The Roman Catholic Church has a strong influence on the Southeast Asian nation, where divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are illegal. Since 2001, transgender people in the Philippines have been unable to legally change their name and sex.
And although surveys show that people in the Philippines are generally accepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, a 2014 report by the U.S. Agency for International Development quotes activists as saying that the country's LGBT community has to battle discrimination, violence, stereotypes and legal barriers. Since the 1990s, proposals for a national anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT Filipinos have been put forth, and rejected, in both chambers of Congress.
Prominent Filipinos also continue to make disparaging comments about LGBT people. Earlier this year, boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao said people engaged in same-sex relations "are worse than animals."
Roman said she was "elated, very, very happy" with her win to represent Bataan in Congress, Agence France-Presse reported. "I'm also excited to work. I realize that the burden is bigger because the stereotype of people about the LGBT is we are frivolous, that we have nothing substantial to say, so I have to prove them wrong."
Roman had sex reassignment surgery in the 1990s and has been living as a woman for decades.
LGBT organizations and fellow Liberal Party politicians lauded her win.
"This is a big step to the acceptance of the LGBT to the mainstream society," Rep. Winston Castelo said in a statement, according to the Manila Bulletin. "We will welcome her in Congress and hopefully we can approve now a bill that would prohibit discrimination of LGBT in schools and workplaces."
Roman's win came on the same day that unofficial results showed that Rodrigo “the Punisher” Duterte would be the country's next president (official results will be released later this week). The brash, tough-talking mayor has attracted international outrage for his comments, including remarks about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary in 1989. Human Rights Watch has dubbed him the "Death Squad Mayor."
Roman, a former editor at the Spanish News Agency, won the seat occupied by her mother, who was prevented from running again because of term limits. Roman's father also once served in Congress.
"I want to inspire everybody," Roman told AFP. "There are many factors for discrimination: on the basis of gender, age, educational attainment, creed. So to all people who experience discrimination, I want to inspire them."