Over 80 percent of the population in the Philippines supports the Catholic Church, leading to legislation greatly influenced by that religious identity. However, politicians in the Philippines have recently embraced progressive social changes, including consideration of marginalized groups such as the LGBT community.
The world’s only LGBT political party, the Ladlad Party, is seeking three seats in the Filipino Congress in May’s poll.
429Magazine sat down with the spokesman for the pro-gay Philippines organization, Jomar Amores, and speaking exclusively with 429Magazine concerning the issue of religion and LGBT acceptance in the country, is Ladlad political candidate Raymond Alikpala.
Alikpala wrote “Of God and Men: A Life in the Closet,” a volume on being gay and Catholic.
429Magazine: What do you think is the best case scenario for the new Pope in Rome?
Jomar Amores: A Pope that can be pressured by public opinion to fix its own house first before striking out at LGBTs and other people they dislike may be a good scenario with the new Pope. Hopefully the new Pope can prioritize social justice activism even if the cardinals are gender conservatives.
429Mag: What are some of the experiences of Gay Catholics in your organization?
Jomar Amores: We work foremost as LGBT advocates first and we want organized religions to respect our LGBT identities and that is non-negotiable. When it comes down to choosing to subscribe (or not) to the bully pulpit statements of the clergy, many of our Gay Catholics simply ignore the homophobia and go ahead doing drag catholic processions.
429Mag: How have Filipino Politics changed recently in regards to LGBT people?
Jomar Amores: We have made a small victory for Pro-Gay with the Anti-discrimination Bill that has reached the bicameral conference which has combined the House and Senate versions. This accomplishment has been in the making for more than 12 years. Next we will want to get the bill passed after the mid-term elections in May, and also get other cities to pass their own local ordinances.
429Mag: Has there been support for a change in Catholic influenced politics in the Philippines outside the LGBT community?
Jomar Amores: Yes. Pro-Gay is heartened with the multi-sectorial support coming from our straight allies, especially Rep. Teddy Casino who pushed the Anti-discrimination Bill. We are now campaigning for his run for the Senate where he can have a better arena for legislating LGBT rights.
429Mag: I was wondering if you might have any comments on being gay and Catholic?
Raymond Alikpala: I was a closeted gay man for more than 30 years because as a Catholic I believed I had no other choice. When I entered the priesthood at the age of 34, it was there in the novitiate that I had an encounter that ultimately led me to declare that “God loves bakla (gay men)” and coming out and realizing finally that God wants nothing more than my happiness as a bakla.
429Mag: What do you think about the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality?
Alikpala: The Catholic Church is simply wrong on the issue of homosexuality.
429Mag: Do you consider yourself a religious person?
Alikpala: I still consider myself a Christian, and my faith in God is stronger and more real than ever. However, I do not identify as a Catholic anymore, although on the surface, for convenience, because I am in the Philippines, I cannot help but be engaged in Catholic practices.
Yet my faith is in a God that is much bigger than the Catholic Church, a God who embraces with love and compassion the whole beauty and gamut of her creation, a God who created us all gay, straight, transgender, queer, intersex, and everyone and everything else in between, and looks upon all of us and sees the good in all of creation.
429Mag: What are your thoughts about the Pope’s recent resignation?
Alikpala: I’m glad Joseph Ratzinger resigned. I believe he is a repressed homosexual man whose own struggles have made him homophobic and unable to see LGBT persons with love, compassion and understanding. I pray that the Cardinals will be able to select a new Pope who will be the kind of leader that the Catholic Church so desperately needs in this new millennium.