In 2017 we visited the Philippines for our honeymoon and fell in love with the country. From a tourist perspective, as a gay couple in the Philippines we had no problems at all. However, we are always interested to learn about what it is like to be LGBT in a country from a local perspective and not through a rose tinted tourist lens. [no_toc]
This is why we got in contact with Brix, a Filipino local to learn more about what it is like to be gay in the Philippines. Check out his interview below!
Hi Brix, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Thank for the opportunity to share a bit of my life experience and insights on LGBTQ travel in the Philippines and my hometown.
My name is Ruel Perez, my friends call me Brix.
I may look young but I am 30 years old. I used to work in tourism & hospitality and trading in different parts of the world. After traveling around 30 countries I came back to my town, built a farmhouse and became a gardener. I am currently running for town Mayor to fight against corruption and raise awareness for LGBTQ rights in the Philippines.
What is the stereotypical view of a local in the Philippines towards someone who is LGBT (towards either another local or tourist – is there a difference)?
Today it is common to find an openly gay person in any town. A Miss Gay Pageant is too common too where transgender people compete, you will find this event even in the remotest parts of the country.
The Philippines in general is very tolerant towards the LGBT community. However when it comes to same sex relationships, and displays of affection you may get some unwanted negative attention.
Stereotypically when a gay man is present it is commonly a source of jokes and laughter. If people know you are gay you may be asked “do you know how to cut a hair or makeup”.
Many of the openly gay or trans people work in the beauty salons here. Stereo-typically, gay men are expected to wear female clothes and make up even though in the bigger cities gay men can be muscular and very masculine. Lesbians are also widely found here, stereo-typically they cut their hair short and wear loose clothing. (Sion and Ben: this sounds very similar to the machismo culture we found in Central America, they had very heavy old fashioned gender stereotypes – read about Nicaragua for example)
In the countryside, the people are generally more curious with foreigners regardless of your sexual orientation. They will look at you and maybe speak to you. If you’re Caucasian they will call you”Amerikano” even if you’re German or Australian. They are generally more friendly and curious to you as a tourist regardless of your sexual orientation.
Have you seen this view towards LGBT people from the local population change over time?
The views and attitude of the public have definitely changing for the better. More and more openly gay people have become professionals working in different fields especially in the education department.
In my town, I am the first openly gay man in the history to run for town Mayor. It is a signal that any person can dream and achieve their goals regardless of their sexual orientation. The Philippines is however one of the largest Catholic countries in the world, honestly in my opinion a hindrance to creating a laws, protections and equality for LGBT people.
What laws and protection are there for LGBT people in the Philippines? Are these improving?
There are no specific LGBTQ laws so far. (Sion and Ben: Read more about LGBT rights in the Philippines here)
Can you tell us more about the stereotypical gay scene in the Philippines? (Gay bars, clubs, saunas)
There are a few bars dedicated to LGBTQ people in Manila, Cebu and Davao. I have not been to gay saunas but I know there are some in Manila. The scene is active.
What advice would you give an LGBT traveller coming to the Philippines? (What to do and what not to do)
As an LGBTQ traveler you are definitely most welcome here and I’m sure you will receive a warm welcome.
This is especially true if you go to the countryside like my province. It is filled with tons of natural attractions, ultra white sand beaches, giant waterfalls, caves, rivers, crystal clear waters, lakes and so on. Most of it are overlooked and undiscovered Paradise. You may find yourself alone on a white sand beach and may be the only tourist.
The Philippines tourism infrastructure is not as progressive and well organized compared to neighboring Southeast Asian countries. Therefore, before traveling here it is important to choose which islands you want to see. You can take a typical route like Cebu, Bohol, Palawan and Boracay, or if you want an exploration go and discover new places like the island of Mindanao which is where I live.
Flights from Manila to the south are around $20 to $100. Travel by boat is also available as a cheaper option but takes forever, 2 days or more!
Just a common tip from me personally, when you arrive in Manila be sure to get local SIM Card for internet. There is a bus for 20 pesos that brings you to the other terminals, terminals are not connected and can take 30 minutes to 1 hour to transfer.
Be wary to have valuables on display. Also prepare smaller bills when paying as it is difficult to exchange 500 or 1,000peso bill in the smaller shops. Be careful when you open your wallet in busy streets, and be careful with your backpacks. Also if you’re traveling as a couple be careful with your boyfriend, someone might snatch him! Just kidding!
In the countryside it is generally more safe as everyone knows everyone like in my tiny town. Anyone who wants to travel down south of the Philippines is welcome to stay at my farmhouse, it does not have WiFi though so be prepared to read books and download movies and music on your phone. There’s a few local hotels too.
Is it expensive in the Philippines?
No. Compared to the rest of the world it is cheap. The one liter bottle of beer here is only PHP 80 or about $1.20. A meal in a local restaurant can be as cheap as $0.50 cents to $1. A haircut here is only $1. Local Filipino massage is $1-3 dollars. There is a local coconut wine for $2 a gallon!
Is it safe in the Philippines?
Yes. Don’t believe all in the mainstream media. (Sion and Ben: we felt very safe on our honeymoon in the Philippines)
Thank you and have a happy travels!
Thank you so much to Brix for taking the time to teach us all about what its like to be LGBT in the Philippines from a local perspective. There is some progress to be made but it is still miles ahead compared to many countries around the world and an incredibly welcoming country!
For more about the Philippines and South East Asia take a look at:
- Romantic Places in the Philippines: Our Honeymoon
- South East Asia: Gay Travel Asia…is it safe?
- Gay Thailand: Local Gay Stories
Lets spread the word, don’t forget to pin this post!