Show for Shelter: ‘Lolas’ of Golden Gays Sing, Dance to Survive
by Shara Mae Balce, January 11, 2019 3:15pm
Photo by Noel Celis/AFP
Colorful wigs, glittering gowns, full faces of makeup—check, check, and check. These lolas, as the members of the Golden Gays endearingly call themselves, of theHome for the Golden Gays are not like the grandmothers we usually grew up with, but they are just as lovable no less!
These group of "Lolas" from the LGBTQIA+ community, aged 60 to 80 years old, identify themselves as “Golden Gays of Manila.” The then retirement home located in Pasay City served as a haven for elderly and financially challenged members of the LGBTQIA+ community who have nowhere else to go—a place members enjoy priceless memories with their fellow members, away from the ostracism of disapproving society.
The Home for the Golden Gays was established in 1975 by Justo Justo, an LGBT rights activist and columnist. He was well-known for his advocacies on equal rights and AIDS awareness and was also known to popularize the gay lingo “Swardspeak” or a playful combination of Tagalog, English, and Spanish.
The retirement home was the actual home of Justo. However, after Justo’s passing in 2012, the care facility was forcibly closed, and its estimated number of 40 members became homeless since then. Justo’s friend and adherent, Ramon Busa, took charge of the group.
"Lolas" became a family by choice. The remaining members survive through various community outreach programs, and donations. The Lolas also give songs, dances, pageants, and lip sync performances that bring them the promise of free meals, and groceries from local sponsors. The Lolas take their time and effort to get dressed up—wear colorful gowns, headdresses, and layers of makeup—during drag shows.
But because of serious financial difficulties, members took odd jobs as street sweepers, junk collectors, and cigarette street vendors to sustain their personal needs.
The "Lolas" used to assemble in the residence of Lola Rica, one of the members of the Golden Gays. Unfortunately, a fire engulfed his house in 2017, along with it are their makeup, costumes, accessories, treasured photo albums, and other memorabilia. Now, the Golden Gays conduct their shows on the third floor of Savor, a restaurant in Pasay City and currently resides in a small lodge paid by one of its members.
The Golden Gays continue to give joy to the people through their drag performances while efforts in social media continue to help them build a new permanent home, a fundraising campaign aiming to support the Golden Gays for their shows, basic needs, and medical aid for its members.
In a documentary produced by GMA Network’s I-Witness in 2015, the "Lolas" revealed their experiences in discrimination and mistreatment from the people around them. This issue isn’t new, but this should heighten the urgency to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill which has been languishing in Congress for almost twenty years.
The fight has been overdue, but it isn’t over yet. Aside from a place to call home, these "Lolas" are seeking inclusivity and protection equal to what others are enjoying. And that’s more than a gift they could ever receive.
For more information, look for Ramon Busa at 09476930516, send an email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.thegoldengays.wordpress.com.