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MANILA, Philippines – As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. inches closer to one year in office, Filipinos from the LGBTQ+ community held Pride marches nationwide to celebrate their right to love and to demand the passage of the SOGIE Equality bill, which has been languishing in Congress for over 20 years.
“One year into the [Marcos] administration, I think the LGBTQ+ community, as it always has been, remained vigilant but at the same time hopeful…. If it’s any indication [on] the fact that are so many Pride activities happening this Pride month, I think that’s a great opportunity for us to make sure that the bill is finally passed into law,” said Metro Manila Pride consulting lead for communications Mikhail Quijano.
True to the spirit of Pride as a protest, different individuals and organizations carried their own messages and advocacies to the Metro Manila Pride march and festival.
Kim Puyot, who is a peer navigator for the Tropical Disease Foundation, said there remains a stigma regarding HIV/AIDS among the LGBTQ+, but adds there is hope as more people are getting tested. The Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region, with a 237% increase annually from 2010 to 2022.
“‘Yung pagtaas naman ng kaso ng HIV, maaari natin siya makita on a brighter side na ibig sabihin…na mas lalo dumadami ‘yung tao na nalalaman ng status. So maaari mas achieve natin ng [United Nations sustainable development goal] na 95-95-95,” he told Rappler.
(On the rising cases of HIV, we could see on a potential brighter side that more people are learning or knowing of their status. This means that we could achieve the [United Nations sustainable development goal] of 95-95-95.)
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS targets HIV testing, treatment, and viral suppression to be at 95% by 2025.
The Tropical Disease Foundation, through its The Primary Clinic and Treatment Hub, were among several organizations that offered free HIV screening and contraceptives.
Bee Valdecañas, a pansexual woman and owner of Charmed I Am said there is a need to pass the SOGIE Equality bill as LGBTQ+ businesses are struggling to grow and thrive.
“I just noticed that have a lot of friends from the LBGTQIA+ community and some of them own small businesses like me. It only ever stays that way, small businesses. It never seems to pop up as much,” she said.
DAKILA communications director Floyd Tiogangco, meanwhile, said that he has seen no real progress on the state of LGBTQ+ people in the country, saying that Marcos needs to take action to uphold the dignity of queer Filipinos.
“Ang buhay [at] kabuhayan…ng LGBT [community] ay nandoon pa rin sa estado ng sobrang hirap with inflation going on…mga kaibigan ko hindi pa rin tanggap ng kanilang magulang at hindi nakukuha ng dignified work and job,” he said.
(The life and livelihood of the LGBT community is still in a state of hardship with inflation going on, my friends are still not accepted by their parents and could not get a dignified work and job.)
During the Pride march, activists Emma and Indiana Rouge hoped to push forward the conversation on the need for consent by wearing swimsuits.
Activists Emma and Indiana Rouge chose to wear swimsuits earlier during the pride march to emphasize the need for consent before touching one’s body.— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) June 24, 2023
“I can dress as I want to and you still can’t touch me without my consent,” Emma says. | @russellchengku pic.twitter.com/BFjWzhiLMJ
“I can wear as less as I want to wear and they still can’t touch me without my consent. Consent should be verbal and it’s not just seeing someone naked,” Emma said.
“All of the props, the clothes, are part of the protest because we want to be noticed and fight for what every single person stands for. We will shout for those who cannot be called out by others using [these clothes],” Indiana added in a mix of English and Filipino.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas served as the keynote speaker for the Metro Manila Pride program. She emphasized the need for queer Filipinos and their allies to continue lobbying for the bill in Congress.
“We should sanction, parusahan, ipenalize ang mga lumalabag sa karapatan ng [LGBTQ+ community]. Hence, ‘yan po ang pangangailangan na maipasa ang bill na ito…. Kailangan din maunawaan amidst sa lahat ng ito ang pagsisimula ng SOGIESC Equality bill na laban ay pagproprotesta,” she said.
(We should sanction, punish, and penalize those who violate the rights of the [LGBTQ+ community]. Hence, there is a need to pass this bill. We also need to understand that the root of the fight for the SOGIESC Equality bill is in protest.)
Meanwhile, Quezon City also had its own Pride March at the Quezon Memorial Circle, with more than 100,000 people attending the festival. The event was supported by its local government and Pride PH, a coalition of different LGBTQ+ organizations across the country, and highlighted the launch of the city’s “right to care” card.
Advertising creative Adrian de Guzman, who was a proponent for the program, said that the card was “two years in the making.”
“It’s a personal agenda for me as well because as part of the queer community, an openly gay man, [and someone] working in the communications industry, I think it’s a must for me because I have a platform…that I can do good with that creativity,” he told Rappler.
Quijano also welcomed the “right to care card,” hoping this would lead to more proactive action from local government units (LGUs) on uplifting the rights of queer Filipinos.
“There are many aspects here that LGUs can enter in terms of providing protections or recognizing the rights of LGBTQIA+ folks. It’s not just queer or trans people who are in partnerships. From the youth, we see there are a lot of anti-trans policies in uniforms, for example,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Pride PH also had to pull OPM band Silent Sanctuary from its program following allegations of “homophobic actions” that went viral on social media.
The organization took “full accountability” and apologized for initially including them in the roster of performers.
Silent Sanctuary said in a statement that they are “deeply saddened” by the allegations.
Meanwhile, Pride PH national convenor Mela Habijan told Rappler that she is “saddened and insulted” by Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva’s comments on not seeing any urgency on the SOGIE Equality bill.
“I would love to argue with him and say that this is extremely urgent at the moment since I see kids who are discriminated by their respective schools, kids who are disowned by their families. We have teenagers who are losing their confidence and…integrity as people because they are being mocked in public spaces. If these are not enough stories for him to believe that it is urgent, I’d like to believe that he has no heart and he has no love for us,” she said.
Villanueva was also instrumental in reverting the Senate version of the bill to the committee level in February after presenting letters from concerned religious groups who claimed they were not consulted during the technical working group meetings.
Marcos: Philippines should be ‘open-minded’ on LGBTQ+
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also greeted queer Filipinos in celebration of Pride Month in a Youtube vlog, saying that the Philippines should be open-minded and free from discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
“Mahalaga na patuloy ang pagsuporta, pagrespeto at pagkilala sa kanilang mahalagang ginagampanan na bahagi sa ating lipunan…. Sa bagong Pilipinas, ang Pilipino ay…malawak ang isipan at malaya sa diskriminasyon o pagkutya,” he said.
(It’s important that we continue to support, respect, and recognize the valuable role they play in our society. In the new Philippines, the Filipino is open-minded and free from discrimination or judgment.)
However, progressive groups such as Kabataan Party-list and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines pointed out the progress of the SOGIE Equality bill compared to Marcos’ priority bills such as the mandatory ROTC program and the Maharlika Investment Fund bill.
“There is no pride [in] the Marcos Jr. administration’s mispriorities for policies that serve to ensure their own hold on power by silencing the youth and plundering and profiteering off public funds,” Kabataan Party-list said.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Eunille Santos also pushed for the passage of the SOGIE Equality bill, saying that “climate justice is queer justice.”
“The discrimination, inequalities, and injustices that marginalized groups experience in their everyday lives also occur during climate disasters – even magnified tenfold – when members of the LGBTQIA+ community are disrespected and mishandled, denied transitional homes, or are refused the same services given to ‘traditional’ families during recovery and relief efforts,” Santos said in a statement.
Metro Manila Pride and Pride PH will be holding their next Pride Marches on June 29, 2024. – with reports from Jhona Vitor and Jamaica Columbres/Rappler.com
Jamaica Columbres is a graduating BS Psychology student from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. She is a volunteer under Rappler’s Research unit.
Jhona Reyes Vitor is a volunteer under Rappler’s Research unit. Her works were published in Adversity Archive, Media Commoner, and The Flame.