A Piece Of Advice

Gay Couples in the Philippines Share Their Best Love Advice

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7 mins. read

Topics: Same-Sex,Dating,Getting Serious

Gay couples share what they’ve learned about love, the challenges they’ve had to overcome, and their best advice for other couples.

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Being in a gay relationship in the Philippines can be tricky. On one hand, being gay seems to be welcomed in the country—there are gay celebrities who enjoy mainstream popularity, queer-friendly safe spaces, and even a gay pageant scene. On the other, gay hate crimes are not entirely uncommon, same-sex marriage is still not recognized, and many Filipinos may still be uneasy at the sight of two men or two women holding hands in public.

Still, gay couples in the Philippines are finding ways to navigate the tricky terrain and make their love thrive. Below, we ask some of them about their loves’ greatest challenges, what they’ve learned from their relationships, and their best advice for other gay couples.

James Alcantara, 35, and JC Valenzuela, 37
Together for 12 years

James and JC have been together for 12 years. Photo: Courtesy of JC Valenzuela

What is the most challenging part of being a Filipino in a gay relationship in the Philippines

JC: Legal protection. We got engaged in Tel Aviv in 2018. But coming home to Manila, we realized we had no option but to plan our union abroad. While a destination wedding isn't that bad or out of the ordinary, the fact that we can't do it in our country really troubled me. Gay relationships in the Philippines need more legal protection and recognition, more than recognition of “how ‘cute’ we are to have found each other.

Also, relationship labels and sex-positivism. I find we label so much—who's top or bottom; open, monogamous, poly, etc—that the people in the relationship can hardly explore each others' fantasies or sexuality. I think these labels do not help us become more sex-positive. Comparing this to other cities we've been to, we find the uninhibitedness so freeing to discover oneself, and in the process, discover the many facets one can bring into the relationship as well.

James: I recognize that JC and I have been very lucky to have families who are very supportive of our relationship. Over time, both sides have welcomed each of us in the family and respect the decisions we make together. However, having interacted with other gay couples of all types, this is not always not the case. How the family eventually receives the significant other of a gay member may eventually determine how the relationship will progress—will they invite him to a family occasion? Will they include him in the family photo?

These are some of the many specific instances that seem mundane, but require help from family in navigating in a gay context as part of the process they go through in accepting their gay loved ones. I wish there were at least more visible support groups that Filipino families can access, similar to the FFLAG in the UK and the US. This could help more families feel normal and reassured about these circumstances, and give any blossoming gay relationship a chance to mature.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about love from your relationship?

JC: I've learned the fact that we are two individuals that are sharing each other's lives, values, and being. That in the course of that "sharing," it is in the imperfections, and the decision to stay, despite the imperfections, that elevates the relationship to a level you couldn't imagine existed.

What’s your best piece of advice for gay couples in the Philippines?

James: Relationships are personal. It's between you and the individuals you choose to share your life with. While you may need the advice of your loved ones sometimes, you are responsible for defining and nurturing your relationships. When you find yourself in relationships filled with overwhelming love, do everything to protect it and make it last. In trying times like the pandemic, these are the relationships that will pull you through.

King Ley, 32, and Josh Ty, 36
Together for one year

King and Josh advise other couples to ignore people who judge them and instead focus on what makes them happy. Photo: Courtesy of King Ley

What is the most challenging part of being a Filipino in a gay relationship in the Philippines?

King: Some Filipinos are still narrow-minded, I think. Going around with your partner is like walking on eggshells. You have to be careful not to make anyone feel uncomfortable or offended.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about love from your relationship?

Josh: We are all unique individuals and therefore have different ways of expressing our love towards each other. I learned that for the relationship to thrive, you have to know how your partner expresses love and affection, and accept it as it may be different from yours.

What’s your best piece of advice for gay couples in the Philippines?

King: At the end of the day, it is your life. Live it the way you want and be with whoever you choose to love. Don’t mind people who judge you, they don’t really matter, your happiness does. Be the author of your own book.

Francois Filamor, 37, and Christopher Lea, 32
Together for nine years

Filipino Francois and American Christopher have been together for nine years, and think there’s no fixed formula for making relationships work. Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Lea

What is the most challenging part of being in a gay relationship in the Philippines?

Francois: Not really a challenge, but an observation on being in an interracial relationship. There are a lot of stereotypes and notions on how relationships should be: you should always be together, dress a certain way, speak a certain way. I’ve lived most of my life outside of the Philippines, so where I’ve lived has shaped how I view and live my life—and how we navigate our relationship. I’m happy we can be completely ourselves while also loving and supporting each other as a couple.

Christopher: I was still pretty young when I followed Francois from Chicago to Manila, so my biggest challenge was discovering who I was as a person while creating a life with someone in an unfamiliar place. It took me a while to adapt to living in a new country, build my own career and meet friends so that I was comfortable and on equal footing in our relationship. Luckily, everything’s worked out well since then. Moving here remains the wildest thing I’ve ever done—but the most rewarding.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about love from your current relationship?

Francois: There’s no formula on how a relationship is supposed to work and you shouldn’t compare your relationship to that of others because they all work and evolve differently. Being able to communicate and adapt to each other is so important. You both have to know how to compromise in order to balance what makes each other happy. We’re about to celebrate 10 years together and although it takes work, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What’s your best piece of advice for Filipino gay couples?

Francois: Above all else, communication is key in order to live your life and grow individually as well as a couple. Adding in factors like family, career, etc. can understandably affect you, but you can’t always assume the worst. For example, prior to coming out, I thought my family wouldn’t accept me or my relationship, but it was the complete opposite. It helps that we’re both successful and have a great support system of friends; if we weren’t accepted, we’d be fine.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Source: Romano Santos, VICE

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