Word of Honor
An Open Letter To AyalaLand Regarding the Treatment Of Transgender Women in their Premises
Actions speak louder than words. It’s just apt to start this letter with this tiring cliché as this incident is as tiring as this platitude. But human dignity requires that we don’t use being tired as an excuse to stop standing up against indignity.
We celebrated the birthday of one of our friends in People’s Palace in Greenbelt 3. After having a few drinks, at around 12:30 am on 4 May 2010, we decided to continue our celebration in Barcino, which is located in Greenbelt 2. After finding out that Barcino was already closed, we decided to use the Greenbelt 3 exit fronting New World Renaissance Hotel to hail cabs. En route to the said location, at the bridge of Greenbelts 2 and 3, we were stopped by S.G. Joel Sarabia. At first he told us that Greenbelt 3 was already closed. He lied: He allowed other people to enter. We then inquired why we were not being allowed to enter. He bluntly said that “Kasi bawal kayo dito (Because you’re not allowed here)”. He then suggested that we just use the dark and dodgy sidewalk.
While all of these were happening, Mr Sarabia was communicating with his colleagues through the radio. We overheard someone instructing him to not let us in. We took note of Mr Sarabia’s name and decided to file a complaint at the Security Office located at the basement parking of Greenbelt 3.
While at the Security Office I told the night duty manager that AyalaLand had promised through a letter in May 2008 that incidents like this would never happen again in their premises. Hence, we couldn’t understand why we were experiencing this humiliating treatment again.
When SG Joel Sarabia was asked to give his reason why we were not allowed to enter, the gist of his answer was “we were identified as prostitutes.”
We know that we were identified as prostitutes not because they have proof that we are indeed prostituting ourselves in Greenbelt but because they are following this logic: We are transgender women and therefore we are - or there’s a high probability that we are - prostitutes.
I informed them about the meeting I had with the administrators of Greenbelt 3 in May 2008. During that meeting, they told me that they do not tolerate discrimination in their premises. They clarified their policy about surveillance of suspected sex workers, and said they did not apply specifically to transgenders, but to all suspicious individuals. They even agreed to me that equating being a transgender woman to being a sex worker is wrong. I was even assured during those meetings that there would certainly be improvements not just in Greenbelt but also in all Ayala Malls. But is this what you call improvement?
The people who heard our complaint apologized for what happened. But, tell us, what’s the use of a spineless apology?
AyalaLand, we trusted, admired, and celebrated your words on 26 May 2008. You said in that letter sincerely signed by AC Legarda-Ocampo, Department Manager of Ayala Malls Group, that “We wish to clarify that we do not have any agreement whatsoever with Ice Vodka Bar or other merchants in our mall to prohibit transsexual women from entering Ayala Malls. Rest assured that we have noted your recommendations and will brief our merchants to be more sensitive in attending to such matter to prevent the recurrence of the same incident.”
AyalaLand, what happened this time is much worse than what happened in May 2008. It’s no longer your merchants that have treated us with indignity. It’s now you.
Yes, we know that, since there’s no anti-discrimination law in this country, you’re not legally bound to stop your discriminatory actions. But we both know that you’re ethically bound to honor your words through a demonstrated commitment to your promises.
We ardently hope that AyalaLand will 1) hold a meeting again with to clarify these issues; 2) issue a public apology regarding this; 3) conduct gender sensitivity training for all its security guards; and 4) will remain faithful to its stated creed of conducting business with a high level of integrity.
And this time, please don’t break our trust and your promises anymore.
Sass Rogando Sasot
1. For a detailed account of what happened in May 2008, which includes what transpired during those meetings, please visit http://transandflow.blogspot.com/2009/05/ice-vodka-bar-incident.html
2. For a copy of the letter of apology of AyalaLand, please download it from