JUNE 8 was World Ocean’s Day and the United Nations has designated this year’s theme as “Gender and the Ocean”. The theme highlights the important role gender equality has to play in ensuring effective conservation of our oceans, seas and marine life in such ocean-related areas as marine scientific research, migration by sea and human trafficking, and policy-making.
Rare-Philippines, a marine group based in Cebu, cited that: women and children are 14 times more likely to die or get injured in natural disasters due to unequal access to resources, women constitute half of the workforce yet earn only 64% of men’s wages in aquaculture and have less access to decision-making positions, women constitute only 2% of the 1.2 million seafarers and finally, only 24% of parliamentarians and 38% of marine scientists are women.
But gender equality, though popularly skewed towards women, is also about the LGBTQIA and in the island of Ayoke, Surigao del Sur a popular go-to for the women is Kasing.
Ayoke Island and can only be accessed through boats at the Cantilan port. A one-hour ride in this part of the Pacific Ocean brings one to part of the island’s shore identified only as a “port” because it is crowded by boats. Ayoke’s nearest business area is the General Island (a 15-minute boat ride) and of course, the municipality of Cantilan.
With a population of less than a thousand and those left behind in the households are women, one then wonders who has kept the island women good-looking and adequately groomed. The answer is Kasing.
Kasing or Casiano is the island’s “queen” and he holds court inside his two-story house on almost a daily basis. We chanced upon him perming someone’s long tresses while we were heading to the tiny Rare Philippines-sponsored dried fish facility. I was lead to his house by the unmistakable strong smell of Pagoda cold wave lotion - the cold wave lotion of my mama and aunts when they permed their hair at home.
Casing boasted of his long experience working in parlors in Zamboanga City and then in Manila. But he decided to go home to take care of his ailing parents and their coconut farm in Ayoke and other properties nearby. He also talked about getting “too old” for the fast-paced life and that the island had always been home.
Being gay in Ayoke, he said, was not an issue. As a resident, Casing proudly shares that he is often consulted about various matters probably because of his “long experience of working in big cities and not because of his gender.” One of this was about joining the savings club project of Rare. Casing encouraged this hoping that Ayoke children can get college educated through better financial literacy. Casing himself had some college education. The residents are happy that they no longer have to go to General Island for their ‘beautification projects’ because Casing, its lone timid queen, is keeping everyone in Ayoke Island shining, shimmering, splendid.