Friday, December 14, 2012

Mix and March: Metro Manila Colored by Gay Pride

Drab Poblacion of Makati City, made more somber by a threat of downpour, got a splash of rainbow colors when about 1,500 lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) with their heterosexual friends, families, supporters and allies gathered for the annual Metro Manila Gay Pride March on December 8, 2012. 
The march was preceded by a commitment ceremony for both lgbt and straight couples officiated by the United Universalists of Metro Manila in the morning at the Makati City Hall quadrangle. Couples affirmed their love with the support of families and friends even though legalizing gay marriage remains almost a taboo subject in the Philippines. Simultaneously, a small bazaar was opened, offering interesting products from food to fashion.
With the theme “Sari-Sali: Pride in Action,” the march called on the government to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, as well as on local governments to pass anti-discrimination ordinances in their towns and cities, especially Makati City, the country’s business district. In the country, only Quezon City in Metro Manila and Cebu City in the south have anti-discrimination ordinances.
The march also aimed to push for LGBT-friendly school policies from student organizations; obtain the support and affirmation of acceptance from families, friends and allies of LGBTs; and gather support from contingents and individuals for LGBT representation in the government through the Ladlad party-list organization and other LGBT-allied lawmakers and public servants. The contributions of LGBT to the society were also highlighted, but overall, the march promoted participation and inclusivity from all for gender equality.
Numerous and diverse groups participated and showed support including advocacy groups Amnesty International Philippines, Take Back the Tech Philippines and Gabriela National Alliance of Women in the Philippines; and political organizations Bayan Muna and Akbayan. The Philippine Commission on Human Rights was also represented.
Comprising the bulk were LGBT groups, including Boys Station Family Organization, Dangal National Network, Elite Circle of Men, Full Contact International, Galang Philippines, Gay Geeks, Home for the Golden Gays, Just us Kissing, Lesbian Activism Project, Lesbian Alliance Bagbag, Lesbian Alliance Movement: Lakas ng Kababaihan Para sa Karapatan, Men’s Locker Room, Metro Bi Out Society/Boys to Men’s Clan Circle of Bi, One Bacardi Organization Manila, Pink Rockers, Pinoy FTM, Pinoy g4m, Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (Progay Philippines), Proud Campaign Philippines, Proud To Be lgbt Campaign, Queer Archers’ Alliance, Rainbow Rights Project, Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines, Love Yourself, Metro Guyz Society, Transman Pilipinas, University of the Philippines (up) Babaylan, Up Spectrum, up Spectrum Manila and University of the Philippines Los BaƱos (uplb) Babaylan.
Non-LGBT supporters included the Rotaract Club of Makati Legaspi, Lunduyan ng Sining, Tarlac Bailas Organization, Tiklop Society of the Philippines, Kultura Riders Club and Filipino Freethinkers. The Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS) was a very active supporter. At one side, there were also religious delegations the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manila, Ekklesia Tou Theou (Church of God) and the Philippine Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. The office of the Makati City vice mayor Romulo Pena Jr. also showed support.
This year, the pride march saw increasing participation by the business sector led by Thomson Reuters, which has its admirable Pride at Work policy, promoting safe and equitable work environment for all employees regardless of gender; workplace diversity; and awareness programs. Also notable were the participation of JP Morgan Chase Company, Bayleaf Spa and Accenture.
The march started at the Makati City Hall quadrangle at three in the afternoon, accentuated by balloons, confetti, flowers, extravagant costumes, banners, placards and a giant rainbow flag. LGBT families brought their kids and babies along. Drag queens were in their resplendent gowns and costumes. Some gay men went sexy. Masseurs from Bayleaf Spa served as eye candies. Riders brought their motorbikes. Some offered free hugs. 
“It is time for the LGBT community to move out of its niche and gain mainstream acceptance,” said Jade Tamboon, owner of the Web site, the secretariat organization of this year’s Pride March.

The march went through F. Zobel, J.P. Rizal, Nicanor Garcia, Kalayaan, Pililla, Hormiga, Angono and Morong streets, proceeding without any major hitches. There was just a handful of moralists, surprisingly very young, hardly noticeable except for their judgmental and condemning placards that read “Sexual immorality, the road to AIDS and hell;” “Jesus can change you! LGBT;” “Warning! God will judge the sexually immoral! Hebrews 13:4;” “It’s not OK to be gay! It’s a sin!” and “Ang nilikha ng Diyos ay lalaki at babae, hindi bakla at tomboy, Genesis 1: 27 (God created man and woman, not gay and lesbian).” Fortunately, these were overwhelmed by messages of love, acceptance, support, understanding, peace, action and positivity.
After the parade, there was a program at the quadrangle where leaders delivered their messages. Gabriela promoted its campaign One Billion Rising Against Violence Against Women. There were also performances by Tao Aves, percussion group Brigada, Nyctinasty, the Shocking Details, Lougee and the Cherry Bums, the Cellar Doors and others.
The street market was open into the night with interesting finds such as artisanal ice cream by Sebastian’s with amusing flavor names, “unconventional” dolls from Oliver Makes Dolls, bags with witticism from Hirit Bags, art works and accessories from Blot Art Studio, etc.
The Metro Manila Gay Pride March has been held for 18 years now, making it the oldest in Asia. The first Philippine Gay Pride March was held on June 26, 1994, organized by ProGay Philippines and Metropolitan Community Church, in Quezon City. The next marches were mostly held in Malate, Manila, considered to be the country’s gay district, and in June, like in most of gay parades around the world, in commemoration of the historic Stonewall Riot. Since 1999, when Task Force Pride Philippines (TFP), a network of LGBT and LGBT-friendly groups and individuals, was established, it took on the responsibility of organizing the Metro Manila Gay Pride March. In 2003, the pride march was moved from June to the December to coincide with related human rights activities such as Human Rights Week, World AIDS Day (December 1), Philippine National Lesbian Day (December 8), and International Human Rights Day (December 10).