Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friday Updates

I apologize for taking some time to write again. I have been busy working on my visa to be able to attend the 2nd International Conference on LGBT Human Rights in Copenhagen, Denmark coinciding with the World Outgames 2009 from July 25-August 2 this year. I did not expect that it was going to be a very tedious process what with so many papers to prepare and so many trips to the embassy to take. Here in Manila, it's the Royal Norwegian Embassy that processes all applications for a Schengen visa to Norway, Iceland and Denmark.

By Monday I will be able to pick up my visa already and that would be my 5th trip to the embassy to be exact. I started by filing my application which took 3 different visits due to concerns regarding my invitation letter (it had no signature and I had to call our contact person in Denmark to sign it and send it immediately that day) and leave of absence from school (I had to secure a letter from my College Secretary that I was allowed to be absent from the University for the duration of the Outgames which took another two days). Anyway, all of that is done now and I am scheduled to fly to Denmark on Thursday, the 23rd. I will be in Copenhagen the morning of the 24th hopefully.

I already saw the Conference program which you can also see here . I am excited to attend workshops regarding transgender issues, LGBT issues in education and the Yogyakarta Principles. I'm also interested to listen to LGBT activists from China and Japan talk about their experiences. I hope I also get to attend the fora featuring LGBT rights
advocates from fundamentalist countries. I am quite sure it will be an eye-opening experience.

Although I am not sure if I can attend all the workshops that I want to, I am happy to note that I may see old friends in Copenhagen particularly from Indonesia. When I went to Yogyakarta in December last year for the 60th year anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I met so many great lesbian, bisexual and transgender women from all over Indonesia some of whom are panelists in a handful of workshops at the Outgames Conference. I hope with the recent trouble in Jakarta, that they are all safe and that we will see each other again in Denmark in happier circumstances.

From the last post, I may have mentioned that Rica and I intended to write a letter of grievance to the GM of the Renaissance Makati City Hotel Manila regarding what happened to us there. The letter follows below:

July 7, 2009

Mr. Stephan Stoss
General Manager (GM)
Renaissance Makati City Hotel Manila

Subject: Grievance letter

Dear Mr. Stoss:

Once again, we would like to thank you for the graciousness you extended to us by meeting us in the morning of July 4, 2009, Saturday (9-10 am), to listen to our complaint regarding the prejudicial treatment we experienced in the hands of a few of your staff members. We applaud you for exemplifying the spirit of service that the Marriott organization is known for and we commend you for affirming the Marriot way to “Do whatever it takes to take care of the customer.” Meeting you assured us that the Renaissance Makati City Hotel Manila is truly in good hands and we are hopeful that with your leadership you will be able to guide your rank and file to truly embrace diversity and inclusion, one of the guiding business principles of the more than 3,000 Marriott hotels around the world.

But as we informed you, we do feel strongly that the proper redress for what happened to us on the day of July 3, 2009, Friday (5-6 pm) (see attached narrative) is to submit a formal grievance letter. Although we do this with a very heavy heart, we are hereby lodging an official complaint against your Day Shift Duty Manager (name deleted for privacy purposes) including the following members of your staff:

1) the receptionist assigned at the pool and sauna facilities floor (3rd Floor) on the afternoon (around 5 pm) of July 3, 2009
2) the facility’s floor security (small thin build and short hair) who first asked us to leave the sauna upon the urging of the receptionist; and
3) the male security guard who accompanied the Day Shift Duty Manager inside the Female restroom and peeped through the sauna while we were being asked to leave the facility

We would like this complaint letter to become part of the above-mentioned employees’ work file to be used to appraise their performance in your company’s next evaluation cycle. We also would like to recommend them (including other hotel staff that needs it) for re-training. We know for a fact that the Marriott organization prides itself on hiring caring employees. As their over-all supervisor, we expect you to ensure that such culture of caring is closely tied to a culture of non-discrimination particularly involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff and customers alike.

The Marriott’s commitment to social responsibility and community engagement has resulted in its forging strategic alliances with several human rights organizations in the US including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). You may get in touch with any of these organizations for resources on how best the Renaissance Makati City Hotel Manila can serve all of its customers regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

As we mentioned to you as well, we both belong to the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), a Manila-based transgender civil rights advocacy organization and a support, contact and information group for girls and women of transsexual experience. We are also card-carrying members of Ang Ladlad Partylist, the national organization for LGBT Filipinos and we will be more than happy to be of service to your managers and staff by providing them with a workshop on gender sensitivity in partnership with your Human Capital Development Department particularly your Diversity Manager if you have one.

It is our wish to put this negative experience behind us; but we refuse for it to be just conveniently forgotten. To that end, we hope to turn what happened to us into an opportunity for all involved to learn and grow as people.

We have accepted the apology extended to us and the other offers from your end to make up for the incident last Friday. Now we want to take this opportunity to take collaborative action so that we can effect real change in attitudes, values and behaviors. On this, we echo the words of your Chairman and CEO, J.W. Marriott Jr. who said that “We need to stand together to ensure that the travel and tourism industry is always a positive force for good in the world.”

Again, thank you for your kindness and for taking the time to peruse this letter. We stand by you in your pursuit of quality customer care based on the humanity of all your clients and the idea that they are all equal in worth and dignity.


Rica Paras

Pau Fontanos

It was Rica who sent this letter by email and courier and we already got an electronic response from the GM which I'm posting below:

Dear Ms. Paras, dear Ms. Fontanos,

Maraming salamat. Mabuti naman ako. Kamusta Ka? Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to speak with both of you last Saturday morning. Once again, please accept my sincerest apologies for the unfortunate situation you encountered during your stay with us. Rest assured, as I mentioned to you during our conversation we do not take what happened lightly and we are discussing the learning’s from this unfortunate incident with our associates to ensure that this will not happen again, while we have met with the individual associates to reemphasize our organizations believe and commitment to treating every person with the same respect and dignity and to be sensitive to each individuals personal preferences and needs, while we will continue to provide our associates with guidance in this respect to ensure we deliver on our promise.

Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to rebuild your trust and I hope we will have the pleasure to welcoming you back to our hotel in the near future. Please do not hesitate to let me know if I can assist you personally with any arrangements.

Kind regards

Stephan Stoss

I think it's sincere enough although of course we will never know what really happened. I will just have to take Mr. Stoss's word for it, so to speak, and pray that he did take concrete steps to make sure that his staff was properly educated and re-taught the basic hospitality industry tenet of respect for all no matter what.

Tomorrow, Saturday will be STRAP's Support Group Meeting (SGM) for the month. In the morning, we will troop to the National Museum, go around perhaps for an hour and then have a little picnic nearby and catch up. It will be my first time to see the insides of the Museum and I am quite excited. Right now, I'm undecided yet on what to wear although I know that it has to be definitely something comfortable and airy.

After the SGM, I will hurry to my Spanish class nearby at the Instituto Cervantes. My classes are in the afternoon from 1-4 pm and usually after, I go to the gym then go home. Tomorrow though, I'm scheduled to meet with Bemz, another STRAP member who is our Secretary in Ang Ladlad. Together we will attend an LGBT clan's get-together, talk about LGBT rights advocacy, introduce them to Ang Ladlad and the Yogyakarta Principles.

It will be a very long day but I hope I get to do all of these and enjoy myself and the company of my friends. Happy weekend everyone!

No comments: