Malolos Now and Then

When I was young, I simply regarded the Malolos Cathedral as “The Main Church of the City.” Before my family and I got converted into Evangelicalism, we went there on a weekly basis. Sundays brought me excitement not because of the church activities (forgive me, I was young), but because of the popcorn and cotton candy sold by the vendors (back in the days when vendors were actually allowed by the law to sell their products inside the plaza proper).

I considered that huge yellow tree in front of the cathedral, known as the Kalayaan Tree, as just a cool-looking tree. Whenever yellow flowers fall from branches due to the wind, I’d try to catch them mid-air  with my small hands.

Also, I tried to play with the statues of Emilio Aguinaldo and his cabinet under that tree, but I got scolded by my parents. I didn’t know who they were back then. Just statues erected there because it’s fun, I thought.

Fast forward, I entered college with a resolve to learn a lot of things. Before, I didn’t consider social sciences as something interesting. But college-level social science subjects were different! The professors were really good at teaching, and everything was discussed in details.

I also learned the art of researching because of this. One time, our professor in feature writing told us to write an article about the history of our hometown. That was the time when I began reading about the history of Malolos and its significance in the building of the Philippine nation.

Darn, I thought to myself. How ignorant have I been? All this time, I never knew that I had a very awesome hometown!

The City of Malolos is arguably one of the most prominent history hotspots in the Philippines as it witnessed most of the crucial events in Philippine history, most importantly the inauguration of the first Philippine Republic and the early pangs of the Philippine-American war.

However, even with the rich historical and cultural background Malolos has, its tourism department is lackluster compared to that of Vigan and Intramuros, also nests of historical sites. It was explained in the Kumperensiya ng Sining, Kultura, Kasaysayan at Turismo  last January 20 at La Consolacion University of the Philippines during the week-long celebration of City of Malolos’ Fiesta Republica.

While certainly, there were economic and strategic factors which contributed to the problem, the main cause of Malolos’ decline in tourism is that the people of Malolos themselves are not aware of their roots. Only a few are proactive in marketing and making known the heritage and identity of this historical city.

In this photo essay, I’d like to show the past and present photos of Malolos to really prove how historically rich this city is, and why Malolenos should be proud of their city.

Burning_of_the_Malolos_Cathedral 1899 Britannica
A photo of Malolos Church burning during the Philippine American War. Archival photo from the Philippines. It was used as headquarters by President Emilio Aguinaldo during his term (September 15, 1898 to March 31, 1899). In other words, it’s Philippines’ first-ever White House.


Malolos Cathedral as of today.

Ruined Malolos Church Side View  1899 Underwood & Underwood
Side view of the cathedral. The adjacent building on the left of the church proper is Aguinaldo’s HQ. In the photo, one can see that it’s ruined. It was when Aguinaldo ordered Gen. Antonio Luna to burn the church so they can escape the American invaders. On the right side, there are a group of yellow trees, one among them remained living up to this day.
The Malolos Cathedral went through several renovations throughout the years. What used to be an HQ is now used as an all-boy’s school. The Kalayaan Tree remains standing up to this day, with statues of Emilio Aguinaldo and his cabinet underneath.
Aguinaldo and his cabinet met frequently under the Kalayaan Tree. Statues to commemorate this piece of history was erected in 2003.
Aguinaldo 10 delegates  Malolos Congress   reunion Dec 8 1929.jpg
Aguinaldo and his delegates from the Malolos Congress in a reunion held in 1929, inside the Cathedral. After the burning, it was rebuilt on 1902 right after the Philippine-American War.
The Malolos Cathedral altar as of today.


A set of graven images and a stained glass window inside the cathedral.
1899 Original photograph is in the University of Michigan Special Collections Library Barasoain Front
A photo of the Barasoain Church, a Roman Catholic church built in 1888. Hailed as the Cradle of Democracy in the East. It was where the first Philippine Congress (September 15, 1898) and he First Philippine Republic (January 23, 1899). Also the site of Emilio Aguinaldo’s inauguration as the first Philippine President.
Barasoain Church as of today.
Barasoain Interior Our Islands and Their People as Seen with Camera and Pencil. Introduced by Major-General Joseph Wheeler 1899.
Opening of First Philippine Congress inside Barasoain Church.
Altar of Barasoain Church as of today.
Malolos Bridge A Wonderful Reproduction of LIVING SCENES In Natural Color Photos fo America's New Posssessions F. Tennyson Neely New York, Chicago, London 1899
An American illustration of the arch bridge leading to Malolos’ city proper. The river below is called Tampoy River.
old photo.jpg
A photo showing the arch bridge in front of the Cathedral.
Ilog Tampoy by James Ricalton ca. 1900 New Jersey teacher sent to capture PH-American War
Old photo of Tampoy River, on the port near the Malolos’ poblacion. Photo taken from above the arch bridge. In the days when land vehicles weren’t yet invented, rivers served as the road of transportation.
Tampoy River as of today, the old port gone.
Photo of the arch bridge as of today.
1899 Original photograph is in the University of Michigan Special Collections Library Malolos Prison
Old illustration of Casa Tribunal de Malolos, where American soldiers and Spanish friars were kept prisoners by Filipinos themselves.
That Street Prison Our Islands and Their People as Seen with Camera and Pencil. Introduced by Major-General Joseph Wheeler , 1899.
Street view. Casa Tribunal on the left side of the road.
Casa Tribunal in 2016.
Modern street view version of Casa Tribunal.
Paseo del Congreso Street Our Islands and Their People as Seen with Camera and Pencil. Introduced by Major-General Joseph Wheeler. , 1899.
Aerial view of old Paseo del Congreso street, where the Barasoain Church is located.
Photo of Paseo del Congreso street as taken beside Baraosain Church.

Anyone who’s seriously interested in history should take the time to visit Malolos and relive the beginnings of our very own Republic.





BulSU Redefined: School Year 2015-2016 Edition

Every year is significant of everyone. Rarely a year would pass without a memory of a life-changing moment. It’s like each year that passes redefines us in either small or big ways.

School year 2015-2016 has been a tough year for Bulacan State University (BulSU) and its people. Like the previous years, it marked a series of events which changed the institution in many ways. But among the many things which happened in the institution, the following are the top two which really marked the school year 2015-2016 for BulSU.

BulSU Officials dismissed after Ombudsman verdict

Photo of the Ombudsman Office.

Last August 2014, our hearts were shattered after seven tourism students drowned in Madlum River during their exposure trip.

But greater shock came upon us last August 18, 2015, a year after the tragedy, when the Ombudsman dismissed nine BulSU officials due to administrative charges related to the 2014 school trip tragedy.

Commentators, mostly BulSU students, expressed their sentiments on social media because of the incident. They generally agreed that this is inevitable as someone really has to pay for it, pointing out their failure to submit a Risk Assessment Plan for that exposure trip on the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). However, what they cannot accept is them being stripped off of their retirement benefits.

Students expressed support for all of them, especially for former BulSU president Mariano de Jesus and former vice president on academic affairs Nicanor dela Rama, for they were deemed as important people in building up the quality education in Bulacan State University.

Also, this incident affected the preplanned exposure trips in other colleges. For an instance, in the College of Arts and Letters (CAL), the CHED-approved travel tour (Risk Assessment Plan included) which aims to cater to the academic requirements of Broadcasting students was suddenly called off by the administration for self-preservation purposes. This happened after the dismissal of the officials. “Wrong timing,” some CAL students lamented. Last school year’s supposed-to-be travel tour was also cancelled for the same reasons.

In this incident, it harshly dawned on us the law must be obeyed and executed, no matter how iron-handed it may seem to us. One mistake can amount to lives lost, and you have to pay for it even if you’re morally ‘innocent.’ This shall serve as a reminder for the next generation so that they may not repeat this tragedy again.

However, mistakes must be forgiven too, no matter how grave they were. And we shouldn’t be afraid to run the race all over again. Just because there were mishaps in the 2014 Madlum exposure trip doesn’t mean it’d be the same for the trips in other colleges. Although it’s understandable, talk about the way this tragedy brought our school’s name in the headlines, exposure trips weren’t named that way without a reason. They aim to increase our learning by stepping out of the confines of the school to see how the ‘real world’ operates.

Cecilia Gascon elected as new BulSU president

Dr. Cecilia Gascon, the current university president of BulSU. (EDS BUSINESS SCHOOL)

On August 11, Dr. Cecilia Gascon got elected as the university’s new president. She was the former university president of Southern Luzon State University in Lucban, Quezon province. She was formally inaugurated on September 1, three days after De Jesus’ official retirement on August 29. She’s the first female who had the privilege to preside in BulSU’s office of the university president.

She’s a forester who graduated in University of the Philippines Los Banos (UP-LB) with a bachelor degree on forestry and environmental science; on 1998, she graduated with a doctorate degree on forestry, also in UP-LB.

Majority of the electorate chose her because according to what she said in the previous Public Forum: she deserves the position because of her experience in being SLSU’s administrator. During her term (2004-2014), she managed to pass 90% of its undergraduate programs and 76% graduate programs at Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and University (AACCUP). Formerly known as Southern Luzon Polytechnic, it became Southern Luzon State University under Republic Act 9395 on 2007.

This a brand new era for Bulacan State University, as a new leader shall redefine the institution’s system. What could be the things which set her apart from other leaders?

According to Gascon, she would be stricter in the implementation of school activities, for fear of repeating the Madlum Tragedy. Also, she aims to elevate the quality of education in the university by increasing the number of teachers who have masters and doctorate degree.

It’s too early to judge her 6-month leadership as of March 2016. But let’s stay eyed on BulSU’s current events and see for ourselves.

Pinocchio and The Strings of Lies Theater Play Review

A crossover play with a unique concept and a creative team who did a good job on the set design, props, and costumes, but lacks on plot and character aspects, with some technical issues which affect the overall viewing experience. It’s like a Disney fan fiction which aims to relive your childhood memories, but far from a well-written story which gives its viewers an unforgettable theatrical experience. 

Pinocchio and The Strings of Lies Promotional Poster.jpg
Promotional poster of theatrical play Pinocchio and The Strings of Lies, from the BulSU Performing Arts Division Facebook page.

Lives are defined by that thing called ‘wish.’ This is the driving force which urges us to move and make choices. It is also the key player in making stories happen, both in real life and in fiction.

Stories can’t be stories without a main character who has a want. In the course of the story, he’d face conflicts which hinder him from achieving his goals. Usually, there are two ways which the main character chooses in dealing with the conflict: take the rocky road of morality and righteousness or the asphalted path of evil.

The writer may choose whatever road he wants his character to take. But how do we know if the writer did his job very-well? It’s simple. If the readers or watchers cared about the main character, it means the writer knows his target audience and has effectively executed the premise he wants to show.

The play Pinocchio and The Strings of Lies by BulSU Performing Arts Division- Theater Arts Unit (PAD-TA) is about a main character who took the easy road. Produced by Thrivian Production (4th year Theater Arts students), it is the latest addition to PAD-TA’s collection of plays. It was written Princess Anne Jacinto and Pauline Martinez, and directed by Danica Mae David and Rose Camille Marcos.

The production ran from March 10 to 11 of 2016, and was staged in Valencia Hall. Tickets costs P100 each for Bulacan State University-Main Campus students, and P150 for outsiders.

Pinocchio and the Strings of Lies is a fictional crossover of iconic Disney movies which tells a re-imagined story of Pinocchio, a living wooden marionette who wishes to become a real boy. But in this version, Ursula, the main antagonist of Little Mermaid, is the granter of wishes, not the Blue Fairy herself. Pinocchio has to meet Ursula’s conditions to make his wish come true, which are primarily about facing the iconic antagonists from other Disney movies and taking notable items from them.

For a short background, Pinocchio’s origin stems back to the 1881 serial The Adventures of Pinocchio by Italian writer Carlo Collodi. It’s about carpenter Gepetto who made a wooden marionette Pinocchio, claiming it was his son. Just like in any typical fairy tale, Pinocchio learned how to walk and talk magically. He ran away from home, and got involved into a series of troubles because of his mischievous attitude. Originally, it had 15 chapters which ended with a tragic note. Fans of the series didn’t receive the ending very well. So, in 1883, Collodi made it into a novel and added 20 more chapters where Pinocchio gradually changed from bad to good, ending happily as Pinocchio became a real boy.

In Disney’s animated film adaptation in 1940, Pinocchio’s character was ‘toned-down,’ turning him into an innocent cute boy who only got himself in trouble because he’s only a child. It was a shortened version and Pinocchio’s character here is not exactly ‘unlikable.’

PAD-TA’s version, on the other hand, didn’t have the familiar elements such as the sense of danger and the tale of redemption trope which are prominent in both the novel and movie version. Instead, it focused on the deconstruction of Disney villains, saying they’re inherently good, but only got messed up because Pinocchio lied to them. For an instance, The Evil Queen in Snow White didn’t really intend to kill Snow White even if she’s the fairest of them all. But Pinocchio told the Queen that Snow White looks sick and suggested that the entire kingdom may idolize this “sick look.” The Evil Queen changed her mind and intended to eliminate Snow White, with Pinocchio giving her the poisoned apple to execute her plan.

Also, it relived the “bad boy” character of Pinocchio in the novel version and ended in a not-so-happy way, with every mischief that Pinocchio had done backfired at him. The ending was open-ended, though. It only showed that Pinocchio got the wrong items, probably because of laziness, and everyone was angry at Pinocchio. Voila, that’s the end. It’s somewhat similar with Collodi’s original plotline, although in that version, Pinocchio was hanged in a tree to die.

For starters, I’d like to commend the writers for coming up with a good concept. The deconstruction they did with the villains was interesting, adding a new dimension to those antagonists who we hated when we were young.

Also, the stage set, props, costumes and make-up really did suit the play. Everything was intricately detailed. No wonder many viewers took a selfie with the actors after the play. They really looked good with their outfits.

Selfie with the actors (1).
Selfie with the actors (2).

However, the play had its flaws as well, most particularly in its storyline, technicalities and the actors’ enunciation of English words.

The play was so focused on the deconstruction of the villains that it overlooked the development of its main character, Pinocchio himself. He was depicted as deceit personified, but his character feels lacking because it was as if he was created to solely represent an entity. He was not fully fleshed character with a fair share of strengths and flaws, unlike the Pinocchio in the novel and Disney versions. It’s hard to empathize to Pinocchio’s character because the writers failed to (1) give him any likable or relatable quality and (2) justify Pinocchio’s goals (becoming a real boy).

This weakness gave birth to another weakness: the story had a weak ending (though it’s forgivable if the writers would come up with a sequel). Due to the fact that it’s hard to relate with Pinocchio, the ending didn’t leave much impact to the viewers. Plus, the plot itself had a weak way of building itself up towards its conclusion. It was downright predictable, lacking any tension because of its focus on the mini-arcs of villains and not in the main storyline.

It felt as if I merely watched a fan fiction of previous Disney works.

Also, playwrights didn’t take into consideration their target audience. There’s nothing really wrong with any story concept a writer wants to create, but he must know his audience. Most of the viewers are teenager, so they should have created something that they would find relatable with themes which befit their age group.

Actually, a crossover concept isn’t bad. As a matter of fact, the Japanese comics Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is also a crossover fiction of previous works of CLAMP, the creator of popular series such as Card Captor Sakura, Angelic Layer, Magic Knight Reayearth, etc. But what made TRC a successfully-written crossover is that it didn’t focus on the fan’s cravings. Their main writer, Ohkawa Ageha, come up with an original storyline using past characters, having its own set of themes. It’s a very plot-driven narrative, but it didn’t overlook its main characters, giving them the proper development they deserve. Plus, it knows its target audience: teenage male readers. It has the tropes prevalent in male-oriented young adult fiction such as fighting scenes, a bit of bloodshed, the element of danger and adventure, etc.

The play’s storyline could have been better if it didn’t take the “fan fiction” path and made a teenage version of Pinocchio instead.

In the acting aspect, the ones who stood out are Joash Isaac Santiago (Pinocchio) and Anne Jommelle Hipolito (Ursula). They had the best enunciation of words and managed to depict their character at their best. Some actors have good acting, but weak in  enunciating words. Others are lackluster in both departments, but most of them are minor characters. It’s important to practice speaking clearly. Even if the acting is good, it’d be pointless if the audience doesn’t understand the dialogue, the most crucial story-building aspect in theatrical plays.

Another hindrance that would affect the viewer’s experience is the sound system where the play was staged. What’s the point of having a clear enunciation if the sound system tends to be shaky? Most of the time, I don’t understand what the characters are talking about because I can’t hear it properly. This lessened my enjoyment.

Overall, Pinocchio and The String of Lies excels in the creativity department- in concept, stage design, costumes and the like. But with a weak storyline and poor execution, it failed to give its viewers a spectacular experience.

The Life of a Transgender

Facebook photo of Jennifer Laude

As of the moment, murder of Filipina transwoman Jennifer Laude is deemed as the worst LGBT discrimination act in the Philippines. LGBT activists condemned the act, and it prompted them to conduct a series of awareness campaigns in hopes of making this world a safer place for their kind.

Members of the LGBT community still find it hard to mingle in a homophobic society. Life has been so harsh on them to the point they learned how to eat bullying and death threats for breakfast.

It’s even harsher for Filipino LGBT’s. The Philippine society, being predominantly Roman Catholic, does not tolerate anything which strays from the heteronormative.

But it’s the hardest for those in the transgender category. How can a woman stuck inside a man’s body can act the way they want in a society which labels them as delusional? Among their common struggles are debating on what comfort room to use, allegedly violating dress code policies, being discriminated on job applications, etc.

This interview with Vhal Manansala, a journalism student and a pageant consultant, and AJ de Leon, a political science student and a gay rights activist, shall shed light into the issue. What is the feeling of being a transgender in a religious country?


From left to right: Charisse Mercado, Vhal Manansala ang Jockie Bed Berog.

Give us a background about yourself, and the time you first had self-awareness about your gender identity/sexuality.

I’m Vhal Manansala. I’m a freshman student from [Bulacan State University’s] College of Arts and Letters, belonging in the journalism department.
In terms of sexuality, I consider myself a transsexual. Ever since I was young, I felt that there’s a girl inside me and there’s something wrong. I felt different. When I grew up, it dawned on me that I really wanted to become a girl.

I consider myself a pre-oppose transgender in the LBGT community. Actually, sexuality [is complex and] there are many definitions associated with it.
Right now, I’m undergoing hormonal therapy (HRT) so as to develop those [organs] I want to develop. I’m planning to undergo a [sex change] surgical operation some time after college.

I grew up in the USA and finished my studies there up until middle school. After that, I went to the Philippines and finished my high school degree here. I didn’t immediately enter college because I had a job. But when I felt that I need channels, I found Bulacan State University and decided to come back at school.

Will you clarify the concept of pre-oppose/post-oppose/non-oppose transgender?

A transgender falls under the pre-oppose category when she still has a male genitalia. None-oppose transgender are those who are content with their biological sex. Those who undergo operations to change their genitalia fall under the post-oppose category.

As a member of the LGBT community, can you tell us stories about the struggles you’ve experienced (e.g bullying, parents are against it, discriminated by teachers, etc)?

I’m from a very different culture [coming from the USA]. So I experienced culture shock, especially when the school guards asked me to stop and asked “Why are you dressed like that? Why is your hair long? Are you a girl?”

You have to explain yourself to them. And as a transgender, are you willing to actually do it? Because we are delicate and sensitive to such questions. We feel awkward when someone asks something like, “Have you undergo surgery?”

Another struggle is about entering male comfort rooms. At school, they have to know your whole story before they give you permission. Not all school staff understand us so we have to explain it to them. That’s why gender development seminars are so important.

I don’t have a problem with my family. They wholeheartedly accept who I am. [They respect that] it’s my life. They gave me permission to live my life freely since I ran away from home at the age of 14. I manage to leave [the comforts of my home] to be independent at a young age. They didn’t question the path I’ve chosen because after all, I am being responsible since day one.

Has there been a time when you feel had doubts about our decision? Any regrets?

No. I have no regrets because this is what I’ve wanted since I was young. I want to come out with my body [for the sake of gender expression]. I really like my transition, and I hope it’d be successful in the near future. I’ll really pursue it.
On bullying, while it’s true that I had bullies, there are also people who love me. I commend our college’s dean for understanding the transition that happens in one’s body.

I’m a working student, a pageant consultant, so I need to look the way I look. How can I teach beauty queens if I look like a man? They will not believe me if I do look like one.

How do you cope with a conservative society which tends to be homophobic?

It’s hard because you have to prove yourself every day. But on the brighter side, [you don’t have to be discouraged because] when people who initially judged you came to actually know you and realized that you’re an okay and capable person, they will eventually accept you. But it’s a [step-by-step] process.

Gay marriage hasn’t been legalized in the Philippines. What can you say about it?

For me, it has to be legalized because it’s not an issue about morality. It’s about human rights. I don’t have to argue with the Catholic Church because while I do believe in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t mean I believe the Bible in its entirety. Don’t get in the way of two people who are in-love with each other because it’s love [after all.]

What can you say about the Jennifer Laude case?

Jennifer Laude’s case is saddening because [it’s an example of an incident where] the trans community is being stereotyped as prostitutes, especially here in the Philippines. But it’s not exactly true because people have different mind sets. We have dignity. For example, I want to finish my studies. I have friends from other universities who also undergo transition [as a transsexual] and on the same boat as mine.

Jennifer Laude is our sister. She being a prostitute doesn’t justify murder. Pemberton has to pay for what he’s done.

Have you watched “My Husband’s Lover” or “The Rich Man’s Daughter?” What can you say about it?

I haven’t watched much of My Husband’s Lover and The Rich Man’s Daughter, but I did watch Destiny Rose. It is a perfect show for the trans community. Destiny Rose is a good example of a dignified trans, and an embodied message for those who disrespect the community, Jennifer Laude being a victim by those people. You can be beautiful, simple, smart and famous even if you’re a trans.

I do commend the existence of TV series such as My Husband’s Lover and The Rich Man’s Daughter because it proves that we’re one step ahead towards accepting these kind of shows. During the past, LGBT people had always been depicted as comic relief characters, so it’s good that writers and producers come up with a show which shows the other side of LGBT’s- their capability to love.

Do you have a message for the LGBT members who haven’t “come out of their closet?”

If it’s their decision to remain a “closeta” and if they are actually happy with that, it’s fine as long as they don’t do something wrong. You will never wish to step in our shoes because it’s really hard [to be an LGBT member]. But the greatest thing in this life is to be free so they need to be proud of who they are. If they can contribute something meaningful to the community, is there any reason to not come out? And we need to prove to ourselves that every member of the LGBT community has capabilities and can contribute something good to the society.

In what ways do you think the government or other sectors of the society may help you?

Elections are coming near, and we want a leader who will support the LGBT community. But we tend to be skeptic about certain candidates who said they support us. What if they’re only using us to gain votes? Do they really plan on supporting us?
This is according to the gender sensitivity group led by Filipina Geena Rocero, the first transgender model who became successful in America.

Whoever becomes the next leader must pass an anti-discrimination law which will protect us and cater to our needs. For instance, let the transgender wear female uniforms and be allowed to enter female comfort rooms.

How can you use your talents or writing skills as a journalism student for the sake of the LGBT community?

I manage to express myself more beauty pageants, especially during the Q&A portions. I haven’t been defeated and I always bring home titles even if I don’t consider myself beautiful because of the way I express myself during the Q&A’s. There, I tell people about how much I love the LGBT community.

At the same time, I support them as a journalism student through simply posting related content on Facebook and on blog sites. Through that, little by little we can orient people about us.

Professors ask me during recitations, “What are the things your community fights for?” I answer to orient them and my classmates. I also write about the LGBT in my college essays [to deepen my professor’s understanding].

Any message for those who hate the LGBT community?

Don’t hate what you do not understand. That’s what I can say for them. All of us want to be happy with our lives. We just want to contribute something for the goodness of other people. So if you don’t understand [us], make it a point to know more about the members of the LGBT [community]. There are bad people but there are also good people. It’s okay to have opinions, but it’s never right to discriminate people. I hope that a day will come when all of us have unity. Let’s love each other because we are one race and one country. Give love and help each other regardless of one’s gender preference.

What can you say about Caitlyn Jenner?

It takes a lot of courage for a girl like her to come out. She’s so great. She proved that one’s life status shouldn’t hinder you [from expressing yourself]. She broke the rules [of the society] even if she has a family. We’re happy for her because she kept it all to herself for a very long time and it must have been hard on her. She will not come out if not for Filipino transwoman Geena Rocero, the one who inspired Caitlyn to come out.

Interview with AJ De Leon via Facebook

Give us a background about yourself, and the time you first had self-awareness about your gender identity/sexuality.

AJ De Leon, 18, political science major. I’ve been made aware of my sexual orientation (heteroromantic, heteroerotic, straight) since grade school, my gender identity (transgender) since high school. Just a primer: sexual orientation is whom I am attracted sexually to. Gender identity is my innate sense of self. Gender marker is the reproductive organ I have since birth. I am a transgender woman who is attracted to men.

(Note: Transgender people don’t have to go through gender confirmation surgery to be called “transgender”)

Further info:

As a member of the LGBT community, can you tell us stories about the struggles you’ve experienced (e.g bullying, parents are against it, discriminated by teachers, etc)?

I have received implicit abuse from teachers since elementary especially because DepEd has always been following a strict heteronormative standard. It’s only recently that DepEd has changed its policy in favor of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals as regards its decision on gendered uniforms and hairstyle policies. I would say that schools are the most abusive places for people like me who fall outside the traditional gender binary. Even though schools are expected to uphold a more proper code of standard behavior, they are still very disrespectful towards the LGBTQIA* community.

At home, though, there are still persistent microaggressions albeit somehow “toned down”. To this day, I still experience hostility as a non cis-passing, pre-operational transgender woman. But since transferring to UP, I have noticed that UP students are more accepting, more tolerating, and far less abusive. My current school is something I’d consider a “safe space”.

Gay marriage hasn’t been legalized in the Philippines. What can you say about it?

It’s largely due to the fact that majority of the public figures that we elect to hold government offices are helping in shaping a Philippine jurisprudence that divests LGBT people from being married. The Philippines is very much ripe for marriage equality but for so long as the electorate puts people like Sotto to hold public office, the longer is the road to making it happen.

How do you cope with a conservative society which tends to be homophobic?

Educate people. You really can’t cope. There are tiny aggressions and suggestive remarks received by LGBT every day, it’s exhausting. To educate one person is already a huge feat in diminishing daily abuse.

Do you have a message for the LGBT members who haven’t “come out of their closet?”

I would tell them to come out, but never at the expense of their safety. Being LGBT comes packaged with a lot of safety threats. At home, there’s a threat of familial disownment. At work, gender-based discrimination is still rampant. In school, despite school guidelines that protect LGBT people from discrimination, there’s a threat of bullying. So my message for closeted LGBT is for them to come out *only* if they feel safe in doing so.

What can you say about the Jennifer Laude case?

The Jennifer Laude case is an inexcusable crime that happens when transgender people are forced to categorize themselves with inaccurate depictions of their identity. There’s little justice served when even the decision against Pemberton implied that there’s “non-disclosure” from Laude’s party. Being a transgender woman is not in itself a deception. This convoluted understanding of trans identity is dangerous and a byproduct of a transphobic law and environment that we have in the Philippines.

In what ways do you think the government or other sectors of the society may help you?

By passing laws that equally benefit all identities of the LGBT community, not just the L or the G. Bigger fines and punishments who harass, physically or otherwise, people within the community.

Have you watched My Husband’s Lover, The Rich Man’s Daughter, or Destiny Rose? What can you say about it?

These shows give us fresh recipes amid the stale ones. Although there are still problems that need to be given exposure to when tackling issues of underprivileged sectors of society, these shows are unusual and timely. With Destiny Rose, though, there’s mischaracterization of the role of Ken Chan. When narrating transgender experiences, either you hire real trans women to play the role or you hire cisgender women (straight women) to do so in order to prevent the normative trope that transgender women are “men”.

Any message for those who hate the LGBT community?

Go to school.

Interview with a Philippine Daily Inquirer Correspondent on Photojournalism

From left to right: columnist JZ Reyes, Carmela Reyes-Estrope of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Bulacan State University journalism student Jockie Berog and Charisse Mercado. Photo by Jockie Berog.

“I’ve dreamed of becoming a journalist since I was a child, at about the time when I was seven years old. I was so happy whenever I was able to write phrases with rhyming words. Then I would shout because I was overjoyed. I’d tell my friends, ‘You know, I successfully wrote this poem.’ I always love writing. When I was in high school, my sulating pormal or sulating impormal always received high marks, whether it’s written in English or Filipino,” narrated Mrs. Carmela Reyes-Estrope as she reminisced her beginnings in the field of writing.

Estrope during the course of the interview. Photo by Jockie Berog.

As a correspondent of The Philippine Daily Inquirer or PDI (one of the largest news sources in the Philippines) assigned in Bulacan since 1998, she had undergone trainings and workshops in photojournalism as required by her company. Her vast experience in the media industry gave her a treasury of unforgettable experiences and useful pieces of advice for rookie photojournalists, which she shared with us.

For Estrope, a good photojournalist has the eye to spot the best angle for the photo, just like how a good news writer knows what angle of the story sparks the interest of the reader. Multi-awarded photojournalists usually go on the same coverage with other photojournalists, but according to her, what sets them apart from others is the way they choose their angle. They can see the “things” which others cannot see.

But before they become experts, photojournalists must first know the basics. For her, these are the three basic rules that must be remembered by every photojournalist: (1) against the light law, which means one must not take a photo with an overly bright background (2) do not use your camera’s flash if there’s another source of light and (3) make sure that the spaces are maximized; delete the photo that has many useless spaces.

The more complex part of the interview comes with a narrative of her actual experiences in the field and the ethical and safety tips a photojournalist must practice for the sake of professionalism.

Front Page Photos and a Competition

If there’s one thing she considers as her most unforgettable experience in the field of photojournalism, it would be that time in December 2015 when she took photos of flooded areas in Calumpit and Hagonoy- two of the most low-lying and flood-prone municipalities in Bulacan. It was that time when Angat Dam had to release volumes of water as its water levels elevated beyond the spilling point due to runoff water from the Sierra Madre mountains.

The story goes like this: “I had to submerge myself into the flood so I can take photos of the residents. One of them was chosen to be in the front page of an Inquirer issue. It was about a man who carried his dog, holding it tightly, as he treaded the deep flood. It was as if he was trying to save it.

“I had other photos which were also published in PDI. One was a photo of the flooded Calumpit church’s façade. This caused the cancellation of the simbang gabi ceremonies. The inside was dry and there are about three relocated families there. ”

She also deems the experience as the most heart-breaking one she had as a photojournalist. “It’s because it’s drama. It’s dramatic to see how people struggle to survive during those calamities and how they bravely walked through harmful waters trying to save their properties and animals. [How come] a man would hold his dog instead of a blanket, a chair, or a child or young member of their family.”

Other than that, another photo of hers that was bannered on PDI’s front page was about the longest pastillas candy made in the Philippines during the Singkaban Festival 2008.

She also shared with us the time when she won a photography competition in Bulacan. “This photo is related to the Earth hour. I turned off the lights so only the silhouette of the candles can be seen.”

On Ethical Issues and Safety Tips

Estrope also talked about the ethical issues a photojournalist may face on the course of his career.

One of the things she emphasized as a “major no no” is when a photojournalist fabricates through giving instructions to the subject about how should he pose for a particular photo. “There should be no such thing as ‘please come nearer’ or ‘fix your hair.’ If you’re a [photojournalist], you must capture the action, the life and the drama [in its rawness and reality.]”

Another photojournalism law she discussed with us was about the photos which “must not be taken.”

She said that one doesn’t have to take ethically and morally improper photos even if they hold journalistic value. Those kinds of photos are either gory or sexually suggestive. One example she shared with us is when a media practitioner captured a photo of the late RTC Bulacan judge Wilfredo Nieves when he was ambushed on Malolos last November 11. In the photo, which was uploaded in Facebook, Nieves was shown lifeless. “Lawyers, other judges, and the family of the victim requested to delete that photo because it’s ethically and morally not right,” she said. “You disrespect the deceased when you do something like that.” She also remembered a particular situation when a couple was making out in the middle of her coverage, another good example of a photo which “must not be taken.”

Lastly, every photojournalist must ask permission from the subject or the owner of the subject before he gets to take a picture, even if he has to go through lengths just to ask for it. One instance she gave is when she wrote a story about the haunted house Ilusorio Mansion, popularly known as Bahay na Pula, in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. “Before I get to take a picture, I had to ask permission from the municipal officials and the owners themselves. But it’s not easy because the Ilusorio clan doesn’t live in Bulacan. I had to use my channels so I can contact the mansion’s caretaker to ask permission.”

As for the safety tips, she said that one must take care of the camera because it’s expensive. But ultimately, one must take care of his life the most because no amount of money can revive the dead.

She told us a story about a shabu laboratory raid in which she was one of the back-up media man. During that time, she had double thoughts about whether or not she would take photographs because there was a closed car near the scene. She was thinking that there might be druglords inside who would eventually follow her to claim her life.

The interview concluded with that answer, and after that we took a selfie with columnist JZ Reyes inside the Bulacan Press Club office on Wednesday, January 13. If there’s something we consider as the best advice for photojournalists which encompasses all the aspects she had discussed, it would be: “It’s not enough that a photojournalist is good in technicalities. He must also have the heart.”

About Carmela Reyes-Estrope and her Affliations

Carmela Reyes-Estrope graduated from Central Escolar University with a bachelor degree in journalism in 1990. She applied for Masters Degree in Philippine History and Master Degree in Journalism at U.P. Diliman, and a degree in Law at San Sebastian College of Law, but unfortunately she wasn’t able to finish them due to her busy schedule.

She previously worked in Manila Standard, Manila Tribune and Philcom as a correspondent and in Marcelo H. del Pilar National High School as an English and Journalism teacher.

She currently works in The Philippine Daily Inquirer as a correspondent assigned in Bulacan since 1998 and a part-time journalism professor in Bulacan State University since 2010. She’s also the owner and editor-in-chief of weekly Bulacan newspaper News Core.

She’s the current president of both Bulacan Press Club and Camp Alejo Santos Press Core, and a member of the National Union of Philippines Journalists and The Philippine Daily Inquirer Correspondents Guild. She’s listed among the top 20 PDI correspondents in terms of income.

4 Must-Have Characteristics of Every Journalist

Being a journalist is a tough work. This profession is not for the weak-minded. Only the ones with a strong heart are allowed to experience the glory of writing stories for the public.

If one wishes to be a journalist, he must have this set of characteristics to help him (1) survive the challenges of being a media man and (2) thrive in this profession:

INFOGRAPHIC. An illustrated list of a journalist’s must-have characteristics.


CREDITS: Illustrations from and Google Images.