‘Pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill already!’—Metro Manila Pride marchers

June 25, 2017 - 11:05 AM
On June 25, 2017: LGBTQ+ community gathered on June 24 for the 23rd Metro Manila Pride March and Festival at Marikina City. (Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon)

Some 7,500 members of the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters gathered in Marikina City on Saturday, June 24, for this year’s Metro Manila Pride March and Festival. Loud and proud, the community convened to send a message: that they “are here together for love, empowerment, and solidarity.”

Known as the longest running Pride March in Southeast Asia and now on its 23rd year, this year’s theme is “Here Together”—“calling for the community, its allies, friends, family, and even strangers, to come together in a safe space to celebrate love, rights, and pride.”

Nicky Castillo, Co-Coordinator of Metro Manila Pride said in a statement, “At the Pride March and Festival, we provide people with a space where they can express their true selves without fear. But this year, we also want to call on the non-LGBTQ+ people who support us to stand up, speak out, and march on for us. Our voices have been loud these last 23 years. But in our campaign for equality, we need more voices. We need your voices.”

Amid religious protesters, LGBTQ+ community and their allies continued to march, calling for love, equality, and the passing of the Anti Discrimination Bill. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

According to its organizers, Metro Manila Pride also hopes to shed light on the #PassADB (Anti-Discrimination Bill) campaign.

Co-coordinator Loreen Ordoño also told InterAksyon, “It’s important to have these voices standing here together with us because we can’t do it alone. The non-LGBT folks are our family members, co-workers, schoolmates, etc who can help us in the fight against discrimination, hate, and can also help us lobby for the passage of the bill into law. We need their voices.”

Besides the passage of the bill, the event also aims to address the top three pressing issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community such as lack of acceptance and violence in the home, discrimination in the workplace, and bullying in schools.

“Many LGBTQ+ people are scared. They deny themselves their truths because they face discrimination and violence in the very places where they should have been safe,” Castillo lamented.

Echoing this battle cry, Senator Risa Hontiveros, who graced the event, lamented in her speech that “Philippines still has a long way to go in protecting the rights and lives of the LGBT community.”

“Seventeen years ago, then Akbayan Representative Etta Rosales filed the first SOGIE-specific, anti-discrimination bill in Congress. Seventeen years later, nandirito pa rin tayo. Nagmamartsa para sa pagkakapantay pantay, nagmamatrsa para sa kalayaan maging kung sino tayo, at kalayaang umibig. We celebrate Pride this week remembering that the issues for which we marched decades ago are the same issues now,” she said.

The senator also criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s “macho politics,” and his rejection of same-sex marriage.

“The macho-politics of Duterte have failed LGBT hopes. While he paraded himself as an ally during the campaign season, promising same-sex marriage in the Philippines, he turned back on his promise less than a year into his term. The change he promised became an endless parade of strongman tactics that preyed on the vulnerable,” Hontiveros said.

Stating that the march is also for “those who can’t join the march,” the senator remembered Jennifer Laude, Jake Zyrus, as well as kids who get bullied in school.

Hontiveros then closed with a conclusion that love will win in the end.

“Dear friends, love is the currency of our struggle. Love will win. Love trumps hate. Mga kasama, we will win,” Hontiveros said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros waves the rainbow flag at this year’s Metro Manila Pride March and Festival held in Marikina City, June 24, 2017. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

With 4,500 participants in 2016, the 2017 Metro Manila Pride gathered an estimated number of 7, 500 participants.

One of those who came to the march is 29-year-old AC Martin. Identifying as a lesbian, she told InterAksyon that it is her first time joining the event.

Dati kasi ‘di ako sumasali sa Pride March kasi I thought na there are plenty of people who have taken on the advocacy. Pero kasi, for every person who is afraid to join these kind of marches—maybe because they’re not out or they are afraid of being stigmatized or discriminated—there has to be someone else to take on the call and represent them. Before, I was that person. I was afraid to join the Pride March because I was not out sa family ko; pero now, this is me assuming my identity, and ‘yun, maybe represent someone who is a scared lesbian.”

Fifty five-year-old Christopher Hancock, a businessman who hails from Los Angeles, and is married to a Filipino also expressed support for the event, offering free glitter sprays to the participants.

“There’s a lot more people. I love it. I think this is wonderful,” Hancock commented, sharing that there are a lot more attendees now than the previous Pride march he attended years ago in Malate, Manila.

Christopher Hancock (left) was one of the foreigners who participated at the Metro Manila Pride March and Festival in Marikina City, June 24, 2017. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

While festive, and filled with performances and different activities, the event remains to be a protest.

“At its core, Pride is protest. It is our small contribution to help elevate the discourse on how LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and that each life is as equally important as the next person. While we always aim for an empowering, affirmative, inclusive, and fun safe space for all, we always reiterate that Pride started as a protest and that’s what we’ll always circle back to,” Ordoño shared.

Participants of th 2017 Metro Manila Pride March and Festival raise placards calling for the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill now pending at the Senate. The march was held in Marikina City, June 24, 2017. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

As the community together with their allies continue to soldier on to assert their rights, they hope for a for a future “where the Filipino LGBTQ+ community is empowered, respected, and able to live without discrimination and prejudice.”

As such, the organizers of Metro Manila Pride lauded Marikina as one of those cities helping to create a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

Marikina City Mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro said in a statement, “We believe in equality; not tolerance. It’s living together, people living together. We recognize the fact that people have different orientations in life, different lifestyles, different beliefs. We are not created the same but we are created equal. [Marikina City is a partner] because of that belief.”

Members of the LGBTQ+ community join the 2017 Metro Manila Pride March and Festival in Marikina City, June 24, 2017. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

“One of the ways we show our concrete support is through mainstreaming and institutionalizing the gender and development (GAD) programs in the city. In 2015, Marikina gas created its own GAD Code which is designed to protect and support the welfare of different genders in Marikina. It aims to eliminate gender biases that hinder their growth and development and make them productive allies of the society,” Teodoro added.