Monday, July 27, 2009

Wonderful Copenhagen

Muse of the Philippine delegation

In 2008, Copenhagen was ranked as the Number 1 Most Livable City in the World. To this day, it is living up to its reputation as the host of the World Outgames 2009. Last Saturday, July 25, was the Opening Ceremony of the Outgames. All the delegates to the Sports, Culture and Human Rights tracks from the different countries of the world trooped to the city square for the Parade of Nations and the Opening Program. For this purpose, I brought a modernized traditional Filipino garment, the patadyong (see pic above). The patadyong is just a piece of colorful woven fabric that Filipino women from Panay Island wear as a wrap-around. Since, I was the only one in traditional Filipino wear, the members of our delegation, composed of members of the Filipino community in Copenhagen and others from other parts of the world (see pic below), decided for me to be the muse of the delegation, allowing me kindly to walk in front of them as the front liner.

With members of the Filipino community in Copenhagen

The Parade of Nations and the Opening Ceremony

Before the Opening Program, all the delegates were asked to line up by country (see pic below)near the City Square where the stage was built for the Opening Ceremony. Each country got its turn walking center stage while almost 8 thousand people surrounding the stage cheered on.

Parade of Nations

There was some wait before we walked the short distance from the back of the Copenhagen City Hall to the stage. While waiting, I tried to take pictures of the other nations. I could only take pictures of the delegations near the Philippines though because we could not leave our post. Many people dropped by to take pictures of us. Some members of our group brought the Philippine flag which they proudly unfurled each time someone wanted to take pictures. We were approached by people from various countries but the most heart-warming were people of Filipino descent who were not born in the Philippines. They would say they were half-Filipino or pure Filipino but that they were born in Canada, the US, and other places. It was truly a touching experience and I was happy to represent our country well.

When it was our turn to to be introduced on Center Stage, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. There was a sea of people to the left and right of the stage and they broke in loud, welcoming and warm applause as I stepped onto the stage first. I could do nothing else but smile and wave. It was like 15 seconds of fame in a good way. It made me feel both small and big at the same time. Small, because I realized that I was just one person in this mass of humanity from across the world, and big because I was only one of two people (the other one was Sass) who came all the way over from the Philippines for the Parade of Nations. I beamed happily in my traditional attire as I walked that stage, happy to represent the country that I am very proud of.

Two days later, I still could not get over the experience. I kept repeating it in my head. When I spoke with the other delegates, they had their own profound experience during the Opening Ceremony. The delegates from Nigeria said that someone approached them for a picture and after said "Okay, I will head to the next continent now." This touched the Nigerians so much especially the thought of the Outgames bringing together thousands of people from all over the world in an event that truly erases borders.

Run For Love

The next day Sunday, members of the Outreach Program of the Outgames braved the early morning cold to go to Beach Park for the Run For Love marathon. People had a choice to run a full marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K. All of us decided to go for the 5k. The event was very special because my friend Sass and my room mate Tamara Adrian, a lawyer and trans activist from Venezuela were there with me (see pic below).

At the Run For Love

I have been running for more than 10 years now and have never been in a race before. I was so thrilled to be doing my first 5K in Europe at that. I finished at 28 minutes 33 seconds which of course stuck in my head as I passed by the finish line. I learned in running class not to sit immediately after a run so I was walkind around near the finish line before I realized that I forgot to take a picture of my finish time! I was able to take it almost 2 minutes later (see pic below).

My finish time

At any rate, the marathon was great. After the race was over, everybody that participated hung around the beach park looking at the sights. There were sports workshops to be held that same afternoon and the beach volleyball event was happening right there as well. Sass and I decided to head back to the Outreach camp to get on with our day. Today we are excited over the opening of the 2nd International Conference on LGBT Human Rights. I am heading there now to begin my day. I will talk about the conference in my next post.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Copenhagen Afterdark

The Little Mermaid

I am now here in Copenhagen (CPH) for the World Outgames 2009. I arrived here yesterday morning at around 7:30 am on a Thai airways flight which took me from Manila to Bangkok (a two-hour flight) then from Bangkok to Copenhagen (a 10-hour trip). So far so good. Before I came here, a friend of mine who's been living long in Zurich and who's been to CPH a few times told me that Denmark had cold summers. I thought she meant mildly cold.

Imagine my surprise when I got here and the wind gave me chills. I think I packed the wrong clothes. Or at least, I did not pack anything for the cold. Luckily I was able to bring a light jacket which I meant for flying. I didn't know I'd end up needing it everyday. But it's been okay so far.

CPH in the summer gets rain, wind, and sunshine. Yesterday on my first day here, the morning started out bleak with dark clouds up in the sky. Two hours later it rained. After the rain, the sun shone and it was up till late afternoon around which it rained again. I'm glad I brought my umbrella along.

Another girl from the Philippines, Sass is here with me and we are both housed in the Outgames Outreach home where many LGBT rights activists from around the world are staying. We are all going to take part in the 2nd International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, as participants and speakers. I am not speaking in any of the workshops but Sass is. I may attend that panel which is going to be on Monday.

So far I have met people from Nigeria, Venezuela, China, Jamaica, India, Nepal, Bosnia and other countries. I think more people are scheduled to arrive today Saturday so they can make it to the Grand Opening of the Outgames tonight. There will be a parade of nations for which I brought a traditional costume. The girls from Nepal and Nigeria that I met this breakfast said they would wear traditional clothing from their own countries. After the Opening, we will all troop to Grand Opening Party that's happening in an island. The organizers said that we would take the boat going there.

Yesterday Sass and I met a long-time friend of mine in CPH, Asger and he took us to Freetown Christiania which is a big commune where cannabis is traded. It was a great experience seeing it and seeing people come to the place to smoke up. There were so many people there and it was not hard to find. Sass and I took the train together and got off at a station where Asger picked us up. We have been using the train the past two days and so far, it has not been difficult. Asger also took me to the Little Mermaid at Langelinie Harbor whose picture I took in the evening (see above). I bet she looks more spectacular in the dark with lights surrounding her. I just figured out that the reason why her legs look more human than fish is because she was sculpted at the time her fish tail was transforming into human legs.

We will have a busy day ahead getting ready for the Opening tonight and the after party. I will try to take more pics and update you all soon.

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!

Monday, July 6, 2009

How a weekend of fun turned into an opportunity for change

by Naomi Fontanos

Me at the pool of the Renaissance Hotel

My good friend Rica Paras and I wanted to have a fun and relaxing 4th of July weekend and were vacillating between going to the beach and staying in the city. Rica, who graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) with honors and has been working for the same multi-national company in the last six years, decided for us to just book ourselves at the Renaissance Hotel in Makati City for a night, to redeem her accumulated points for staying in various Marriott hotels around the globe due to her work. As a Globally Certified IT Consultant working in one of her company’s big accounts, Rica’s job not only requires her to put in long hours but also to travel to her company’s various headquarters around the world training people in sales, product distribution and finance. Every time she is on a business trip, her company books her in a Marriott hotel so she has stayed in Marriott hotels in Frankfurt, Madrid, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai, Sydney, Cincinnati and many other cities. Because of this, she has been rewarded a few nights’ stay for free in a Marriott hotel of her choice anywhere in the world.

I, on the other hand, work in education research for one of the constituent Universities of the University of the Philippines (UP) System, where I graduated and now am pursuing my Master’s degree. I got the day off from work and was very excited to spend the whole Friday until Saturday morning with Rica, whose company I really love. Rica is such an enjoyable person to be with. She is funny, laid-back, generous and sweet. From an A-student at Philippine Science High School in Iloilo to the self-supporting college student at ADMU, Rica has struggled long and hard to get where she is now. Yet, her success has only kept her grounded. All throughout her climb up the corporate ladder, Rica has remained a supportive big sister to her younger siblings, a very kind daughter to her parents, and a reliable and loyal friend. Moreover, not only is she a successful professional but also a loving partner to her boyfriend of 5 years. Suffice it to say, Rica’s hard work and personal achievement have benefited and touched many people around her. Even the weekend that we planned for ourselves was in fact an act of Rica’s generosity.

Our stay at the Renaissance Hotel was not only our chance to take time off from the demands of our jobs but also our time to get to know each other more, enjoy each other’s company and bond as friends and sisters. More importantly, our weekend stay at the Renaissance Hotel was Rica’s gift to me. Even if she did not know that my birthday was just a few days ago, she kindly offered for us to use up one of her reward stays in a Marriott hotel. She actually decided for us to check in the Renaissance Hotel in Makati because she has never been there and wanted to enjoy the amenities of a Marriott hotel in her own country for the first time.

Little did we know that our planned weekend of relaxation, sisterly bonding and merriment would be spoiled by the prejudice of some of the hotel’s staff. On July 3, 2009, Friday, at 12 noon, Rica and I arrived at the Renaissance Hotel and properly booked ourselves. After presenting our ID cards and registering at the front desk, we were impressed by the receptionist who with a sincere and warm smile told us “Thank you Ms. Paras and Ms. Fontanos for allowing us to take care of you. Here are your keys and enjoy your stay at the Renaissance Hotel!” We thought it was a good start to a fun-filled weekend.

We excitedly went up to our assigned room on the 9th floor and after settling down and unpacking, Rica offered to doll me up so she could try out her makeup skills on me. While she worked on my face using her makeup kit, we swapped stories about our families, our college days and the latest showbiz gossip. When we were both satisfied with the way I looked, we decided to hit the pool on the 3rd floor where we took a whole album of pictures of me styled and outfitted by Rica herself. We were laughing all the way as both of us pretended to be in an amateur fashion shoot. I was the model while Rica was the stylist, creative director and photographer. After tiring of taking pictures, we took a dip in the pool and stayed there till late in the afternoon talking about our hopes and dreams for the future.

Rica poolside

At around 5 pm, we decided to freshen up. We collected our things and made our way back to our room. On our way out, Rica suggested for us to drop by the sauna in lieu of our plan to go to the gym. It was then that our day started going downhill. We asked the floor receptionist where the sauna was and with a malicious look on her face, she said, “The sauna is that way. Please go straight down the hall to that room” pointing to the room at the end of the narrow corridor. As we crossed the hall and neared the room, we realized that the receptionist pointed us to the MALE shower room.

Perturbed, we both looked back at the receptionist who was then at the other end of the hall, watching us like a guard dog as she stood a few steps away from her station. Rica tersely told her, “We’re women!” after which we went into the FEMALE area and proceeded to the sauna. We were there for about 15-20 minutes when the same receptionist came in. She took an empty basin lying around but before she stepped out, Rica asked if we could have two towels. The receptionist nodded her head, came back with the towels but upon her return, looked at us and said “I’m sorry but what are you?” I was starting to get angry and looked at Rica who told her again “We’re women.” The receptionist said “Ah okay” and giggled as she stepped out of the sauna.

Rica and I were already upset. Around 10 minutes later, we heard a knock. We said “Yes?” and the lady who knocked opened the door. It was another hotel attendant and she said “Good afternoon SIR! I’m sorry but you have to transfer to the male sauna.” To which I replied, “Do not insult us. Do not call us sir! How dare you barge in here and ask us to transfer to the male sauna. Who do you think you are and who do you think we are?” The attendant said, “I’m sorry but it is policy.” Rica retorted, “It is policy? Show me the policy! Don’t you think people will be scandalized more if they see female bodies in the male sauna? You will have to drag us out of here!” The attendant closed the door and we stayed in the sauna. Another 10 minutes passed and the sauna door opened once more. This time, it was the duty manager with a male guard beside her. The male guard peeped in and then the duty manager in the same hostile tone said “I’m sorry SIR, but it is policy that you have to transfer to the other side.” It was my turn to ask and I said “Policy? What policy? Is it written in black and white? Show me that document first!” The duty manager answered, “Well based on your registration, you checked in under MALE names.” I said, “Those are our legal names and we didn’t have a choice on the matter; but they do not determine our gender!” The duty manager replied “But it is policy that if you are male, then you have to use the male area and if you are female, the female area.” Exasperated, Rica just said “Can you just let us finish please?” The male guard rudely barked “Five minutes!” after which he and the duty manager left.

Rica and I took our time. After getting ourselves decent, we stepped out and proceeded to the reception. There the pool attendant, a lady guard, another male guard and the receptionist were on stand-by. Upon seeing us, the receptionist said “I will need your signature to sign out MA’AM” and handed us the forms that we signed on our way in. I took my form, signed it and when I looked up, the pool boy who was looking by said, “I apologize for the inconvenience MA’AM but it is policy.” I said, “Inconvenience? This is an INSULT! Policy? In my book this is DISCRIMINATION!” After signing out, Rica and I both asked to be escorted to the office of the General Manager (GM). The lady guard perhaps misheard us and said the manager was waiting for us downstairs. So we took the elevator going down and stepped out into the lobby. The lady guard accompanying us directed us to take seats near the front desk and wait for the manager who would see us shortly. Rica and I were surprised when it was the same duty manager who sat down with us. I introduced myself and Rica to her politely and immediately told her that we felt insulted and disrespected with what happened earlier. The duty manager said, “I’m sorry but I did not insult you.” Rica said, “But I felt insulted with what you did!” I asked the duty manager, “Tell me, who was harmed by our use of the female sauna?” She just looked at me. I told her, “No one was harmed right? But by asking us to use the male area, do you know that you are actually harming us psychologically?” Then she said, “I am sorry but it is our policy.” Rica then addressed her, “You keep saying that it is policy. We want to see the policy because I have been using other Marriott hotels before all around the world and I have never been treated like this. Only in my own country have I been insulted and disrespected in a Marriott hotel!”

The duty manager addressing Rica said, “Yes, I checked our records. I know that you are our Silver Member. There is actually no written policy but based on the names that you registered under…” Rica cut her short and said, “I am registered as MISS in the records. You can check it for yourself!” The duty manager said, “But they are MALE names…” I cut her short and said “Again, those are our LEGAL names. They do not determine our gender! Besides, do I look male to you?” to which she said, “Well your looks are deceiving.” I could not take it anymore and said, “Tell me, whose needs needed to be satisfied with your insistence for us to transfer to the male sauna? Who needed to be happy to see us embarrassed and humiliated by being asked to transfer to the male sauna? No one right? Because nobody was complaining! Then it is only you who needed to be happy. It was your personal prejudice and bigotry that needed to be satisfied with your insistence that we use the male sauna. Because people like you will stop at nothing to embarrass and humiliate people like us. Because people like you can only feel good about themselves after putting down people like us. Because as far as you are concerned, people like us do not have the education, the money, and the right to be in a hotel like this. So I hope today, you made yourself very happy. I hope today you are very proud of yourself!”

To which the duty manager said, “Yes I am very proud.” I said, “Well then this conversation is finished. We want to see the GM so we can file a formal complaint. We also want to escalate this to the International Customer Service. You are a modern hotel but your attitudes are stuck in the Middle Ages!” Rica and I stood up and went back to the room. That night after dinner, we tried to see the GM but he was already off-duty. Rica and I spoke to the night duty manager Jhun and asked him to make an appointment for us to see the GM at 9 am the next day.

On Saturday morning, July 4, 2009, Rica and I got ready to meet with the GM. At a little over 9 am, we went to see him. Rica recounted to the GM what transpired the previous day. The GM was understanding and apologized outright for what happened. He thought that the situation the day before could have been better handled. Rica told him that all we wanted was to relax for the weekend, use the hotel’s amenities and enjoy ourselves; but instead what happened, happened and now we had to use up what little time was left for us to enjoy the hotel by seeing him just to complain. Rica told the GM that she felt it was important for him to know because as someone who has been using the services of Marriott hotels around the world, not once has she encountered any bad experience except at the Renaissance Hotel and in her own country at that. She added that if the Renaissance Hotel could treat people like us that way, then what’s stopping the hotel staff from mistreating others based on skin color, religion, disability and other petty reasons.

The GM thanked us for coming to see him and personally informing him of what happened. He said that the Renaissance Hotel always aims to make every customer happy and comfortable and that what happened to us went directly against what the whole hospitality industry stood for. He asked us if we wanted to dialogue with the day duty manager. We agreed. He stepped out to fetch her and sat all of us down together. The duty manager started by telling us that what took place the day prior was also very difficult for her; but for whatever it was worth she wanted to extend her apologies to us. Rica told the duty manager that as a manager herself, she knew that there were ways of treating people without disrespecting them. She added that for the weekend, she just wanted me and her to have a great time but it was ruined by the incident at the sauna which Rica felt the duty manager mishandled.

I pointedly told the duty manager that when we travel abroad nothing of this sort ever happens to us. Only in our country do we get treated so inhumanly because of people like her. That is why, in spite of the fact that we love our country very much and think it is a very beautiful country indeed, we feel that we must leave it because no matter how hard we work, no matter what good schools we come from, no matter what we personally achieve, people like her will always make us feel bad about ourselves. Rica told the duty manager and the GM that even if we accepted both of their apologies, we still felt that the proper redress to what occurred the day before was for us to document it and lodge a formal complaint within the Marriott system. Rica asked for the GM’s email address and told him that we will send him our letter the soonest time possible with recommendations on how to handle transgender guests and ensure that the Renaissance Makati City Hotel Manila is able to provide the best quality customer service to all its clients regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Rica left the GM her calling card while the GM gave both of us his.

Rica and I poolside at the Renaissance Hotel

We thanked both the GM and the duty manager for their time and willingness to listen and proceeded to the pool. We only had an hour left at that point to have our morning swim. After enjoying the pool for the last time, Rica and I went back to our room. A few moments later, a fruit basket was delivered to us (see pic below). It was from the duty manager accompanied by a personal letter of apology from her. Rica and I both thought it was unnecessary but still Rica thanked her anyway by telephone.

Fruit tray with manager's apology letter

At 12 noon we left the room with our overnight luggage. Rica and I both went to the front desk to inform them that we were checking out. The duty manager was there again and handed us a gift certificate for two to a free lunch/dinner buffet at the hotel restaurant valid for the next 3 months. We were in a rush to leave because I had a Spanish class to attend at 1 so we just accepted the envelope it came in with and went our way.

All in all it was all’s well that ends well. The Renaissance, as historians have noted, was an important period in the history of the world. It is considered as the transition period that brought the human race from the “darkness” of the Middles Ages into the “light” of Early Modernity. Furthermore, the Renaissance was characterized by a renewal of interest in culture and learning initiated by Humanists, scholars who wanted to understand the world by looking into the past and focusing on the genius and uniqueness of every human person.

We hope that after this incident, the Renaissance Makati City Hotel Manila will begin exemplifying what its name stands for. As part of the global Marriot organization that has made a pledge to social responsibility, community engagement, diversity and inclusion, the Renaissance Hotel is compelled to practice what it preaches. Their commitment to the human rights cause, in particular, behooves them to ensure that their practice of hiring caring employees closely hues to a culture of non-discrimination such that it is crystal clear to every single member of their management and staff that they exist to serve and provide the best brand of hospitality based on the idea that all their clients are equal, deserving of respect and dignified treatment, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.