Text and photos by John Reiner Antiquerra, PCIJ

FLAGS in colors of the rainbow flew loud and proud as about 25,000 Filipinos gathered on Saturday for the annual Metro Manila Pride march and festival at the Marikina Sports Center.

For gender rights and marriage equality, against misogynism and discrimination, among other advocacies, they raised their banners and voices.
Asia’s longest-running pride march, the event focuses attention on the plight of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender or LGBT Community.

In their numbers the LGBT community and its allies marched around the streets of Marikina City, drawing younger and younger members like first-timers Arriza Mendoza and Gail Norte, 17 and 20 respectively, who are both bisexual.

To Norte, the march symbolizes freedom, while to Mendoza, a “happy” atmosphere “full of love, (space) without hate, and no one will judge you.”
Both said they are open bisexuals and that their families have accepted their choice. To this day, however, their circumstance apparently remains the exception rather than the norm in the Phiippines.
Behind the festivities, Zeena Manglinong of True Colors Coalition, said Pride serves as a reminder that the stuggle to achieve full respect for every person’s SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression) continues. Manglinong has been joining the pride march since 1995, only a year after the first one was held in Manila.
There may be tolerance but still not much acceptance in society of the members of the LGBT community, Manglinong noted.

For instance, the LGBT community continues to fight, among other concerns, for marriage equality and against discrimination.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, “there are only 25 countries with marriage equality” laws even as an additional 16 countries “have made civil unions or registered partnerships available for same-sex couples.”
As of May 2017, in at least 72 countries and territories, same-sex relationships are considered illegal, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report.

In the Philippines, there is a pending petition before the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. The House of Representatives, meanwhile, has passed the anti-discrimination bill or the SOGIE Equality Bill but the Senate has yet to enact a counterpart measure.
Vince Liban of the Lagablab LGBT Network, a coalition of “LGBTQ+ organizations, individuals and allies that seek to advance and protect the human rights and basic freedoms of the LGBTQ+ community,” exhorted the participants to support the passage of the bill.

“Love is the antidote to fear, hence we need to rise up for love. We rise up for those who fought and died for the struggle. We rise up for those who are yet to be born. We rise up for ourselves, for our families and for those who cannot,” Liban said.
“As the older people in the community, sometimes we fear that people (would) forget the original struggle,” Manglinong said. “Look back at the roots of the struggle so that you can move forward with long-term foresight and emancipate those who are still hiding.”

Liban, quoting a famous line from the film adaptation of Luwalhati Bautista’s book, “Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?”, belied suggestions that discrimination against members of the LGBT community has ebbed. In truth, he said it lingers: “Akala lang nila wala pero meron, meron, meron!” — PCIJ, 2 July 2018

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