Ricardo “Jojo” Salomon Jr. was sitting in the audience as his daughter Rica was competing in a beauty pageant. Holding the mic, Rica, a proud trans woman, thanked her dad for being there to support her.
“Everyone turned to look at me na parang, ‘Sino ’tong tatay na ’to?’” Jojo told Lifestyle. “But I’m always there to support my kids in all their activities, whether it’s volleyball or pageants.”
Jojo, a lawyer, entrepreneur and dad of three, recalled how he used to be at home all the time for his kids, since his law office was in the same building where they lived. “When they came home from school, I’d be there, I’d help with their assignments, I’d go to the PTA meetings.”
Then came an unforgettable parent-teacher conference when Rica was a high school freshman in Ateneo, the same school Jojo attended from prep to law school.
“I was shocked when the teacher told me that Rica was failing almost all her subjects. The teacher said hindi siya nagpapa-participate in class. She’d always be staring at the floor or looking outside the classroom.”
Even before that conversation with the teacher, Jojo started to see changes in Rica. “Alam naman natin ’pag teenager, nagbabago ’yung temperament ng kids. I was noticing that Rica wasn’t as jolly as she used to be.”
Jojo checked in with their loyal family driver. “Sabi niya ’pag nasa kotse, masaya, makulit, jolly, ’yung usual self niya. Pero pagdating na sa bahay, nag-iiba ’yung personality.”
He figured it was time for a serious conversation. He wanted to know what the problem was. Was Rica being bullied? Was it their family issues? Or was she not feeling accepted at home? “Ayoko na nahihirapan siya,” Jojo said.
He sat down with Rica and he told her, “Tandaan mo, ano mang mangyari, hindi magbabago na mahal na mahal kita, mahal na mahal ka ng mommy mo.”
Then, Jojo brought up a subject they had never discussed before—Rica’s sexuality. “Anak kita eh, kilala kita. Mula baby ka pa, kilala na kita, sabi ko. I accept whatever you are, whoever you are. Lahat naman kami tanggap ka namin kahit ano ka pa.”
Trips to the mall
Jojo recalls trips to the malls with Rica as a kid. “Siyempre ’pag nasa mall isang destination lagi Toy Kingdom. Papabayaan ko siya maglakad-lakad … parati ko nakikita na lagi siyang napupunta sa pambabaeng toys. Maliit pa ’yan, gusto niya parati pink. So kahit papaano alam ko na. Minsan makikita ko siya ’pag may hawak siyang toy na pambabae, ’pag namalayan niya na nandun ako sa malapit, at that age, conscious na siya, bibitawan niya.”
They would usually end up buying what Jojo calls “neutral toys”—something that both girls and boys could play with. “Kahit nung time na ’yun, parang nadudurog na ’yung puso ko na hindi ko mabigay ’yung gusto niya.”
Things changed when Rica’s sister Jannina was born. “Nung nakakapag-Toy Kingdom na rin si Jannina, bitbit na niya si Jannina, siya namimili ng toys ni Jannina. And ’pag nagbabayad na ako, kahit papaano nabawasan yung sakit sa dibdib ko kasi alam ko pagdating sa bahay, malalaro na rin niya ’yun.”
After that serious conversation with Rica, Jojo talked to his other children. “I told them, let’s accept her, let’s love her. Kung hindi man siya tanggap sa school, kung binu-bully siya, dapat safe haven niya pag-uwi, pag-uwi nya dapat wala siyang kailangan itago.”
The compassionate dad talked to other relatives, as well. “I said, let’s not try to correct her. Hindi ’yan sakit. Let’s love her and accept her. Do not attempt to correct kasi baka lumayo lang ang loob sa inyo.”
And, of course, he talked to Rica’s teachers. Rica didn’t know it then, but her dad would go to Ateneo weekly during school hours, talking to teachers and tracking her progress.
“I saw the improvement,” Jojo said. “And by the time she finished her freshman year, she was top of the class in Math.”
While Rica was getting a lot of love at home, in school, there were bullies (not just students, but teachers, too). Jojo, the protective father, did what he could to defend his child.
“May instances na sumusugod ako sa Ateneo. There was one time na tinabig ng classmate niya yung lunch niya so natapon. Bumili siya ulit ng lunch tapos tinabig ulit. Wala na siyang money after that. I went to Ateneo to talk to the teacher.”
It’s one of the challenges of being the parent of an LGBT child, he said. “I think ’yung challenge is how I can always be protective because I know not all sectors of society accept them. Mahirap sa akin ’yun whenever I observe discrimination against her … Kung nasasaktan siya, mas nasasaktan siguro ako … Kasi siya siguro sa buhay niya, natutunan na niya how to handle it. Hindi ko gustong nakikita ’yung ganun … Pero wala namang mahirap kasi mahal ko siya kaya alam ko kakayanin ko lahat.”
Rica, a makeup artist, founder of Tayo Movement and a content creator, fights transphobia and ignorance with wit and humor, as can be seen in her TikTok videos (@rica.salomon). She uses her voice to fight for trans rights, something she did even back in college, when she campaigned for Ateneo to allow transgender students to appear in the yearbook as the gender they identify with. This was a battle she won not just for herself, but for other transgender students.
Jojo isn’t surprised that Rica has become an active voice for the trans community. “Even before, I could see that she’s not meant to be just a follower, but a leader. Kaya niya talaga ’yang mga ganyang bagay. Hindi siya mabe-bend pagdating diyan. I like that she fights for what she believes in.”
Rica believes that her father’s love played a big role in shaping the person she has become. She calls him her support system, her rock, her hero.
She wrote in a message to him, “You always made sure that I had what I needed and more to fulfill my dreams. You were never afraid to show me that you were proud of me … I know that I am who I am today because of that love.”
Over the years, Jojo has shown Rica his love and support in different ways, both tangible and not. She had a debut party when she turned 21, complete with 21 roses and a dance with her father.
“Even when my kids were young, I would personally take care of their birthday parties. I didn’t buy their invitation cards, I’d make them, I’d do the layout. Kaya ’yung debut na ’yun hindi na nakakagulat na gagawin ko ’yun kasi alam ko gusto niya.”
Jojo shared, “I think one thing that I did that mattered to her a lot was, I was able to get an ID for her that read Rica Salomon. Sobrang naging meaningful ’yun kasi there are times when we’d go somewhere and hihingan siya ng ID tapos mina-ma’am siya ng kausap niya tapos pagbigay niya ng ID, Ricardo … Naiisip ko ’yung nagiging feeling niya.”
Rica’s dad still calls her Joshua, though—her nickname as a child. “Joshua pa din tawag ko sa kanya except when I’m talking to people who know her more as Rica. Kinausap niya ako about that. Sinabi niya, ‘Dad, I will always be Joshua to you … You don’t have to call me Rica.’”
And sometimes, he still struggles with her pronouns. “I still get confused sa he and she. Nako-confuse pa ako pero most of the time nagagawa ko nang she.”
Jojo says that Rica is the glue that holds their family together. “Siya ’yung nasa gitna, trying to make everything work.”
Although he’s busy with his businesses, Jojo loves spending time with his kids. They’re very affectionate with one another.
Hugs are abundant in their home. “Workaholic ako talaga pero I’m doing all of this for my kids … I make sure na ’yung important times in their lives na kailangan nandun ako, nandun ako. I’m a very loving father.
I always put my children first before me, before my needs. I try to understand each of them and be patient with them.”
He especially enjoys their long conversations at home after Sunday dinner. “One time, I asked Rica and her sister, ‘What’s one thing in you na ipagmamalaki niyo sa akin?’ Rica said, hindi siya nagsisinungaling.
Nag-sink in sa akin ’yun. Na-realize ko na tama ’yung acceptance na ginawa namin because hindi niya kailangan magsinungaling. Otherwise, magsisinungaling siya sa lahat ng ginagawa niya.”
Rica communicates so openly with her dad that she even confides in him about her relationships. And yes, he nurses her through heartaches. “Every time she has a breakup, hindi siya sa mom niya umiiyak, sa akin, eh.”
But Rica isn’t heartbroken now—she’s happy and in a relationship with a guy her dad approves of.
Jojo knows that the father-and-daughter relationship he has with Rica isn’t something a lot of trans kids enjoy. And he has a message for parents of LGBTQIA kids.
“Mas mahirap hindi magmahal ng anak. Itong buhay na ’to, minsan lang, eh. Love your kids regardless, kung ano man ’yung anak mo. If you’re struggling because LGBT ’yung anak mo, baka dapat maisip mo na mas malaki ’yung struggle ng anak mo sa pagiging LGBT niya. Ikaw ang No. 1 na dapat maging supportive … Until the family really accepts the kid, maghahanap at maghahanap ’yan ng ibang magmamahal sa kanya.” INQ