By Jenni Chang & Lisa Lisa Dazols

September 16, 2011

Last year Forbes Magazine named Ricky Reyes as one of the Heroes of Philanthropy in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Ricky himself grew up in poverty and worked as a hair sweeper to support his family. He opened his first hair studio in 1970 and grew his business into an empire from his humble shop. Today there are over forty Ricky Reyes salons throughout the country. Ricky also makes it into most homes on his weekly variety television show Gandang Ricky Reyes.

Ricky’s non-profit work includes a job training program in the beauty industry and a halfway home for children with cancer. Forbes noted him for feeding for two weeks about 50,000 victims of the Typhoon Ondoy, a national disaster which caused more than $1.09 billion dollars in damage in 2009.

We joined him in one of his many homes in the Philippines for an upclose interview. Once passed security, we saw a line of photographs taken of him with a series of Asian presidents, first ladies, and even our own Hilary Clinton. Ricky enchants world leaders and journalists while also identifying with the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. When Ricky met us, he invited us to sit on the couch with him and take our time.

YouTube Video: Check out to see what Ricky has to say about family, Filipinos, and philanthropy.

Throughout the Philippines, people call Ricky “Mother” because of his charitable work. Ricky tells us, “Even the President calls me ‘Mother’.I love todo mothering. I think being a mother to a lot of people is the most wonderful job.”

Ricky says, “I didn’t go to college, only high school, but I’ve done what I want in life. Every January through March I go to all graduating public high schools. I always tell them that life is beautiful and full of hope. I came from a broken home but I made my life beautiful.” (photo left: Ricky and Jenni)

Ricky also paves the way for gay youth as a model they can identify with. He says, “I knew I was gay at ten when I had a crush on my playmate. My older brothers used to whipped me to try to make me a straight person. Now I have what I always wanted…to be gay and to be respected. “People have to respect one another.”

After 34 years together with his partner and four adopted children, Ricky certainly feels that he has it all and lots to give.

As Jenni and I packed up after our interview Ricky surprised us with some of his own mothering. He invited us to the next room where he had a large breakfast prepared to eat with him and his daughter. He then asked one of his drivers to drop us off back at our hotel.

Thank you mother.

Also see these other videos by Jenni and Lisa during their year-long trek around Asia and Africa to find ‘Supergays’:

Supergays in Bali Indonesia

A Young Lesbian Activist’s Voice in Indonesia

A Day in the Life of a Balinese HIV Worker

Interview with Hon. Michael Kirby, Former Austalian High Court (Gay) Justice

Originally published in Out and