It’s always a blessing to be with someone you can spend your whole life with. Davao-based fashion designers Dodjie Batu and Aztec Barba have been together for 31 years, celebrating 11 years of marriage. As their 20th anniversary got closer, the same-sex couple decided to get married as a way of celebrating this milestone. “We went to the States and applied for a marriage certificate in November 2009. We had our banquet with our family and friends in March the year after for our 20th anniversary,” Batu tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.
But just when he thought he had everything he could ever want in life, the world conspired and gave Batu a present, two days before he turned 40 years old in 2011. A baby girl came into their lives and it was a very pleasant surprise for the couple. “We immediately took care of her legal papers. In about two years, the certificate of finality of her adoption came and she was legally my daughter,” shares Batu. In papers, Batu is the legal parent. “To avoid any problems in the legal proceedings, because this is somewhat of a first in the city.”
Basia, who is now nine years old, only knows of Daddy Dodjie and Mommy Aztec as her parents. And the couple has been playing their respective roles very well, even assigning good cop and bad cop roles. “I am the stricter parent and Aztec is the ‘spoiler.’ It balances how we parent and I can see that we have raised a happy and open-minded girl. We’re still hoping that she will handle all her hurdles in life with us guiding her.”
Being part of the modern family spectrum, the trio has been very open about how special their family is. One of the most crucial first steps the couple did was to be honest about who they are and their growing family, “Our partnership from the early stages was an open one with both our families accepting us, so it is never an issue for our bundle of joy to be welcomed into our family, especially the doting grandmommies.”
Life has been great at home, but it was time for Basia to enter big school. They stumbled upon their first roadblock with the first school they applied for, “I met with the principal to talk to her about our ‘family,’ the principal said that if ever a child will ask about us, the teacher will say that homosexuality is wrong. I was shocked at first, but told them that I don’t think we are on the same page and never came back.”
Basia is now thriving in Philippine Women’s College (PWC) of Davao. “She will be an incoming grade four student in PWC and is a consistent dean’s lister and a well-rounded student with extra-curricular activities,” Batu proudly reveals. But more than all these accomplishments, the couple knows, in their hearts, that they have chosen the right school for their one-and-only daughter, “I always say that the emotional stability of our daughter is far more important than any academic achievement.”
The couple sees parenting as an adventure, and they have been reaping the rewards of raising their sweet Basia with lots of hugs and kisses from her. When asked what they enjoy most about being parents, Batu, being the father, said that it’s the “experience of raising our daughter and seeing how she turned out to be a happy kid.” But it wasn’t always the case, Batu shared that Basia had an incident in school when one of her classmates pointed out that Basia’s mom is gay. “She came home feeling quite low,” says Batu. Upon discussion, they reminded their daughter that their family is special to which Basia replied, “We are limited edition.” Her statement confirmed that their daughter was going to be okay.
When asked what values they hope to instill in their daughter, respect and acceptance. “Being different doesn’t mean that you are less of a person. It means you are special.” Batu ends the interview with fatherhood advice, ” To all the fathers, let us all look after our children closely. We have them in our lives and we must always celebrate even the little things that we experience with them, because they grow up so fast.”