Attending a Filipino wedding was always going to be an interesting experience for this little heathen. A disciple of Bill Hicks and a believer of Richard Dawkins, I was stranded on a tropical island with 100 churchy-types of my own free will.
Talking to one of the two pastors who presided over the wedding (yep, two priests) began well, we had a shared interest in Samar’s history and helping the poor. In fact I felt like we had more in common than not until he mentioned his new cause “curing and preventing” homosexuality. His wife was virulently homophobic saying how they are lobbying against the anti-discrimination act and how it is “one of the greatest issues in the country” (corruption and poverty would have been my guess).
Did I step up and defend the rights of anyone to love who they damn well please? Pragmatic Jen kicked in and realised there was literally no escape from the island and I let the issue slide (cultural sensitivity 1: personal moral compass 0).
Later that evening I met a friend of my neighbour who invited me. As is the Filipino way, I answered a barrage of questions about my income, past relationships, religion, politics, but this time I decided not to self-edit so heavily. When explaining that I did not practice any religion she said, “You may not be a Christian but you follow Jesus’ teachings in your own way so I think you will go to heaven.”
My neighbour smiled and looked me in the eye; “No you will not, the only way to pass through the gates of heaven is through Jesus …” thus the great debate of my eternal salvation began. After watching my soul bounce back and forth like a tennis match, I decided to go for a walk by the sea.
Down by the water I found the real party, the groom’s camp brother and his fellow ‘ladies’ who loved my accent and taught me ‘gay language’. And here lies the paradox, the Philippines loves gays. They are popular performers on TV and are widely tolerated or accepted in this exceptionally religious society.
I have learnt a lot about the Philippines through my weekend with homophobic and homosexual Christians. Also, always take a good book to read, or you will be left to read The Good Book.