On June 28, 1969, the very first gay riot broke out in New York. It was a time and place that shunned homosexuals, and it was normal for police back then to raid clubs and bars that made a home for homosexuals to drink and socialize. But on that day, in the Stonewall Inn, members of the community decided to brutally fight back against the police raiders. What followed was a series of demonstrations that sparked the gay movement. It started out as most movements do: When breaching a safe place threatens to create homelessness in people.
Several decades have passed and the fight still continues. There are still safe places that cease to be. Last June 12, in a gay nightclub in Orlando, 49 people were shot dead and more than 50 were injured in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. Even in everyday conversation, casual homophobia persists, with words like ‘gay’ tossed around as an insult.
Everybody deserves a safe place.
A blossoming community
On the 25th of June, in the Lapu-Lapu monument in Luneta Park, the LGBTQ+ Community gathered to celebrate the 22nd Metro Manila Pride Festival. Most of the first-time goers believed it was the first Pride March ever held in the country, but the marches started in the early 90s in the Philippines, and is now actually Asia’s longest-running pride festival. For this year, the theme was “Let love in: Kahit Kanino, Kahit Kailan.” Even after years of hostility, the community still believes in a more active stance, in a way saying, we have suffered, but we are here and we will you love still.
“Na o-overwhelm ako, yung feeling ko na hindi lang ako pala yung nag-iisang bakla,” shared Ryan Pancho, who prefers to be called Arianne. He was wearing a flowing gray dress, with crystal beads lining the edges of the sleeves, and extended eyelashes. It was his first time to attend a pride march.
The whole place was bursting with color, although it was the variety of people that lent color to the place. In front of the Lapu-Lapu monument stood different groups that all came to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. There was a father and son—the dad, a pansexual, wore hip round sunglasses and a leather jacket, and said how proud he was of his son—the son, an actor and very straight, carried a “Love knows no religion” sign. They posed with big smiles for a photo. There were also gay rights activists from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam who were there to march with the Filipino community.
We spotted seemingly giant women in heels with glittering crowns on top of their heads. They wore shorts over bikinis and had sashes indicating awards like Ms. International or Ms. Earth, the same kind as those on beauty pageants we see on TV. “I am getting out of my closet and I am confident with myself,” said Nina Catalina, the reigning Ms. Supranational of Trippers Philippines, an organization that holds pageants for the LGBTQ+ community. “People who win the pageants are ambassadors of our organization,” she shared, mentioning how the organization engages in clean-up drives and outreach programs. Soon enough, our conversation was joined by multiple people listening in, as Nina straightened her back and crossed her legs, as beauty queens do.
The whole of Luneta park was filled with people who didn’t mind the contradictions in pronouns, the ambiguity between man and woman. It didn’t matter if they were full-fledged members of the LGBT dedicated to the cause, or just there to support and join in the applause.
The colorful march may have been short, but the energy was nothing close to that. According to Frances Timog, President of DLSU Parada, the feeling of participating in the festival was surreal. “You can’t even explain it. Parang you belong, like everyone here supports you or is like you. It’s not usual that you get to feel that. At least once a year parang ramdam na ramdam mong safe yung space, you know. Yung belong na belong ka talaga,” he explained.
Indeed, there was nothing but love all around. A church group was even present, holding up signs bearing apologies for spreading hate against the LGBTQ+ community. The inevitable homophobes were also present, but they were met with flowers, hugs, and photo ops by the participants. Glee was apparent with random laughter, dancing, and even splits by Frances.
See more of last Saturday’s festivities here.
Although the Metro Manila Pride Festival is the oldest in Asia, much of the change the community is looking for has yet to come. Anti-discrimination bills, which also benefit differently abled citizens, are still pending, as the LGBTQ+ community still longs for equal rights. Frances shared, “Kung [yung Anti-discrimination bill] pa nga lang, hirap na hirap na tayo, paano pa sa bigger steps such as same-sex marriage and the like… [The country is] far from [being] accepting.”
With the recent tragedy in Orlando, members of the community feel the need to fight harder and speak louder. Frances shared that his initial expectations for the march were that people would be noisier. “I want to feel that the LGBT community is ever powerful, ever expressive after the Orlando mass shooting. Kasi, the community, usually hindi yan natatakot agad eh… [The shooting] sends you a message that you shouldn’t be silent, kasi madaming nangyayari na ganun.”
One day a year of being absolutely free to express yourself is a short time for anyone. Nonetheless, Frances shared why it was still worth celebrating. “[Pride] wasn’t born out of the need to celebrate being gay, it was born in order to express your right to live without persecution and discrimination.”
Like most of the community, he wishes that someday, everyday will feel like Pride day—where everyone will be treated with respect no matter who or where they are.
Click here for a recap of last year’s Pride March.
Of Beyonce and Lady Gagita
A handful of anti-gay protesters proved to be powerless in dampening the spirits of nearly five thousand supporters and members of the LGBTQ+ community who traversed the precincts of Luneta Park for the one-hour march.
As the march ended, the community gathered in front of the Lapu-Lapu monument for the post-march program, which was comprised of spoken word performances from Words Anonymous, and dancing and singing from various performers and entertainers.
A lip-sync performance by a Beyoncé impersonator welcomed the crowd with songs like Crazy in Love and Love on Top, which was followed by performances by Tina Turner and Britney Spears impersonators.
Amidst the different troupes of performers in the post-Pride March, one that stood out from the rest was the Golden Gays. The Golden Gays is a group of lolas from the Home for the Golden Gays, an enclave for homeless elderly gays in Metro Manila. The lolas, who were clad in wigs, jewelry, and elaborate gowns performed renditions of famous songs to the crowd, with Diana Ross’ If We Hold on Together as their final performance.
As the post-march program neared its close, a sensational performance by Lady Gagita sent the almost-five thousand crowd into a complete frenzy. Lady Gagita, a Filipino artist, rose to prominence for his YouTube parody of Lady Gaga’s Telephone a few years back, which gained millions of views. Dancing to hits such as Just Dance and Born This Way, Lady Gagita had the whole crowd singing and dancing along during his performance.
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For some onlookers and spectators, the Pride March may just be another day for the LGBTQ+ community to dress up and parade around Luneta Park, but for those who are rooted and passionate about the movement, it goes deeper than that.
Roca Triguero (V, POM), shared that she is hopeful for the future. “Kung pwede nga, there will come a time na we will no longer hold a parade like this because all of the rights that we’re fighting for are already given to us.” For her, every year, Pride March is both a celebration and a contemplation. “When will it come kaya? That time na I don’t need to do this because it’s already there?”
RELATED READ: DLSU students weigh in on LGBT rights in the Philippines
As they marched together in hopes of a better and fairer future, the LGBTQ+ community showed no signs of stopping; they vowed to never stop being themselves out of fear or threat, as they find solidarity and acceptance from each other. More importantly, they fight to show that love, indeed, wins every time. Even if some safe places have already been breached, there is still room for restoration.