When it comes to HAPI affairs, you’ll find that Chief Financial Officer and Branding Head Edwin “Dweng” Bulaclac, Jr. is strictly no-nonsense. It says a lot that community quarantine has only sharpened his focus rather than dull it, with HAPI’s recent PPE Mobilization Drive to Benefit Frontliners and Farmers’ Relief Operation (a collaboration with LGBT Pilipinas) running as efficiently as any program it launched in the “old normal” under his supervision.
Light, casual conversations with Bulaclac reveal a different man entirely, though, a Gen-Xer with oodles of motherly wisdom to impart and a sharp, secular wit to boot.
It’s a braininess that came early on: as a bookish young boy, he worked out that many of the feelings he struggled with (including his “rainbow identity”) were a product of the societal impositions created by religion. As he opines in his retrospective article, “I wrestled with acceptance of society and the need to conform versus being loyal to myself,” embodying the delicate balancing act secular humanists perform daily.
His humorous side: Bulaclac runs his own YouTube channel, “Dwengster”
Being exposed to his father’s work as a community leader in his youth ignited Bulaclac’s own activism. The experience was eye-opening for the young Dweng: being out in the field awoke him not only to the Philippines’ “inequity and injustice”, but also to its potential for progress.
Pre-HAPI, Bulaclac served in organizations like United People Against Crime and the Las Piñas City Volunteers Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, where he was head of their secretariat offices and a social media manager. For seven years, he also worked as a Project Manager on NAMFREL and DOH’s Integrity Management Program.
But secular humanism was where his activist heart found its true calling. “Humanism came at a moment [in my life] when I did not have a clear definition of what I was going through,” Bulaclac says. “I had this great yearning for something to be actualized and I did not know how.” That actualization would come just before the 2015 Quezon City Pride March, where the participation of the then-newly-formed HAPI allowed Bulaclac (who helped organize the march) to discover secular humanism. For him, it was a personal breakthrough.
A year after joining HAPI, Bulaclac was appointed Head of HAPI Pride (the organization’s LGBTQ+ arm), a perfect fit for the long-time queer activist. “I came at the time when even among atheists and humanists, there was somewhat of an identity struggle as how to provide support to the LGBTQ+ cause,” Bulaclac recalls. “SOGIE 101 came about through my efforts to educate people, of course with the help of our partner organizations which we are very lucky to have with us until now.”
In September 2017, Bulaclac was appointed HAPI CFO, during what he remembers as a bit of a tense time in the organization. “Again, I came when there was a conflict of sorts,” he says of the turnover. “Being somewhat of an OC, I tried my best to propose reforms which are still being felt until now.”
Dweng with Kato Mukasa of the Uganda Humanist Association
Finally, Bulaclac became HAPI’s Head of Branding in January 2018, an appointment he felt confident about from the start. “[H]aving been a social media manager for NGOs I was a part of, then being communications officer for my previous work [and] doing online marketing for restaurants and triathlon events for my current dayjob all allowed me to better provide attention for the org,” he says.
Bulaclac’s burning desire for equality and diversity is what fuels his activism. There can’t be ego involved with humanist advocacies; humanists aren’t here to “serve a central power without question or doubt” (as he puts it), only the rights of humanity.
As well as his personal channel, you can spot Dweng as part of HAPI’s Youmanist Project, as well!
Heading into the new normal, Bulaclac remains in full CFO mode, eyeing prospective funding sources for future HAPI projects. Along with HAPI Executive Secretary Claris Quezon, he’s also busy supervising HAPI’s organizational and legalization processes.
Bulaclac admits that it’s hard to work around the logistical restrictions surrounding COVID-19 (not to mention the public paranoia), but the show goes on and he insists that it must be collaborative. “I have realized that if you find people who share the same vision as you do, they would share this burden with you and help you reach for the stars,” he shares.
His sentiments about the future of secular humanism are similar. “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.”
Behind the stern calculation of Bulaclac’s work ethic, there is a beating heart fueled by a love for humanity.
In April 2020, HAPI Chairperson Emeritus Marissa Torres-Langseth bestowed him with an award for Most Outstanding HAPI Volunteer.
It’s a fitting memento for Bulaclac, who not only runs the forerunning group of secular humanists in the country, but treats it like family.