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Ang Pride ay protesta: The fight for queer liberation

They marched with placards on one hand and a rainbow flag on the other. Yet the police still chose violence.

In commemoration of last year’s Stonewall Manila anniversary, the Bahaghari-organized Pride March that doubled as a protest against the Anti-Terror Law was greeted with policemen in riot gear, leading to the arrests of 20 individuals. On the way to the Manila police district headquarters, Bahaghari spokesperson Rey Valmores-Salinas said in a tweet, “Hinuli man kami ngayon, walang pandemiya, walang lockdown, at mas lalong walang mga pasistang baboy ang makapipigil ng pagsinag ng Bahaghari.” 

(We may have been arrested, but no pandemic, no lockdown, and most especially, no fascist pig will ever stop the radiant will of Bahaghari to fight for human rights.)

Known as the Pride 20, the detainees were forcibly jailed overnight. While these activists were eventually released, the message was clear for Bahaghari. Their education and research subcommittee head Koren Espadilla tells The LaSallian, “Pride 20 weren’t discriminated against dahil lang sa SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) nila. They were forced to go [to] jail [because] they wouldn’t just watch this fascist regime purposefully deny the Filipinos a competent, scientific and pro-people COVID response.”

(Pride 20 weren’t just discriminated against because of their SOGIE.)

Queer, there, and everywhere

“LGBTQIA+ persons continue to face a varied spectrum of injustices,” discloses Metro Manila Pride’s Mikhail Quijano and Nicky H. Castillo in a joint interview. Quijano is the organization’s internal program lead for march and festival, while Castillo is its overall co-coordinator. Among the issues they cited are microaggressions and name-calling, workplace inequalities, public anti-trans regulations in establishments, and brutal hate crimes.

However, Mik, a member of Bahaghari-Metro Manila and Bahaghari-Katipunan, stresses that queer persons exist in all sectors of society and experience issues that concern those social groups. “The LGBTQIA+ face layers and layers of oppression,” they emphasize.

Espadilla also states that Bahaghari’s stance has always been that “the struggles of the masses are also the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community.” She articulates, “Lalo na ngayon in the middle of the pandemic, kung nakikita natin na incompetent ‘yung COVID response ng Duterte regime, makikita natin na karamihan sa mga [LGBTQ+] families, hindi sila recognized ng batas, so, mas grabe ‘yung oppression na nararanasan nila.

(Especially now that we’re in the middle of the pandemic, we can see that the effects of Duterte’s incompetent COVID response is much worse for LGBTQ+ families who are not recognized by the law.)

This is why the LGBTQ+ should come together and let their demands be addressed as a collective. Espadilla says that a broad and united front will help in fending off false claims of support from supposed allies. “Kung hindi tayo mag-u-unite,” she asks, “How would we fight for our rights?”

(If we don’t unite, how else would we fight for our rights?)

Extending a helping hand

Bahaghari prides itself with how they reflect upon societal issues outside middle-class LGBTQ+ bubbles. “We stand firm alongside all of the sectors para ipanawagan ‘yung kanilang mga ipinaglalaban,” Espadilla shares.

(We stand firm alongside all of the sectors to amplify their demands.)

Meanwhile, Metro Manila Pride focuses on addressing injustices by “providing safe platforms for the community and by actively taking part in policy advocacy.” Through the creation of online and offline platforms, LGBTQ+ Filipinos may come together to empower and educate themselves on issues that concern them. 

However, the implementation of the Anti-Terror Law penalizes queer activists because of supposed links to “terrorism.” Quijano and Castillo maintain, “They will be at risk of being penalized under this law simply because they register their dissent and discontent with the government.”

Out of the closets and into the streets

“Pride has been [not] just about [LGBTQ+] rights. It’s always been about other concerns that also affect the [LGBTQ+] bilang mamamayang Pilipino din ang mga [LGBTQ+],” Mik stresses. They proceed to discuss that Stonewall Manila, the first Pride event in the Philippines, was also an avenue to protest against the imposition of Value Added Tax in 1994.

(It’s always been about other concerns that also affect the LGBTQ+, given that they are also Filipino citizens.)

Quijano and Castillo also see Pride as a way for the LGBTQ+ Community to resist injustices in many ways. They see the sparking of conversation of queer rights among relatives and loved ones, or expressions through art as alternative means of expressing joy in queerness. They say, “It is important that we use this avenue to loudly call attention to the issues that all LGBTQ+ people face and demand that those in power change these.”

“We celebrate Pride to come together as a community, para ipaalam sa mga tao na, we won’t tolerate [injustices]. [That] the LGBTQIA+ demand for total emancipation for every oppressed sector,” Mik justifies. 

(We celebrate Pride to come together as a community to let the public know that we won’t tolerate injustices.)

Through rough times

Especially during the pandemic, Quijano and Castillo encourage fighting back against oppressions by all marginalized communities, not just on the basis of SOGIE but also on other aspects like state-sponsored violence. 

With this, Metro Manila Pride’s theme for Pride March, #SulongVAKLASH, calls for an effective and rights-based COVID-19 response that will cater to the needs of all marginalized Filipinos. This also includes the passing of the hotly contested SOGIE Equality Bill to fully recognize the rights of queer individuals.

Meanwhile, Bahaghari has three utmost concerns involving the pandemic response, dubbed KKK—Kabuhayan, Kalusugan, Karapatan (Livelihood, Health, Rights). The improvement of these aspects of Filipino life in the COVID-19 crisis were advocated for by Bahaghari since the start of the lockdown. “‘Yun parin ‘yung hindi pa rin natin nakakamit, ‘yun pa rin ‘yung more than one year into the pandemic, dinedemanda pa rin natin,” Mik shares.

(These are the demands we haven’t yet seen accomplished despite being more than one year into the pandemic.)

Continue the battle

The dangers of discrimination are still a looming threat for queer people. The uphill climb of the passing of the SOGIE Equality Bill and the release of Steve Pemberton, convicted murderer of Jennifer Laude—a trans woman—are eerie manifestations of these.

Despite all that, Quijano and Castillo believe that “the LGBTQIA+ community continues to stand and act together with other marginalized communities, coming together and caring for one another.” 

Even with the dangers of red-tagging and homophobia, one thing is certain—activists will ceaselessly wave their rainbow flags and demand for change until the shackles of oppression are completely broken.

By Andy Jaluague

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