A conversation with a Pinoy gay retiree in the Netherlands
Rick Tuazon is one of the few Filipino gays I know in the Netherlands who is already enjoying his pension life. He was the first person who came to mind when I was assigned to write about retirement in the context of Filipino LGBT expats in the Netherlands.
We agreed to meet at Café Nordrick, a newly opened Filipino restaurant in The Hague. Rick is still as energetic, fun, and very enjoyable to talk with. Every now and then, he will crack some jokes and I will just burst into laughter. Being a Filipino gay myself, I can connect with his sense humour and recognize his experiences.
When Rick arrived here in the Netherlands in the 70s, he said that it was very rare to find any Filipinos on the street. Today, one could speak of a vibrant Filipino community in the Netherlands, where we are not just guests but active members of the society.
Rick is active in the Filipino community in the Netherlands. Through his passion for Filipino folk dances, he shares his talents and creativity by bringing to us the Philippines that we left behind and showcasing the Filipino culture and heritage in our new home. In many ways, the performances of these dances are a declaration – at least in part – of who we are.
Rick retired from working in 2009, having reached the pension age of 67. While he stopped doing his regular job as a manager in an engineering company, he did not retire from serving the Pinoy community. He was the cultural director of the United Filipino-Dutch Association (UFDA).
Finding one’s passion is a gift
I am rather envious of Rick. He has found his passion in the Filipino folk dances. To be able to do that is a gift, and having something that drives us, makes our lives more fulfilling.
During our meeting, all that Rick can talk about is dancing and how we can exhibit our culture through it. Dancing is a beautiful way of proclaiming our souls. Rick continues to produce cultural events where he choreographs various dance performances.
What Rick loves most about Filipino folk dances is the culture they represent and the stories they tell. He takes choreography and costumes very seriously.
“I would like to bring the performances of our folk dances in the Filipino events here in the Netherlands to a higher level – to the standards of Bayanihan.”
Before Rick migrated to the Netherlands, he was part of the Bayanihan Dance Company in the Philippines, which was established in the 50s. With his fellow dancers, Rick travelled to perform around the globe. Being a member of Bayanihan opened a different world for him, and since then folk dances has become an integral part of his life. He is not willing to part with despite his advanced age.
When we get old…
In spite of the many challenges we face as Filipino migrants, our lives here in the Netherlands are relatively more comfortable and secured than the lives we would otherwise have had in the Philippines. This is perhaps truer for most members of the Filipino LGBTQ community.
Thanks to the normalization of homosexuality and financial security in the Netherlands, we can live a life with less oppression and free from want. We do not need to worry about growing old alone and destitute. And when we are not looking down worrying about our next meal, we could look up and wonder about the stars.
I have noticed that, now that we are living in the Netherlands, we are no longer being confronted with this question.
Rick’s story best illustrates this. He used to have a long-term life partner but decided to end their relationship because he was unhappy with him during their last years together. And when one comes to think of it, it is indeed better to be alone and happy than to live with somebody and be miserable.
But Rick is not entirely alone because he has his passion. His life – especially now that he has reached a certain age – is so fulfilled because of it. However, being able to find and pursue one’s passion is a privilege. Rick can pursue his passion because of his relatively comfortable and reasonably secured life in the Netherlands.
But the question for us is, how can we fulfil the full potential of our lives after reaching the pension age? How can we still make ourselves useful to the society where we belong when we get old?
I used to worry about my future. When I look at Rick, I see myself years from now and I must say, I find that quite reassuring. I am not worried anymore. Everything will be alright. All I need to do is to find that passion in life that will keep me going.
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Raymond Unico is a Filipino queer living in the Netherlands. He completed his master´s degree in gender studies at Utrecht University. He is particularly interested in issues around race, gender and sexualities. School of thoughts such as critical race theory, postcolonial theory, and posthumanism are influential in his works and mosed of thinking. Raymond enjoys reading, writing, and learning new things.