GREECE-HOMOSEXUALITY-RIGHTS-SOCIETYAthens:  Filipinos make up a distinct LGBT community in Athens, uninhibited by laws prohibiting same-sex sexual contact, with some doing very well for themselves while others are feeling the pinch of economic hardships facing the country, says

Bambie is one of the Filipino gays working in Greece who in 2008 was crowned Ms. Gay Philippines- Greece.  Two years ago she founded “Diosa,” an association of gays in Athens where she is acting president.

Before she came to Athens, she was with a dance group which performed in various television shows and worked as an entertainer in Japan until 2006 when Japanese companies stopped hiring entertainers from the Philippines.

As an all- around hairstylist and makeup artist, she has earned the loyalty not only of Filipino customers but also Greeks, Indonesians, Pakistanis and Chinese. Sometimes she gets part-time jobs as an event organizer for beauty pageants and talent searches in Greece.

Bambie now lives comfortably with her partner of more than 15 years and even have an adopted son.

Reggie Mateo who hails from San Jose in the Philippines is a transgender working as a hairstylist in Athens. She entered Greece in 2005  and first worked as a cleaner in a yatch. In 2010, the company went bankrupt and she found herself jobless. Fortunately, she learned the art of hairstyling and has since been working freelance, reports

The LGBT community also has designer Vicon Viana . Three years ago when the Philippine Embassy marked Independence Day at the embassy premises Vicon helped transform the embassy grounds into an elegant showroom of Filipino culture.

Vicon is one of the Filipino gays who have made it good in Athens. His services as an all- around hair/make-up stylist and interior designer are in demand among the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Greeks. As a freelance stylist, he now receives customers at his salon.

At 9, Allan Carayag already knew he was gay but hid this from his parents.  Allan graduated from the Batangas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in the Philippines. In 2007 he entered Greece with a working visa he obtained with the help of his sister already working in Athens.

Like Bambie and Reggie, Allan is also a popular hair and make-up artist in Athens. However, due to the economic crisis, there are fewer customers now, reports as many OFWs already returned to the Philippines for good.

Allan says there are many gays in Athens  but lesbians are more open than Greek gays, he observes.

Perla Maningding, a lesbian, works at the embassy as part-time janitress receiving salary on a per hour basis. Prior to this, she has done various jobs for Greek employers, such as car washing, taking care of a special child, and cleaning houses and offices. Before the economic crisis, she used to clean the second and third floors of another office for 800 euros a month butut with the crisis, she cleans the second floor only for a much-reduced salary.

Bambie, Reggie, Vicon, Allan and Perla are just a few of the OFWs who are making good in Athens which has had a LGBT parade has been held annually since 2005 have never experienced or felt in any way discriminated against by the locals, they told

Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Greece but households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Their situation is far better than in the Philippines where homosexual conduct or affection that occurs in public may be subject to the “grave scandal” prohibition in Article 200 of the Revised Penal Code and where the LGBT community is not protected by any civil rights laws.