Today is my mom’s birthday and this month marks the sixth year since we’ve been without her. Mom, page not a day goes by that we don’t remember and miss you.
Twelve years ago I traveled with my grandparents to learn about the country where my mom lived until she was nine. I have such strong memories of my grandma enjoying showing me her hometown and introducing me to her sister and cousins.
I actually knew quite a bit about the Philippines before traveling. I grew up in Daly City, approved California, known as “little Manila.” Soccer moms at my grammar school brought out lumpia instead of oranges during halftime breaks. My mom’s dark skin and fluency in Tagalog gave me a ticket into the culture even though I’m a pretty white mixed mutt (in case you are confused, this is Lisa writing. Jenni is not Filipina as we kept telling everyone there).
I dreaded calling relatives that I haven’t seen in ten years, mainly because I would have to have the awkward conversation about how my mom died and now how my grandma is dying. In addition I needed to sense out if they were gay friendly. “Hello, This is Lisa. I’m Alice’s daughter and Josephine’s granddaughter. I’m coming to visit you with my partner, Jenni.” This was then followed by condolences for my mom’s passing six years ago and my grandmother’s current end-stage Alzheimer’s condition. Luckily, they welcomed the gay partner with no explanation. From the first minute I arrived in the Manila airport, I carried a sad longing for both my mom and grandma. It would have been so much easier to arrive with both of them and just tag along.
VIDEO: What Supergays did we meet in the Philippines? How many cousins does Lisa have? Why is Boracay Lisa and Jenni’s favorite place on this planet? …
But once arriving at my Tita Titing’s house I felt immediately at home, especially around my favorite Filipino dishes. I ate enough lumpia for myself, my mom, and my grandma. We lucked out with the timing, because we arrived for the birthdays of Ting and her sister, Pilita. Our relative Pilita Corales is a famous Filipina singer known as “Asia’s Queen of Songs.” The birthday celebration dinner included a pianist to accompany the family members who sang at a Grammy award winning level.
Pilita made a few easy phone calls to connect us with some Filipino Supergays. We met hair stylist/philanthropist, Ricky Reyes and actor/director, Manny Castaneda, who talked about the ways in which this overwhelmingly Catholic country has dealt with the LGBT community. Without even trying, we kept finding queers everywhere in the Philippines. Without a doubt the hottest women we’ve seen on this trip around the world are a group of transgender fire dancers.
Jenni knew how meaningful the return trip to the Philippines would be for me. After spending a full ten days with my bazillion relatives, we headed to Boracay Island for some alone time. We discovered several restaurants and outdoor activities that we loved. Jenni created the best new chapter in my life by shocking me with a proposal and a love song on the beach. I surprised her with my mom’s diamond wedding ring that I had in my backpack while waiting to propose to her. We both said “yes” to one another truly knowing that this trip is just the beginning to a lifelong journey together. Our friend Krista put together a video of congratulations on the engagement by my family in California. Looking at our pictures of the Philippines, we now see the beginning of our own Filipino family history and can’t wait to return.