"So kamusta ang usapan ninyo ni Father?" tanong ni Cora.
"It was very enlightening." sagot ko.
"Really? Aba parang naiintriga ako sa enlightening na yan."
Sumindi ako ng yosi.
Nag umpisa ako magkwento.
* * * *
"Gaano ka na katagal dito sa choir?" tanong ni Father.
Nasa garahe kami ng bahay niya na nasa tabi ng simbahan. Katatapos lang Sunday Mass.
"Member po ako nung 2000 hanggang 2002 pero tumira po ako sa Baguio ng ilang taon. April 2010 I came back here to start working tapos nung January po sumali ako ulit sa choir."
"Ah ok. Kamusta naman ang choir?"
"Okay naman po Father. Mababait sila. Nakakatuwa silang kasama." sagot ko.
Napangiti si Father.
"Ano naman ang gumugulo sayo?" tanong niya.
"I have no faith in the church."
"Well...uhhm..." I was trying to choose my words. "First Father, I'm gay. I have no faith in the church kasi sinasabi ng catholic church na immoral ako. Na masama kami."
He was looking at me but for some reason I could not see any judgement or disappointment in his eyes.
"Sa totoo lang Father, when I was living in Baguio, I used to serve in one of the church's there. I was very active. When I realized that I might be gay, I went to our priest for guidance. Nagulat ako kasi sinabi niya..."
"That you will be damned? Na kailangan labanan mo?" he asked, cutting me off.
"Yes po. I was hurt because I looked up to our priest. I had such high respect for him."
"Eto ang masasabi ko ah. Ako, I am not here to judge. I cannot give you the stamp of approval from the catholic church kasi wala pa naman ako sa ganun kataas na posisyon. I'm not also here to tolerate you should you exhibit any acts that would be lewd or obscene but I am not here to judge you."
I was surprised by his words. I remained silent while he spoke.
"As you might have noticed, I am a bit unorthodox when it comes to my sermons and teachings. It is because I believe pare-pareho tayo sa mata ng diyos. I cannot judge you, only God can. What I can do is accept you for who you are because that was not your choice. You were born that way."
Still I remained silent. It felt surreal. Was I really hearing this from our priest?
"Mabuti nga ngayon mas maluwag na. I mean, a lot of people still discriminate towards the LGBT community but compared before, medyo mas okay na ngayon although there's still a long way to go. Who knows? Maybe after 50 years or more, people would be more open minded. Basta ang importante, you become a role model for society. Wala kang sinasaktan. Wala kang tinatapakan. Also, kailangan alagaan mo ang sarili mo because people will take advantage of you because they see that as your weakness so never let them take advantage of you."
"Yes po Father." I answered.
"Pati naman diyan sa choir, I know that there are a lot who are gay. Wala naman akong problema sa kanila kasi mababait naman sila although merong ilan na pasaway. Just remember to always be a decent member of society and remember that only God can judge you. Not I, not anyone else."
I was in utter disbelief. Here I was in front of a man serving the church I have loathed for the longest time and yet this man was telling me that he accepts me.
Before I left, our priest said something that really struck me. It was something I most likely will never forget.
"Eto ang tandaan mo, when we die, God will not ask you if you are gay or straight. He will ask you, what good deeds did you do for the world."
* * * *
"Ibang klase si Father no?" tanong ni Cora.
"Oo nga eh. Hindi ako makapaniwala." sagot ko.
Before she could say something, dumating ang isang kasama namin sa choir so we had to drop to topic.
You see, Cora and our Priest may know that I'm gay, but the rest of the choir does not.
Soon they will. Soon.