HERO Awards 2021 Community Partners APN+, APTN and ILGA Asia Unveil much anticipated honourees list

By October 15, 2021 November 29th, 2021 Newsroom, Regional, What We Do


Supported by our Community Partner – APTN

Chase Tolentino

The Philippines

I am a Filipino citizen of Chinese descent. Most of my grandparents all grew up in China but found their way to the Philippines. I was born and grew up on the island of Cebu, I am the eldest of two children and, being the eldest child of the eldest child of the eldest child, I was lucky enough to meet at least 4 of my great grandparents.

I grew up with a love for reading fiction and still do to this day. I enjoy keeping pets and currently have 4 lovely cats. I enjoy baking over cooking. I have a range of interests and tend to flit from one to another, whatever catches my fancy. This has made me a jack of all trades, master of none.

I grew up privileged but also very aware that this privilege was undeserved – a pure machination of fate.

Please briefly let us know about your work

I wear several hats. I am a company manager, a businessman and an advocate for transgender rights in the Philippines.

The most interesting thing I’ve done with my life is becoming an advocate. It allows me to work with all kinds of people, have new experiences and challenge myself. I get to speak with politicians, government officials, nurses, doctors, students and teachers. I get to communicate to them the needs of my community, the solutions we need, and to educate them.

Seven years of service and counting.

What one achievement you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of

A recent accomplishment that I am proud of is my first name change guide – a quick guide for transgender people in the Philippines that teaches them how to change their legal first name. In a country like the Philippines without a legal gender recognition law, we must make use of existing laws. At the same time, we must push for a legal gender recognition law which is my current passion project.

What do you find most challenging about your work

The hardest part about being a transgender advocate is not knowing if your work is making a difference or you’re changing the system because we don’t see its immediate effects. You will be hit with moments of self-doubt. However, whenever I’m told that I said something that changed or touched someone’s life, it’s a very heartwarming experience, and I am filled with renewed vigor and hope. It gives me the will to continue my advocacy.

What do you do to recharge your battery

To recharge, I like to step away from social media and certain technologies. I pick up a book, and read. As a child, reading was my escape. It broadens the imagination and lets us re-imagine ourselves. As a young trans person who didn’t know transitioning was possible, it was a wonderful escape from the physical reality of the self. A chance to re-imagine myself as who I was always meant to be.

What is your vulnerability and how do you overcome it

My vulnerability is the fear of failure. I have come to accept that failure is a part of life and cannot always be avoided. The best we can do is learn from the experience so we can do better the next time around. We can allow our fears to paralyze us or we can face them and conquer them.

What was your reaction to being named one of the honourees for the Transgender Hero category

I am surprised and at the same time happy. To be nominated must be a reflection of how many people I’ve touched over the years – and that’s what really matters, the difference we are able to make in others’ lives.

Despite the fact that the COVID-19 is still with us, what is a message that you would like to share with the communities in the Asia Pacific

COVID-19 has disrupted so many lives. However, with the continued efforts of all governments to vaccinate the people and to improve access to health care, we are on the road to recovery. The most important thing right now is to hold on until things get better, because they do. Things eventually get better. We just have to be around long enough to see it.

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