Sunday, February 16, 2014

'Tying the knot was really something bigger than us'

(Feb. 14, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

It was the end of the search for “the one.” Not that now-married filmmakers Rodolfo “Jun” Robles Lana Jr. and Perci Intalan intuited it when they met 11 years ago.

“A friend said one day, ‘I have a friend who has a friend—he feels na OK kayo,’” recounted Lana, script supervisor and creative director for GMA 7 dramas, including “My Husband’s Lover,” last year’s gay-themed hit. “A few days later, I got an e-mail from Perci, introducing himself. It was a funny letter.”

Perci Intalan and Jun Lan (Photo by Kristina Williamson)
Added Intalan, a former TV5 executive, “We met in 2003; I was an executive producer for Disney in Australia at the time, but I was based in Hong Kong.”

That first meeting happened during Intalan’s vacation in Manila, after about a month of e-mailing back and forth. “We hadn’t talked up till then, not even by phone,” Intalan related, “but we hit it off. I stayed in Manila the whole length of my vacation, four weeks. Neither one of us went into it expecting anything, but we were very comfortable with each other. The test was when I had to go back to work. He followed me to Hong Kong soon after. I guess we both realized we wanted to be with each other more often.”

 Lana finished Communication Arts in University of Santo Tomas; Intalan, Communication in Ateneo de Manila University. Similarities in their circumstances, plus the “nurturing” support of friends and relatives, made acceptance of their sexuality easy, the couple said. Before that, they both had relationships with women.

Intalan recalled, “Maliit ang mundo namin. We had girlfriends in college—mine knew one of his!” Lana said, “My exes and I are still friends. One of them is now a lesbian!”

“My [straight relationship] ended because the love ended,” Intalan volunteered. “But I was serious with her. I didn’t have a gay relationship until years later.”

Lana’s story is “the same—parehong-pareho kami.” He offered an explanation: “I believe that sexuality is fluid; you go with the flow. Some people are scandalized by this notion. But that’s how I am… right now, I can’t imagine myself [with a woman].” Of the early days, he remembered, “I was so in love, I had bouts of jealousy. Now, we’re calmer. Each one is able to pursue other passions and interests.”

Intalan agreed, “Yes, those were the fragile years. Now, kung baga sa puno, matibay na.”

Husbands Intalan and Lana (Photo by Alexis Corpuz)
They are both 41. They marked their tenth anniversary in July last year, posting photos of mementos on Facebook. “So many posts,” Intalan recounted. “There was a picture of the old phones we used to correspond with, a picture of rings… Jun suggested the caption, ‘You’re cordially invited.’ It was just a joke [but] a lot of people started congratulating us. We thought, why not [get married]?”

Three months later, on Oct. 14, they tied the knot in one of their favorite places in  the United States, Central Park in New York City. Prior to departure, they hosted a big dinner for their families here, since not all of them could go to the US.

“I was really nervous,” Lana said of the big day. “I suddenly understood why people became emotional on their wedding day—because of what it symbolizes. Being surrounded by those who truly cared about us was quite overwhelming.” Intalan recalled feeling “so much love—even from total strangers who congratulated us!”

The marriage is legal only in the United States, and the couple admitted that residing there one day was not far-fetched.

“I have gay friends in long relationships. One friend was in a 30-year relationship until his partner died,” Lana said. “The surviving one was left with nothing; it was tragic. I certainly don’t want that to happen to us.”

Added Intalan, “Going to New York [to be wed] was a symbolic gesture. We didn’t think of it at the time, but the idea that we were doing it where it was legal and official… it felt good.” They didn’t need to change surnames, he said, “but we did joke about combining them: IntaLana.”

 Lana would find that their wedding was “something bigger than us.” After the ceremony, he said, strangers would come up to him and say how much it meant to them.

Married life has been a breeze, so far. They’ve lived together since 2004, and have two toy poodles named for their favorite Australian cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

They described their domestic setup as “normal.” Intalan admitted that he can’t cook, so his partner does, “sometimes.” (More often than not, though, they have food delivered to their condominium unit.) “In short, we’re really just like any straight couple. We clean the house, take care of the dogs… and the place is just as often messy as it is orderly!” said Intalan. “But Jun is more of a city person,” he said. “He likes the vibe of a lot of people. I’m more introverted. When we take a vacation, his choice is Boracay; ako, sa bundok.”

Lana said he wants a kid “someday.” They’ve discussed it, he said. “When we’re ready… when I can just concentrate on making films and taking care of the child.”

The couple worked together on the award-winning films “Bwakaw” (2012) and “Barber’s Tales” (2013)— Perci was producer and Jun was director. They’ve switched “roles” for “Dementia,” a forthcoming thriller starring Nora Aunor.

They have nothing planned for today, as they routinely avoid crowds. But they’re sure to celebrate Valentine’s on another day.

They both feel “fortunate” that they were already self-aware when they met, and wish for other gay people to be strong and more accepting of themselves. 

Intalan’s counsel: “Don’t feel pressured to come out until it’s time. Don’t feel pressured to find the right one. It takes a while.”

Lana agreed. “And I have a message for anyone [pressuring LGBTs to come out], regardless of whether they’re sure of who they are, or still confused: Be a little kinder.”

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