This is the second of a three-part series, each one an in-depth look at the story of a family featured in Tang’s latest video series that showed the different faces of the modern Filipino family.
MANILA, Philippines – 14-year old John Bacorro knew he was gay when he was only in second grade.
Understandably fearing his parents’ wrath, he decided to hide his newfound sexuality.
However, not long after, his mother Grace discovered his secret when she caught him dancing in a dress. That night, she decided to make the first move and confront him about it.
Grace recalls that John felt embarrassed knowing that she now knew about his biggest secret, so she didn’t prod him too much then. With the way he reacted and her mother’s instinct, she already knew, anyway.
But one thing’s for sure: nothing has changed in the way Grace saw her son.
Finding acceptance in the family
In fact, when Grace confirmed John’s sexuality, she was happy.
“Na-excite ako dahil siguro wala akong babae[ng anak],” she laughs. “Na-excite ako na parang, ‘Ah! Okay, alam ko na kung saan ako tatakbo balang araw.’ ‘Yung ganon. Kung sino ang magiging kakampi ko balang araw.”
(I got excited maybe because I have no daughters. I got excited thinking, ‘Ah! Okay, I know now who I’ll run to in the future. Who my ally would be in the future.’)
And when she and her son finally had the chance to talk about the subject, she discovered that he hid this from her because he was scared she would beat him up.
At this, Grace made it perfectly clear to her son that she has his back unconditionally.
“Pinaliwanag ko sa kanya. ‘Bakit kita sasaktan, eh anak kita? Kung ano ka pa man, tatanggapin ko nang buong puso, na maluwag sa puso ko’,” she said.
(I explained to him. ‘Why would I hurt you, you’re my son? Whoever you may be, I accept fully, wholeheartedly.)
She doesn’t just say these words of affirmation and comfort, too. She also protects him from everyone that would hurt him whether verbally or physically – including the father of her kids.
John’s father discovered his sexuality just like how Grace did, although on a separate occasion. But unlike her, he reacted negatively, going so far as kicking him.
“Nando’n ako. Inawat ko ‘yung tatay. ‘Bakit mo sipain? Hindi mo pwedeng sipain ‘yan kasi ‘yan na talaga siya. Kahit anong mangyari diyan, wala ka nang magagawa diyan,’ sabi ko sa kanya,” she shares.
(I was there. I stopped the father. ‘Why would you kick him? You’re not allowed to kick him because that’s who he is. No matter what happens, you can’t do anything anymore,’ I told him.)
Grace brought her message across even further by making her live-in partner watch Gloc-9’s “Sirena,” which showed the struggles of a gay boy growing up.
“Ikinuwento ko doon sa kinakasama ko na, ‘O, di ba? Sinaktan mo na ang anak mo at lahat lahat, nasugatan mo na, [pero] hindi na magbabago. Ayan na talaga ‘yan,” she says.
(I told my partner, ‘See? You’ve hurt your son and all, you’ve injured him, but it won’t change him. That’s who he is.)
Thankfully, Grace says that John’s father began to accept his sexuality after this.
As for his older and younger brothers, Grace says except for the occasional teasing (something that she stops them from doing because words can be hurtful, too), they have also accepted this.
Forging a stronger relationship
John’s sexuality coming to light only brought him and his mother closer. Grace says that they’d now often talk about things like school, or banter good-naturedly about him possibly having a crush on someone.
Grace also makes sure that she spends time with John as well as the rest of her sons doing little things that bring them closer together, whether it’s cooking meals for them – which she says John helps her with often – or capping the day by lying in bed together and just talking before they go to sleep.
“As of now po, parang ang papel ko is father and a mother. Mahirap kasi puro sila lalaki, ‘di ba? So hindi ko alam kung paano sila i-handle. So [tinatrato ko sila bilang] kaibigan, barkada. Parang nago–open forum kami,” she shares.
(As of now, my role is both a father and a mother. It’s difficult because they’re all boys, right? So I don’t know how to handle them. So I just treat them as my friends. We do something like an open forum.)
And it’s not just Grace who makes the effort to bridge this gap. Her sons, who she describes as “mama’s boys,” initiate acts, too, that let her know she’s being appreciated.
“‘Pag sila naman may kasalanan, nagsusulat sila sa akin. Yes! Love letter. Tapos ‘yung iba naman kung hindi magsusulat eh nagsasalita sa akin. ‘Sorry.’ Yakap tapos sorry,” she says.
(When they are at fault, they write to me. Yes! Love letter. Meanwhile, the others would talk to me. Say ‘Sorry.’ They’ll hug me, then say sorry.)
Not everyone in our society is as accepting as Grace and her family, so she understandably can’t help but have her own fears and worries as a mother. To John, she has this message.
“Always naman sinasabi ko sa kanya na mag-aral nang mabuti. Kasi nasasaktan ako… sa lahat ng magkakapatid, nasasaktan ako. Ikaw palagi kong nasa isip… Paano na lang kung mawala ako sa buhay? Sinong magmamahal sa kanya? Alam kong sa estado ng buhay niya, walang lalaking forever. ‘Yung gano’n?
“Ang gusto ko lang sa kanya, mag-aral ng mabuti para po balang araw, kung ano [man] pong mangyari sa kanya, kaya niyang harapin ang lahat ng pagsubok na darating sa buhay niya,” she shares.
(I always tell him to study well. Because I feel hurt… out of all the siblings, I feel hurt. You are always in my thoughts… What would happen if I’m gone? Who would love him? I know that with his status, no guy stays forever. You know what I mean?
What I want is for him to study well so that in the future, whatever happens to him, he can face all the challenges that will come in his life.)
And to all parents who share the same experience as her but have yet to accept their son or daughter, she has this to say.
“Hindi ko po nilalahat ang mga magulang. Tayo pong mga magulang minsan po ay ‘di natin akalain na magkakaroon tayo ng anak ng gano’n. Ang sa akin lang po ay [bigyan natin ng] pagmamahal at unawa ang ating mga anak. Kahit na ano pong mangyari, ‘yan na talaga siya. Walang magbabago. Saktan mo, gano’n pa rin.
“So ang kailangan lang po ay unawain [sila]. ‘Wag po nating husgahan kung ano ‘yung pagkatao niya bilang magulang. Kailangan lang po natin i-bonding sila para mas magiging kadikit mo. Ang gagawin mo sa kanya bilang barkada, best friend mo sa buhay. Hindi lang [bilang] anak [kundi] best friend kailangan.”
(I’m not generalizing parents. We, parents, never thought that we’d have our children turn this way. But for me, we need to give them love and understanding. Whatever happens to them, they won’t change anymore. Even if you hurt them, they’ll stay the same.
What we need to do is understand them. As their parents, let’s not judge them. We need to bond with them so we get closer to them. What you should do is treat them like you would your friends, your best friend in life. Not as a child but as their best friend.)
Discovering the many faces of the Filipino family
Grace Follonera and John’s story of love, understanding, and acceptance was highlighted in Tang’s latest video series, with each one tackling a different family subject matter.
In the video, Grace and John reminisced about the time the latter came out to her and how it brought them closer together. As they do the mother and son enjoyed a pitcher of Tang that Grace prepared, showing how a simple act like this gives families the much needed time to bond despite a busy day.
According to Grace, this experience taught her certain lessons when it comes to her relationship with John including making sure he knows that he’s loved and understood, and being proud of him.
In line with this, Rappler and Tang conducted a poll on Facebook asking our followers how they discuss sensitive subjects like gender, sex, and relationships with their children.
Majority of the respondents (58%) said that they encourage their children to talk about said subjects with them, followed by those who said that they wait for them to make the first step (28%), and lastly, by those who said that they ask without forcing them to open up (14%).
Sometimes, life throws us curveballs – from everyday financial struggles to sudden revelations and everything in between – that has the potential to change the way we live or how we see things or someone.
Some of these surprises may be difficult to talk about, but if (and especially when) it concerns our loved ones and how our relationships would evolve from that point onwards, we should be brave enough to break the barrier and address the issue head on.
For it’s only by being open that we can truly understand one another. Understanding, in turn, can lead to acceptance. – Rappler.com
All illustrations in this article by Nico Villarete.
In tough situations such as the recent increase in tax for sugar-sweetened beverages, parents can still make things lighter with family favorites like Tang. Remember that bonding moments remembering surprises and difficulties in life over well-loved brands will always be priceless.
Tang believes that the time and effort you put in for your family, even for small and simple things, matter. Time making Tang can be worthwhile. Time making Tang is time well spent.
In this series: