I have so much fun visiting the place where I and my siblings were born. It is Malabang, Lanao del Sur, Mindanao. I grew up here, living here until I graduated from high school. There are rivers, seas, springs and falls – it is a place that is rich in water! That's why our drinking water here is free.
The people here are mixed: Muslims, Christians, etc. The main source of income here is fishing, though there are forests also which are a source for vegetables and coconuts, which we sell and the money is used to buy rice to cook so we can eat. The wood is used for cooking. Nature provides everything we need to survive in our everyday living.
As you can see in the photos, there is a river near the community where I am staying. Our barangay (neighborhood) is named Bunkhouse, and it is near the river, and there is also a beach. The water comes from a spring which flows into the river and then into to the sea, where we catch fish. There are boats here for fishing.
I am an expert swimmer, because I grew up near the river and sea. Our houses are made up of wood and other light materials, and they are small as you can see in the photos. And there is no electric line here, but we use solar now for electricity.
This small pumb boat is for one or two people to go fishing. A larger boat can carry more fishermen.
As I said, this is the place where I spent my childhood. Play, swim, and sacrifices in life. Then my family left this place, and my sisters got married and now have their own families in distant places, but we still visit here on vacation because our relatives from my father's side generally are here.
That's why my brother's burial recently was here, near my dad's grave. In the Muslim way, the dead body should be buried within 24 hours after a person's death. And the relatives come to us to express sympathy, for a period of seven days. We have lots of food we must prepare, including goat curry and some Muslim dishes.
I come here frequently now, because it is not always safe in the province where I live with my mother and family. It too is a Muslim community. I normally have to stay home, due to some complications regarding my gender, and it is not safe to stay outside all the time. I need to be careful. I just go out when I have something to buy, like food etc.
There are many changes in the Philippines now. The government has granted the Muslim-majority provinces autonomy, but has not authorized sharia law (a strict Muslim legal system). However, it seems like the local politicians are trying to enforce strict laws anyway.
When I last moved from Manila to Cotabato province, where my mother and family live, there was a big problem. The purok barangay leader called up my family to ask about me. They said that I was not a good example because I am transgender, and that was bad for the Muslims if I was there. They are superstitious and believe if something bad happens, such as flooding, it is because of me. Of course, my mom and sisters defended me. So there were arguments and some issues about me. There was even a man who hit me the last time I went out in public. That is why I am very careful here, and just stay home all the time, and if things are really bad then I will go to the province and hide for a while. I am a fighter, so I will defend myself as long as I know in myself that I am not doing anything wrong and I am just being true to my self.