The beautiful dad
MANILA, Philippines — In a Filipino family setting, the father’s role is to make a living for the family while the mother tends to their children. But in modern times, these stereotypical roles are challenged and redefined. Today, mothers also earn for the family and fathers play the role of mothers.
With his golden hair tied in a loose bun, Ed Manalang puts on hair dye to his customer as his wife Rose checks on the hung laundry—an ordinary afternoon in the Manalang household. Nineteen proud years of being a hairstylist, Ed provides for his family through his profession with flair which also taught him a thing or two about fatherhood.
“Hindi naman pare-pareho ang buhok eh. Dapat marunong kang mag-improvise, marunong kang dumiskarte – parang sa buhay,” he says.
(Hair varies from person to person. You should know how to improvise, to be resourceful, just like in life.)
Ed has been together with his wife Rose for 15 years and they were blessed with 3 children: Minorca, their eldest; their only son Edrick who is a basketball varsity team player in their school; and their youngest, Amor.
An family like the Manalangs can’t help but get attention in their community. “Curious” neighbors used to question the family’s atypical setup but eventually gave it a rest seeing Ed as a fostering and hardworking father that he is — even though he wears make up and dresses up like his wife.
“Dati maraming nagugulat na may anak ako kasi nga pa-girl ako, nagtatanong kung hindi ba mahirap mag palaki ng pamilya na ganito. Ang sabi ko naman pwede ko naman silang palakihiin na ganito ako – walang kailangang i-transform,” Ed says.
(Before, people would be surprised I have children because I am effeminate; they ask if I have a hard time raising a family. I tell them that I can raise my kids even if I'm like this, no need to 'transform.')
How they met
Rose is often asked with questions like “how does it feel to be a wife to a husband who wears more make-up than you?” or “Is it hard to be with a gay husband?” But Rose just shrugs and answers with a smile that it’s actually easier.
“Kung ako ang papipiliin, kung lalaki o bakla? Mas gusto ko itong bakla. Kasi tignan mo, nagkakasundo kami sa maraming bagay. ‘Pag tapos niya sa parlor, dito nalang siya sa bahay at hindi ko na hahagilapin na umiinom sa labas,” Rose quips.
(If I'm asked to choose between a straight or a gay man, I'd choose a gay man. Look, we agree on a lot of things. Once he's done at the parlor, he goes home and I don't have to look for him outside, drinking.)
Rose was a yaya back then in Pasig while Ed – wearing full makeup and a dress – was a constant visitor to her boss’s brother who happened to be his boyfriend.
“Madalas siyang pumupunta sa bahay na pinapasukan ko noon, dinadalahan niya ako ng pagkain sa taas dahil nga nag-aalaga ako ng bata eh,” she recalls.
(He was often at the house where I worked. He brought food for me while I was taking care of children.)
Ed continues to visit even though his boyfriend already went back to Cavite. He brings food to Rose and gave her company. Eventually, the two became accustomed and closer to each other – Ed ends up visiting Rose instead.
“Masipag siya at maalagain, kaya ayun nahulog na din yung loob ko sa kanya,” blushes Rose. (He's hardworking and caring, and I eventually fell for him.)
Growing up for the 3 kids and seeing their father wear eyeshadow, grow his hair long and dye it gold like how their mother should, it was unsurprisingly as normal as for any kid growing up with a father who looks like a man.
“Hindi na sila nagulat, kasi ako kasama ng kapatid kong bading din, pinalaki ko silang ganito ako,” says Ed. (They were not surprised because they were raised this way.)
The children grew up in a more “open” environment where they respect grown-ups not on how they look on the outside, but how they are as people. Although, it’s inevitable for other people who grew up in a “normal” setting to ask and sadly sometimes mock children like Minorca.
“Eto yung normal sa amin, kaya hinahayaan ko lang 'pag may sinasabi sila dati kay Papa,” Minorca maintains. (This is what's normal for us, so I don't mind whatever they say about Papa.)
Though his son Edric accepts and loves him dearly, there are times that he is not comfortable seeing his father wear make-up, but it is not too much of a toil to the family.
“Hindi katulad ng ibang beki, tinago nila yung katauhan nila kaya nung lumaki yung bata lumayo yung loob sa kanila. Dito sa bahay, pinakita ko talaga kung sino talaga ako – bakit pa ako mahihiya eh ito ako. Kaya ayun nasanay na lang sila,” explains Ed.
(Unlike other gay men, they hide their real selves so when their kids grow up they become distant. Here at home, I show them what I really am – why should I be ashamed, this is who I am. They grew accustomed to this.)
Ed and his siblings grew up without a father figure in the family; they were nurtured by their mother and aunts.
As he continues to brush his customer’s hair, he said that it’s funny thinking that his children are being raised by women too.
Up until now, their salon business is managed by the couple. Ed cuts hair and Rose assists him in maintaining the salon like sweeping cut hair on the floor, putting the chairs in place and entertaining the customers.
“Yung problema sa pera hindi mawawala, tulad ng closeness namin mag papamilya, hindi rin mawawala,” said Rose. (Money problems won't go away, like our closeness as a family.)
They admit that there still things that the couple can’t do by themselves. “Tatay pa din ako,” said Ed. “May mga bagay na pang-lalaki ako pa din naman gumagawa. May mga bagay na pambabae tulungan kami dun."
(I'm still a father. There are things men usually do that I still do. Some things, my wife and I help each other.)
Tradition says a family should be composed of a masculine father, a feminine mother, and children. The Manalang family veers away from the stereotype, but they are still creating an environment of love, care, and comfort for the children. They also prove that love conquers social constructs and definitions. For Ed, what matters is that they are a “functional” family, and gender is irrelevant in nurturing a family.