James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Love Is Love and Breakfast Is Breakfast

Love Is Love and Breakfast Is Breakfast

Gumbo in Baguio

Some friends were attending a pride march in the mountainous Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines, and I tagged along. We were five altogether. Two were LGBT activists, one was in the closet and had brought his foreign boyfriend with him for an out-of-town romp. It was also my closeted friend’s first pride march.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast being constructed by a gay couple who were looking to make it a retirement community for bears, big gay men. They also ran a Southern diner, which has been hailed as one of the best restaurants in the city. The chef was a ginger who grew up in Arkansas. He and his Filipino-American husband chose Baguio as their home because of the cool weather, fresh produce, and proximity to facilities like hospitals.

There was a thrumming in the air on the morning of the march, an excitement that that was almost palpable, seeming to run through the small city. But first thing was first: a hearty breakfast to fuel us for the long walk. Okay, it wasn’t really a long walk, but we were going through hilly roads and all of us were out of shape.

The diner offered a list of Southern favorites, many of them straight from the chef’s childhood: Southern fried chicken, biscuits and sausage gravy, his mother’s sweet tea. I opted for biscuits and gumbo, a weird combination, but one that spoke to my breakfast-loving self: flaky, buttery biscuits that I got to smother in butter and jam, paired with rich, substantial stew. In any case, no one judged me for my food pairing.

Afterwards, we waited to join the festivities.

The person who enjoyed the parade the most was my closeted friend. He had never seen so many queer people, all of them proud of who they were. He held hands with his boyfriend out in the open and smiled at passers-by who gathered to watch the celebrations. He even got a hug from a Christian group that stood with signs apologizing for the way their Christian brethren treated LGBTs. As the parade went on, I realized what it was that ran through the mountains that day, the energy that the march engendered: it was the feeling of solidarity, of brother and sisterhood and everything in between, of marchers and watchers existing side by side, for a few hours, without prejudice, a reminder of how far we’ve come, and of how far we have yet to go. Because while we’ve come to a point where LGBTs can hold a parade without being molested, we hope to get to a point where such a parade would not be needed at all, a point where people like my friend, still in the closet to this day, need not worry about how his family and friends might see him.

Breakfast was the most important meal that day, not only because it gave us energy, but because it cemented us as friends, as a community that supported each other in our private lives, and, on that day, in public as well.

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