For all of my life I want to be a girl. But not this way. Not in my birth certificate. Because of this mistake my trip to New Zealand is delay. We cannot married. But don’t worry. I follow up my papers always. Please wait for a little. We will soon be together. We will live happy ever after.
I’m sorry you spend too much money for me already. I don’t know that going abroad is very expensive and very meticulous. I know you are much money. Your pension is large and one dollar there in your country is thirty-six pesos here in my country. But I’m still shy to you. You shoulder all the expenses. Last year you even go here in the Philippines to see me because it is required, because your embassy said I’m not your partner because we only chat in the internet and we never meet personal. But after you go here and you go back to New Zealand…your embassy said to you again it’s not OK, I still cannot get a partner visa, visitor visa only.
I understand. It is strict in your country. You really have to follow the rules. No favoritism. Here in my country your papers are approve, no question question, if you are relatives of government employee or if you will under the table to them.
You said to me visitor visa is OK, no problem, you will sponsor me. We can still have same-sex marriage there in New Zealand when I arrive there. But the problem now is my birth certificate. When I was born my mother went to the municipal hall to register me and the clerk type female instead of male. Or maybe it is my mother who said female. She do not know how to English well because she finish grade six only. I’m lucky I finish two years computer vocational.
I’m writing to you this letter because I went up again here in Kulaman to take care my mother which is a stroke victim. Kulaman is a boondock as I said to you before. There is no internet here. I’m typing in the laptop I buy when you send me dollars last year and I will email this letter to you when I go down to Isulan the capital of our province. Next week maybe. My one sister will have no obligation and she will replace me to take care our mother. I will go down to Isulan to find a newspaper that will publish my new birth certificate. Fortunately I don’t have to go to Manila, Davao or Gensan. My one friend said newspaper in Isulan is already OK.
You know John, the process is very tiring. But I’m not complaining. I just want to share. I have no one to talk because me and my mother is alone here in the house and I cannot said to her my problems because she is sick you know. She might stroke again. My father is dead four years ago and even he is living now I will not talk to him because we are not closed. Anyway, I cry when I went to Gensan last month to apply for passport and I’m rejected. When the in-charge see that my birth certificate is female and not male she throw my folder. My papers fly in the air and I pick them one by one in the floor. The in-charge said to me I’m stupid because my birth certificate is wrong and I still apply apply, I’m wasting her time. I cry. I don’t want to cry because there are so many people there lining looking at me. But I cannot control myself and I cry like there is a dead which is my relatives. I said to the in-charge I thought it will be approve because I’m going to New Zealand to have same-sex marriage anyway, what the difference if my birth certificate is male or female. Her treatment to me change when she hear my husband will be foreigner. She explain my birth certificate should be male whatever I will married, gay, girl, boy.
That happen to me often. People look down to me because I’m gay and ugly but their attitude change when they discover a New Zealander want to married me. They say to me I’m lucky and they are envy. You change my life John. Before, people here in our barrio call me Agi nga Ati. Agi is meaning a gay and Ati is meaning the natives. Like the Ati my height is down, my skin is black like charcoal and my hair is curly curly. Now that you are my boyfriend already, people now call me Nonoy which is my true nickname. Sometimes they even call me Gang which is use only to your friend or your love one. Before, the people here make me feel low. They only like me if I joke about myself that I’m a gay and my skin is black. What can I do, I just cry when I’m alone. You know my happiest moment in life? When you and me is in Boracay, after making love in the bed you said to me I’m beautiful.
Yesterday my brother Ricky and his family is here. He said to me he is visiting only our mother which is sick but I know, I feel he have another purpose. As I expect, before they go back to their house in the next barrio . . . his wife approach me and whisper can she borrow money? She said they need to put fertilizer in their corn.
Ricky is two years more older than me. He is very bad to me when we are still small. He call me Agi every day almost. He also punch me sometimes even I do nothing to him. He is shy to other people and his friends because his brother is a gay. One day I see him and his friends stand by in a store. His friends shout to me Agi nga Ati! Agi nga Ati! and laugh to me and to him. He keep quiet. But when he see me in the house and our mother went away, he punch me. He is very angry and he said to me to stop being a gay.
I try to stop being a gay. I want my brother to be not shy anymore to other people and his friends and I want other people to stop laughing to me. But what can I do? My waist move left and right like it is have own brain. If I try to walk normal, I look like robot. I’m afraid of the cockroach, the rat and the lizard and I shout if I see them, I just cannot control myself. And my voice sound like a girl even when I become teenager and the voice of other boys become big like they’re inside a cave when they talk. What can I do? I’m a girl in the inside.
My brother’s attitude to me change when I begin to have money. When I finish high school I try to find a way to go to college. I don’t want to follow Ricky and my other brothers and sisters who are more older than me. Because our father and mother have no money for tuition in the college, all my two sisters and three brothers stay here in the boondock of Kulaman and work in the farm and married our neighbor or their classmate before. I don’t like to become farmer. I don’t want to destroy my manicure and I don’t want my skin to be fire by the sun and I will be more black. But don’t think that I’m lazy. Matter of fact I am the most hardworking of all the children of our parents. In the house I do the cooking, the washing of the plates, the sweeping of the floor, the washing of the dress, the getting of the water in the spring. I don’t want to become farmer because I want to achieve my dreams. I want to see Manila and the many many cars and the very tall buildings there. I want to ride the Superferry and the airplane. Most of all, I want to help my parents. They are old already. I don’t want them to work in the farm anymore and I want to have money to pay the hospital when they are sick.
I went down to Isulan and work in a house as maid and in the public market as saleslady of rice, rubber shoes, grocery, it depends to the stall. I work and work and go to school sometimes if my money is enough. After six years I finish two years computer vocational. I did not become very good in computer. But I learn to chat! That’s the most important. I know many men from different parts of world, American, German, Pakistan, New Zealander like you John. But don’t jealous. I stick to one after you become my boyfriend. Promise. I don’t look to others anymore. Why would I? You already help me get my dreams in life. I visit to Manila already and see cars very traffic and see buildings tall like five coconuts. Also I ride already the Superferry and the airplane. Plus the train in Manila. I don’t even dream it before. I enjoy inside the train, very full pack, like our field trip here when we ride the dump truck from Kulaman to Gensan to take a bath in the ocean. And of course I visit Boracay with you. The sand is like polvoron. I put sand in my hand and taste it by my tongue. It taste like the ordinary sand in Gensan. I’m so ignorant hahaha.
Ricky said he is envy but he said he don’t want to experience riding the Superferry and the airplane, he is happy already if I give him down payment for motor. I want my brother and me to have good relationship, pass is pass, so I give him money. So he become a driver which is his ambition. Like me he don’t want to become farmer. He trip every day from Kulaman to Isulan so that he can pay the monthly installment. But the money his passengers pay him, he use to buy drink and bet in the cockfight so the company get the motor from him. Now he is back to farmer.
I’m wise now. Yesterday I did not make Ricky’s wife borrow my money like ordinary borrow. I make her borrow with percent. I give them P1,000 for one sack of fertilizer and they will give me P1,500 in the harvest. I do it also to other farmers here in the boondock. I’m a financer now. I rolling some of the money you give me. If I do not, I will be zero. I don’t want to be zero. I don’t want other people to look down to me again.
I still cannot understand why you say you are a gay. I saw you already in video chat and personal and you are very big. Your height is tall and you have muscle and you have thick hair under your face though sometimes you shave all of them. You are not a gay. A gay is like me. I am born as a boy but I speak and walk and dress like a girl. I don’t wear skirt but I wear fit pantaloons and fit T-shirt and different flower flower in my hair. You, you are a man. Sometimes your voice and action is soft but I see many doctors and male teachers here in our province that are like that but they have wife.
You know when we are in Boracay, I am shock when you suck my penis. No one else do it to me especially Filipino. I do not like it. It’s delicious but . . . it’s not normal. The normal is, the gay suck the penis of the true boy and the true boy put his penis in the gay’s anal. I am shock when you request to me to put my penis inside your anal but I am glad that you don’t force me when I said no.
Also I am shock when you bring me to a disco in Manila where everyone is boys. You said many of them are couple as in like boyfriend-girlfriend. The two men in front of us are both handsome like artists in TV and don’t look like a gay. Many girls run to them for sure. I don’t believe they are boyfriend-boyfriend. Why they want to do that? But you’re right. I am shock when they lips to lips. I don’t like what they are doing. It’s not normal.
I said shock many times already. But it is true. Many things about the gays in the cities are shocking to me. Until now I cannot understand your explanation about the transgender and other kinds of gender you mention. Maybe someday I will understand. It’s complicated. It is simplier here in the province. A gay is someone that is wearing the dress of the girl. That’s all. Period.
By the way I went already to the newspaper in Isulan. The process is circle circle. From the newspaper, I go again to the municipal hall here in Kulaman and I go to attorney in Isulan and I go again to the newspaper. But everything is OK now. The clerks in the municipal hall said to me I should be thank you because the process is more easier now because there is a new law and I don’t need already to go to the judge to change my birth certificate. But I don’t believe them. I pay the payments immediately, that’s the reason. I also tell them I’m going to New Zealand for same-sex marriage so they process my paper very fast even I’m not their friend or relatives.
I will get my new birth certificate soon and then my passport and then my New Zealand visitor visa. Oh John, I cannot wait to be with you again. I don’t need already to bold in video chat. You can remove my dress in personal and touch my body hahaha. But serious, I have one problem. My mother. She is sick up to now and I don’t want to leave her.
concluded in part 2
Jude Ortega was born and lives in Sultan Kudarat Province. He’s been published in the Philippines Graphic, the Free Press and Philippine Daily Inquirer. He was a fellow for fiction at the 53rd Silliman University National Writers Workshop.