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She Males Pass In Review

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She Males

Pass In Review

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Life is always full of surprises, especially in Leyte, Republic of the Philippines.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Eyes right !”

Eyes front !”

Yes, I see an exotic, woman, in an island headdress, slender bra, short grass skirt, and translucent high heels strut flamboyantly down the rural barangay road.

Saturday, May 12, 2012, the Barangay Cameri Festival is underway. Family and friends have found their way to One Warren Way. Everyone gets them a plate of food and something to drink.

The adults crowd around the long coconut wood dining table and settle on one of the two matching benches. The kids take their plates of food and drinks and head outside to find a log or rock to sit on and eat. Everyone gets comfortable to eat, drink and talk.

Mano Bito, Junbean and I are sitting at a small wood table talking and smoking Philip Morris cigarettes. Junbean and I are drinking our San Miguel Pale Pilsen beers. The nieces, nephews and their cousins rush past us laughing and giggling into the dense jungle vegetation of the front yard. My wife, Christy, tells me the kids are excited about the “bakla” parade. I smile and take a swig of my cold San Miguel.

A few minutes later, I glance out at the road. I turn back and raise my San Miguel bottle. It is beer number two and three-quarters of the cold brew sloshes in the bottle. I look at the coconut trees and they are not blurred.

My mind and eyes are fine.

A tall island woman appears to have stepped out of an Aztec island culture and sashays along the road.

The tall, slender, exotic woman is no hallucination.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

The tall, slender, exotic woman is not a figment of my imagination.

Each footstep wobbles the monolithic peacock feather headdress. A long statuesque leg rises and rustles the grass skirt out of the way. Sunshine glistens into a star burst off the toe of the clear, plastic, acrylic high heel. And, the thick platform sole shoe steps on to the asphalt barangay road.

My mind reminds me : Plastic and acrylics weren’t around in island cultures at the time of Ferdinand Magellan.

My mind suggests: “There is a story here.”

Hermaphrodite, Cross-dresser,Transvestite, Transgender, Transsexual,Trannie, Tranny, Tgirl, Ladyboy, SheMan, and She Males are all American English words used to describe a person, who does not fit into the traditional category of either – a man or a woman.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr,

In the Republic of the Philippines, in Tagalog, the word, “Bakla,” (pronounced: Bach – la) means a person, who does not fit in the category of man or woman. In Waray, in the Eastern Visayas, the word, “Bayot”, (pronounced –Bye –you—T) means a person, who is outside the category of man or woman.

In Life, things are not always what they seem.

Thus, the woman in the Polynesian island costume and high heels, who at first glance, looks like a future “Playboy” centerfold – is not a biological woman at all.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

None of the women, who appeared to be fashion models strolling the runway – were biological women.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In a few moments, other baklas in a variety of costumes worthy of a Hollywood movie studio stroll along the rural barangay road. Adults and children wander out to the road to watch the she male parade pass in review.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I pick up my Nikon D 100 camera, which had been taking pictures of family, friends, food and kids. I walk up to the road and watch the parade sashay along the winding road.

Like American politicians campaigning for office, during an election year, the she males, stop, smile, wave, speak to the spectators and children. And like skilled American politicians on the campaign trail, they pause long enough to strike a pose for pictures.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Then, the She Males continue on to the Barangay Cameri stone heart-shaped boundary marker.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Despite the sweltering heat, the parade participants took their time to smile and wave at the onlookers.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Even children make their way to the roadside to watch the parade intently.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some people stare at the she males. Some snicker and laugh. Other people simply watch.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Then, the well-disciplined she males, wave, an execute a relaxed, casual, about face maneuver and begin back down the road.

The flamboyant she male in an Aztec style costume, flourishes his purple train, turns and with the confident demeanor of a Paris fashion model breezes down the road like it is a fashion runway.

Heads high, shoulders back, the she males soldier on back down the road to the Barangay Baras Basketball Court.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In single file formation, they walk with an air of dedication past the spectators, who watch the she males pass in review.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

This is the first time I have ever had a news story or photo opportunity literally stroll past my front door.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

My reporter’s curiosity has the best of me.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Camera in hand, I step into the back of the ranks of the passing parade. My squad of curious nieces and nephews fall in step on my right and left flanks.

People stand along the roadside of Barangay Baras and watch the she males pass in review back to the Barangay Baras Basketball Court. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

It requires “Courage” to be able to take a stand and do something out of the ordinary that is a different view of the status quo of society at large. And, yet, these people in costume are strolling past the public with confidence in their steps. I admire the conviction and strength of character of these she males.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I and my troops pick up the pace.

I move briskly through the ranks and take photos of the spectators along the roadside watching.

My young troops try to hasten their steps to catch up.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Since I do not know the organization at the basketball court, I need to try to rush ahead to try and discover the event structure that is in place. Then, I will know, where I need to be to get photographs of the events as they happen.

I arrive in a crowd of people on the basketball court.

The basketball court is a temporary in-the-field command post of chaos and confusion – with no one apparently in charge. There is no entry control point, no admission gate and no way to determine, who needs to be at a certain point at a certain time.

The returning she males drift to the concrete bleachers on the sidelines to take refuge from the heat and adjust their costumes.

Nikon D 199 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some of the returning she males wander out on to the basketball court to await further instructions. They hover around the half-court line like children waiting for church to begin.

Suddenly, a man, obviously, with a plan, and, no doubt, an organizer, emerges from the fray of spectators and begins to shout instructions in Tagalog to the she male models.

Meanwhile, a cheerful man, exhibiting the exuberance of a Las Vegas casino winner, appears on a sideline at the back of the court and chats with two of the tall she males.

Then, the man’s friend raises a small compact digital camera. The two tall she males step beside the man. They stand straight and tall to strike a pose. His arms lash out around their backs to draw the models closer. His friend clicks the shutter.

The two tall she males in their elaborate costumes remind me of the movies of Las Vegas showgirls waiting to go on stage.

I watch with camera in hand. I glimpse my nieces and nephews at my side, wearing confused looks. I do not need to be a mind reader to see the question uppermost in their minds: “What is Tito Sam up to now ?”

I grin, I raise the Nikon D 100 slightly. They smile and nod. Message received.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some people drift on to the basketball court to watch.

Nikon D 199 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Some of the models stroll out on to the basketball court ready to poses for photographs.Some of the local kids bring a basketball on the court to shoot hoops in the background.

Soon, the organizer, has the she males line up on the half-court line for a group photo.

Some of the local people watch and some of the curiosity seekers with compact digital cameras and cell phone cameras take photos and video.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Years of reporting and photography experience has taught me that whenever a group of people have to stand together for a photo, there is always the “human nature” programming that kicks in.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Whether it is a child standing next to it’s mother, a husband standing next to his wife, or people who work side-by-side everyday of their lives – “Hesitation” kicks in. Perhaps, it is a “personal space” issue, but, it is always up to the “Official Photographer” to encourage the people to move closer together.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Film and digital cameras do not understand or care about “personal space.” The camera viewfinder is only a certain compact size, regardless of the omnipotent lens that may be on the body of the camera.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

The she male group, like any group of people, would only move so close together for a group photo. There was no “Official Photographer” to smile or bark orders, so everyone moved to a certain comfort point and stood their ground.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Like a bird in flight, I fluttered about, swooping around and trying to get a complete group photo. Human nature trumped my efforts and I could only get so many of the group within the viewfinder at a given time.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I tried different angles. The only alternative would have been to walk up and keep encouraging each person to move closer together with their toes positioned on the white basketball half-court line.

I was one of many photographers at the event.

I was not the official photographer.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I represented no newspaper or wire service, so I was not getting a paycheck, which meant, it was not my call. “Time,” “Newsweek,” “USA Today,” “The New York Times,” or “The Washington Post” had not call to say, “Sam, we want you on a photo assignment in the Philippines” – so, my personal photographic pursuit did not justify my interference.

As a working news photographer, I learned you are always suppose to get the story and the shot, but you are not suppose to be so dominant that the photographer becomes more of a memory than the actual news event, which means news photographers are suppose to be like Bob Kane’s “Batman,” you swoop in and out and then disappear into the shadows.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

I got all of my photo shots. The organizer was still giving instructions and hand gestures to try to get the group to move closer together, when I looked at my bewildered nieces and nephews standing behind me.

I nod and gesture the camera at the entrance to the basketball court. They fall in step behind me.

While the parade had been one of the fiesta activities, it also served to promote “The Barangay Cameri Miss Gay 2012 Beauty Pageant, which would be held on the Barangay Cameri Basketball Court, Sunday, May 13, 2012, which proved to be an interesting event – but, that is another Samuel E. Warren Jr., News Story.

The “Warren Wander Warriors” stay in step, on both flanks for the ready “beat feet” deployment back to the house. I hand my Nikon D 100, to my niece, Vanissa Saldana, my photography assistant. I smile, “It is San Miguel time !”

I step off the road and stroll through the thick fern foliage back to the house.

Life is always full of surprises. Still, I never would of imagined a news and photo opportunity would have sashayed past my front door.

Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Sam

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