At four years old, Police Major Rene Balmaceda already knew she was different from the boys on the island where she grew up.
While her childhood neighbors enjoyed the usual games the children of her age did, she preferred to just stay at home, cleaning the house and doing the laundry.
She also enjoyed using her sister’s belongings.
“When I was young, four years old palang ramdam ko na ako na ito. So hindi ako lumalabas ng bahay, hindi na ako gala instead na gumala ako, maglinis ako ng bahay magwalis, mga labahan na maliliit ako ang gumagawa tsaka nakikialam rin ako sa mga gamit ng kapatid kong mga babae," Balmaceda said.
But her sexual identity did not stop her from pursuing her childhood dream: to become a police officer.
After finishing a dentistry course in Legazpi City, she pursued her dream of becoming a police officer.
Her older sister helped her fill out her application form for the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA).
She passed the exam and was accepted as a cadet officer in 1998.
In an environment dominated by men, Balmaceda did not let her gender stop her from becoming an officer.
“Kung iisipin mahirap kasi ang training doon, puro lang brusko lalaki, so iisipin ko na kakayanin ko ba, pero nung nandun na ako, kayang-kaya ko pala."
"Kasi sanay ako sa hirap sa probinsya, eh yung mga mabibigat na trabaho is ganon din ang mangyayari, pero iba lang ang training dahil de numero at may mga instances na gigising ka ng madaling araw para tumakbo," said the Catanduanes native.
In the academy, her gender preference was no secret. And for her, being a gay was not an excuse to not become a good cadet.
Her sheer determination to become a well-respected cadet officer fueled her to strive more and hone her skills as future police officer.
Surviving the 3 years rigid training in the academy was her major accomplishment as an openly gay cadet.
She dedicated her achievement to her family who supported her along the way.
Her parents were also proud of her as the first police officer who graduated from the academy in the family.
"Sobrang saya..unang una nagkatrabaho ako na stable, pangalawa, masayang masaya din ang parents ko kasi, ah may anak na silang graduate ng academy, PNPA, kasi ang ate ko is a patrolwoman and yung kuya ko Philippine Constabulary."
"So siyempre ako lang kakaiba nag pagkatao ko so ako lang ang naka-graduate doon," she said.
Balmaceda knew that, with her gender identity, she needed to prepare herself not just from battle of being a police officer, but also from the battle against those who would question her worth as an openly gay policeman.
But her love for her profession and for herself helped her overcame the various obstacles in her career.
Proof of this are the various medals, awards, and recognitions she has received in her almost two-and-a-half decades career.
"Marami po akong mga achievements, ang dami-dami kong awards, commendations, may mga medalya ng magiting," she said.
She also enjoys the trust of Quezon City Police District Director Brigadier General Nicolas Torre III, who is amazed by her passion and dedication to service.
"As of this moment, I'm satisfied with his or her performance...matapang, dati niya nang gawain yan," Torre said.
"Dati ang trabaho diyan sa anti-drugs namin, poseur buyer. Sino mag-aakala na pulis pala ang kanilang katransaksyon so ito nga gay...ang kaharap nila, so naging very effective siya," he said.
"So ngayon naman binigyan ko siya ng ibang trabaho, chief ng WCPD....gayon din sa enforcement, matapang na tao at matino naman ang kanyang performance. Nakikita ko maganda,” he added.
Balmaceda is the highest-ranking QCPD official who is openly gay, according to Torre.
She is also the first transgender officer appointed as head of the Women and Children's Concern Section of QCPD.
For Torre, sexual orientation is not a hindrance to entering the PNP.
"Ang ating tinitingnan ang professionalism nila, ang kanilang work ethics na basta hindi nakaka-apekto ang kanilang sexual orientation atsaka sexual choices sa kanilang trabaho atsaka syempre hindi nakaka-violate ng batas," Torre said.
Balmaceda said members of LGBTQ community who wish to pursue a career in the PNP must pursue their passion, never be afraid, and be themselves.
"Huwag kayong mag-aalangan na ilabas ang kanilang kasarian o nararamdaman. Huwag kayong matakot na ilabas yan dahil yan ang susi para mapagtagumpayan niyo ang inyong ambisyon sa buhay,” Balmaceda said.
Balmaced said she will continue to become a respected police officer who is always ready to protect and defend the country--while sharing the story about her colorful journey.
She will always be proud to wave the LGBTQ rainbow flag that symbolizes her diverse and colorful journey not just this pride month, but throughout her life.