Commissioner Percival Vilar Cendaña could be described as someone who is trailblazing—forging beyond expected boundaries and, in many ways, opening up new paths for others. He, after all, holds the distinction of being the first openly gay Student Council Chairperson in the history of the country’s premiere state university and he is the youngest elected National Chair of their political party.
Commissioner Perci started out as a student leader in the University of the Philippines-Diliman. During his freshman year, he was elected President of UP Babaylan,an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students advocating for equal rights. Up to this day, he is the only freshman elected to that position. After a year, he ran and won a seat as Councilor in the University Student Council (USC) wherein he proposed the creation of the Gender Sensitivity Desk (GSD). The GSD under his helm piloted the conduct of Gender Sensitivity Workshops in dormitories and for student organizations. Also that year, he was selected as Philippine representative to the Macquarie University Student Leader Exchange Program in Australia. He spoke in various universities in New South Wales and Melbourne on the national situation and the Philippine student movement. The year after, he was voted USC Vice-Chairperson and led the development and implementation of the Alternative Classroom Learning Experience (ACLE). This program is now a regular part of the UP academic calendar—a legacy of Commissioner Perci.
In 1997, the UP student body made a bold and historic statement when they elected an avowed gay man as Chairperson of the University Student Council. His election was not only significant for the state university but more importantly it was a milestone for the Philippine LGBT community. Towards the end of his term, Commissioner Perci expanded his horizon beyond the confines of UP DIliman and reached out to student councils in other schools. He became the founding President of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), an organization of student councils of public and private colleges and universities nationwide advocating for reforms in the education system. After his term, SCAP and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung published his first book entitled “Starting ‘em Young: A Practical Handbook for Student Leaders.”
After SCAP, Commissioner Perci went on to work for the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) as the Campaign Coordinator for debt reforms. He represented the country in the Jubilee 2000 Civil Society Conference on Third World Debt in Rome, Italy. In 2002, he became a member of the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party and led the party’s Open Campaigns Committee. In 2006, he was appointed as Deputy Secretary-General of the party and eventually became the Chief of Staff of then Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros. He led the volunteer-driven and innovative senate campaign of Representative Risa Hontiveros during the 2010 polls. Commissioner Perci is also the former National Chairperson of the AKBAYAN Party—the youngest person to hold the position.
In February 2011, President Aquino appointed him as Commissioner-at-Large of the National Youth Commission (NYC). He now leads the NYC Committees on Education and Gender and Development.
At present, Commissioner Perci is also a volunteer educator for Babaylanes, Inc., an NGO working with young LGBTs. And if the time allows, he, once in a while, goes back to his first passion—stage direction.
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