Fellows’ Corner: BEF JOURNEY — The Individual, The Collective, and The Movement

Written by: Red Raz, Yami Torres, and Darell Bautista

How do we describe the experience of an unexpected opportunity that we always knew we needed, but we thought would not exist?

Writing about the Babaylanes Equality Fellowship (BEF) proves to be more challenging than getting into the program quite honestly. It all happened so swiftly while being so packed with learning from mindfully selected extraordinary people and experiences with the most diverse and inspiring class.   


From Individual advocates to Intertwined souls

As individuals, we fellows are amiable and outgoing advocates, and we did not think that we would ever have imagined that one of the most rewarding experiences would be one where we were able to listen to and share vital learnings and knowledge with one another. 

Each and every D&D, hangout, and activity has made an impact on the fellows no matter how challenging the interactions had been. Looking back on it, the learnings and interacting with people from other organizations made this fellowship experience remarkable. Though there were times when the fellows did not agree on a few things, at the end of the discussions we always meet halfway and find common ground. We are open to helping one another so that no one will be left behind. And that’s the real essence of learning we are all diverse, but we find ways to become very inclusive.

This pioneering batch of BEF will surely be the foundation of the next fellowship. No words can express how lucky and grateful we are for being Babaylanes Equality Fellows.

The Power of the Collective 

But before we take our final walk as fellows, we had the opportunity to partake in making the batch project that our group has come up with. This tool will actually help student organizations all over the country, we call it “Joint Na! LGBTQIA+ Student Organizing Module”

A large number of persons with diverse SOGIESC continue to feel unsafe at school as they face discrimination, harassment, and violence.  With sexist curricula, discriminatory policies on gendered uniform and haircut restrictions, and bullying and microaggressions being experienced by young people with diverse SOGIESC from peers and even from their teachers, there are a lot of things that need to be addressed in order to make it a safer space for the community. Luckily, there are schools with LGBTQIA+ organizations that serve as avenues to speak out on behalf of the community, demand their rights, and advocate for policies and programs to achieve a safer and more inclusive learning environment for everyone. 

These student and youth-led organizations are the hope in order to strengthen the Philippine LGBTQI rights movement. In order to assist those who would like to establish their own, this project, Joint Na! LGBTQIA+ Student Organizing Module aims to produce an accessible module on LGBTQIA+ student organizing that will guide and empower Filipino LGBTQIA+ youth to establish their own school-based organization.

To achieve this, the team from Babaylanes Equality Fellow conducted a series of consultations with representatives of ten (10) LGBTQI student organizations and other institutions like Gender and Development (GAD) to craft a module that is reflective of the needs and best practices in student organizing. The module is designed to guide young advocates through the challenging yet fulfilling journey of starting an LGBTQIA+ student organization. 

This is all for the hope and trust of young Filipino LGBTQIA+ folks in building a better future for all of us. 

Let the Equality Movement Begin

As BEF comes to its culmination, the lessons we have learned throughout the year will only begin to be put into action. Although the means of interaction and instruction have only been virtual, these did not undermine the effectiveness and the impact of each of the inspiring people and the lessons that BEF has introduced us to.

One of the most unforgettable lessons would be that we must understand each other’s needs. As advocates, some of us may have entered BEF with our personal goals in mind, but I am certain that we have come together, by opportunity and by fate, for our hearts to serve our fellow Filipinos. We have our own needs and struggles, and these are what make us empathetic to others, making us want to fight for their personal needs and to find solutions to their problems no matter how trivial they may seem to us. All this light thanks to all the mentors we had especially Perci Cendana, our first DnD resource speaker, and former Babaylanes President. 

Another key takeaway that we are certain that many of us fellows would bear in mind is that commitment is crucial. Not only was this reiterated every time we had our attendance checked at the start of our sessions, but it is also manifested in the dedication of the BEF organizers, the staff, and the resource speakers. We learned how important commitment is as much as we learned the different topics provided for us. 

This empathy and this commitment that we developed throughout this journey can only drive us to take whom we have become as advocates through BEF to where we will be most helpful, most productive, and most impactful for equality.