Fashion People and Ideas

True Colors: Cebu professionals celebrate identity, bares personal stories this Pride Month

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Pride Month is an emotional and magical time for the LGBTQ community. If it weren’t for the pandemic, bright colors of the rainbow would’ve adorned the streets and loud music could be heard to mark an important occasion of protest and celebration in the fight for equality.

While the Pride activities are quite subdued this year due to the virus outbreak, the LGBTQ community continues to recognize and take pride in their longstanding struggle for equal rights and protection. 

As we strive to create an inclusive space for everyone in the LGBTQ community, CDN Digital, together with contemporary chic business hotel, bai Hotel Cebu and renowned Cebuano fashion designers, Rei Escario, Dino Lloren, and Wendell Quisido, reached out to some Cebuano LGBTQ professionals and had them share their stories of inspiration, and on how they accepted their identity that allows them to flourish in all areas of life. 

Bee Urgello in Dino Lloren yellow electric pleated top and boot cut crepe pants. ( Locale: bai Hotel Cebu | Photo by: Garel Sison | Designer: Dino Lloren | MUA: Rolito Cuizon and Rizza Laron | Hair Stylist: William Inso)

Bee Urgello, Model, Queen Philippines 2011

Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that I was different from most kids. I was a boy who loved feminine things and had boy crushes.

I then only knew about the term LGBT when I was in college and was still confused whether I was gay or trans. It was when I attended a SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression) seminar in college that I had a clear-cut image of who I am – a  trans woman. 

I am at a point in my life where I am 100% sure and confident of my own identity, only it does not come without its struggles. One major struggle I had years ago was the challenge of getting a job.

Good thing that through the years, there are companies that are LGBTQ-friendly.  Companies that are open-minded and care for the welfare and health of their employees 

Being a trans model/beauty queen I can show people that a transgender woman can also have roles normally meant for cisgender women. 

I want to be a source of inspiration and information to my community and for those outside of the community as well.

There are some who deemed the celebration of Pride as unnecessary. But for the members of the LGBTQ community, we need to celebrate Pride to make noise and be seen. To show people that we are here, we exist, we are valid and we deserve space. 

Van Go in Rei Escario lilac Italian linen suit and wide pants. ( Locale: bai Hotel Cebu | Photo by: Garel Sison | Designer: Rei Escario | MUA: Rolito Cuizon and Rizza Laron | Hair Stylist: William Inso)

Van Go, Physical Therapist and YouTuber

As early as 4 years old, I’ve already seen myself as a boy. I did not have a one time big time coming out experience, I had to come out to my friends and family one at a time. 

At that time, being a trans man was not yet so commonly understood. So I wanted to properly educate the friends and family I came out to. 

The most common issue and struggle that I face as a trans guy, has to do with my legal papers and people who have a fixed “belief” about gender and invalidate our identity. 

I have yet to overcome these struggles. That is why, up to this day, it is part of my advocacy to educate people about our community, especially those who have incorrect understanding and/or information. 

Having our country pass the SOGIE Equality Bill and have a legal gender recognition law, will truly help not just the people in the community but everyone. There are still a number of people who are not well informed about it and think that it is a bill asking for “special rights” when in fact, it is a bill that protects all. 

Embracing individuality is important because it prevents people from trying to fit an individual into a box which usually restricts the person from being themselves and it can even affect the person’s happiness, productivity, and other aspects in life.

But if you are still uncertain about your identity, the best thing to do is to give yourself time. You don’t need to find out right away. Enjoy and trust the process.

Bea Luigi Gomez in Wendell Quisido black halter cut out serpentina evening gown with patterned beading and crystals. ( Locale: bai Hotel Cebu | Photo by: Garel Sison | Designer: Wendell Quisido | MUA: Rolito Cuizon and Rizza Laron | Hair Stylist: William Inso)

Beatrice Luigi Gomez, Model,  Bb. Cebu 2020

I was in grade school when I first got interested in girls. I didn’t have any concept or idea about being gay back then as I grew up and I was surrounded with an environment of various sexual orientations, that’s when I realized that I was interested in both sexes. 

When I met my girlfriend I was fixed on what I wanted regardless of what other people say and I felt that I didn’t owe anyone any explanation, that’s why I did not have to come out.

Just like what everyone hopes for in the LGBTQIA+, I aspire for acceptance and inclusivity — especially equal rights and protection for the younger generation who oftentimes suffer from bullying and different forms of violence. They are left to fend for themselves, particularly those that are oppressed by their own parents.

As a community development worker, a beauty queen and a Marines reservist, I believe that I have the right tools to create awareness and to educate people.

I want to empower the youth of the LGBTQIA+ to be productive citizens of society so that despite the discrimination, we can take pride in our values and what we can offer to make the world a better place to live in.

The importance of embracing individuality is that it allows us to live the best life, to be able to be truly who you are is an innate freedom that no one can take away from you.

Andrew Anthony Alcantara in Rei Escario color blocking robe and pants. ( Locale: bai Hotel Cebu | Photo by: Garel Sison | Designer: Rei Escario | MUA: Rolito Cuizon and Rizza Laron | Hair Stylist: William Inso)

Andrew Anthony Alcantara, Nursing Services Director

I officially came out as gay when I was in High School. That’s when I fully realized and accepted who I truly was. There was no grand coming out because ever since I was a child, everyone in my family already had an inkling or feeling. 

My struggle as a gay person is being judged for the actions of other gay people. We are automatically lumped together as if we were the same person. So any negative things that people hear about LGBTQ+ community, they instantly assume that one wrongdoing by an individual defines the rest of us. 

There is also this notion that members of the LGBT are seen as very sensitive and easily offended. Not everyone is like that, we appreciate it if you talk to us, communicate, clarify, and ask questions.

In fact, that’s the smartest and most supportive thing you can do, take the time to understand, converse and discuss. You’ll find out that we’re pretty much the same as everyone. 

As a Nursing Services Director, I aim to deliver quality medical care to my patients to show everyone that my sexual orientation has nothing to do with my ability to carry out my duties as a Nurse. That the quality of work I do solely depends on how well I do my job. 

I am lucky to work in a hospital that values and recognizes one’s potential to excel and see beyond one’s gender preference. 

I am very proud to be who I am. I want to inspire younger people who are gay and confused that yes, you can reach your goals. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t deserve to be successful just because of your sexual orientation. Success knows no gender.

My message to those who are struggling with their identity? Live your truth. Not everyone appreciates that. But you are not for everyone.

Jerod Patiño (left) in Rei Escario all black linen top and shorts with red black and white Japanese cotton printed cover up and Aljie Faelnar (right) in Rei Escario black and white printed japanese cotton top with harem shorts. ( Locale: bai Hotel Cebu | Photo by: Garel Sison | Designer: Rei Escario | MUA: Rolito Cuizon and Rizza Laron | Hair Stylist: William Inso)

Jerod Patiño, Entrepreneur 

When I was in fifth grade, I can remember that I was having a crush on a handsome classmate and also with a lovely girl, and this confused me because — why am I liking both of the different sexes? 

I never had the chance to own up to my parents because they passed away before I was able to fully embrace myself as a gay man. 

When I was 25, I gathered my siblings and my closest relatives at a dessert bar and announced to them that I am happy being in a relationship with my partner Aljie, that was when I fully came out. 

Although nerve-wracking, it was the most fulfilling and most liberating thing that I’ve ever done for myself and for my relationship. 

One common misconception of being gay is that we are only after sex.  My partner and I would love to prove that wrong — we are capable of loving and keeping a long-term relationship. 

My partner and I are now in our 12th year of being together and we are still so in love with each other. 

I aspire to create a safe working environment for the LGBTQIA+ members where they can be free to express themselves with no judgment, discrimination, or hate, a place where we can coexist and work happily with others whose ideologies and interests are different from ours. 

Aljie Faelnar, Architect 

When I was 5 years old I already felt that I was a part of the LGBTQ community. Coming out when I was 23 years old, it just happened at some point in my life when I said to myself that I’m not afraid anymore of what other people might say about me, and if someone would ask me if I were gay, I would say yes. 

I am fortunate to have a loving and accepting family and friends. I realized that it was not actually the environment or the people around me that made me struggle about my issues.

It was actually me having a hard time dealing with it. I remember back in my teenage years, I used to cry every night before I sleep thinking about why I am gay. 

There is also this common misconception that if you are gay, you are weak and you are incapable of doing what others can do, same as what the older generation has molded the wrong notion that women are weaker than men. But in reality, we are all equal, we just have our own weaknesses and strengths. 

Over time, I realized that what’s truly important is to embrace our individuality because it is the core of a person. You have to understand and love yourself first, you have to know what you want and what makes you happy.

Claire Pareja in Rei Escario two toned leopard print tent dress. ( Locale: bai Hotel Cebu | Photo by: Garel Sison | Designer: Rei Escario | MUA: Rolito Cuizon and Rizza Laron | Hair Stylist: William Inso)

Claire Pareja, Nurse and Project Manager

As I was growing up I was fond of everything feminine. It started when I was six years old and coming out to my family wasn’t difficult since my feminine side always stood out. 

I am lucky that I have very supportive parents. My father accepted me wholeheartedly while my mom always reminded me to choose what I really wanted to be.

I want to put emphasis on the T in LGBTQ+ — T stands for Transgender and it can be both a transgender man or transgender woman. A Transgender is a person whose gender identity differs from the gender they had at birth. 

Transgender is a “gender identity” and “expression” unlike lesbian, gay, bisexual which are sexual orientations. So Transgender people can be either lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a transgender woman can be attracted to or fall in love with another transgender woman and that makes her gay or if a transgender woman is attracted to both woman and man then that makes her bisexual.

As a public servant, I also have my fair share of the fight against discrimination, I was part of the technical working group drafting and lobbying for the anti-discrimination ordinance that was passed in Cebu City. 

And as we take one step at a time, I am hoping to see a clinic for LGBT, especially for the Transgenders.

Finally, it takes guts to stand up for what you are, to shout out loud to the world who you really are.

Veejay Aragon in Rei Escario oatmeal Italian linen pants with a Japanese cotton printed cover up. ( Locale: bai Hotel Cebu | Photo by: Garel Sison | Designer: Rei Escario | MUA: Rolito Cuizon and Rizza Laron | Hair Stylist: William Inso)

Veejay Aragon, Entrepreneur

I already knew that I was different since I was young until I fully accepted that I’m part of the LGBTQ++ community around 2011.

As an artist, Social Media blogger, and businessman, I have been exposed to different types of bullying, getting unsolicited advice and judgment but it won’t stop me from using the platforms that I have to continue to inspire and educate more people. To show people that respect and love know no gender, color, nationality, religion, or race.

A common misconception that I wish to clarify is the spectrum of being Bi-Sexual — No, we are not confused and this is not just a phase. 

As much as we want the world to be more accepting, we are not there yet, so the struggle as a member of the community is always finding that respect. Not just in the straight community but inside the LGBTQ++ community as well.

To whoever is still struggling to identify themselves, I want you to know that it’s okay. You are not alone. This does not mean you are less of a person. Just continue to educate yourself and do whatever makes you happy, love who you want to love, wear whatever you want to wear, be wherever you want to be. Allow yourself to be surrounded by people who’ll influence you in a positive way because life experiences will put you in the right place and by then, you’ll be surprised how well you know yourself.


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