I don’t remember my family ever being in the habit of heading out of the city (and enduring seemingly endless traffic jams) to hit the beach or the mountains in the north during those holy days of Lent.

What I do remember is every single television station shutting down from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday, save for one channel airing the Fr. Patrick Peyton’s Rosary Crusade movies, where the actor playing Jesus never showed his face (must have been sacrilegious at the time of filming). As a child I always wondered who that actor was. Well, it was a smart move for him, career-wise; I would think it would be very difficult to follow that role with something more earthly.

There would also be an airing of a documentary related to Lent, whether it was an analysis of the Shroud of Turin, or a cinematic trip down the Via Dolorosa. But our practice at home remained the same … we stayed home and ate according to our religious practice.

We seem to have grown less religious (but not any less spiritual) so we may not be praying the rosary as often as we did back then. However, the need for spiritual renewal doesn’t go away. I was able to satisfy it last week with—surprise, surprise—keeping in touch with friends on Facebook and watching some amazing Jesus documentaries on History Channel.

People’s Facebook cover photos were either of Christian services, sunrises (and sunsets) taken at some of our more beautiful beaches. Some friends went mountain climbing, which translated to a few more incredible vistas as well. Plus, there was plenty of food “porn,” photos of amazing Lent-friendly fare that made fish and seafood look so sinful.

On the other hand, an ocean of red and pink washed over Facebook last week, too, with many Netizens pledging support for Marriage Equality in the United States. I changed my own photo, going from a plain red-and-pink equality symbol to those that contained “Sesame Street’s” Ernie and Bert, Mario and Luigi from the “Super Mario” video games, and (my favorite), Peppermint Patty and Marcie from the “Peanuts” comic strips. Not to say that any of these couples were gay (Mario and Luigi are brothers, for instance), but come on. The memes are cute. As serious as the Supreme Court hearings were, a little levity never hurt.

More seriously, the issue of gay marriage is one that hits close to many people’s homes and hearts. If you have a gay relative or a friend, imagine having to tell them that they do not deserve the same rights or privileges that everyone else enjoys. Imagine telling your gay son or daughter that he or she is a second-class citizen, and that the words “all men are created equal” do not apply to them because of their sexual orientation. There were photos posted of the demonstrations on the Supreme Court’s steps (to be fair, there were signs and placards both for and against marriage equality).

There were also comparison photos of those same steps occupied by demonstrators against interracial marriage, black-and-white snapshots of a time in history that is hard to imagine now—when a black man and a white woman, or vice versa, were not allowed by law to wed. (It’s tough for me, having been raised in a cultural melting pot, to think that two people who loved each other but happened to be of different racial backgrounds couldn’t marry). I hope that, 40 years from now, people would find unfathomable that which went on in 2013.


Civil rights issue

This is not a religious issue: it is a civil rights issue. It’s about making sure that under the law, two consenting adults may legally form a bond along with all the bells and whistles that come with it. It’s ensuring that, should one partner pass on, all properties go to the surviving spouse; that their children become beneficiaries to whatever inheritance there will be. It is also an assurance that, should one partner fall ill, the other will not be banned from the hospital room to visit. This has happened in the United States. There are survivors of 15, 20, 25-year unions that are instantly cut off because the law does not recognize their union. They have no protection in the eyes of the law. Justice in these cases is not served.

Stable unions

I have gay friends in stable unions that have lasted many years … relationships that in fact outlive those of their straight counterparts. These unions are shining examples of love, compassion, teamwork … they are true partnerships that I wholeheartedly admire and respect. When the great state of New York announced that it was allowing gay marriage, I immediately thought of two of these friends, happy that, finally, they would be bonded in matrimony. Of course I pledged my daughter as flower girl when the time comes. They haven’t set a date, but perhaps knowing that they could marry anytime, they’re taking their sweet time.

So … I spent my “staycation” supporting a cause I believe in, even only from in front of my computer screen. I believe in my heart that Jesus Himself would have approved. Jesus, mighty Son of God who stood with the weak, the outcasts, the less fortunate and marginalized … lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors … those whom society shunned, feared, hated and misunderstood.

Indeed, I had quite the happy Resurrection weekend.

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  • JeremyinDC

    Lea, you are brave for writing this column. And of course you are right in everything you say. The Philippines, I find, is one of the most homophobic countries in Asia. Yes, average Filipinos tend to mix well with gay people – they attend parties, they do not often get excluded from family gatherings. But often, the very people who graciously smile and socialize with openly gay relatives and friends denigrate them behind their backs – “bakla naman ‘yan” is often heard, placing them at second class status by the malice of their hidden attitudes. People in high public offices display the same bigotry – a senator, feuding with another, threatened to expose her opponent’s alleged homosexuaity; the sheer contempt and malice of this action speak volumes about her contempt for gays. And of course, the Roman Catholic church, despite its devastating, hypocritical stance on child sexual abuse and pedophile priests, leads the way in rejecting gay marriage and gay people. So, good luck in teh aftermath of your column, Lea. I’m sure many of your compatriots will have a word with you soon, and you will be articulate enough to parry with them graciously against the inanities of their bigotries.

    • Lea Salonga

      I know that I’m going to get a little heat, but I wrote on behalf of many gay friends, family and colleagues (including a few from this newspaper). There are so many teens committing suicide due to being bullied, rejected and pushed aside. I wanted a positive voice to tell them they are loved and valued as citizens of this world. Sure, I’ll get someone saying that there are prohibitions outlined within, but the bible also prohibited the outright consumption of pork and shellfish, the eating of meat and milk simultaneously, tattoos and certain haircuts, and the wearing of mixed fibers. Back then, no one knew that homosexuality had a genetic component, like having blue eyes and black hair; in context, it could be considered abnormal, an abomination that ought to be, and was, condemned. So for me, context is just as important as the text. My belief is that gays and lesbians are not to be condemned. Love is love, and everyone should have the right to grow old with the person they love.

  • Mux

    Lea, with all due respect, I admire you as an actress and singer. However, how can you call yourself a Christian, and support homosexuality? It is true that Jesus himself did not say anything specific about it. It is expressly forbidden in both old and new testaments. Check these: There are more, but I just quoted two of them.

    Leviticus 18:22

    “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom
    of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who
    worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice
    homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are
    abusive, or cheat people-none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
    Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made
    holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord
    Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NLT)

    • anooon1

      Jesus did affirm God’s plan for marriage as it was in the Old Testament:

      He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matthew 19:4-6)

      I find the argument “Jesus didn’t say anything about xx, so xx must be ok.” weak anyway. For example, he also didn’t say anything about rape and suicide.

  • Lee

    It is impossible to live our lives according to the book of Leviticus.

  • Daphne Marie

    By far, this is one of the most selfless and humble write-ups ever written. Life, indeed, is all about love. Hence, no one should be deprived of love.

  • JuandelaCruz

    Dear Lea, Thank you for writing this column. I think it will help a lot of people reevaluate their own beliefs with regards to homosexuality and love in general. I’m a practicing Catholic and I had a very religious upbringing. Having a lot of relatives who are nuns and priests, it was a great struggle reconciling my beliefs with who I am … a
    closeted gay man. After several decades of self-loathing, I finally said I had enough and I now believe that God loves gay people too. Christianity is supposed to be a religion of love and I just hope in the spirit of that love people would be able to find it in their hearts to show compassion and understanding towards their fellowmen.

    I feel that the Philippines still has antiquated notions of homosexuality. They only equate being gay as being flamboyant and to cross dressing (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But there are gay men in the military, public office, schools and in other segments of our society that act and look like other straight men, differing only on sexual orientation. I wish we had local celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris or Ricky Martin who have life partners and children that would not fit the Filipino’s term ‘bakla’ or even ‘pamilya’. I hope that you article will challenge their beliefs and lead to a deeper understanding of what it really means to be gay …

    Thank you again for your brave column. You will always have our love and support.

  • Miss Opinionated

    uhm my comment went to moderation…

  • JeremyinDC

    Let’s parse out the differences between Christ, Christianity (example is Roman Catholicism) and Civil Rights when it concerns gays because I think it will be helpful, especially for Mux, who questions Lea’s “christianity”:
    1. Christ – made no mention of gays. By the way, He also made no mention of Roman Catholic pedophile priests either.
    2. Christians – a religious aggregation of different churches worldwide who believe that Christ is god/God, amongst other beliefs. Many Christians (BUT not all) believe that homosexuality is a sin.
    3. Civil Rights – rights stemming from the belief, outside of religion, that all men, regardless of color or orientation, are equal.
    Get it? Believe all you want in whatever religion you choose – and many religious people believe that only they know how to reach the Heavenly gates – but please, do not cram your religion down everyone else’s throat, or think that those who disagree with you are not entitled to the same rights, or do not possess the same capacity for love, affection and enduring human bonds.

    • Mux

      I am not cramming anything down anyone’s throat. ( no gay pun intended ) Lea said she is a Christian, or at least comes from a Christian family. Both old and new testaments of the Christian Bible have verses against homosexuality, fornication, stealing, drunkenness, debauchery, idolatry and many other vices. I am not saying we condemn homosexuals. We must be compassionate to them as we are compassionate to an alcoholic or a drug addict. However, we do not show compassion to alcoholics by giving them more alcohol, or a drug addict by giving them more drugs. We wean them away from it by rehabilitation. Now I don’t know if there is any way to rehabilitate a homosexual. According to Freud, there isn’t but many things that were impossible during Freud’s time are now possible today. Perhaps one day.

      • JeremyinDC

        The overwhelming majority of scientific research shows that being gay is an identity, similar to you being straight (assuming you are). The brain morphology of gays are present from birth; it is not an addiction, as you impute. How would you feel if someone says “maybe you are just addicted to being heterosexual; let’s send you to rehab?” Ridiculous, right? Once you get out of your narrow interpretation of biblical text, the simple act of googling can get you out of your 1950s insularity on this issue. Sexuality, in nature, is polymorphous; it is only religion that often indicts one identity in favor of another. Since you invoke Freud, he, in fact, in a famous letter to the mother of a gay boy, said that there is nothing wrong with being gay.
        Regarding the attempt to turn gays to straight, in fact there was conversion therapy – the therapy that supposedly converts gay people to being straight. It has been shown to be so harmful (their patients often committed suicide) that this type of therapy is now banned in California; many other states are considering a ban.
        But, seeing that you find it difficult to navigate the difference between secular logic, empiricism and religious dogma, it might be best to just continue with your thinking on this matter, hoping it will evolve once you take the time to know gay people well. The fact is very religious people (such as I deduce you are) deviate from logic and scientific thinking so habitually that often, in itself, dogmatic reasoning seems like a form of addiction. There’s nothing wrong with religion – but don’t cram it down people’s throats, or pretend that it is justification to deprive other people, by ignorance, of their dignity. Don’t call them sinners, or addicts, and prescribe Leviticus, or rehab. We have, after all, wiggled out of the Dark Ages and the Spanish Inquisition.

      • Mux

        I am 100% straight, Married, and have 2 kids. I am not overly religious though I do believe in the God of The Bible. Let me ask you, since you mention logic. Is there any logic to being gay? Is there any logic in where a gay person puts his body part to another gay person? It’s like trying to eat with your nose! That organ was not designed for the purpose that gay people use it for. Just that alone should be enough to show the illogic of being gay. You accuse me of deviating from logic, now explain to me the logic of being gay. You can’t because there is none.

  • GTGT

    Thank you, Lea! I have a gay son. Your article inspires me and my husband.

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