Holiday cheer for LGBTQ+ elderly

The LGBTQ+ community has long been a marginalized sector, and elderly LGBTQ+ persons have been more disadvantaged and vulnerable, numerous not enjoying benefits and facing lonely lives without families. 

To make their lives more tolerable and bring them joy, however fleeting, during the holiday season, the LGBTQ+ program of multinational technology company Google, Google Pride Philippines, partnered with LGBTQ+ political group Ladlad to conduct an outreach project for the indigent, senior LGBTQ+ residents of a community.         

On 14 December 2023, the two groups, with the support of the barangay governments of Central and Pinyahan, held a short program at a covered court of a community at the BFD (Bureau of Forest Development) Compound, in the barangay of Central, Diliman, Quezon City, following a similar event held in Baseco, Manila.

Ang Tabang Ladlad project ay isang inisyatibo na galing sa puso. Ang tanging hangad lang namin ay ang magpapangiti sa ating mga gay lolas at lolos, at masabi nila na may yumayakap pa rin sa kanila. At sigurado ako na iyan din ang tanging hangad ng Google Philippines Pride — ang mabigyan ng pag-asa at ngiti ang ating mga rainbow elders (Tabang Lalad project is an initiative that is from the heart. Our only desire is to bring smiles to our gay grandmas and grandpas, so that they can say there is someone that embraces them. And I am sure that is also the desire of Google Philippines Pride — to bring hope and smile to our rainbow elders),” said Ladlad chairperson Dexter Macaldo in their welcome message.

Allies and friends

Salat man sa pondo ang Ladlad, pero mayaman ang Ladlad sa mga kaibigan at kaalyado katulad ng Google Philippines na sa pangalawang taon ay sinamahan muli tayo at naki-celebrate ng Pasko sa ating mga gay lolas at lolos (Ladlad may lack in funds but we are rich in friends and allies such as Google Philippines, who for the second year will celebrate Christmas with our gay grandmas and grandpas).”

The program was hosted by LGBTQ+ stand-up comedian and content creator Baus Rufo. It was made more special with the presence of drag queens Bernie, a finalist of the second season of Drag Race Philippines; and Marina Summers, runner-up of the inaugural season of the popular drag reality series. Bernie delivered an energetic performance, while Marina, in hot pink terno, lip-synched to “Bakit Ako Mahihiya?” while giving out roses to member of the audience.

Volunteers from Google distributed gift packs filled with grocery items to the attendees, ensuring that they have traditional Noche Buena on Christmas Eve.

Attendees expressed their appreciation for the effort such as Mama Rey, who said, “I really liked the chance to express ourselves and our feelings thanks to our allies at Google Philippines. Because of this program, we’re able to show our true selves and spread our wings!”

On the other hand, Christy Lara enthused, “We thank everyone who celebrates and supports the LGBTQIA+ community today. We hope that you don’t just help the gays of Quezon City. We hope you also reach out to all cities and all barangays.”

“Sometimes, we gays, when we’re alone and lacking friends, we feel the fear of not knowing what to do by ourselves,” said Conrad Carola from Pinyahan. “But now we don’t have to be afraid because we’re no longer alone. We now have allies. We now have Ladlad. I hope that we all support this because the rights and the future that we LGBTQIA+ deserve depend on them.”

Proper support

Macaldo said that the outreach program “ay hindi lamang simpleng pamamahagi ng regalo. Nais din naming magkaroon ng isang malawakang kamalayan sa ating lipunan tungkol sa mga pangangailangan at mga hamon na kinakaharap ng mga rainbow elders. Nais naming mabuksan ang mga pintuan ng pag-uusap at pag unawa upang matugunan ang mga pangangailangan ng ating mga gay lolas at lolos at mabigyan ng tamang suporta. Kung kaya’t kami ay natutuwa dahil sa patuloy ang pag-uusap at pagbuo ng mga solusyon upang tugunan ang kalagayan ng ating mga elderly LGBTs (is not simply about giving gifts. We wish to create more awareness about the needs and challenges of our rainbow elders. We wish to open the doors for discussions and of understanding to address the needs of our gay grandmas and grandpas and to give them proper support. We are delighted that discussions and the search for solutions continue to respond to the plights of the elderly LGBTQ+).”

They revealed that one of Ladlad’s plans is to establish a home for elderly LGBTQ+ persons.

Nais namin iparating sa aming mga kapatid sa Barangay Central na kayo ay mahalaga at hindi nag-iisa. At sana itong okasyon ngayong hapon ay maging inspirasyon sa ating lahat na magmahalan at alagaan ang isa’t isa sa pamamagitan ng pagkakaisa at malasakit tungo sa isang pantay na lipunan (We wish to let our siblings in the barangay of Central know that you are not alone. We hope that our program this afternoon serves as an inspiration to all to love and take care of each other through unity and compassion towards a society with equality),” they concluded.

On the other hand, Mervin Wenke, Communications and Public Affairs head for Google Philippines, said, “We’re glad to continue bringing the Christmas warmth and cheer to our LGBTQIA+ seniors who need all the love they could receive this holiday season and beyond. Our brothers and sisters can rest assured that we will keep going around and doing what we could for as many of them as possible, especially during times when we should all be joyful, happy and celebrating.”