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#TalkOnTW: LGBTQI+ Community in PH

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DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect that of TomasinoWeb, its members, its officers, and the University.

The House of Representatives, voting 197-0, had already approved on third and final reading its version of the bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE), which involves provision of equal rights to members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

However, the measure has yet to face difficulty in the Upper Chamber as some senators remain in the opposition of its passage. To note, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, a staunch Catholic, stated that there is still hope for the SOGIE bill, but only if its “controversial provisions” are resolved.

These controversial provisions for Sotto include the removal of dress codes and allowing members of the LGBT community to dress based on their SOGIE; the use of restrooms on the basis of SOGIE; and the “encroachment into religious and academic practices.”

Christian groups in the country, moreover, strongly condemned the bill’s motion, saying homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible, and violates the present Constitution. Jesus Is Lord (JIL) founder Brother Eddie Villanueva even affirmed during a JIL-led movement: “Same-sex marriage is an abomination to God. The Bible is so clear about the man marrying another man. This will invite kinds of curses that we cannot contain in our generation.”

Yet, even as denunciation and dissent continue to occur, the recent years of the country saw the rise of concerns toward and battles against LGBT—now LGBTQI+ (Queer and Intersex+)—discrimination: In 2016, the first trans legislator had been elected. Pop culture has now become positively gayer than before. Pride flags splash their colors everywhere. Not only the LGBTQI+ community but its supporters as well now march in solidarity—for equality.

On another note, in 2013, Pope Francis himself had asserted that gay people should not be marginalized but integrated in the society. The Pope expressed: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

With Pride Month nearing its end and preparations for Pride March are on the works, TomasinoWeb sparked an online discussion regarding the state of the LGBTQI+ community in the country. The following are the thoughts of the students on the issue:

 

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Opinion

Social distancing’s more than one meter

There is something almost sacred about Duterte’s absolutism: his iron-fisted governance must be upheld at all costs because blind subservience to his authority is the only way to survive.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is recommended to maintain a meter of distance from someone who’s coughing or sneezing. We call this social distancing. Alongside other safety measures, we do this to prevent ourselves from contracting the new coronavirus.

However, social distancing kills the ordinary Filipino; it breathes life to the greedy and the unjust at the expense of our lives.

A picture of a barangay captain beside a dog cage filled with curfew violators circulated on the Internet a few days ago. Although it is already gruesome at first sight, the existence of the coronavirus pandemic makes the picture look worse. Another set of curfew violators are bound to be seated on monoblock chairs under the heat of the sun. If coronavirus won’t kill you in that scenario, heatstroke will.

How about jail cells filled with prisoners? Given the situation of prisons and correctional institutions, there’s no way wardens and prisoners could survive the pandemic. How about public hospitals full of patients waiting to be tested? How about our ate and kuya GrabFood drivers who courageously go back and forth just to deliver that Jollibee Burger Steak you ordered yesterday?

Meanwhile, various government officials are being tested despite the majority of them showing no signs of symptoms. Some celebrities and social media influencers are treating the pandemic as a way to “reconnect with nature” and to “spread good vibes”. Those people we are supposed to look up to are reaping the benefits of their privilege while being detached from the struggle of the majority.

This is another manifestation of social distancing—a barrier of apathy that divides the fortunate and the damned. 

When President Duterte declared the enhanced community quarantine, an obvious disregard for a pro-people provision was evident. Those who are bound to lose jobs due to the quarantine are left empty-handed in their homes. Health workers are reporting shortages in personal protective equipment, only to be “debunked” by House Speaker Cayetano as fake news. We lack assurance from the national government because they are disconnected from the people who elected them in their respective posts. 

Moreover, Duterte’s request for emergency powers is a decision worthy of scrutiny from us. Despite being approved by the Congress and the Senate, the ‘Bayanihan’ bill raises a lot of questions due to his track record of inefficiency. We have seen him handle the Marawi crisis through a three-year martial law in Mindanao, but peace and order in that region remain unsolved. How sure are we that Duterte’s newly granted powers can save us?

This is a cycle in Duterte’s governance. When all else fails, he seeks absolute power to provide a solution. Instead of governing through a progressive social praxis, he alienates his constituents away from the government. His draconian approaches are a result of his apathy; his failure to empathize makes him demand obedience without question instead. His privilege has blinded him to become an effective leader during this crisis.

Despite being devoid of social analysis and empathy, Duterte finds himself surrounded with an unrealistic mob of supporters on the Internet. Even a number of your relatives are still fixated with his junta-like leadership. Probably it is due to his “strongman image”— a continuous showcase of dominance. By aligning himself with the gods, he consolidates a near-absolute power in today’s era, where the divine right of kings is far from a legitimate doctrine. 

The current administration is a false religion of its own. Duterte and his lapdogs can’t hear our prayers. No matter how far-fetched the solution, you are required to obey. There is something almost sacred about Duterte’s absolutism: his iron-fisted governance must be upheld at all costs because blind subservience to his authority is the only way to survive.

But even unwavering obedience can’t exempt the masses from suffering. One test kit wasted from a VIP is one test kit deprived from a person under investigation. Your fanaticism to Duterte’s antics won’t help you reach that ten-kilometer grocery due to the cancellation of public transportation services.

While it is not your fault that you are spending the quarantine binge-watching Netflix series, we become contributory to the oppression when we fail to recognize that not everyone is as financially secure as we are. By failing to acknowledge the root cause of the problems plaguing our society, we become enablers of the status quo. Recognizing our part in the greater scheme of things is always a good step, to begin with.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing has remained a fixed variable in the context of the Philippine society—the ever-growing disparity between the rich and the poor makes the former thrive while the latter succumbs into hopelessness. 

However, the revolutionary Filipino spirit remains a nightmare in the fantasies of the elite. If criticism and dissent are heresy to Duterte’s religion, then we are unbelievers cast away from their “salvation”. However, no cult can deliver salvation. Only the masses can genuinely dictate their own fate.

The masses giveth and the masses taketh away.

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Let’s go digital!: How are students dealing with online classes?

“The only problem na nakikita ko so far ay ‘yung mga students na walang stable internet connection and ‘yung mga kulang ‘yung technological resources.”

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The Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) went way beyond everyone’s expectations, with its effects hampering almost every part of our lives. Among the severely affected by this pandemic are students and teachers with classes in Metro Manila now suspended until April 14. With this, some schools including UST have now shifted to online classes.

Since everyone is now encouraged to avoid mass gatherings and public places, this results in being stuck in their homes. But for Thomasians, it’s not just being stuck in their homes, but being inside the digital, online classroom! In our recent #TalkOnTW discussion, students raised their thoughts and concerns in how their one-week online classes go. 

Among the major concerns of students is the poor internet connection in some areas, especially that many are now in their provinces. This affects the audio and quality in live video discussions of professors, and worse, website crashes during online quizzes. Not everyone has access to a reliable internet connection, and some still need to go to computer shops or establishments with WiFi connections to attend online classes. Twitter users @vampy_avy, @d_ddana and @liaaahfrancesca shared their experience on this.

“The only [problem] na nakikita ko so far ay ung mga students na walang stable internet connection and [‘yung] mga kulang [‘yung] technological resources.”

“First online class ko, sa isang coffee shop ako tumambay kasi wala kaming wifi sa bahay. […] Para sa subject na ‘yun medyo keri naman kasi simulation lang naman sa isang software so madali ipakita sa screen kaso may kahirapan pa rin kasi naglalag yung video tapos audio is choppy.”

 “[To be honest], hindi siya ganun ka-effective ngayon at madalas magkaroon ng problema sa [B]lackboard especially sa online quizzes dahil biglang nagc-crash.”

Distractions are just some of the enemies of students in studying. If distractions can plague students inside classrooms, what more if they are studying in their house; in their own rooms! Twitter user @olgamavidaaa also said that pre-recorded video discussions would be a great help in addressing internet connection problems and to better facilitate students’ learning.

“Ang hirap pag madaming distractions while nagdidiscuss. Plus mas maganda sana if pre-recorded nalang ‘yung discussions, considering na ‘di lahat mabilis yung internet connection.”

The conduct of online classes is a thrill and a struggle. Twitter users @GuhitJose, @munizrichard_, and @joellenenene suggest that teachers should focus more on delivering lectures and discussions, whether on live video chat or through pre-recorded videos to better help students understand lessons.

“Hi, [I] think kailangan mag-focus ng mga prof namin sa lecture hindi sa pagbibigay ng worksheet or anything kasi gawa lang kami nang gawa wala kaming natututunan hehehe suggestion lang.”

“Mas magiging effective if recorded [and] downloadable ‘yung mga discussions para mareview ulit again and again.”

“I just think it’s unfair na araw-araw may output […] ‘di naman ganon ‘pag may regular class [ta’s] ‘yung iba puro pagawa lang wala namang paramdam wala ring turo so pa’no nalang[?]”

For Twitter user @jxntxp, the struggle in online classes is not only on the learning part but also physically especially for people with medical conditions like astigmatism and frequent headaches. 

“As a person who has a high myopia and astigmatism, [I] have frequent headaches after almost 8-10 hrs/day of staring in front of my gadgets.”

Online classes also pose challenges not just on weak internet connections, but also on how to properly submit and consult professors. @marcvalmoriaa, a fine arts student, asks how they can submit and consult regarding their plates. 

“Pa’no ako magpapaconsult/submit ng plate[?]”

In the traditional face-to-face classes, students and teachers alike cannot avoid unrelated talks. Which is why Twitter user @gjcco sees online classes as fun and more interactive with less unnecessary chit chats.

“Weird pero mas natuto ako […] and mas interactive ang recit [recitation] in online classes instead [and] nababawasan [d]in unnecessary info ng prof dito.”

But still, our teachers’ efforts despite the struggle brought by the COVID-19 pandemic are still commendable. The weak internet connection did not hamper them to deliver the lessons and provide a fun, wholesome learning environment inside the digital classroom.

“Kudos sa mga teachers na nagtuturo pa rin despite the unstable connection!” Twitter user @rxcangeles said. 

“One word: stressful. […] But our professors made sure that still, it would be a conducive learning environment as much as possible for us and that it would cater to our needs as students!” @zimzalabrm said.

 “…[S]houtout to our profs who are understanding, considerate, and nage-exert ng effort kasi naiintindihan nila kung gano kahirap mag adjust yung lahat. […] Sana po gayahin kayo ng iba,” @bluebeyrries said.

Maybe everyone in the world is now battling against the coronavirus. Our struggles as students brought by this pandemic are just some of the challenges which plague the whole world right now. Outside our digital classrooms, people face bigger problems—from lack of medical support to loss of livelihood. At the end of the day, staying united and vigilant amid this global crisis will make us defeat this pandemic.

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#AbanteBabae: Are women truly recognized?

“We live in a society that calls itself a feminist, but labels women “the second sex” and expects them to nurture, love unconditionally, become catalysts in men’s successes.”

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Lumad children performs during the International Women's Day commemoration at Liwasang Bonifacio on Mar. 8, 2020 | Gwen Dungao/TomasinoWeb

Whether in the family, the workplace, or just about anywhere else, women prove that they are equally capable while staying fearlessly beautiful. Despite changes in women’s role in the society, barriers still remain in their plight to achieve genuine equality and power in a male-dominated society.

Last Sunday, March 8, in line with International Women’s Day, TomasinoWeb launched its #TalkOnTW series to determine whether women are truly recognized in this society. 

Today, women are highly present and capable in different fields. They just as hardworking as everybody else, but for Twitter users @jayzielkhim, @asteroidrain, and @brinisaac_, women receive less credit and are usually seen as ‘weak’ because of the sole fact that they are women:

“Mayroong pagkilala pero hindi ito sapat. We have industries where women work as hard as men yet we still get lesser credit. maraming taon na ang nakalipas pero nakikita parin ang babae na mahina dahil lamang babae siya. Magiging totoo lamang ang pagkilalang ito kung kung magiging pantay ang pagtingin sa babae at lalaki. This “recognition” will only be valid kung hindi na makikita ang babae bilang “babae lang.”

 

“Hangga’t ang isang babae ay tinitingnan mula sa lente ng kanyang kasarian at hindi dahil sa kanyang kakahayang maghain ng kotribusyon sa lipunan, ang babae ay hindi sapat na kinikilala at pinaglalaanan ng malayang karapatan sa pag-abante.”

“The society only recognizes them when they just want to. Women have done so many things but the people do not give them enough recognition.”

For @ribbitjuseyo, the continued promotion of feminist concepts and advocacies contribute a lot in awakening women’s consciousness in their oppression. Moreover, for @clnrhth, our current society which now calls itself ‘feminist’ still labels women as “the second sex” and only serves as “catalysts in men’s success”. The patriarchy still actively impedes a woman’s journey to move forward.

“We live in a society that calls itself a feminist, but labels women “the second sex” and expects them to nurture, love unconditionally, become catalysts in men’s successes. Women will never be recognized enough, not until we destroy what men wrote about us in history books.”

“Our experiences as women, the movements we make to empower women, feminist concepts and advocacies that promotes women all contributes to awaken the women’s consciousness on their oppression, but it’s never enough to go way forward if we don’t fight what defiles us—[patriarchy].”

But the fight does not end with recognition. Greater discrimination happens to transwomen and women of color. Twitter user @alyssatngsng notes that the patriarchy greatly proliferates these notions on women.

“Not enough that we are recognized. we still have a long way to pave for major issues placing discrimination on trans women and women of color are still pushing thru despite this revolution, and most of the time these are caused by the patriarchy which carelessly labeled us, women

Women’s plight does not end on them alone. For Twitter user @cheskska, the struggle of farmers, workers and LGBT+ is also the fight of women, the fight of the society as a whole. Twitter user @biancalabraque also urged other women to show the world that being a such is not a weakness, and that they must stand up together on higher ground.

“Kulang pa. Hindi mahihiwalay ang laban ng mga magsasaka, manggagawa at LGBTQ+ sa laban ng kababaihan dahil ang laban ng isang sektor ay laban ng lahat. Hangga’t may babaeng nasa laylayan at patuloy na pinagsasamantalahan, hindi pa tayo tunay na malaya.”

Are women recognized now? Yes. Are they recognized enough? Not yet. In our current fight to show the world that us being a woman isn’t a weakness, may we continue to become models to younger generations that women deserves to stand up on a higher ground”

Women are an inspiration. Their presence and contribution to our society is overwhelming that many times, it is often overlooked and unfairly recognized. It may seem that the current societal landscape has been more accepting and ‘woman-friendly’ than ever, but discrimination still lingers, and is continually proliferated by the patriarchy. The fight for true equality and empowerment for all despite differences in gender, race, color, and religion is everyone’s fight. With that, we are slowly erasing the notion that many have with women. Yes, society is finally starting to acknowledge the achievements made by women, but the fight for recognition and equality must not stop, for it still has a long way to go.

 

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