I guess I'm one of the luckiest lesbians in the Philippines.
During the course of my relationship with an ex -- an ex who earns a lot and knows how to save money earned from her professional work -- my father offered to give me part of my inheritance already in conjunction with what my ex was planning at that time: to build our own house. With her earnings, she would shoulder the construction expenses of the house while my contribution is I hold the title of the lot where that house is going to be built. Since we are legally not related and common law partnership is not legally recognized in the Philippines, this separation of titles might be the best thing to do to have us both protected... or are we really going to be protected with this set-up?
With this discussion in mind, I couldn't help but think of that tearful episode in the trilogy film If These Walls Could Talk 2 where an elderly lesbian couple -- I'm talking about Lola age here -- had to face the dilemma of separating their property when one of the couple died. In our language, we call this mga bagay na naipundar na, things a couple have already acquired through the course of building a life together, a loving life with each other. But in that film, once the funeral was over, the family of the deceased lola lesbian just waltzed through the house of their lola and ignored the other living lola there, the life partner of their lola, and just started carting away the things, trinkets and stuff inside the house as if they owned it. Bewildered, the living lola lesbian asked what was happening, and sadly, the family was doing that because their dead lola lesbian owned the house, and hence the family just took over as legal next of kin. Oh my goddess, when I saw that scene, I just burst out crying, the sap that I am.
But sap or no sap, it really is a sad thing to think of what will happen when the same situation might come up in the future. I own the lot while my ex-partner owned the house. What happens if one of us dies? My ex told me that she will be the one in the losing end because the title is in my name, and I think she couldn't hold a title for merely the house or something legal blah like that. She said that my family could simply revoke her claim and get it because it's in my name. Similarly, I know that her family won't also give up without a fight for this property, knowing that it was partly their relatives'. I don't blame her for thinking ill of my family should a situation like that arise in the future, but she couldn't also blame me if I also thought ill of her family if in case that situation really did arrive. Quits lang, as I said. I guess there's a reason why, at the back of my mind, I thought that this build-a-house project wasn't such a good idea to begin with, and of course, years later, we would go our separate ways and I was right all along -- she wasn't the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But that's another story.
A couple of years later, a friend of mine called me up for a meeting. This friend turned out to be a new employee of an insurance company, and she wanted to sell me insurance life plans or whatever they're called. I've had one before but I let it go, and frankly speaking, I'm not really keen on keeping a life insurance plan and stuff like that, seeing how some insurance companies turned out to be scams years and years later, but I digress. So I just entertained my friend and listened to her explanation of who could become my beneficiary if I get a plan. That was where her advocate eyes twinkled, as she explained that in their company, you can name your partner as your beneficiary even without the benefit of a legal marriage or legal union. I couldn't recall what the details of that set-up were, but it sounded promising indeed. She was planning to spread the word about this to our other co-advocates in the LGBT world, so I wished her luck. No, I didn't get an insurance plan after all that, because I still didn't really feel confident about the insurance scenario here in the country. But again, that's another story.
But now that I am in a very loving relationship -- the healthiest and happiest relationship I have ever had, ever -- I have been thinking about these property protection things a lot again lately. In case something happens to me, what will happen to my partner, who doesn't have a single thing legally attached to her name? How do I protect her? I guess this would be easy, this insurance business thing, if we could really identify which insurance company would help LGBTs like us. But even if my insurance friend says theirs is like that, I don't know. Shouldn't this be an across the board thing, that all insurance companies should have this option for LGBTs as well?
Oh yeah, I forgot, I'm in the Philippines. That's not the case here. Unlike other countries of the world which secures the protection of the property of their citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Hay...
Early this year, I met up with one of my old friends, one of the longtime lesbian advocates I've known who has a really long relationship with another advocate. She happily told me that they just celebrated their twentieth year together. Twenty!!!! That's a 2 and a 0. Wow. And one of the things we talked about was this, the property protection thing. What she told me was what a lawyer friend also told me before -- keeping a will. That's a last will and testament, folks. A will works for us, as long as it is hand-written and signed. It's legally binding, they said. Hmm, primitive, but I guess if other modern systems fail, this one stands the test of time.
This whole thing might appear too trivial to others, sure. Owning property, separation of property, having property, beneficiaries, insurance. Never in my three decades plus of existence did I think that I would begin discussing these things already in my life, but I guess at some point, we have to. This is because there are no systems in place in the current society that will help us lesbians to protect our hard-earned property, and to protect that property in conjunction with protecting our relationship with our loving life partner.
Hay, systems... I think the Philippines is allergic to having working systems, systems that will benefit all citizens, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.
This is why I am voting for Ang Ladlad partylist. Our number one candidate is a lawyer, and that might help things a bit, slowly, with the help of the other candidates who I hope would win seats, too, and of course with the help of the rest of us in the group, and the rest of the LGBT community, and the rest of the LGBT-friendly populace out there who knows what's it like to be dehado, to be behind, way behind, in a society that says we should all be equal no matter what.
No matter what pala ha. How come we LGBTs are always at the losing end of such things, such systems? Hay, come on people, let's change things for the better, shall we? I know I want all systems in the country to work for all of its citizens. How about you?
So Vote 89.
*Why 89: 5 of 7 is the fifth of a seven-part series of creative nonfiction narratives I am writing as a countdown to the upcoming May 10 elections in support of my partylist, Ang Ladlad.
Part 1 of 7 - The Benefit(s) of Recognition
Part 2 of 7 - The Career Closet
Part 3 of 7 - Medical Maladies, Malpractices and Mistrust
Part 4 of 7 - Equality to Party
All photos by libay linsangan cantor (4) growing balls 2009 (5-6) buhay bahay 2009 (7) baklang disney 2010 (8) Doni of Ang Ladlad at the Malate Pride March 2006; except (1) leaflens at disney 2010 by jasmin cantor (2) movie poster for If These Walls Could Talk 2 from the internet (3) If These Walls Could Talk 2 screencap photo grabbed from Connecticut Lesbian and Gay Law site and (4) from Ang Ladlad's campaign materials.
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