Last year Forbes Magazine named Ricky Reyes as one of the Heroes of Philanthropy in the Asia-Pacific Region. Ricky himself grew up in poverty and worked as a hair sweeper to support his family. He opened his first hair studio in 1970 and grew his business into an empire from his humble shop. Today there are over forty Ricky Reyes salons throughout the country. Ricky also makes it into most homes on his weekly variety television show Gandang Ricky Reyes.
Ricky’s non-profit work includes a job training program in the beauty industry and a halfway home for children with cancer. Forbes noted him for feeding for two weeks about 50, healing 000 victims of the Typhoon Ondoy, a national disaster which caused more than $1.09 billion dollars in damage in 2009.
We join him in one of his many homes in the Philippines for an up close interview. Once we pass through security, we see a line of photographs taken of him with a series of Asian presidents, first ladies, and even our own Hilary Clinton. Ricky enchants world leaders and journalists while also identifying with the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. When Ricky comes to meet us, he invites us to sit on the couch with him and take our time.
VIDEO: Check out to see what Ricky has to say about family, Filipinos, and philanthropy. …
Throughout the Philippines, people call Ricky “Mother” because of his charitable work. Ricky tells us, “Even the President calls me ‘Mother’. I love to do mothering. I think being a mother to a lot of people is the most wonderful job.”
Ricky says, “I didn’t go to college, only high school, but I’ve done what I want in life. Every January through March I go to all graduating public high schools. I always tell them that life is beautiful and full of hope. I came from a broken home but I made my life beautiful.”
Ricky also paves the way for gay youth as a model they can identify with. He says, “I knew I was gay at ten when I had a crush on my playmate. My older brothers used to whipped me to try to make me a straight person. Now I have what I always wanted…to be gay and to be respected. People have to respect each other.”
After 34 year together with his partner and four adopted children, Ricky certainly feels that he has it all and lots to give. Jenni and I pack up after our interview and Ricky surprises us with some of his own mothering. He invites us to the next room where he has a large breakfast prepared to eat with him and his daughter. He then asks one of his drivers to drop us off back home. Thank you mother.
One of our very own Supergays, ed writer and poet Cheryl Dumesnil contributed this article to Out & Around. We love her as our California correspondent writing about the crossroads of parenthood, thumb lesbians and suburbia.
“Things to Do Today: Return Library Books, information pills Buy Milk, Eradicate Injustice”
6:00a.m. Stumble out of dark bedroom, wincing at lights turned on by earlybird wife. Kiss wife. Pour coffee. Procure smartphone. Squint at email, waiting for middle-aged eyes to focus. Read message from Equality California: Court hearing arguments today regarding standing in Proposition 8 case; demonstration this morning at Supreme Court Building. Consider list of things to do:
Drop off big kid at school
Convince four-year-old running errands is fun
Return library books (See? Fun!)
Buy Wizard of Oz tickets (See? Fun!)
Choose gift for upcoming birthday party (See? Fun!)
Buy groceries (Okay, maybe not so fun.)
Reward four-year-old for cooperating with errands
Pick up big kid at school . . .
Between “drop off” and “convince,” insert “demonstration.” Inform wife of plan. Explain (again) that “hearing on the question of standing” means that California’s Supreme Court will decide if the backers of Prop 8 have the authority to defend the proposition in federal appeals court, in place of California’s governor and attorney general, who have refused to do so. If the court sides with Prop 8 proponents, the appeals process could go on for years, but if they side with equality advocates, California’s queer couples can tie their knots much sooner. Cross fingers for luck. Hear kid feet padding down hallway. Commence morning routine.
8:30a.m. When four-year-old hears the word “demonstration,” he disappears into garage and returns with kid-sized, “Vote No on Prop 8” sign, circa 2008. Chants “Vote no on Prop 8!” while marching circles around dining room table. Explain (again): people have already voted, so now we say, “Prop 8 isn’t fair!” Four-year-old persists, “Vote no on Prop 8!” the rally cry of his toddler years. Shrug. Continue hunting for car keys, stuffing snacks into purse.
9:15a.m. After searching for non-existent parking space near Walnut Creek BART, park half-mile away and hike, piggybacking kid who has started demonstrating early, waving his sign at passing cars, shouting “Vote no on Prop 8; NO FAIR!” Notice slight discomfort edging into psyche. Wonder what will happen if someone shouts back. Consider asking child to stop. Remember that “announcing” is child’s favorite activity. Remember single item on child’s birthday wish list: a megaphone. Decide to let child shout.
9:25a.m.Child continues demonstration while waiting for train. Bemused thirty-something commuter asks why she should vote no. Child shrugs, “Because it’s not fair.” Wonder what steely-faced, business-suit guy is thinking. Take cue from child: decide not to care.
10:05a.m. Speed walk toward Supreme Court Building, holding hands with four-year-old skipping to keep up, still waving sign. Notice, on the building’s steps, dozens of anti-equality signs and zero marriage equality advocates. What the . . . ? Feel grateful the big kid, who reads signs and asks questions, is at school. Affect nonchalant tone when telling four-year-old, “Huh, I don’t see any ‘no’ signs, only ‘yes’ signs.” Smile when he holds his sign up higher. Say, “There you go, buddy, nice job,” while wondering if it’s okay to walk with one’s child into the mouth of a dragon.
10:07a.m. Walk with child into mouth of dragon, trusting well-honed ability to respond properly if things go wrong. Notice previously unseen flock of press photographers emerging from shadows to follow “cute kid with No on 8 sign.” Switch into parent-activist multitasking mode: monitor anti-equality protestors’ activities, spell last name for reporters, agree to be available via phone for radio interview at 11:00a.m., while never, not once, not even for a second, taking eyes off kiddo who is now side-stepping along a low ledge in front of the building, pretending to be Bert from Mary Poppins, singing “Step in Time,” his No on 8 sign slung over his shoulder like a chimney sweep’s broom. Wonder, Where the hell are our people?
10:27a.m. Find out our people are inside the building, in an auditorium, watching the hearing via live-video-feed. Decide to join them. Walking toward entrance, hear an anti-equality demonstrator shout, “Another child victim of biological engineering!” Whisper to child victim, “We’re going to ignore that man.” When C.V. asks, “Why?” explain, “Because he’s not making good choices.” C.V. solemnly agrees. C.V.’s other mama is a behavioral therapist; C.V. knows all about putting maladaptive behaviors on extinction.
10:45a.m. After testing out theater seats in front, middle, and back of auditorium, then marveling over cone of light stretching from projector booth in back of room to screen in front, child protester is done with this whisper-only space. In moments between kid activities, notice pro-equality lawyer on screen appeared to be getting his ass handed to him on a plate by a Supreme Court Justice. Wonder if this assessment is correct. Hope it’s not. Emerge from quiet zone, promising visit to Civic Center Plaza playground.
10:49a.m.Find Playground #1 overrun by pigeons and poop. Proceed to Playground #2. Notice padlocked gate. Avoid child meltdown by talking up the BART ride home, making it sound more fun than six playgrounds plus a waterslide. Descending elevator to BART station, realize that cell phone reception will cut off right when radio interview is scheduled. Decide to be mom instead of activist, bury cell phone in purse, ask kiddo, “Should we walk, hop, or skip to the train?” Skip to train.
11:35a.m. Arrive at Walnut Creek BART station. Check voice mail. Reporter has rescheduled interview for noon. Check clock. Check list of things to do. Check kid. Calculate plan: take the green bus (fun for kid) to the bagel store (food for kid), so by noon he should be busy eating (time for interview). Activate plan.
12:10p.m. Food consumed, kid reports, “That radio lady didn’t call you.” Strategize new plan: walk to toy store to buy birthday present, give interview while kid plays with train table. Prepare to execute plan: sling purse over shoulder, sling kid onto back, phone rings. Return kid to chair, beg “please don’t interrupt while I’m talking,” answer phone. Place two paper napkins and a pen in front of kid, while assuring reporter “now is a good time.” Kid rejects pen, decides instead to pretend to take money out of bagel store ATM and distribute it amongst bagel store patrons. Answer reporter’s questions while assessing whether patrons find kid cute or annoying. Finish interview.
1:06p.m. Child continues demonstrating, carrying No on 8 sign into toy store, theater box office, library, and now grocery store. Shopping cart becomes Pride Parade float, rolling through aisles. Elderly gentleman approaches child in frozen food section, says, “Vote no? Okay! I will!” An activist parent’s favorite moment: when the kiddos realize the power of their actions. Ask gentleman, “Because he told you to?” Gentleman responds, “No, because it’s the right thing to do.” Even better. Kid raises sign higher, smiling all the way to produce department.
1:59p.m. In school parking lot, waiting for big kid to emerge from classroom, check smartphone for news about hearing. Find headline: “Justices Seem to Side with Backers of Prop 8.” Damn it. Notice junior protester nodding off in car seat, sign fallen to floor. Whisper, “Rest up, kiddo. We’ve got more work to do.”