July 15, 2024

One afternoon, I decided to visit my college friend who runs a local salon near our university in La Trinidad, Benguet. It’s been five years since I graduated from the school and I felt like I have a very different life. The tall trees and beautiful flowers around the campus still look the same and breathe the November air which reminds me of the care-free college life. I stopped by the stores along the way to buy pancakes filled with sweet toppings. My friend has a sweet tooth.
I continued walking but stopped when I saw a dead butterfly on the ground. I felt sorry for the creature. The yellow and white pastel on its wings is beautiful. Some of its powdery colors are like ashes starting to be blown in the air. Mindlessly, I picked it and admired it. I wrapped the creature in a paper and put it inside my pocket.
I reached the last gate of the campus and crossed to the other side. Close to the road is the stretch of buildings rented by different owners of stores, boutiques, shops, karinderias, and salons. I passed through the cheap bars and entered an old four-story building. I went straight to far end on the third floor. I was excited to meet my friend. I entered her small beauty shop and I saw her seated in a high chair behind her desk busy computing her sales. She looked up and saw me and gave a loud cry. She shouted at her two beauticians busy attending to their customers. They laughed and greeted me too. I handed her the pancakes as we sat on the couch near the door. Her eyes glistened ‘Naalala mo,’ she said. ‘Naman! I keep you my mind, sis,’ I replied. In this small world of the gay community, moments are important and even small things are celebrated.
While we shared stories and drank coffee, I looked intently at my friend. She has changed a lot, she has transformed into a woman like a butterfly. She has a long permed hair and her lips are painted in matt red. Her cheek has soft pink powder lush. Her big bones thrusts in her skinny body and she wears bra under those pink dress. Her once dark skin is now muted. Her movements mimic the cadence of a woman. She said, I’m a trans now, sis, call me trans-Igorota’. I gave her a firm hug and I smelled a sweet scent of fresh air.
I hadn’t thought about the dead butterfly when I move out of the salon after saying goodbye to my friend. I slid my hands into my pocket to get the creature. So many things in my life had changed, even the way I looked at my friend, how she built her life in her small salon, their world hidden from most of us. She is like a flower cultivated from another climate and strives to overcome the most implacable discriminations they experience every day.
I unwrapped the butterfly from its funeral shroud. It was the same startling beautiful creature. I figured that a person should remain true to oneself no matter what the cost may be. I placed the remains in one of the potted plants outside the shop. My friend believes that she is now a reclaimed ancient princess of her tribe and is convinced to be a daughter more than a son.