The Feast Of The Immaculate Conception in Iloilo, Philippines
The Adventures of The Roving Route #12
With the typhoon looming over our heads, we were happy to say the weather held out for us and we were able to take the ferry back to Dumaguete with no issues. The flight to Iloilo though.... that's a different story! After a while sitting in an almost bare airport, the boarding time came, and went for our flight. As we sat there playing Catan dice, the announcement came telling us that our airplane was still on the runway in its origin. We knew we were in for the long haul and our connecting flight was in jeopardy. Finally, the announcement was made letting us know the entire flight has been canceled- a first for Jacki! She took it pretty well and bulldozed her way to get us the last seats on the flight leaving to Manila just moments later. Looking at the map, it means flying an hour past Iloilo to wait a few hours to then come most of the way back! Finally arriving to our hotel over 3 hours late, we were happy to have made it. There are always adventures when traveling!
Iloilo is hectic. While all Philippine streets are full of cars, trucks, tuk-tuks and the far too common farm animal, Iloilo is all that X10. The roads are wide with tons of traffic, the horns are always going off, and the concrete jungle has made it 1000 degrees! With all the craziness, it was a good spot to try to get some rest and catch up on some work (though having WIFI issues did cause some major headaches!).
As this week was devoted to work, we wanted to touch on something that we have found quite amazing about the Philippines. Anyone who comes here will quickly see the fluidity of gender. There is no two distinct genders but rather a spectrum which people feel comfortable under. If you walk into any store with more than 5 people, there is a very high chance that at least one will be gender fluid or part of the LGBTQ+ community. From what we see, the acceptance is unmatched from anywhere else including Canada. Unlike other countries like Thailand, we have not seen it influenced by the sex industry (though we have yet to stay in Manila) but rather personal desires and feelings. It is amazing to see how comfortable they feel in their own skin and the general public's attitude.
That all being said, things are not perfect in the country and it's important to note that laws don't dictate culture. According to the law, while homosexuality is legal, gay marriage is not. On a federal level, it is also legal to discriminate against someone based on sexual preferences or identity though many regional laws are in place. On the positive, the country was the first in Asia and the Pacific to hold a Pride Parade and constantly has the majority of the population accepting of LGBTQ+ members in surveys. We know this is a sheltered opinion as we do not see what goes on in the personal households, but it is just our observations.
Lastly, we find it very interesting to see such a large population of LGBTQ+ members with high acceptance levels in such a catholic country. Not trying to start anything or generalize, but in many countries that religion has a stronghold, rights of LGBTQ+ members can be limited. From our understanding, because the country has thousands of years of history prior to the Spanish conquest, there are many aspects of the Filipino culture that were able to endure the changes imposed by the foreign rulers. Our week ended with a public holiday for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of the largest religious celebrations in the Philippines. Like most things in the Philippines, it was very difficult to find any information online about what would be going on in the city so it was a nice surprise to stumble upon dozens of floats getting organized for a procession. The 40+ floats decked out with live flowers, lights, speakers and sometimes groups of followers surrounding them were mostly topped with different depictions of the Virgin Mary. The few that did not, detailed specific aspects of the bible such as the nativity or Jesus' crucifixion. It was stunning to see how intricately designed they all were. It would have taken weeks building and decorating each one of them only to have the flowers wilt away and die just a short time after. Once again it is amazing to see the devotion to religion that the Filipinos have!
We head on a short ferry ride to the island of Guimaras, Home to the world's sweetest mangoes! Hopefully, we will be able to indulge in all sorts of mango products as well as get in some beach and island hopping time!
Cheers from Iloilo, The Roving Route