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Gay Filipino Wins Landmark Asylum Case

Balitang America - The Filipino Channel, News Report, Ging Reyes, North America News Bureau Chief Posted: Jul 17, 2009

DALY CITY, California -- The long wait is over for Philip Belarmino. The federal government did not appeal the gender-based asylum granted him last month, allowing Belarmino to stay in the United States for good.

Im really happy. Im grateful that Im being given this opportunity to lead a better life in America with the support of my family, Belarmino said.

The immigration court judge upheld a lower courts amnesty to Belarmino after he testified that he would suffer persecution if he returned to the Philippines.

In his asylum case, Belarmino testified that as a young boy, he had been molested several times, and was persecuted for being gay. He did not report the abuse to anyone because he did not want his very conservative parents to know he was gay.

After he was granted asylum last May 21st, Belarmino finally told his parents the truth.

That was a real hurdle, it involved much struggle on my part. But its amazing... God has his way of reuniting and mending wounds that have been there for quite a long time, Belarmino said. And it just so happened that the dialogue of understanding, compassion and love took place on my Moms birthday.

For now, he is officially a refugee. Belarminos lawyer, Ted Laguatan, says his client can apply for a green card after a year.

As a refugee, hes entitled to work, hes entitled to stay here, hes entitled to travel "basta wag lang sya pupunta sa Philippines" [as long as he doesn't go to the Philippines], Laguatan said.

Belarmino is the first known Filipino to win an asylum case based on sexual orientation. His case now serves as a model for other gay men and women.

Now more confident, the former English professor says the decision was a liberating experience for him.

The resurgence of that self-esteem, that integrity and the acceptance of who I really am has really encouraged me to really live my life, not the way others see me, or others may want to see me, but the way I really am. And I also can say that Im more at peace right now because of that total acceptance, Belarmino said.

Belarmino says hes now ready to start over. He wants to go back to teaching, and become an advocate for human rights.

Photocredits: Balitang America - The Filipino Channel

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