Mahal Kita (by Grant Bentley)

Mahal Kita

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

Bayani fears he has fallen in love with the impossible dream.

My name is Bayani Daquila. Bayani means hero, although I don’t feel much like a hero most of the time. I’m eighteen years old. I have black hair and very dark brown eyes. For you tanning spa fans, I have a year round tan without even trying. It just gets a little lighter in the winter. I stand five feet five inches tall and weigh a hundred and thirty four pounds. I am bilingual in that I am fluent in both Tagalog and English. I’ve lived in Canada for twelve of my eighteen years. Before that, I lived in Lazi on Siquijor Island in the Philippines.

I realized I was gay when I was fourteen. It wasn't a particularly traumatic realization and when I came out to my parents soon after, they basically told me to tell them something they didn't already know. That might have had something to do with the fact that several of my friends were openly gay, when not in school that is. Other than my parents and close circle of friends, I hadn’t come out to anyone else, nor was I about to. Although I was quite capable of defending myself, as I had a red/black belt in Tae Kwon Do and had been taking it since I was eight, I quite liked my face and body and wasn’t in a big hurry to have some homophobic group of bullies try to change either one.

As far as the dating scene goes, there still wasn’t a HE in my life yet. The few guys I’ve met at the clubs, so far, were definitely not looking for a relationship and what they were looking for I wasn’t willing to give. When I started university about five months ago, that all began to change. I enrolled in the nursing program at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Of the 40 new students in the program, besides me, two were guys. Apparently, nursing is not as popular among men in Canada as it is in the Philippines. However flawed, I think we are all aware of the North American stereotype of male nurses. Male nurse equals gay nurse, which, in my case, was true.

One of the guys in the program was extremely cute and I was seriously hoping the stereotype fit him. He was about five nine with platinum blond, almost white hair and the most amazing blue eyes. I know that makes me sound pretty shallow, but unfortunately, that’s often the way we work isn’t it? We tend to go by outward appearance first. We see someone we think is attractive and we want to get to know him. Anyway, shallow or not, I definitely wanted to get to know this guy, so the very first day, I invited him to join me for lunch.

The hour and a half we spent together was certainly enlightening. I was pretty sure I had made a friend, but I didn't see it going any further than that. Nor was I convinced it would last much past his discovering that I was gay. Other than discovering his name was Garrett, and that he was a total sweetheart, one disconcerting thing I discovered about him was that he was Mennonite…not that I have anything against Mennonites.

Now, I don’t want to get all technically weird here, but some background is necessary so everything with Garrett makes sense. The Mennonites are a fairly strict religious group. Like the Amish and Hutterites, they are considered one of the peace churches and are committed to non-violence. Something I appreciated. At least, it meant he wouldn’t try to kick the crap out of me when he found out I was gay. And, the basis for their Christianity is the New Testament not the Old. Something else I appreciated. If he became upset about my being gay, at least he wouldn’t be quoting Leviticus 18-22 at me. They also tend to stay within their own insular communities. The Amish and Hutterites most notably insular, living on colonies. The Mennonites, being the least insular, tend to live close together around small towns and villages.

Whatever the situation, he was raised in very strict Mennonite tradition. In fact, he was home-schooled until high school and took his entire high school program online at home. So, needless to say, he was very sheltered. He had a very narrow view of what was right and wrong. Everything was black or white with him and there were no shades of grey. He was the epitome of the term ‘straight and narrow’. In fact, he told me that he had actually demanded a course change because one of his professors swore in class, which really upset him. At the same time, there was no doubt he was one of the sweetest, most caring, thoughtful, genuine guys on the planet and he was honest to a fault. I don’t think he was capable of lying.

All that may not seem like it could be an issue. I mean, what more could you ask for in a friend. However, I could see it becoming an issue. There was no doubt he had an excellent set of values instilled in him, which worked fine in the small community he grew up in. But, he appeared capital N naïve and he was no longer in the sheltered environment of home. He was now in the big city and in university. If a professor swearing upset him, he was in for a rough ride. He was going to come up against all sorts of new things that would make a simple swearword seem insignificant, even to him. Considering most of the women and girls in his home village wore full-length dresses, some of the outfits the girls wore on campus must have been a shock…and some of the guys too, for that matter. I don’t think there were too many Goths or boys and girls with multiple piercings and tattoos living in their little village, either.

I thought even just the pace of life on campus may have been mind-boggling for him, but I think everything was so new and exciting to him that he actually seemed to be enjoying it. I did wonder how he felt when he saw a guy and a girl making out in the lounge. I didn’t doubt that he may have found it a bit shocking as he seemed so innocent and pure. He watched them for several seconds before glancing at me and shrugging his shoulders. However, he didn’t comment. That was just the tip of the iceberg though. One of things that would sooner or later come to the forefront was sexuality. I’m not sure he was even aware of homosexuality. If he had been as sheltered as it appeared, it was not something he would have had the chance to become particularly knowledgeable about, and it was not all that unusual to see a couple of girls or a couple of guys exchange a kiss or hold hands. 

Even though he had never commented on anything, I felt the bottom could fall out of our relationship at any time due to my sexuality. However, I pursued our friendship anyway. We discovered we both had a keen interest in reading. When we compared books that we liked, I was careful to only mention the ones I hoped he wouldn’t find offensive. There was little or nothing we had in common with respect to music, movies, or television shows. He didn’t listen to a lot of music and when he did, it was mostly classical. He never went to a movie until he went with me and he never watched television, as his family didn’t have one. A computer and the Internet were a very big step for his parents, but necessary if he was going to take his high school program online from home. However, it was for school only and that rule was strictly enforced. 

I did step out on a limb, so to speak, though. I introduced him to Ryan and a couple of my friends. Garrett instantly liked them and they, of course, fell in love with him almost as quickly as I did. We went to dinner several times, to a couple of safe Disney movies, and to the mall. Over the first several weeks, it was so much fun to watch him, as so many of the things we did and took for granted were a totally new experience for him. Often, he would be like a little kid with a new toy or on his first trip to Disneyland.

We even taught him how to rollerblade which was a whole experience in itself. I don’t think any of us had laughed so hard in our lives as we did then. We got him a helmet, elbow and knee pads, wrist and shin guards but he still managed to get a few good bruises. At least he didn’t break anything and within a week, he could rollerblade with the best of us. I was having the time of my life with him and there was little doubt, he was having the time of his life with me too.

As time progressed though, I was falling more and more deeply in love with him. Sadly, I had little hope that my love would ever be reciprocated other than in a friendship kind of way. Our time together became both the happiest times and the saddest times. I know that doesn’t make sense, but one minute we would be laughing and joking and I would feel so close to him. The next minute I would look at him and he would seem so far untouchable…unreachable. Some nights I would go to bed with a huge smile on my face. Other nights, I would cry myself to sleep.

I phoned Ryan one evening and Garrett became the main topic of our conversation. As we talked, I told him everything about my feelings for Garrett.

Ryan’s first response was simple. “You know you’re just going to open yourself up to a lot of hurt, don’t you?” he warned me.

“Don’t worry I’ll be careful.” I told him.

“Yeah right,” he responded with a laugh, “You’re head over heels in love with him. How long can you keep being careful before you lose it?”

“It’s just that he’s so sweet and vulnerable,” I said, “How can I not be head over heels for him?”

“Yeah, well, he’s not the only one who’s sweet and vulnerable here,” he responded.

Even over the phone, I blushed as I said, “Thanks, I think. But somebody needs to be there for him.”

We must have spent more than an hour talking about Garrett and all the what ifs I could think of.

Over the next month Garrett and I became very close. We studied together and had lunch together almost every day. We went bowling, skating, rollerblading, for long walks along the river, and even on a picnic. I soon discovered that Garrett had a very dry sense of humour and quite often I would be laughing so hard, I would have tears rolling down my face. We also got into some fairly deep conversations about life in general and life on campus specifically. He often had questions about the apparent freedom people felt, including how they dressed, expressed themselves, or showed affection publicly and the openness with which they did it. Not surprisingly, he found the Goths particularly entertaining.

He was particularly intrigued when he saw a couple of guys kiss as they parted for different classes one day. I was surprised that he only found it intriguing and not totally disgusting. I fully expected we would get into some religious discussion about God hating gays or something but, other than commenting on it being unusual to see guys kiss in public, he said nothing. Not that he indicated he was close-minded, well except for the one prof swearing, it seemed he was more open-minded than I thought, and it was good to see that he seemed accepting of different lifestyles. That gave me some hope for when, or if, I came out to him.

Then he invited me out to the farm for the Thanksgiving weekend. I must say I was a little surprised. Not as surprised as I was when he led me over to the university’s long-term parking lot and to a very nice new bright red Dodge Avenger.

“Wow, this is yours?” I questioned, a little in awe.

“Yes,” he replied, “It’s my graduation gift from my grandfather. Like it?”

“Oh yeah,” I responded, “What’s not to like?”

A half hour later and we were out of the city and cruising down the highway on our way to his home a few miles from the small village of Linden. Another forty five minutes and we were pulling into his family’s farm. I was in awe as I looked around. There was nothing but the biggest, most modern farm machinery I had ever seen. Huge four-wheel-drive tractors, seeders, combines, and you name it. This was not quite what I expected. I’m not sure what I actually expected but this was not it. Even the house was ultramodern with every convenience including a microwave. The only thing missing was a TV.

When I met his mom and sisters, they were all wearing floor length dresses and little scarves on their heads. This I kinda was expecting. He introduced me and we were quickly seated at the table in front of some unbelievably delicious rhubarb pie and a couple of glasses of milk. His sisters were obviously excited to see him and were firing questions at him faster than he could answer them. Finally his mom sent them off to do some chores to give him a break, although she had more than a few questions for the two of us about school and stuff as well.

His dad, brother, and one of his cousins were out in the shop working on one of the combines. When we got away from his mom and wandered over to the shop, they were wearing jeans and plaid shirts which seemed quite normal for anyone on the farm. They had lots of questions too, but they were intermingled with “hand me the 9/16th wrench” or “where did that Phillips screwdriver go?” After about fifteen minutes, Garrett decided to show me around the rest of the farm. He did mention that as far as I could see in any direction, I was looking at their land. I think there were fourteen sections or almost nine thousand acres owned by his dad, brother, two uncles, and grandfather. We were talking multimillion dollar operation. This I really wasn’t expecting.

Dinner was amazing. I’m sure if I stayed with them I’d weight three hundred pounds within a month. Once again, everyone had lots of questions, this time directed at both of us but mostly at Garrett. Garrett was the first member of his family to leave the farm so they were curious about the university, his classes, and life in the big city. They were also a little curious about me. Obviously I was not their average familiar Anglo-Saxon. We talked about the Philippines, my family, and about how Garrett and I met and became friends

Saturday I rode on a combine with Garrett and even learned how to operate it. They didn’t let me go out on my own, but I did combine a quarter section of barley with Garrett’s supervision. Sunday was to be our Thanksgiving celebration. We went to church at 9:00. The smell of turkey and whatever else cooking as we walked in the door almost had us all drooling. As soon as the church service was over, we all moved downstairs to what looked like a massive banquet hall where a dinner was served that I will never forget. Everything from turkey and holubschi (cabbage rolls), karoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), Russian borscht, turkey borscht, kotletten (meatballs), to zwiebach (Grandma buns), apple fritters, gooseberry moos (pudding), to homemade ice cream. Food at Filipino celebrations is pretty awesome but this was unreal.   

We got back to Garrett’s about 5:00 and, I swear, none of us could move. We just sat around the living room chatting and trying to stay awake. Monday, Thanksgiving Day, we spent driving around the countryside with his brother. We visited some ‘exotic’ places like Three Hills, Rosebud, Standard, and Drumheller. We spent some time exploring the Hoodoos, some old coal mines, and the Red Deer River near Drumheller.  But, as always, weekends are never long enough and soon after we got back, we were packed up ready to leave. We decided a lemonade and homemade ice cream on the deck was in order before we left though. 

One comment his brother made as we were sitting enjoying ourselves kinda threw me a little. When Garrett went into the house to use the bathroom, he leaned over and whispered, “Don’t hurt him. He’s very vulnerable.”

My simple response was a rather surprised, “I won’t,” whisper.

No one heard our exchange and the chatting simply carried on. When Garrett came back out, we said our goodbyes and were given a month’s supply of food before we left. As we were driving back I had a hard time remembering a weekend I had enjoyed more. However, I also couldn’t get his brother’s words out of my head. What did he mean?

I was soon to find out when the whole sex and sexuality thing was thrust into the forefront Tuesday. We were given an assignment in psychology. It was to read and write a position paper with a partner on a chapter in our psychology text. We were to read the chapter that night on our own, make quick notes and comments, and then get together with our partner the next day to outline the paper. The day after that, we were to write the paper together in class. The chapter title was Sexual Orientation. The gist being is sexual orientation a conscious choice or inborn.

When we got the assignment, all I could think was do I really want to discus this in depth with Garret? Then I thought, if anything, this would be the thing that would answer my question about his reaction to finding out I’m gay. I did think back to his reaction at seeing two guys kiss and the fact that he was in no way negative about it, but I still wasn’t sure. A little paranoid I know, but that’s me…paranoid.

We decided that, the next day, we would get together over lunch and work into the third block to compare notes and set up the outline for our paper. To say I was nervous would have been an understatement. As I was jotting down my thoughts and again, considering all the ‘what if’ questions I had come up with, I knew one thing. I was totally and hopelessly in love with him and the thought of losing him, even as a friend, was devastating. Then I thought of his brother’s words, “Don’t hurt him. He’s very vulnerable.” Was he seeing something I wasn't?  

At noon, I went to the cafeteria where we usually ate and waited for him to show up. About five after twelve, I saw him walk over to the serving counter to place his order. He noticed me and gave me a smile and a quick wave. Two minutes later, he was sitting across from me opening his milk carton.

“Hi,” he said with his usual perfect smile.

“Hi,” I responded, smiling back and thinking he seemed to be very cheerful for someone who I was afraid might be feeling at least a little negative about the topic we were going to discus.

“So, what did you come up with for our position paper?” he asked.

The last thing I wanted to do was go first. I needed to know where he stood so I could react to him. If I came out with a person is born gay, it’s not a choice, it’s not a mental illness, it’s not a sin, it’s normal, yada, yada, yada, I might be signing our friendship’s death warrant. I had to get him to go first. Yeah, I know…paranoid.

So, with a little laugh, I said, “Hey, I started first last time we had a position paper. It’s your turn to go first this time. Give me the first five things on your list and then I’ll give you the first five on mine.”

“I hate going first,” he said, “I always feel so dumb if my ideas are way off in left field.”

“Look,” I responded, “There is no right field or left field. You say what feels right for you. We’re not here to decide who’s right or who’s wrong, just to give our opinions of what we read.”

“Okay, I guess,” he responded, “Here’s my first five then.

  1. Sexual orientation has a genetic component and may be the result of genetic makeup or epigenetic influences on sexual development, therefore sexual orientation is not a choice.
  2. Since it has a genetic component, it’s not something a person becomes or doesn’t become. A heterosexual person can’t become homosexual. Nor can a homosexual person become heterosexual.
  3. Variation from heterosexuality is not a genetic disorder like Down or Turner’s syndrome, an extra or missing chromosome would be required, and that is not the case.
  4. Variation from heterosexuality is not a mental disorder either, a person doesn’t become homosexual from having an over-bearing mother or dysfunctional family, 70% of us would be homosexual if that were the case.
  5. Since it has a genetic component, God meant it to be that way so homosexuality is not a sin.”

As soon as he finished, he looked up at me, smiled, and said, “I threw that last one in because I couldn’t think of anything else to put down as a fifth reason.”

I smiled back at him feeling noticeably more relaxed. He had pretty much rattled off the same first five that I had written down on my list.

“Okay, let’s hear yours now,” he requested.

My smile turned into a grin as I said, “You just heard them.”

“Excuse me?” he questioned, and then when he caught on to what I was saying, responded, “Oh.”

“Yeah,” I said, “We agree on the first five and I’m willing to bet we agree on most of the other points in the chapter too.”

He just grinned at me and then said, “You weren’t exactly expecting those points from me were you?”

“To be honest,” I said, “I don’t know.”

“I know I have some pretty strong opinions of right and wrong,” he said smiling.

“That you do,” I responded with a laugh.

“But I don’t think I’m narrow-minded or a bigot. I can recognize a fact-based scientific theory and I can recognize a hate-based Biblical misinterpretation,” he said.

“Yes you can,” I said with a grin.

Then he said something that left me staring at him with my mouth hanging open in total disbelief, almost in shock.

“I can also recognize kindred spirits when I spend enough time with them,” he said with a big grin.

“Kindred spirits?” I questioned.

“You know what I mean,” he said still grinning.

“Yeah…I…think so,” I responded as his brother’s comment flashed through my mind again.

“Maybe this will help,” he said, as he took my hands in his, looked into my eyes and said, “Mahal kita.”

My eyes instantly filled with tears as I smiled and responded, “I love you too.”

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.