I Came to Dumaguete for a Vacation and Found My Home
Many LGBTQ+ families have made Dumaguete their home.
In addition to the PRIDE celebration in June, there are concerts and fun activities throughout the year attended by the whole community. Many churches and other organizations are welcoming and affirming groups, open to all. As a whole, Dumaguete provides a safe place where everyone is able to live openly.
The local government was one of the first in the nation to pass to SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression) Equality Bill, protecting against discrimination and abuse. Dumaguete is a progressive town where many organizations are leading the way for policy and awareness that is improving LGBTQ+ quality of life. ISPEC is a student organization at Silliman University which recently received an international grant to work with local authors and artists to publish 3 children’s books set in Dumaguete City that have supportive messages for LGBTQ+ children.
Here is one person’s own experience:
I had just come out as a transgender male and I decided to take a year off after graduating from high school to travel the world. I wanted to have some fun, but most importantly, I wanted to get to know me. Not having a lot of money, but having an adventuresome spirit, I decided to start my journey by visiting a friend who was living in Dumaguete. I was drawn to the beautiful beaches and the diving opportunities, but I discovered so much more.
When I first arrived in the City of Gentle people, I immediately went to the beaches to swim and soak up the sun (it was -1C when I left Toronto), as well as to get recertified to dive. My friend was a college student, so she was unable to join me during the day as I explored the tourist spots. It was easy to get around and since everyone spoke English, I was able to learn about other amazing spots that the typical tourist did not know about. In addition to the beaches and diving, I went hiking in the local mountains and shopped and ate at all the niche shops and cafes. At night my friend introduced me to the vibrant night life of consisting of acoustic guitar bars, great restaurants, dancing, and gatherings in the park by the sea. It was easy for my friend to convince me to extend my stay a bit longer.
By staying in Dumaguete longer, I came to understand what a unique place this is. I soon discovered that I could be myself without fear of facing discrimination because I am transgender. What a relief! I had been out to my close friends and family (and wonderfully supported by them), but in high school I had experienced threats and abusive comments from others, so I had been wary of really being who I am with others I did not know.
Since my friend is a student at Silliman University, I attended the SU Church with her and her boyfriend. I was relieved to see LGBTQ couples who were integrated within the congregation. Yet, it was a lecture series that the church was sponsoring in support of LGBTQ and the SOGIE bill (which has since been adopted by the local government) which excited me the most. As someone who has faced ugly comments and harsh looks from parishioners at my home church in Canada, it was heart-warming to actually worship in a place that was ok with who I am.
Fast-forward ahead, I made Dumaguete my home several years ago. I am in a loving, supportive relationship with an amazing woman and we are able to live an open, healthy life together. I am finishing my college degree at SU, and plan to enter the SU law school as I intend to be a community advocate for LGBTQ youth throughout the Philippines; creating affirming and supportive local governments that are modelled after the organizations and government here in Dumaguete. I am so glad that I decided to take that year off to discover who I am…little did I know that I would also discover my home!