Wednesday, October 13, 2004


I'm on a roll! I should be working for the United Nations if I continue to write about this topic. Maybe about time, too. The world is tired of wars, famine that has left millions sad, depressed.

Yesterday, I had a sad day reading about how 9 people in Japan committed group suicides with the aid of the internet. Yep, this very ethereal medium that is hosting my blogspot, has brought death closer to many people. Apparently, some people discovered that it was boring to die alone, thus some bright mind decided to invite more suicidal people to come together and have a groupie instead.

An average of 30,000 Japanese, most of them young, commit suicide in Japan every year. It's a tragic fact. It's a society of dying people, both the young and the old, in an amazing rate (and fashion) never before seen. Suicides, old age, gas attacks in subways. Welcome to modern Japan.

On another level, it was fascinating to watch National Geographic's PASSPORT program. Yesterday, they focused the spotlight on Asian transvestites, with special attention to those from India and Thailand. The disparity is just terrible.

Anyone who is familiar with Siamese culture knows how accepted transvestites are in Thai society. It's the Buddhism faith that allows them to be like this, for them to exhibit heightened acceptance (and not just plain tolerance).

In fact, an amusing exercise is done every year in Thai newspapers where the photos of the current Miss Thailand-Universe is placed beside that of Miss Gay Thailand, and the public is hitherto requested to decide who's prettier. You already know who wins the polls.

Nong Toom as played by actor Parinya Charoenphol.

A key figure in Thailand is, of course, Nong Toom - the muay thai-trained boy from Chiang Mai who recently became the topic of the heart-breaking film BEAUTIFUL BOXER ( Against all odds, "he fought like a man to become a woman", so goes the teaser of the film. Nong Toom has long given up the sport, and is now an actress and model in the Kingdom.

Nong Toom today.

If Nong Toom is lucky in Thailand, those who hail from Mumbai India are not. The Indian Penal Code has harsh penalties against homosexuals and transvestites are not allowed to take on jobs (at least, that's what I surmised from what I saw from the program. I have yet to read extensively on the topic).

They are reduced to begging on the streets, asking for a few rupees from nearby cars, tricycle drivers and business establishments during national festivals.

"What work can we do? People look down on us", says one.

Tsk, tsk.

I was once with Eliza, a friend of mine, and while waiting for the feature film for the 2004 Eiga Sai to start at the nearby CCP, we decided to drop by at the defunct Film Center and finally get to see and touch that accursed monolith for the first time. It was huge. I was surprised to realize that. It never occured to me how huge it was up close. It has this unsual air about it, like a sad building. Not eerie, no. Sad is more like it.

Anyways, when we reached the back portion to check if the "white beach" Imelda wanted to have is still existing, we were greeted by shrubs and scrap metal. And lo and behold, a group of transvestites actually live at the basement of this palace.

"Palace" or Palais du Festival, is really just damp quarters in this half-abandoned building. They've been living here because the palace has been turned over to them to use as a performance theatre. Gay impersonators, we call them. They were actually happy to see us, but we hid ourselves immediately as some of them were half-naked. One of them even bared "her" big boobs. They were, at the very least, fascinating.

From Bangkok to Mumbai to Manila, transvestites lead interesting lives, if not at all happy. It all proves that the world has become so unfriendly to its own residents, whoever or whatever they may be.

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