Resort owner eyes legal action vs guest

Photo from Isla Reta Facebook page
Photo from Isla Reta Facebook page

THE owner of the Isla Reta Beach resort in the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos), Davao del Norte is planning to take legal action against the transgender guest who complained about her recent experience at the resort.

Isla Reta owner Mario Reta told SunStar Davao on Wednesday afternoon, May 12, that he is considering on filing a case against Shannon Remotigue Gonzaga for the latter’s online post alleging that the resort’s management is transphobic and homophobic.

Gonzaga, who identifies herself as a transgender woman, posted on her Facebook account on Monday evening, May 10, that she was discriminated against while staying at Isla Reta Beach resort on Saturday, May 8.

The guest, who appealed to the resort employee to allow her to rinse in the female restroom, was allegedly barred from entering and was told "bawal ka diri, sa pikas ka kay gay ka (you are not allowed here. Go to the men’s bathroom because you are ‘gay’)."

Gonzaga complained that the employee asked for proof through video that she already underwent gender reassignment.

She also raised the issue to the manager.

But Gonzaga said she was surprised when the manager also told her that she is not allowed to enter the women’s restroom for being a transgender woman.

"Wala na nko na kaya nag walk-out nako kay obvious kaayo na transphobic og homophobic ang owner ani na resort [sic] (I walked out because it is obvious that the owners of the resort are transphobic ug homophobic)," she said.

Reta, however, belied Gonzaga’s claim that she was disrespected by the resort.

"Hindi ko siya binastos. Siya nagbastos sa sarili niya (I was not rude. He embarrassed himself). Even my workers in charge in the CR, hindi siya binastos. Hindi kami nagsigawan. Maganda [ang aming] usapan, pero lumabas sa media na ganyan... Siraan niya ang (I was not being rude nor there was shouting. We had settled everything but then this came out to the media, maligning) Isla Reta," Reta said in a phone interview.

He admitted he was disappointed that the guest aired her complaint online before settling it with them privately.

The owner also said his employees were affected by the "trial by publicity" caused by Gonzaga's post.

Reta said he is still open to settle the issue, but it must be done professionally.

He said the Igacos local government unit (LGU) urged Gonzaga to submit a written complaint, but as of now, they have not yet received a complaint.

Despite calls for boycott, Reta said the resort's operation was not affected and they still continue to receive bookings and reservation.

Will not accommodate trans

Following the incident, the beach resort management on Wednesday morning, May 12, said that to avoid similar incidents from happening, they will not accommodate transgender guests because they do not have the facility for them.

Meanwhile, lesbians, gay, and bisexual, along with men and women, are still welcome to enter the resort.

Reta said they already cancelled the bookings and reservation of their transgender guests and immediately gave them a refund.

He said they are strictly implementing their policy to not allow transgender women from entering the women’s CR for security reasons.

"We are very strict. Our policy is only two CR [comfort room] -- men and women. We have to protect [women]. Kung kayo may anak na babae, papasukan ng lalaki sa (If you have a daughter and a man enters the) women’s CR, that's a big question. I-avoid natin yan (We must avoid that) because we are protecting women," Reta said in a phone interview, emphasizing that he still considers transgender women as "men."

"I call him Mr. Gonzaga because he is not a girl or woman. Anatomy is lalaki pa rin siya (‘he’ is still a man)," he added.

Unless the Congress will enact a legislative bill mandating the creation of comfort rooms for transgenders, he said he does not see the need to create another CR for them.

He is open to having a CR for those who identify as a transgender woman but with one condition.

"I'm not against gay etc. But the problem is I can make you a CR but there is a condition. Sabi ko, 'wag lang ninyo babuyin 'yung CR ninyo. Pag may makita ako na merong kayong dinala na lalaki sa CR ninyo, ipa-close ko 'yan (Do not do indecent actions in the CR because if we catch you bringing men there, I will immediately order its closure) and I have to close and ban all gays in this resort," Reta said.

He also said that his recent order is not discriminatory, for he has a compelling reason.

Reta, who said he is a former Sasa barangay captain, said he is not against LGBT and had even established a community supporting them.

In the 25-year operation of the resort, he said this is the first time they encountered such a complaint.

LGU steps in

Igacos City Investment and Tourism Office officer-in-charge Rosabel Jusguan told SunStar Davao in a separate phone interview that the City Government immediately reached out to both parties after seeing the viral post.

Jusguan said they cannot reveal what has been discussed because they are still investigating it. But they are hoping that both parties can settle the matter soon.

After the meeting, she said her office will forward the details of the meeting to Igacos Mayor Al David Uy and to the City Council for possible legislative actions.

“We are hoping na dili na ni siya mausab na insidente (that this incident won’t happen again),” she said.

Meanwhile, she said the city assured that everyone, including the LGBT, is welcome to visit the island, provided they will abide by the minimum health protocols and requirements upon entering.

SunStar Davao reached out to both Mindanao Tourism Council and Department of Tourism for their reaction to the incident, but they replied through Messenger that they are still investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) Commissioner Norman Baloro, an LGBT advocate, said in a radio interview that the incident was “unfortunate.”

He said they are not seeking any special treatment but are only asking for respect and fair treatment.

“This is very sad because of the fact that I also belong to the LGBT community .... Wala man mi gapangita ug away (We are not looking for trouble),” Baloro said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.

He said the Davao City Integrated Gender and Development Division has already planned to communicate with the resort’s management following the incident.

Baloro said the incident was a “clear depiction of gender discrimination.”

“It’s not just about who enters what comfort room; it’s about our refusal to respect individual differences. Our community is dying for equal rights. Until everybody is just fine with social inclusivity, we will never succumb to defeat,” he said.

He added there is a need to enact a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (Sogie) ordinance in Igacos and to create national policy against Sogie-based discrimination.

Rejie Boy Mingming, LGBT Davao City Coalition convenor, said in a press conference that they will support Gonzaga in case cases will be charged against her.

“Tataw among barug nga among panalipdan, naa mi sa likod ni Ms. Gonzaga kabahin aning issue sa diskriminasyon (We have a clear stance to protect. We will support Ms. Gonzaga in this discrimination issue she is facing),” Mingming said. (With Patricia Pantojan, Addu Intern)


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