‘Pride is not just a celebration; it’s a protest’

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This year’s Metro Manila Pride celebration proved that the march is not only about celebrating love and pride; it is also about encouraging Filipinos to rise up for other issues that continue to plague our nation. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In this year’s Metro Manila Pride March, an estimated 25,000 people came together at the Marikina Sports Complex to #RiseUpTogether, celebrating not only love and pride, but rising up for other issues as well.

More than just a celebration of love and identity, pride marches have served as protest actions calling for gender equality and rights. The pride march traces its history to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, which sparked and strengthened the LGBTQIA+ rights movement in the United States.

While the global LGBTQIA+ movement has already achieved some significant victories (such as the approval of marriage equality in several countries), the struggle is far from over. In the Philippines, for example, aside from the absence of same-sex civil unions, there is currently no approved national legislation that protects members of the LGBTQIA+ community against the discrimination they experience in public spaces, educational institutions, and workplaces.

Around 25,000 attended the Metro Manila Pride March this year, held at the Marikina Sports Complex. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Attendees of the march came from various sectors of society. Because pride is not only about gender discrimination, many attendees also carried signs that put the spotlight on poverty and oppression. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Tackling intersectional issues

According to Mikhail Quijano, co-head of Metro Manila Pride's communications and campaign committee, this year’s pride march encourages everyone to rise up for the marginalized sectors of society and to speak out in the midst of a Philippines riddled with problems, misogyny, bigotry, sexism, and ‘macho-pyudal’ culture.

“We’re here to tell everyone that we’re not different, but we are the same,” said Quijano. “We’re here to tell everyone that we all deserve the same kind of protection under legislation. We’re all humans.”

Nicky Castillo, one of the coordinators of the Pride March, says that other LGBTQIA+ people are present in all classes of society and they also face various issues aside from gender-based discrimination, such as poverty, issues as persons with disability, as indigenous peoples, and “all other multiple layers of oppression that is forced upon them.”

The child actor Awra Briguela was spotted in this year’s pride march, showing his support to the LGBTQ+ community. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Celebration and protest

Prior to the actual march, participants enjoyed several performances from LGBTQIA+ and ally artists, including Ja Quintana who performed their original song “Bahaghari,” which was dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community.

For Quintana, this year’s pride march is about fighting for gender equality and long term solutions that protect the members of the LGBTQIA+ community. “We’re not seeking for tolerance because that’s something temporary,” she said.

Pride marches have always served as safe spaces for people to express themselves freely and show their creativity, which is why you’ll see many individuals coming in their own personal style expression, whether in drag or in a rainbow-colored tutu. Even child actor Awra Briguela was spotted in this year’s pride march.

Participants came in different forms, shapes, sizes, and colors. They came individually, as groups of friends, and as organizations. Seeing the diversity of people would inspire us that while there is still long way to go for the LGBTQIA+ struggle, there is much hope for the future.

The event was also inclusive toward people with disabilities. Aside from the participation of the Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, Inc. during the march, the program proper also had sign language interpreters.

Finding friends and family at pride: Marvic Borja and Angella Manalaysay met each other at the pride march a few years ago and have been close since. “Rising up together is to come together to fight not just for yourself, but more for the people around because you know they deserve better especially when it comes to our rights,” says Manalaysay. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Regardless of where one comes from, it is often difficult to come out as an open LGBTQIA+ person and embrace such an identity. Because of the dominant patriarchal and conservative Philippine culture, identifying as LGBTQIA+ comes with more struggles and will most likely affect one’s mental health in the fear that one might be discriminated even in their own families and/or circle of friends.

For friends Marvic Borja and Angella Manalaysay, attending pride marches have given them the opportunity to meet great people and helped them in their journey of self-acceptance. But now that both of them stand as proud members of the Filipino LGBTQIA+ community, both of them are passionate in standing for the rights of others as well.

“We have to uplift other people especially those in the marginalized sectors,” Borja said. “Pride should be celebrated not only those coming from the upper and middle classes, but it should also include those in the marginalized sectors as well.”

“Rising up together is to come together to fight not just for yourself, but more for the people around because you know they deserve better especially when it comes to our rights,” Manalaysay added. “Pride is not just a celebration, but it’s a protest. It’s a fight for love, for acceptance, family, and finding who you are.”

Jhen Latorre wears a transgender pride flag around him. He is part of Pinoy FTM, a group that provides a wide network of support for Filipino transgender males. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

But while the LGBTQIA+ community continues to fight for gender equality and acceptance in a conservative Philippine society, Jhen Latorre of Pinoy FTM, an organization advocating for transgender rights, shares that even within the LGBTQIA+ community, there is still a need to educate one another with regard to various struggles experienced by the community.

Latorre, who is a transgender man, says that understanding and supporting each one within the LGBTQIA+ community is key in the united fight for acceptance.

“I hope that within the LGBT community, the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, will collide on one theme and goal so that all of us would rise up together,” he said.

Despite the drizzle and a group of people calling on the participants to “repent their sins,” the tens of thousands proudly marched the streets of Marikina to celebrate love and call for acceptance. As the saying goes, “there’s a rainbow always after the rain.”

During the march, there were also some groups denouncing the celebration, with placards that quote Bible verses and signs saying that "God will judge." Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

A man with a megaphone, together with other religious groups, called on the participants to “repent their sins.” Despite this, the tens of thousands proudly marched the streets of Marikina to celebrate love and call for acceptance. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Rising up for others

While this event highlights the calls of the LGBTQIA+ community, we also got to hear about other issues that the community should support.

Members of Bahaghari — a progressive LGBTQIA+ organization that calls for freedom on all forms of oppression, not only gender-related issues — carried creative placards and banners that called for the junking of Duterte’s TRAIN law and the administration’s “fascist” policies.

According to Bahaghari, everyone should “unite against the tyrannical and brutal Duterte police state” and to relieve the militancy of the Stonewall riots.

NutriAsia workers were also present during the event, asking participants to support their issues and asking for donations for the continued support of their picket line. They also sold posters and stickers to raise funds for their ongoing campaign.

As Pride is also a place to shed light on national issues, NutriAsia supporters were also there to encourage everyone at the pride march to support their concerns: illegal dismissals, unjust pay, and poor working conditions, among others. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

Rising up for the LGBTIA+ community and workers, the workers of NutriAsia called on the LGBTQIA+ community to stand in solidarity with their issues. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

According to Francis Estrella, one of the 75 dismissed workers, they did a noise barrage inside the factory so that the management would recognize their union and their rights as workers. Estrella also said that the management manipulated their code of conduct so that union members like him would be removed from their jobs. But he and other workers were adamant in standing by their union, refusing to sign the memorandum from the management that says that they have violated the code of conduct.

While Ronald Gillego and Christian Maniquiz were not among the 75, they joined their fellow workers at the picket lines. Maniquiz, who identifies as gay, believes that everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community deserves equal rights, not only in terms of gender equality, but should be able to enjoy other rights as well, such as the basic rights as workers.

Members of Bahaghari, an LGBTQIA+ organization, call on the junking of the TRAIN law and to stand against the worsening tyranny under the Duterte regime. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

While the recently concluded pride march was a day of celebration for the LGBTQI+ community, it also showed that pride marches will continue to be a platform for protest actions calling for equality. Photo by PAU VILLANUEVA

If we were to take anything away from this year’s pride march, it is to advocate not only for the acceptance and the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, but to fight for other issues that we face as well.

While the LGBTQIA+ movement in the Philippines still has a long way to go, it is important to remember that issues on gender are not separate from other political issues. Because apart from facing discrimination as LGBTQIA+ persons, many of us also face other layers of discrimination and oppression as well, such as the rising cost of basic necessities, contractualization, and privatization of social services.

Because when we stand for all these other issues as well, it is only then that we can become advocates for all and live up to the true meaning of “rising up together.”