She was the first transgender woman activist in the Philippines and a popular Asian LGBT activist, researcher and journalist, who led the 16th International AIDS Conference in 2005.
She was also a proud sex worker and transgender rights advocate, who fought publicly for the rights of sex workers and sexual minorities in the Philippines and across the Asia Pacific Region.
At an APNSW South East Asia meeting in 2004, Tonette composed a sex workers rights anthem for APNSW which has since been translated into at least 4 other languages and is sung by sex worker activists all over Asia.
When she was refused entry to the ceremony to be recognized as a lawyer before the Philippines Supreme Court because she was in women’s clothing, she threatened to hold a nude protest on the steps of the court, and shortly after became the first open transgender person to argue cases before the court.
This we vow, we shall stand, we shall fight, and together we can!
Rights for all we cry! Sex workers rights! We too are humans!
We feel, we cry, we laugh, we love, like the way you do!