Quezon City, Philippines
October 15, 2019
How does one become a skeptic? Is it a wiring anomaly in the brain as an aftermath of probably being bumped while in the womb or having been physically extricated from it? Awareness of one’s own true self does not come easily for many. Most often, a curious nature is developed to find answers to the myriad of questions that boggle our mind. It did not come easily for me as well.
My journey to my self took a very long and imperfect road to self-discovery about who I am and how I see myself as a part of the microcosm and of the universal expanse. I grew up in a traditional Filipino family. When I say “traditional,” it means that I have a complete set of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins to the first, second, third and whatever degrees. I come from a BIG family. My mom’s side had nine siblings while my dad’s brood comprised five. Traditionally we were raised as devout Catholics going to church every Sunday like clockwork, and serving in the ministry in any capacity we could such as being a member of the choir, being a psalmist, reader, lector, sacristan, or a church volunteer for various parish services. Catechism classes on Saturdays and church activities on Sundays… that was our routine growing up. But as a child, I also fell in love with reading and exploring new ideas from whatever reading material I could get my hands on. I was a regular visitor of the school library and would borrow books even during weekends and in-between holidays. I devoured science books, historical and anthropological magazines, and digest books which featured different people and their various journeys in life and the way they tried to persevere in it.
As part of the junior ministry in our parish, I also became curious of the stories behind what we were reading on the pulpit every Sunday… this during the time that I was also reading about legends and Filipino folklore myths. Mind you, this happened before search engines was a thing. While some people read the bible as a source of wisdom and inspiration, in my appetite for knowledge through reading, I read the bible as a kind of history and anthropology book the same manner I did my other reading materials. Full comprehension of these materials would come later as I did not possess the appropriate maturity to connect everything I read in the past to a more holistic understanding of the world in general.
Growing up as a smart kid was a fact, given that I have always excelled academically thus allowing me to pass in schools considered as top schools in the Philippines. Yet emotionally, something was bothering me. I perceived that I was different in another matter and not just in intellect. Later on, I also realized that I was a part of an often marginalized sector of society… the LGBTQ+. This led me to wonder what else is there about life and how our childhood beliefs should dictate the way we should live our adult lives.
A very common theme in all the stories that I loved to read growing up was about the triumph of good over evil and how the small and weak were able to thwart their oppressors. This is why until now I love underdog stories and have easy affinity for such characters. When I finally accepted myself as a member of my rainbow community, it dawned on me that most of the ugly moments of my life was a product of oppression based on societal impositions created as an aftermath of religious influence… constructs which were indeed marginalizing and dehumanizing to those who were different. I wrestled with acceptance of society and the need to conform versus being loyal to myself and knowing that the church is the true enemy because of its archaic and oppressive ways.
My journey was not yet complete. My yearning to fight injustice led me to activism and became a member of advocacy groups which promoted equality, tolerance, and diversity. Though working for civil society organizations was not a new thing for me. My father was a community leader and a social advocate in our neighborhood so at an early age, he exposed me to social work and in community participation and organization being his staff secretary in some instances. Being out there made me woke to the inequity and injustice… a malady of any society wanting to evolve into a progressive one.
Secular humanism came at an opportune moment when I did not have a clear definition of what I was going through. I had this great yearning for something to be actualized and I did not know how. And as luck would put it, I was connected through my social network to partner in an event with HAPI.
Humanism as an ethical stance puts humanity’s faculties in front and center and not as a means to serve a central power without question or doubt. I know the road ahead is still a long one. But with the current company I have now I have a lot of trust and faith that we would break what years of patrimony and corruption has made.