July 3, 2014
“Do you have gay people in the United States?” asked the Batman-clad fourth grader, tugging at the sleeve of the dress I’d tucked into my pants because it was the closest thing I could muster that looked professional.
“Well of course,” I answered, flabbergasted. A couple of girls stroked my hair as I tried simultaneously to have the conversation and sign autographs.
“Oh, good,” he replied, “I’m gay!”
“Yeah, he’s a girl,” chimed in one of his classmates, matter-of-factly and with zero judgment in evidence.
“It’s true!” he said gleefully, and then thrust a paper in front of me. “Sign?”
And hey, what a heartening display of acceptance. Even more heartening was that it was not at all a significant moment in their day. They were far more concerned with touching all my strange parts (blonde hair, you pervs) and seeing if I would make faces back at them while Amanda presented.
Today I felt very much like a highfalutin celebrity. (Elli- are you reading this? You’ll understand: every single person here is worse than Ineko at taking pictures. Honestly, we could have smooshed our visit into three days if the camera hadn’t been invented, but as it is I’m here a week and a half. Why? Posing. Infernal, interminable posing. I’ve taken to snarling in one out of every five pictures just to see if anyone notices…)
If you’re not Elli, a delayed edict not to read the previous paragraph because it just reeks of complaint. I’m still trying to eat the cheese, but lordy, I wish this were one of those societies that thinks a camera steals your soul. There’s so much good stuff happening here but we seem to want every situation like Arizona wants its immigrants: documented.
Alright, let’s change gears here.
Metaphorical cats and dogs have become an endangered species in the Philippines, by the way, because in the past couple of weeks it’s rained all of them. Our meeting with the mayor this afternoon had a downpour soundtrack that resembled a FIFA crowd’s roar.
Yep, the mayor of a city of a million. Monico Puentevella hosted us the day after his State of the City address, plying us with sweets and stories of American athletes he’s met. Lebron James? Aw, fiddlesticks, fraternized with him at the Olympics for a photo op with Pacquiao. Anthony, Duncan, Westbrook… no big whoop. He’s kind of a big shot.
His godfatherly offer of protection further cemented his status.
“Any Filipinos giving you trouble,” he said, “decide if you like him first. You do? Hahaaaaaa, don’t call me. You don’t? Here’s my number, I have the police take him away.”
Seriously, a charming man and the perfect host. I think I’m just minimizing the situation because I felt incredibly fraudulent trying to eat the caramelized bananas while under the table shoving my dress back into my pants.
That’s right, my clothing was more shameful and secretive than a fourth grader’s sexual orientation.
And I’m proud to say that it’s so.