I was in Grade Four when I learned the technical term for what I am: homosexual.
My classmate, Edwin, whispered to me that his mom had fired the family driver because they found out he was a homosexual. Edwin, who was a geeky little kid with dark skin, whispered the word "homosexual" in a way that made it sound both negative and yet sacred at the same time. He used the same voice whenever he narrated the episodes of "Palibhasa Lalake". He then said in his broken tagalog "Bakla pala driver namin. Buti na lang Mom made him go away."
I nodded, trying to look as if I understood what the term meant, when in fact, I didn't. I thought back then it might have something to do with animal husbandry.
Later on, I went to the library to research the word, and I had a lot of trouble trying to find reading materials that would enlighten me. It was a grade school library, after all. Nagkalat ang mga Hans Christian Andersen stories and Chronicles of Narnia, pero walang books on sexual preferences. I felt rather frustrated that the library, which then to me was my second home, would yield such little information on what seemed to me then was such an interesting topic.
However, I did find some data in good old Encyclopedia Britannica. When I read the meaning, I had a vague epiphany.
"Eh ganun ako ah," was what I thought to myself. So yun pala ang tawag sa akin. Homosexual. Bakla. Uso rin noon ang term na Badaf. There was even a serial killer back then called the "Badaf Killer" in Manila.
So, I started doing some more research. Back then, I already realized that I was different, that I found the same sex more... interesting. I enjoyed watching the athletes in the soccer field not because I was fond of the sport, but because I was admiring how short their uniforms were, and how simply admirable the sweat would glisten from their young nubile bodies. In short, bata palang, baklang-bakla na ako, mga kaibigan.
When I graduated from grade school, a family secret was brought out into the open. My uncle, a respected teacher in our little town in Batangas, was caught having "private lessons" with a student of his; a young boy of eighteen.
You can imagine the outrage, the scandal, this brouhaha caused. The whole Besares-Buquir generation in Batangas is pretty well known, not to sound arrogant or anything. And here was evidence that our bloodline was just like everyone else's: tainted.
My lola, Agapita Besares, or Lola Pitang to many (truly a terrifying figure of feminine power who always seemed to smell of Vicks Vapor Rub), put down her foot and sent my uncle away. "Sa Estados Unidos," she proclaimed, "doon ka gumawa ng kababuyan mo, huwag dito, Carding (my uncle's name). Habang buhay ako, hindi ka pwedeng bumalik." Very soap opera, di ba?
My lola died the year after of a massive stroke, throwing up blood all over her immaculately white bedspread. The whole town of Rosario came to her funeral. My uncle never did come back. He met a guy who ran a deli in San Francisco. He sent us postcards filled with cheerful messages (with only the barest hint of irony in them). He even sent me tons of books which I devoured like crazy. I was his favorite nephew; maybe he saw that I was just like him.
When I went to high school, I had a hard time concealing my secret. There were several bullies in class but most of them left me alone, owing to the fact that I was bigger than them, not to mention smarter. But then, it was the girls who were a problem. Some of them noticed how effeminate I was, and how I wasn't like the other boys, not eager to join in sports and all that shit.
A girl, whom I think was named either Criselda or Lucinda, asked me flat out during sophomore year, "Bakla ka ba, Ryan?"
She asked me this in front of the whole class, with one contravida eyebrow raised, while we were hanging out sa cafeteria.
I turned red with shame I think. I was trying to think of a witty retort but nothing came to mind.
Criselda/Lucinda laughed at my blushing face, and stalked away, to whisper with her other girlfriends, probably about how shameful it was for such a big boy like myself to be gay.
I gathered all my books and walked away. I wish I could write here that I had a cute straight bestfriend who defended me back then and restored my dignity, but I had no one back then. I only had my books.
I've been called fat, I've been called ugly, but thankfully, I've never been called stupid by anyone during my years in school.
Everything changed during college, when my family and I moved to Manila. I got to make more friends. I became more sociable. I met other people who were bookworms like me. In short, I "blossomed".
I came out to my barkada during junior year. Apparently, they already knew about it. They were just waiting for me to come out and say it.
My mother found out about my secret around the same time. Not because I told her, but because she found my secret stash of gay erotica books.
I still remember the day clearly. When I got home, she was waiting for me in the dining room, and I immediately saw all my gay books on the table, stacked neatly. My mother had her "Bella Flores" face on. I saw my ever-loyal yaya, Inday, skulking in a corner, worried sick about me.
Uh-oh, I've been found out. A thousand thoughts ran in my head. Should I lie and pretend they aren't mine but my bestfriend's who asked me to keep if for safety? Should I feign innocence and pretend I had no idea whose books those were (kaso hindi pwede kasi I write my name on all my books, yes, even in the gay ones). Should I just pretend to faint or have an epileptic seizure?
Finally, one thought came out clearly: I might as well come out clean. Wala nang kawala eh.
So, I did.
"So, bading ka?" asked my mother.
"Opo," sagot ko.
She got a little teary-eyed but still did not lose her stern face. I guess she was remembering my Uncle Carding, who was still somewhere in SanFo, frolicking with his lover.
"Pwede mo pa yan pigilan!" sabi niya, a bit louder.
"Hindi siya sakit, Ma," sagot ko. You know what, at that time, I felt some sort of relief. Kasi, finally, after years and years of hiding my secret from her, of dodging her growing suspicions, it's finally out. It was kind of euphoric. But that didn't mean that I still wasn't scared shitless. I was.
Inday was sobbing into her apron, worried about what my mother might do to me.
"Doon ka sa kusina!" my mother barked at her and Inday scuttled away.
My mom faced me again, but no words seemed fit for what she had to say. She was just so angry. So disappointed.
I felt pain in my heart because I understood then that she would never be able to accept what I was. What I am.
We never spoke properly to each other since that day. Not even on the day that I decided to pack up my things and leave. I left because we were arguing almost everyday. I felt that she lost all respect for me.
It's been almost six years since we've passed words. I broke my mom's heart back then, but she broke mine also, when she couldn't accept who I am. Six years since I've seen my home, my family.
Sabi nila, walang magulang ang may kayang tiisin ang sariling anak. I wish that were true.
You may be wondering, my dear readers, bakit ang drama ni Callboi ngayon?
Ganito kasi, I just had one of the worst weekends ever. My heart got broken again. And this time, it's because of my own doing. My own foolishness.
For a smart boy, I sure do make monumental mistakes.
So, to that person, you know who you are, I'm sorry. I'm an idiot. If I weren't an idiot, I'd be running home to my Mom, apologizing for disappointing her, for not being the son she wants me to be. But you see, ma-pride ako eh. I got that from my mother. I guess I learned from the best.
So to you, Peter, all I can say again is: I'm an idiot (ask any of my friends). But I'm your idiot. With you, I can forget my stupid pride. I really am sorry.