“Atin ang Kulayaan: Makibeki ngayon, atin ang panahon!”
This demand to uphold LGBTQ+ rights and to achieve true freedom is what paused the showers of June. Instead, luminous arrays of colors poured down last June 25 as the Metro Manila Pride March and Festival 2022 enamored the Cultural Center of the Philippines open grounds. With the eased restrictions of public social gatherings, the Pride commemoration finally returned to face-to-face celebrations after two years of commencing its activities online.
While the festivities featured queer artists, performers, content creators and business owners, the Metro Manila Pride March and Festival did not forget to stay true to its essence. “This year’s Pride is about bringing the community [together] once again and [reminding] people that it’s not only a celebration, but it is also a protest,” proudly emphasized Ashley Milag, a first-time volunteer for the Metro Manila Pride and Festival and Bahaghari member.
Friction from resistance
Even before the event, Lasallians were already mobilizing for their cause. Members of the House of Iris Vito Cruz staged a march of their own, with Andrei Rosario (Grade 12, HUMSS) then leading fellow Lasallians and activists in a collective march to the venue. But an alarming number of policemen armed with batons disrupted their peaceful assembly, asserting that their march was “‘illegal’ under the ordinance of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.”
Rosario recounted how the policemen started taking videos and photos of the group. In retaliation, Rosario and their fellow activists also tried to document the situation but were ironically reprimanded by the police who quoted the Data Privacy Act of 2012. The policemen tried to confiscate their Pride flags and their banner that displayed support for the SOGIE Equality Bill. This prompted them to gather elsewhere instead of in front of the Manila Campus. Rosario claimed that even after they relocated to Agno, finished the group’s educational discussion, and started the collective march to the festival venue, the police were still following them.
With open arms
Even with the intimidation from the police and non-supporters outside the venue, one would’ve been greeted with the warmth, love, and easinesses the community brings once they entered the grounds. This year’s celebration featured Bunny Cadag, Dee Dee Marie, Denese Que, Shontrice Gaddi, Justine Peña, and John Philip Bravo as this year’s Pride hosts, who thrilled the crowd throughout the night. With 21 performers anticipated—including Nica Del Rosario, Spectrum PH, and Supektibols—the acts made the event unforgettable. Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Giney Villar even enlightened the crowd with what Pride really is all about. “Hindi tayo natinag, lalo tayong tumapang at proud na proud akong lumalawak talaga ito. So, as promised, we will not stop until the SOGIE Equality Bill is passed into law,” Hontiveros declared in a video statement.
(We were not shaken, we have become even more courageous and I am very proud that [the effort] it is really expanding.)
Multiple booths of queer-owned businesses were scattered on the grounds—visitors bought Pride merchandise and from supporting businesses and joined activities or stalls prepared by attending organizations. Everyone busied themselves by engaging with stands and fellow participants—a sight that Milag truly cherished. “It is very fulfilling to see the reaction they show on their faces, their smile when you say ‘Happy Pride’,” she described. “[A] majority of these people are not out to their families, community, or society. But they did go here because they want to fight for the same thing.”
After years of waiting for a physical event, drag queen Judith believed that this year’s Pride could be one of the most challenging events organized. “Pride is like a new beginning for all of us,” Judith declared. “We are still fighting [and] we are still reaching for that goal at the end of the rainbow.” Flaunting his green gown, he saluted the large number of members who joined the event and made it possible.
Understandably, large social gatherings now may still raise eyebrows; but organizers ensured that the event would still accommodate a huge crowd with safety precautions in mind. “We’ve had this opportunity to come together again to celebrate and to protest for our rights—for the things that we really want to fight for and the things that we love—so it’s really a big statement,” asserted Marquis Magindara, deputy spokesperson and community organizer of Bahaghari.
The protest lives on
Amid the celebration, University of the Philippines Diliman Speech Communication student Yoo Jung Lee sat on the grounds and could not help but ponder over the possibility of the peaceful protest being violently stormed. Mulling over her thought, she reassured herself, “Fear is valid because the oppression is real.” But being complacent to the issues that the community faces is not an option for her or the community. “We are not alone and it is only when we collectively resist as a community that we can fight for the rights of all,” she declared, knowing that genuine liberation will come one day.
This resonates with Milag, who shared that joining educational hangouts, doing research, and engaging with the community are ways to support the movement. “Try to participate because you never know that someone or anyone you may encounter right now or in the near future is part of this community,” she encouraged.
Moreover, she underlined the intersectionality of Pride—crossing with issues in women’s rights, climate change, and press freedom. Hence, the presence of organizations that amplify these concerns like Kabataan Partylist, Greenpeace Philippines, Climate Front Jammu, and Bahaghari, shouldn’t be queried. “Everything that we are experiencing is intersectional,” Milag reminded. “Everything is political…it all depends on how the system works.”
Magindara added that engaging with the community fosters a sense of security and togetherness, “The key for you not to be alone [in] your struggle as a queer person is to really be with the community, lalo na’t [ang] laban natin bilang mga bakla, bilang mga LGBTQ+, napakaimportant talaga ng collective action.”
(…especially for us queer people, for us LGBTQ+, collective action is really important.)
What the House of Iris Vito Cruz experienced was one of the few subtle ways that the community experiences harassment from the state. “We can easily see how some laws are being weaponized to suppress our right to protest against social injustice,” Rosario stated. Although sobering, one should always be reminded of the community’s forebearers, giving justice to their efforts for a better tomorrow by resisting the harrowing struggles the community still faces today.
A rainbow after the rain, always
Beyond the colorful outfits, witty placards, and entertaining performances, Metro Manila Pride March and Festival 2022 reassured that the celebration’s loud visibility is also an act of resistance. Afterall, Pride does not end in June; it should continue to radically reverberate with its community for as long as its people face discrimination. As Rosario framed it, “Pride is something that is inherent in our identity as LGBTQ+ individuals, constantly reminding us of our self-worth amid all the hatred and discrimination.”
Self-discovery is a tumultuous adventure that can be very disorienting, especially in a system that imposes the status quo. Pride has been a constant reminder that there is an intimate solidarity that only those who are othered can recognize. As the occasion empowers people to reconcile with who they are, it also capacitates the community in reclaiming the spaces that have been deprived from them.
As the people proudly profess “Atin ang Kulayaan! Maki-beki!”, Pride has ardently evolved the depth of their cause from more than just about the queer community. It reaffirms that no matter what color you represent, it is always about painting a better tomorrow; or as Rosario eternally declared, “The spirit of Pride lives on forever.”