MANILA - As a young treasury executive in the 1990s, Randy Estrellado was offered a promotion on the condition that he get married, marking a turning point in his road to coming out as a gay man.
Surprised and scared by the unusual requirement, Estrellado started a newsletter called "Gay Men's Exchange," to reach out to closeted homosexuals like himself.
"We distributed it incognito in bars. I was spending my own money. I was looking for purpose," the Maynilad Water Services COO told ABS-CBN News.
But it would take nearly 2 decades more before Estrellado would come out in the company newsletter in 2014. It was 4 years after the death of his father, a military man, whom he did not want to disappoint.
Fearing scorn, he said he was surprised to have been greeted by hugs on his first day back in the office since his very personal announcement.
"Gusto lang daw nila akong bigyan ng hug (They just wanted to give me a hug). I don’t know which part they can relate to. I guess it came through that it was a difficult decision, and they just wanted to show support," he said.
Openly gay executives are a rarity in Philippine corporate circles where members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and queer community are ridiculed in hushed tones.
Lower-ranked employees have it worse. Transcriptionist Bunny Cadag accused fastfood giant Jollibee last week of asking her not to return to work because she is transgender.
Jollibee issued a public apology after Cadag's allegation went viral on Facebook.
"You're growing up and you think you’re the only one or you think that the world is against you," Estrellado said.
"There are a lot of people like you, and whatever short-term pain you may have about realizing you’re different – that’s short term. We are also built so we can cope in this world," he said.
Estrellado said his throw-down-the-gauntlet approach to coming out would not suit everyone.
"There is no right or wrong way of coming out... There (should be) no pressure. It will come to you when the time is right."
While handling 2,300 employees in his day job, Estrellado said he would work to establish a suicide-prevention support group for LGBTQ, similar to the Trevor Project in the US.