A community that lifts each other up is one that achieves change together. This is the message that pushed members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community to march and celebrate as one last June 24 at the Globe Circuit Event Grounds. With the theme “Tayo ang Kulayaan: Samot-saring Lakas, Sama-sama sa Landas”, the 2023 Metro Manila Pride March and Festival served as a space for queer people of all ages to rejoice in their identity and to fight for equality.
Despite the long walk and heat of the day, their call was loud and clear: “Ang beki ng bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban!”
Love powers through
The day of Pride festivities kicked off with a street fair and educational discussions. Queer-owned businesses flocked the grounds, such as Quezon City-based restaurants Butterboy Bakehouse and FFTG Cafe, as well as arts and crafts booths like Kroshet by Gaile and Kulas Jalea. As the day progressed, the crowd was treated to an afternoon program featuring energetic performances from Drag Race Philippines Miss Congeniality Lady Morgana, jazz singer-songwriter Ja Quintana, and 2NE22—impersonators of K-pop girl group 2NE1.
As the sun began to set, attendees embarked on a nearly two-hour march that began at Theater Drive where they passed through J.P. Rizal Avenue and Kalayaan Avenue, and circled back to the Circuit Grounds. Rousing drum beats by the Tambolero de Makati filled the air as the crowd waved their flags and cheerfully greeted people along the streets with “Happy Pride!”.
For many attendees, it was their first Pride March experience. “It’s our first time [as a couple],” shared Carl, who walked hand in hand with her partner Canel. “As a young LGBTQ+ couple, we need to be vocal [in attending events like these] and show people…[that] loving is for everyone.”
Similarly, for first-time Metro Manila Pride volunteer Gio Sabado, the event served as a safe space for queer people like him to understand their identity. “I’ve been coming to terms [with my] gender expression and this [event] is [my means] to find out more [about the LGBTQ+] culture,” he remarked.
Weary as they may have been from the march, the crowd’s excitement only heightened with the start of the evening program. The Metro Manila Pride organizers took heart in creating an inclusive performance lineup that featured budding LGBTQ+ artists and performers such as Ballroom Culture PH, internet personality Kween Yasmin, singer-songwriter Nica del Rosario, and drag artists Inah Demons, Taylor Sheesh, and Panthera Arma who is a hard-of-hearing drag queen. After a rendition of A Million Dreams from the musical film The Greatest Showman, Arma shared a short but powerful moment onstage with the crowd, signing that she finds it unacceptable that individuals with hearing loss are thought to be stupid or unsuccessful. “We have a lot of amazing deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who have proven these [misconceptions] wrong and I would love to be part of this change,” she imparted.
Resistance against restraint
The day was not all fun, games, and rainbow flags. The calls to stand up against oppressive institutions still echoed across all the festivities. Donning his extravagant feather getup, Metropolitan Christian Church member Kit Fortuna addressed the crowd as he emphasized the need for equality to be reflected in our legislation and institutions. “I’m fighting for equality and the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) bill,” he firmly asserted.
Gabriela representative Arlene Brosas, the event’s keynote speaker, then urged attendees to help lobby for landmark LGBTQ+ legislation. A petition to be shown during Senate hearings on the SOGIE Bill was also being handed out to be signed by those present at the event.
With a clenched fist, Brosas described the SOGIE Bill as a “laban ng sambayanan”. While the bill’s earliest iteration was drafted in 2000, its passage still remains a Herculean task. By keeping the conversation alive among the queer community and beyond, this year’s edition of Metro Manila Pride ensured that the battle cry, “achib dis bill!”, would not go unnoticed.
There were also those who chose to spotlight struggles that are not commonly associated with the queer community. Twenty-two-year-old JM de Mesa of the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth) spoke on the struggles of the peasant community. As land-grabbing becomes more prevalent and genuine agrarian reform remains far from reach, de Mesa shared, “joining Pride [is] a platform for us to show…the campaign of the peasant[s] since we recognize that the fight of the [LGBTQ+] community and the fight of the peasants are interconnected to each other.” The call for awareness on these issues reflects the idea of intersectionality, where individuals face layers of oppression caused by their intersecting identities. In this way, the oppression of one societal sector is oppression of all of them.
Representing various societal sectors, the event’s attendees included national democratic mass organizations—including Kabataan Partylist, Bahaghari Philippines, and Gabriela, among many others. De Mesa clarified this move saying, “All of the sectors in the Philippines are being left behind under democratic rights and their freedom are being suppressed by the system that we’re having right now.” The message is clear: marginalized sectors in the country, including the queer community, must stand in solidarity to eradicate all forms of oppression and achieve genuine liberation from oppression.
The brighter road ahead
The 2023 Metro Manila Pride March and Festival was truly a sight to behold. When queer individuals are allowed to be their most ostentatious, unapologetic, and proud selves, the magic is unmistakable. Sabado shared the joy and excitement from his experience as an organizer, saying, “I find it very interesting [and] feel contented…that there [are] so many creative and amazing people who attended this Pride.”
But the fight does not end within the grounds of Circuit Makati. Brosas highlighted, “We should sanction…ang mga lumalabag sa karapatan ng [LGBTQ+ community]… Ang pagsisimula ng [laban] ay pagpo-protesta.” She outlined that while we may have come far with lobbying queer-affirming legislation, there is so much progress that is needed to be done.
(We should penalize those violating the rights of the LGBTQ+ Community. The start of the fight is through protesting.)
The queer community’s struggles are also the struggles of the masses. “[W]e can maximize our efforts, our intelligence and our talents,” de Mesa illustrated. “The Filipino people…should come together in order for us to strengthen our community and forward our calls for a genuine freedom and democracy of the Philippines.”
Pride is a protest, a celebration, and a call for unity. No matter who we are, we are called to stand with those who have been marginalized, not just the LGBTQ+ community, but the masses as well. The 2023 Metro Manila Pride March proved how solidarity may be achieved to provide a better future for all—because the spirit of Pride will never die, as it is engraved in the hearts of the queer community.