Where are my lesbians?

In Photo: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands intern Lisan Bijdevaate.

column-Rodel Alzona-a differen viewNOPE.  Just to stop whatever train of thought you are having now, the title of my column this week does not, in any way, suggest that the embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands intern Lisan Bijdevaate is a lesbian.

Boys and girls, please slow down. We will get a bit to the lesbian part later, which, I suppose, is the juicy stuff for those that have a need to scratch some form of itchiness in their bodies. 

But, here is the thing, let me be clear with each and everyone of you who happen to follow or have stumbled upon my column for various reasons—Lisan is one mighty fine asset for the Netherlands Embassy and an ambassador of goodwill the Philippines can tap anytime.

Lisan arrived in the country in April. Despite all the chaos she saw at the airport when she first arrived, the daily monster traffics, and everything else in between, the 21-year-old stunner wants to build a career in the Philippines and stay in the country long term.

Lisan told me that when she applied for embassy duties with their Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she specifically wanted to be assigned in the Philippines, even if she had no idea what it would be like living in the country.

She had been to China as a tourist before and the decision to select the Philippines was primarily based on language concerns and with her knowing the fact that Filipinos have the ability to communicate in English easily.

That, to me, speak volumes about the character and the sense of adventure Lisan has in her.  How many of you out there are bold enough to travel to an unknown destination in search of something that might potentially be life changing?

Too many times, individuals want to stay in their comfort zones and remain content with whatever they have.  The thought of taking risks are lost on most of us.  Nobody wants to hit the open road anymore.

People could say I am romanticizing it a bit, but have you guys ever thought that there might be more to life than sitting in your desk, typing away at your keyboard, and staring at the computer monitor the whole day?

Steve Jobs, remember him? He once said: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

Once you lose your curiosity, the wide-eyed child in you, and the complete unadulterated fun in your life, then you know that you have reached a dead end.  No pun intended.

Lisan, who is a year away from graduating from the Free University of Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) with a degree in public administration and organizational science, is currently assigned with the political department of the Netherlands Embassy.

One of the works she is doing is improving the visa application process that is tied to the embassy’s work in combatting human trafficking.

It is one issue that Lisan is highly devoted to and where she wants to raise the level of awareness about the form of crime across the country.  She said they are coordinating with various non-governmental organizations.

The Netherlands apparently is serious in its campaign against human trafficking as it started cooperation with the Philippines on the issue in 2011, with its priority back then aimed at ensuring Filipino seafarers are safe from exploitation on Dutch inland shipping vessels.

Then in November last year, the Manila Dialogue on Human Trafficking was started.  With the Philippine Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking as its partner, it provided a forum to tackle the issue, a place for exchange of information, and a venue for policy development between the Philippine government and embassies in the country.

Two months ago, 20 ambassadors joined several Philippine government agencies, along with international and civil-society organizations, in signing the Manila Declaration during the first International Dialogue on Human Trafficking.

Lisan, just like any other ordinary employee, works in the Netherlands Embassy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Even as an intern, she still expects herself to deliver and perform at the tasks assigned.

She said the embassy has a healthy work environment, as there is no division between the locals and the expatriates.  She described the embassy as one big family, where everyone works closely with each other.

On the lighter side, Lisan said she loves playing football in her spare time.  It is a sport she took to loving as her family has played the game even during her younger days.

Lisan also loves to go surfing. She has visited some of the best destinations in the country for the sport, including Baler and Zambales.  She has also been to Donsol to swim with the whale sharks.

As for Filipino food, Lisan said she is willing to try everything except for balut.  Among the local dishes and delicacies she liked are sisig, halo-halo, dried mangoes and buko.

Lisan said the Philippines has been highlighted wrongly internationally as a place of calamities.  She described the country as very different from what is being portrayed in the news after having lived here for several months.

I believe her mother is coming to the Philippines sometime soon and Lisan could not wait to show them parts of the country.

Lisan’s internship will only be for six months, which means she will be leaving the country in October and back in the Netherlands to complete her studies.

But she wants nothing more than to be back in the Philippines at the soonest possible time.  For her, there is no culture shock here in the country and whatever chaos is out there, she considers them as just minor distractions.

As for all the lesbian talk earlier, charge it to the British movie Pride that was shown to hype the upcoming 18th Cine Europa.

I do hope that no one in the audience saw the tears in my eyes toward the end of the movie.  The last time I cried while watching a movie was during the Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman starrer My Life.  Trust me, it was a long time ago.

The movie, about a gay and lesbian group supporting miners who were on strike, was intelligent, witty, an eye opener, and more important, uplifting.  And to me, this is not because of its gay and lesbian theme.

It was more because of the struggles of the characters in the movie, along with the opportunities that was presented, the friendship and bonding, and eventually, the sweet victory over huge odds.  And the amazing part of it all the movie was based on actual events in the United Kingdom.

Anyway, I have and had gay friends along the way and I have the highest respect for them.  I also had one gay professor in college who uses profanity laced sentences every time opens his mouth.  But guess what? He got my respect and I learned more from him than anyone else during the one semester he handled our class. 

Meeting Lisan and watching a darn good movie was not bad at all.  That was one pretty cool day.

Oh, and if you are wondering where the title of the column this week came from, it was from the movie, where toward the end, it was spoken as a term of endearment by one of the characters who has accepted and grown to love the gay and lesbian community.

For comments, suggestions and reactions, I can be reached at raalzona@yahoo.com.


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