CEBU CITY, Philippines –Nestled amidst the mountain barangay of Budla-an, a small community in the heart of Cebu City, a trailblazer has emerged, defying stereotypes and paving the way for a more inclusive society.
Meet Lester Archival, a 28-year-old transgender woman who has shattered barriers as the first transgender Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Chairman of Budla-an.
With a genuine love for public service and an unwavering commitment to her community, Lester has become a beacon of hope and inspiration, leaving an indelible mark on Budla-an’s political landscape.
In a community that had never seen a transgender leader, Lester brings a fresh perspective to the role by daring to be different. Despite being assigned male at birth, she courageously presents herself as a female, unapologetically embracing her true identity with authenticity and resilience.
A Journey of Leadership
Lester’s journey of leadership began long before her role as SK Chairman. She held the position of President of the Supreme Student Government in her high school, honing her skills as a compassionate and effective leader.
In 2010, she was elected as the First SK Councilor, gaining valuable experience and a platform to advocate for change. Recognizing her potential and dedication, she was subsequently elected as one of the officers of the SK Federation of Cebu City, representing not only Budla-an but the entire city at the International
School Program held in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
Embracing Diversity within the Archival Family
Lester’s journey has been shaped not only by her personal ambitions but also by her family’s support and acceptance. As the middle child in a family of five, Lester is not the only member of the LGBT community in her family.
Her sister, a transgender lawyer, and her younger brother, who identifies as gay, have also found solace in their diverse family. Moreover, Lester’s uncles and aunts are proud members of the LGBT sector, fostering an environment where individuality is celebrated.
Coming out as transgender was not met with difficulty within her family. Their openness and warm embrace allowed Lester to face the world with confidence and determination. Her family’s active involvement in community activities has been a significant influence on her own journey.
Their collective dedication to serving others has instilled in Lester a sense of purpose, motivating her to dedicate herself to public service. With a father who served as a barangay tanod, Lester’s passion for community building runs deep within her veins.
Overcoming Adversity with Tenacity
Stepping into the role of SK Chairman was not without its challenges. As a transgender individual, she has faced bullying, discrimination, and abuse. However, rather than succumbing to negativity, these experiences have fueled her determination to effect change and challenge societal perceptions.
Through her tireless efforts in implementing projects and supporting her community, Lester has achieved remarkable results and gained the respect of those around her.
“Not all people will accept the way I am—it takes time. Before, I didn’t really demand respect; instead, I had to earn it myself and prove to them that I am a leader who not only asks for respect but also knows how to gain respect,” said Lester.
Running for a position historically held by individuals conforming to traditional gender norms was no easy feat. However, she has triumphed over these challenges and gained the respect and admiration of her community.
Leading with Substance and Breaking Barriers
Lester’s approach to leadership is rooted in the belief that gender should not be a determining factor in one’s ability to lead effectively. She believes that leadership, like love, is genderless. She does not introduce herself as the “first-ever transgender SK Chairman,” but rather as Lester—a leader driven by passion, compassion, and a relentless pursuit of positive change. By doing so, she encourages others to see beyond her gender identity, recognizing her capabilities and dedication to the community.
By focusing on her top three advocacies—environment, education, and social inclusion and equity—Lester has made a tangible difference in her barangay. Her commitment to preserving the environment has led to the cessation of quarrying operations through her vocal advocacy and engagement with relevant authorities such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the City Government.
Through the formation of the Budlaan Empowered LGBT Association (BABA BELA), she has championed social inclusion and equity, ensuring that LGBT individuals receive the same protections and opportunities as their heterosexual counterparts.
Education remains a top priority for Lester, as she has generously donated a significant portion of the SK budget to the Budlaan Integrated School, her alma mater, providing essential resources such as computers and office supplies.
Leaving a Legacy and Paving the Way for Others
Lester’s remarkable journey is not merely about personal achievements, but about empowering others within her community and beyond. Her goal is to inspire individuals, encourage them to excel in their own spheres, and aspire to leadership positions, regardless of societal barriers.
She envisions a future where LGBT leaders have equal opportunities to make their voices heard in politics, not just within her own community, but globally.
Words of ridicule and discrimination have transformed into words of admiration and respect. From being referred to as “bayot raman na siya” (just a transgender) or “huyang na siya” (flawed), Lester now hears the triumphant echoes of “SK Chairman nato na siya” (our SK Chairman) and “Law student na siya” (she’s a law student). To Lester, leaving a trace or a legacy means being remembered as an individual who has transformed her community for the better.
The significance of Lester’s leadership lies not only in her achievements but also in being a face of diversity and a new kind of leadership that transcends gender identity.
While many have urged Lester to seek higher positions in upcoming barangay elections, she plans to take a break from politics and dedicate time to pursue her Law degree.
Five years from now, armed with additional credentials and legal expertise, Lester envisions returning to the political arena, ready to challenge stereotypes once again. With unwavering determination, she will proudly declare, “I am Lester, and I am not your typical transgender.” /rcg