Roy Caruz discusses his homosexuality, drug abuse, and relationships from the 1950s to present day in the Philippines
Born in 1952 in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, Roy Caruz shares how he knew from an early age that he was homosexual. While some elders were disparaging of his preferences, his mother, who raised him and his siblings as a single parent, was supportive. This was against his Christian faith as a Seventh-Day Adventist so he stopped attending church but did not leave Christianity. Roy began to be more open with his orientation in high school, and repeated his first 2 years twice before dropping out in his third year.
Having left school, he moved out on his own and applied for entertainer roles in Japan through his neighbor who was also a homosexual dancer in Japan, but was repeatedly rejected at the auditions in Manila. He then found work in a club as a stylist for female performers, which paid well, but spent all his earnings on his newly acquired vices of drug abuse and promiscuous sex. He returned to his hometown of Puerto, after receiving false information from a neighbor that his family had left, but found that his siblings were still living there.
He also met his boyfriend, a minor, who lives with him next to his family home. His boyfriend also invited friends to use drugs in his house. Roy’s vices later cost him his health, as he acquired a sexually transmitted disease which was only treatable by a drug with legal complications, which most doctors were unwilling to administer, but he found a practitioner willing to treat him. He also recounts that some of his paid sexual encounters turned out to be with heterosexual men who were only prostituting themselves to homosexuals to support their families; and shares that he sees a similar phenomenon amongst contemporary youth, but for the purpose of affording their desired gadgets. He hopes, however, that society’s treatment of homosexuals will continue to improve.
Interviewee: Roy, born 1967
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya
Transcriber: Dominique Jonietz O. Lucagbo
Date: August 14,2019
Keywords: Drugs, homosexuality, prostitution, Born Again Christianity
Roy is a homosexual man who says he was never discriminated and lived his younger years to the fullest. He was happy being independent that no one has a say to anything he does. He says he worked and spent his money attending to parties, taking drugs and having sex with random guys. His interview reveals often unspoken aspects of Filipino societies such as homosexuality, prostitution, drug, and so forth.
My name is Roy, 52 years old and I was born on November 30, 1967 in Bugo Bantilis, CDO. I grew up knowing deep inside me that I’m a homosexual. Even as a child, my actions would give way my true identity, and I would sometimes change my voice pitch to sound like a girl. I never experienced discrimination and bullying during my younger years. It was when I reached 1st year high school that I began exposing myself to the public by cross-dressing and wearing light make-up. I even entered Miss Gay contests and my friends would support me even though I only place in 2nd or 3rd runner ups. I was a happy-go-lucky person that time and was care-free from all negative comments of some elders.
There was just one thing that kept on bugging me ever since I started exposing myself. It was me being a Seventh Day Adventist. It’s against in our religion to be someone in between. They believed that there will always be a man and a woman nothing in between, just black and white. I already knew about this because it was taught to us when I was still a child, but I couldn’t control my own feelings and desire before. I was swayed by the temptation and so I decided to stop attending to church but never changed my religion.
My mother knew all about it and was even supportive of it. Both my parents were already separated and I never saw my father because he left us when my mother was still pregnant of me. He never supported us even financially and my mother had to double all her efforts to let me and my 6 other siblings go to school. I graduated primary school and entered high school where I repeated 1st year and 2nd year of studying twice. I was halfway through 3rd year high school and stopped due to my wrongdoings. My teachers would try convincing me to go back to school and would even visit me in my house but I was tired of it and just wanted to be free on my own.
I remembered I had a neighbour who is also a homosexual named Wanda. He was known in our place back then because he was able to better their lives when he started working in Japan as a dancer. I decided to pay Wanda a visit in his house and asked helps me to also go to Japan. He agreed but first we have to audition at Manila but I didn’t have any money saved that time and so I called my cousin who’s working on a cargo ship that’s sailing from Cagayan de Oro City to Manila. She let us ride in a Cargo ship secretly and docked near in Luneta. We began our journey by auditioning to where Wanda was working. I would dress up and wear make-up. There were about 200 to 300 people auditioning there, all with different talents and gimmicks. My talent would be just modelling and I got rejected a lot of times. I was beginning to lose hope because the Japanese would just accept 2 to 3 people out of the hundreds of people there. I was getting tired by it and just decided to apply a work somewhere in Manila.
It was hard finding a decent job having no education and a finished degree and so I was able to apply to a dance club. This is where all my vices started. My work starts at 8pm to 3am and I worked as a stylist and was assigned in wardrobe to dress 6 to 8 girls who danced in the club. Oftentimes, I would see them naked but not even once did I feel aroused by it. I am paid by each of the girls 500 pesos and sometimes some of the girls are bought by a customer for the night and my salary would increase up to 500 pesos, it was already more than enough for me. There would also be times where the girls are brought by their costumers to a mall to go shopping for clothes and they would also call me to be their chaperone which also had advantages because I get to have my own clothes if I’m lucky enough.
Though, before being a stylist in a dance club, I was able to work in a billiard place, as a waiter. And in a parlour. But being a stylist gave me more money which I would spend it to drugs and alcohol with random guys. When all are drunk and high, we would rent a room and have sex and the next morning, I would be the one to pay the room, the drinks, and also pay the guy that I had sex with. I was never able to save money, I was not really thinking for my future.
I never asked any help from my family, because I wanted to be on my own. I wanted to prove to them that I could handle myself. Though one day I bumped into a neighbour from Cagayan de Oro City, I asked her how was Puerto and how my family is doing. She told me that there were a lot of things that changed in Puerto. My family’s house based on what she said was already gone, and so I decided to go back in Puerto. I went back but unlike what my neighbour told me, our family’s house was still there and even saw my sibling and some of them were already married and lived on their own houses.
In Puerto I did not go back to my old habbits because of a life changing experience that would haunt me for the rest of my life, and it was when became very ill and had to seek medical attention and this was when we discovered that I had caught an STD or a sexually transmitted disease. The doctor prescribed an injectable medicine that would help recover from my illness, but the doctor suddenly passed away and no other doctor would administer the medicine because of some legal issues, though after how many doctors I visited one agreed to administer the drug and thankfully it worked and I became healthier.
I was not able to go back to Manila because I met my boyfriend here. He was just a minor 16 years old to be exact. I know that it is weird to have relationship to someone three times younger than my age but what’s great about this was his mother knew about us and supported us. As of now, he’s living in my house that I built beside my family’s house. What I hated about this was, my boyfriend’s friends would often stay at home without my permission. They would sometimes use drugs under my roof without me knowing. I tried many times to stop them from going in my house but they were not listening. I was worried that some parents would file a case on me thinking I’m the one pushing them to use drugs and molesting them, though fights were nothing new to me. There were a lot of times that girls or even gays would grabbed my hair and claw me all over accusing me that I’m stealing their boyfriend or even husbands. There were a lot of cases like this back then because when hooking up with random guys, it would be too late for me to discover that some of them are already taken and sometimes married. Some of their [heterosexual men’s] reasons [for selling themselves to gays] was they need money to sustain their family.
Men like them usually use gay people to earn a quick buck. I was able to witness it more right now in this generation. Kids these days are rampant on using gays to buy their desired things such as gadgets. It’s unbelievable how this generation have become already but I’m hoping there’s still a chance for a better treatment on gay people.
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya
Interviewee: Roy Caruz
Consider the degree of agency Caruz had in shaping his everyday life experiences, despite his disadvantaged educational standing.
Given Caruz’s testimony, consider what might account for why some citizens remained distanced from the political conflicts of the postwar Philippines while others did not?