoveYourself in partnership with Inspi and online shopping ‘Shopee.’

Comedian and impersonator Kaladkaren Davila also supports the cause. 

The “Wear Love for More Love” merchandise has two distinct designs: The LoveYourself Black Shirt and The Love.Fight.Cure. Red Flip Shirt – these are made of premium cotton, while the shirts' designs are silk-screened with a straight hem. 

For only PhP249.00 you can already help the good cause of the LoveYourself. The shirts come in XS to XL sizes. 

A huge portion of the sales from the LoveYourself merchandise will be used to support the organizations’ free and confidential HIV testing services, awareness programs and community movements like the Love Gala 2019: Courage Amplified. 

So, what are you waiting for? Hurry! Add to cart and purchase the shirts NOW, as it will only last until May 1. The shirts will be shipped at your doorsteps wherever you are in the Philippines. With Diego Rozul and Gian Geronimo


Sunday, March 17, 2019

WEAR LOVE FOR MORE LOVE: Official LoveYourself Merchandise now available on Shoppee

LoveYourself releases Limited Edition shirts to Wear Love for More Love! 

In collaboration with Inspi, this T-shirt for a cause campaign is made available anywhere in the Philippines through online via Shopee. There are two distinct designs: The LoveYourself Black Shirt and The Love.Fight.Cure. Red Flip Shirt

A huge portion of the sales of the shirts will support LoveYourself's free and confidential HIV testing services, awareness programs, and community movements like the Love Gala this May 11, 2019.

These limited edition T-shirts are made from premium cotton. The shirts' design is silk screened, and have a straight hem. 

The shirts have a variety of sizes from XS to XL, which only cost for PhP249.00. 

Hurry! Add to cart now and purchase for this will only last until May 1, 2019. The shirts will be shipped to you wherever you are in the Philippines!

Click the images below to order yours now!

The LoveYourself T-Shirt in Black

Love. Fight. Cure Flip Shirt in Red

Friday, March 15, 2019

Batch Amuma: Taking its First Leap in Battling HIV and the Stigma that Comes with It

By: Rabsin De la Cruz

Batch Amuma serves as LoveYourself’s newest set of Cebu-based volunteers and counselors in the HIV awareness and prevention advocacy.

A few years back, LoveYourself reached out to open a community center in Cebu. Due to the unforeseen factors, the plan was delayed and went back to the drawing board. Now, after years of colloquy comes the realization of a dream as LoveYourself returned with a stronger mission and a long-term vision. On the day of the batch orientation - 10 November 2018, this set of spirited Cebuanos knows that this is the start of something more than just volunteerism. It was the beginning of a legacy coming into a reality. 

A batch of 18 aspiring volunteers went through ‘HIV Counselor Training’ with the help of our Manila representatives: Kahel Sta. Maria and Danvic Rosadiño, together with LoveYourself's pioneer Cebu-based counselors. The trainers proudly produced competent counselors and fire up their burning passion for volunteerism.

Amuma, a Cebuano word which means ‘to nurture’ is a perfect reminder for the volunteers that they are not there just to educate or spread awareness, but also as a support system for individuals or families who are struggling with fear and coping due to the stigma.

Our aspiring warriors listening to Danvic Rosadiño discussing HIV Testing (Counselor Training)

LoveYourself emphasizes the higher level of empathy, patience and support. The organization also highlights the consistency of providing a safe space for everyone who want to learn more about the cause and related topics.


Batch Amuma's logo reflects simplicity and elegance, highlighting two hands that support someone's heart - indeed a demonstration of utmost care.

Vincent John Ratilla redesigned the original logo created by Jan Shaltiel Vincent Estrada. “I thought I can contribute something so I decided to redesign it… The heart symbolizes love which is essential in caring. I shaped the heart like someone is hugging to symbolize genuine care. The hands carrying the heart means volunteerism,” Vincent John said.

LoveYourself WhiteHouse, which is the organization's community center in Cebu, will be opened officially on 27 April 2019. For HIV screening schedules and other inquiries, kindly contact: 09985459823 (Jan) or 09989996247 (Vondraye).

Rabsin de la Cruz, an enthusiast of life and the outdoors. Originally coming from the blogging community, media and fashion roots, he is starting to love a simple life, while trying to give back to the environment and the community.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Pia Wurtzbach Headlines Love Gala 2019

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and text

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Now more than ever, we need to be brave in expressing our love.

Staunchly proving this is Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, who headlines the Love Gala 2019: Courage Amplified.

Love Gala is Asia's premier charity and awards event that supports HIV awareness and education, which will take place on 11 May 2019 at the ASB-CBN Vertis Tent, Quezon City.

Following on the success of the first Love Gala in 2017, this year’s gala night is set to produce an even louder voice for the HIV advocacy. To join this movement, tickets are available here.

Pia is a prominent and vocal advocate of HIV awareness – She is the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia & the Pacific and was also named as an HIV Prevention Ambassador for non-profit organization Aid for AIDS.

Pia is also joined by reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray for the Love Gala. Catriona also champions the HIV-AIDS advocacy by volunteering at LoveYourself, who recently encouraged the women to brave the HIV test in an Open Letter.

Love Gala continues the global movement by bringing together individuals and organizations, all united for a one cause, in a night of exquisite musical entertainment and worthwhile fundraising. It is an event for people to learn more about what they can do to support the cause.

No photo description available.

The gala night will also honor outstanding advocates, who have greatly contributed in their communities at the 2nd Ripple Awards. This will honor three (3) Individuals, one (1) Organization and one (1) Project of the Year.

“The Love Gala is an opportunity for people to be brave and show their support on the cause. We can all do our part to help lower the cases of HIV by showing that we are united in our advocacy and by taking action to make a difference,” he said.

LoveYourself founder and executive director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan hopes the 2019 Love Gala and Ripple Awards will create an even more powerful platform for furthering the HIV advocacy.

The Love Gala 2019 is powered by LoveYourself, which is a group comprised of passionate volunteers who conduct free HIV screening, counseling, and education. The organization's mission is to help others embrace and nurture their self-worth in order to create positive ripples of change in the community. You can also support the event by buying merchandise from here.