When he called her 'Papa,' she promised to be the best father
MANILA, Philippines – "Ma, puwede po bang siya na lang ang maging papa ko?" (Mama, can she just be my father?)
It all started with that question. It was one afternoon in 2011 when 3-year-old Lorenz Castillo asked his mother, Agot Castillo, if Roanne Oca, a lesbian, could just be his father. At that moment, Roanne's dream to have a child became a reality.
"Hindi ko talaga akalain na sa buhay ko dadating 'yung point na may tatawag sa akin na Papa," Roanne, 32, told Rappler.
(I never imagined that at some point in my life, someone would call me Papa.)
Roanne already knew she was a lesbian at a young age. According to her, the turning point was in elementary school, when she had a crush on a female classmate.
"Alam ko na noon eh. Hindi ko rin gusto ang mga gawaing pambabae at pagsusuot ng palda sa school," recounted Roanne.
(I already knew back then. I didn't like doing girly stuff and wearing a skirt at school.)
Roanne did not have to come out to her family and friends. They already knew she was a lesbian even without her explicitly saying it, and the support she got from them was overwhelming.
Roanne, Agot's love story
Roanne said she had been in many same-sex relationships before meeting Agot. But it was with Agot that she saw herself settling down.
"Kaya ang laki ng pasalamat ko sa Diyos na dumating sila sa akin, kasi kung wala sila, baka hindi rin buo 'yung pagkatao ko, at wala ring direksyon hanggang sa ngayon," she said.
(I am thankful to God for bringing them into my life. Without them, my life wouldn't be complete, and it wouldn't have direction until now.)
Roanne told Rappler that she really had a crush on Agot, even before their friends started to suggest that they should get together. Agot's being a single mother was never an issue, added Roanne, who had always dreamed of having a child.
When she felt that Agot would be open to the idea of having a same-sex relationship, Roanne courted her. The courtship did not take long because Roanne also focused on taking care of Agot's son, Lorenz.
"Ang sa akin kasi noon, gusto ko patunayan na kaya ko silang panindigan kahit na hindi ko tunay na anak si Lorenz. Gusto kong punan 'yung pagiging isang ama kay Lorenz at pagiging asawa kay Agot," Roanne said.
(All I wanted was to let them know that I could stand up for them even though Lorenz is not my own child. I wanted to be a father to him and a spouse to Agot.)
The moment Lorenz called her "Papa," Roanne said she promised to strive harder.
"Binuo ni Lorenz 'yung pangarap kong maging ama. Natutuwa lang ako kasi nangyari 'yun kahit hindi ko siya kadugo. [Nagkaroon] ako [ng] matatawag na anak," she said.
(Lorenz fulfilled my dream to become a father. I'm just grateful that it happened even if he's not related to me by blood. I now have someone I can call my child.)
Lorenz is her 'life'
Since the moment Roanne and Agot decided to live under one roof, Lorenz and Roanne have been inseparable. According to Roanne, Lorenz would always seek permission from her first before asking his mother.
"Sa akin din 'yan madalas humabol kapag aalis ako, at gustong sumama kung saan ako pupunta," Roanne shared.
(He would cry whenever I have to leave our house, and wants to join me wherever I go.)
She also makes sure Lorenz has everything he needs, even before he asks for it.
In 2013, Agot had to work as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, leaving Lorenz to Roanne. Since then, Roanne has fulfilled the roles of being a father and a mother to Lorenz.
Roanne would bring Lorenz to school every day and fetch him after class. "Ako na rin nagtuturo sa mga assignments and projects niya," added Roanne. (I help him with his assignments and projects.)
Asked how she disciplines Lorenz, Roanne said she would always tell the child to listen to elders because it is for his own good. She would always tell him to respect older people and not to ever hurt girls.
"Sinasabi ko talaga sa kanya na huwag siyang mananakit ng babae kasi kapag ginawa niya 'yun eh para niya na rin sinaktan ang kanyang ina," said Roanne.
(I always tell him not to hurt girls because if he does, it would be like hurting his own mother.)
Their family may not be considered conventional, with a male for a father and a female for a mother, but this has never been a problem for them since they are surrounded by loving relatives and friends.
Lorenz is turning 10 this year, and according to Roanne, they never had a hard time explaining to him their family setup.
"Matalino si Lorenz Hindi na siya nagtanong [kasi] alam niya kung ano ako. Naintindihan niya 'yung setup namin ng kanyang ina," Roanne shared.
(Lorenz is smart. He doesn't ask questions because he knows what my sexuality is. He understands our family setup.)
In a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, however, there are still many challenges for couples like Roanne and Agot. For instance, same-sex marriage is not yet allowed. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: SC tackles same-sex marriage in historic oral arguments)
This Father's Day, Roanne advised all fathers, would-be fathers, and fathers at heart to be the best dad they could ever be.
"Mas galingan nila 'yung pagiging ama, mas protektahan nila ang kanilang mga anak at asawa, at laging maging responsable. Huwag na rin [tumingin] pa sa iba, kasi doon masisira ang pamilya 'nyo," said Roanne.
(Strive to be an even more excellent father, always protect your children and your wife, and always be responsible. Be faithful to your wife, too, because infidelity will destroy your family.) – Rappler.com