For high school student Randel Villamor, being at the receiving end of demeaning words is nothing new. As an openly gay person, he has been told insulting words such as “salot” and “walang mararating sa buhay.”
Come graduation day at the Old Boso Boso National High School in Antipolo City, though, Villamor is at the top of the class. Completing the General Academics strand with high honors, he is the class’ “Natatanging Mag-aaral” and the recipient of multiple awards—Best in Research, Best in Social Science, Best in Work Immersion, to name a few.
‘It’s not easy’
The journey to academic excellence is not a walk in the park, Villamor tells MB Life in an online interview. The child of a vegetable vendor and a farmer, he says there are days when his parents need to borrow money to make ends meet. “Depende sa panahon, sapat naman ang kita ng mga magulang ko, pero minsan ‘yung kita namin sa pagtitinda, naibabayad na lang sa utang,” he adds.
More than the financial struggles, however, it is the constant mockery that has repeatedly hurt him. “Naririnig ko talaga sa iba na kapag bakla, walang mararating sa buhay,” he recalls. “Minsan ‘pag dadaan ako, sisigaw silang, ‘Bakla!’ ganun.”
‘Yes, I am gay and I am proud of it’
It’s an identity that Villamor is not ashamed to embrace, though, even while delivering his valedictory speech. “Yes, I am gay and I am proud of it,” he says in his address. “I’m not just gay, but I’m worth it dahil ilang beses man akong nadapa sa hamon ng buhay, andito pa rin ako.”
He credits his perseverance to succeed to his parents, both of whom accepts and supports him for who he is whole-heartedly.
Villamor also recognizes that while the LGBTQIA+++ community has come a long way, discrimination is still rampant. It has ultimately convinced him to use the speech as an opportunity to prove that anyone can do great things no matter where they may be in the gender spectrum.
“Sa mga hamon ng buhay na aking nalampasan, natutunan kong ang kasarian ay hindi kailanman magiging kasiraan at hadlang upang ikaw ay magtagumpay,” he shares. “Mamuhay ka lang ng tama dahil ‘di naman talaga talino ang magpapaangat sa buhay ng isang tao, kundi sipag, tiyaga, at tamang attitude.”
When asked what his message is to those who are prejudiced against members of the LGBTQIA+++ community, he asks for understanding and acceptance. “Sana sa mga taong hindi kami tanggap, lawakan nila ang pag-iisip nila, na not all of us ay masamang intensyon sa kanila,” he adds.
Moving forward, Villamor wishes to pursue a career where he can continue to represent the community. “Bakla ako,” he continues with his speech. “Ngunit ito ang sisiguraduhin ko-–ako’y magiging tipo ng tao na igagalang ninyong lahat.”