Meet a Freethinker: Mek Yambao

No two freethinkers are exactly alike; a group of freethinkers contains a great diversity of perspectives, so there is no one, official perspective shared among all of them. This makes the freethought community a truly vibrant source of ideas and opinions!

In this light, Meet a Freethinker is our series featuring freethinkers of all backgrounds and perspectives. We want to introduce you guys to the people who make up the proverbial melting pot of this growing movement.

Our next freethinker is Mek Yambao.

  1. Can you briefly introduce yourself (one short paragraph/bio)?

I’m a Filipino visual artist who recently moved to Rome. My time is spent doing creative work which also swings to research and communication, mostly on social media. During this adjustment period, I’ve picked up some very handy cooking and gardening skills. I’m married to an archaeologist and we’re looking forward to adopting our first kitty.

  1. How would you define a freethinker?

A curious person who looks for answers with an understanding of the presence and implications of culture, dogma, but ultimately, trusts science.

  1. What belief system do you subscribe to?

None. I’m an atheist but it was a journey to get here. As a kid, I already had issues about not being “allowed” to ask certain things. As I grew older, I couldn’t stop looking away from the problematic Catholic Church, so I turned to other non-organized religions because I thought I needed a belief system. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t and that non-religion works best for me. I found community with people of various religions that share my core beliefs and realized I didn’t need religion for that.

  1. What’s your freethinker story? What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told them that you were a freethinker/atheist/non-religious?

Not sure if this counts but one of the memorable things that contributed to me being led to atheism, which is quite an unusual experience, is being volunteered to be healed by “miracle-performing” priests. I have a chronic disability and being enrolled in private Catholic schools, my teachers would always make me part of the “healing” rituals whenever a “special” priest comes to town. After the healing, I would always keep my ears peeled to what others felt it was like because the teachers always flocked to me after to ask how was it and I had to come up with something. I would tell them I felt warm, saw light and even “pass out” which were all COMPLETE bullshit, but I was a kid and all I wanted was to fit in and be liked by adults.

Eventually, someone told me that perhaps I didn’t believe *enough* so God doesn’t heal me which naturally led to a different kind of psychological damage altogether that probably a lot of us grappled with. 🙂

  1. How did you get to know Filipino Freethinkers?

I was at the forum of the controversial exhibition Kulo at CCP in 2011 debating against the censorship that the church was imposing. I found that I share their stance except they worded it a lot better than I can and through them, I start finding my tribe; intelligent, non-judgmental, reasonable and kind — everything that I believed a church should’ve been.

  1. What are some of your initiatives in the realm of human rights or the betterment of society?

I do creative cultural work, support and advocate for human rights, feminism and LGBTQ+. I work with a non-profit organization that fights for the decriminalization of abortion in the Philippines among other things, but mostly, have the difficult conversations in my circle about these topics.

  1. Is there anything people can do to help these initiatives?

I think that the very least we should practice empathy and open-mindedness. If a lot more of us just listened and put ourselves in others’ shoes, I believe that as human beings, we would want to improve as a society.

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