Redeeming Renato: A journey toward self-discovery.

Passion for fashion: Renato Gandia, a communications advisor at Suncor, prepares as he goes to his workplace at Suncor Energy Centre, Calgary, AB on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. As passionate as he is at work, Gandia’s passion for fashion is undeniable. Looking back through the mirror, he has no regrets leaving the seminary, and is proud to have a career with his own and true identity. (Photo by Tim Bati-el/The Press)

A former theology student in his home country of the Philippines, Renato Gandia has redeemed himself after his quest to become a priest led him to self-discovery and re-direction, along with a new life in Canada.

At 27, he amplified his love for learning, took risk, and embarked on one of his life’s major adventures. As a philosophy graduate in his home country, he knew what he wanted and despite a small network and few connections, his vision of becoming a priest paved the way for him to continue studying theology in Canada.

Soon after arriving, Gandia began questioning his sexuality. His intention to become a priest was strong, but his feeling of being gay was stronger. Gandia reflected and thought how he could live the life of a priest, which requires celibacy, and for him, “It is difficult to be celibate.”

Along the way, he left the seminary and did some deeper soul searching. Where he reconciled with himself as being gay. For the first time in his life, he understood what it meant to be outside of his closet and to be known by people as part of the rainbow community.

Despite the self-reconciliation and realization about his sexuality, his burning desire to become a priest remained. He courageously went back to the seminary and finished his master of divinity, which made him qualified to apply for ordination to become an official priest.

The happiness he felt was uncontainable as one of his dreams was about to turn into reality, but for some reason, the bishop declined his application and told him to have a second look at his sexuality.

Gandia was told to deny his prior statement of being gay for his ordination application to be re-considered.

He stood up for himself, instead, and fought for the truth of his sexuality. With pride and bravery, he left the seminary saying, “I will not turn my back from the truth of who I am.”

The experience showed him that when one door closes, another opens.

His exit from the seminary became the gateway for him to be part of the communications world in Canada. With his skills and experience in journalism back home, he began working at a weekly newspaper in Stettler, Alta.

His spirit toward his new direction became unstoppable. He expanded his horizon and soon moved up in the media world, becoming a journalist at the Calgary Sun, a big-city daily newspaper.
That resulted in a lot of opportunities coming along for Gandia. Currently, he is working as a communications advisor and brand marketing consultant at Suncor, one of Canada’s largest energy companies.

Slay at home: Renato Gandia, a communications advisor at Suncor, virtually checks work-related updates at his house at Glacier Place, SW, Calgary, AB on Sunday Feb. 12, 2023. Gandia’s work is a combination of work from home and in person set-up .(Photo by Tim Bati-el/The Press)

As passionate as he is at his work, Gandia’s passion for fashion is also undeniable.

His attention to detail around how he looks and what he wears started with a former editor, David Naylor, who told Gandia, “You need to dress for the job that you want.”

Since then, Gandia has been slaying his workplace not just by his wit and skills, but by the clothes he wears.

“Fashion is a combination of dress and comfort. I am a professional storyteller, and I want to have the credibility,” he said.

The moment he embraced the truth about his sexuality, life started going well in his favour. What more could he wish for? He had learning experiences, an established career, peace of mind, and his self-identity.

But life was not done yet. More than a decade ago, he experienced the happiest day of his life when he married his one and only, Boyd Tolton. Just like a fairy tale, they are living happily ever after as Mr. and Mr.

In today’s time and generation, Gandia is continuously raising the rainbow flag as high as he can with pride and honour. Indeed, the journey toward his kaleidoscopic life is as colorful as the community he represents.


Raise your flag: Renato Gandia, a communications advisor at Suncor, proudly holds the LGBTQ+ community’s flag at Glacier Place, SW, Calgary, AB on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. Gandia was a former theology student who discovered and reconciled with himself being gay that made him leave the seminary. (Photo by Tim Bati-el/The Press)
About Tim Bati-el 8 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Tim Bati-el is working as a writer for The Press in 2023.