Manila Pride March 2008

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It was time once again to paint the whole country pink last December 6. Occasion: the annual Pride March of the Philippine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos at Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila. The march is organized by Task Force Pride Philippines, an organization of LGBT groups and individuals. After the march, the Miss Queen Philippines Beauty Pageant was held at 5 p.m., followed by a street party at Maria Orosa Street with techno DJs at 10 p.m. Celebration was the theme of this year’s Pride March. And as before, we are still pushing for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that I helped write in 1999, and which is still pending in the lethargic Congress, nine years after it was filed.

This year’s Task Force Pride was co-chaired by Miss Sass Sasot of Society of Transsexual Women Philippinnes (STRAP) and Miss Pau Fontano of STRAP and Ang Ladlad, the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos. Changes in this year’s Pride March included a colorful website, www.manilapride2008.com, more floats, and the march done by new members of newly organized LGBT groups, including guys who climb mountains (Brokeback Mountain?) and lesbians who raise families. I was happy to see that we the veterans could now go behind the scenes and work at the sidelines while the young, the fabulous, and the organized got the work done, and done generally well.

This year’s Pride March was also different in that it was the first time that LGBT Pride was celebrated nationwide, in Luzon (Manila), Visayas (Cebu), and Mindanao (Lanao del Norte). In Manila , the 2008 Manila Pride March turned the streets of Malate into one big and colorful space for celebration, even if a small group of Born-Again Christians – and foreign at that! – tried but failed to rain on our parade.

In Cebu, the Visayas Pride Network, a network of LGBT organizations and individuals promoting LGBT human rights led by Joseph Patrick Uy held the first ever Pride Day in the Queen City of the South. In Lanao del Norte, the Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders United for Peace and Solidarity (GUPS) led by Ang Ladlad member Bong Enriquez celebrated LGBT Pride by conducting a reflexology and therapeutic massage training for Mindanao LGBTs on 6-7 December 2008. As part of the training, participants got free foot reflexology, foot spa, and back and head massages to NGO workers on Dec. 8 and 9.

As Chairman of Ang Ladlad, I also introduced the Yogyakarta Principles of LGBT Rights signed in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, last year as the framework for the rights of LGBT Filipinos. Grace Poore of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) explained the context of the Yogyakarta Principles.

The Yogyakarta Principles collate all the international human-rights laws and applies these legal standards to issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. They were put together by a distinguished group of human rights experts who met at Yogyakarta in November 2006. It has since been introduced formally to the United Nations (UN) system, translated into the six official UN languages, and launched in several countries.

The launch of the Yogyakarta Principles in Manila is part of Ang Ladlad’s response to IGLHRC’s 16 Days of Activism campaign to end violence against Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) women. Ang Ladlad – along with other groups in Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China and India – launched the Yogyakarta Principles in their respective countries, helped create a banner consisting of panels of fabric representing Asian LBT activism, and sent a representative, Pau Fontanos, to the gathering of LGBT activist and groups in Yogyakarta, Indonesia for the 60th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). For more information on the Yogyakarta Principles, please visit www.yogyakartaprinciples.org.

But the Pride March done during Human Rights Week was not a one-shot affair. The five months leading up to the Pride March were hectic, indeed, with LGBT-related activities. They included a forum on transfemale rights, the dyke dialogues, UP Babaylan’s medical mission, the launching of a new LGBT magazine called Invoice as well as the launching of GALANG, or Gays and Lesbians Activist Network for Gender Equality. Club Government in Makati Avenue also had its 4th anniversary party, while Ang Ladlad held literary readings at Mag.Net Katipunan on the second Mondays of October and November, courtesy of its owner, the painter Rock Drilon.

One Bacardi, a group of young gay men, held their 2nd anniversary at Bed Malate Bar and Club, while Circle of Friends held a Fright Nite, Pride Nite Halloween Costume Party. GALANG also held a month-long festival of LGBT films at Mag.net Katipunan. A Manhunt fund-raising party was held as well at Club Government, while an LGBT Bloggers’ Night launched the Rainbow Bloggers’ Philippines group at Red Box in Greenhills 3. Bed also held its Pride Nation fund-raising party while another Trans Dialogue was held at UP, jointly organized by Ang Ladlad, Rainbow Rights, and STRAP.

My latest book, Rampa: Mga Sanaysay, published by Anvil, was launched at Powerbooks Greenbelt 3. Powerbooks also chose me as Author of the Month for November, putting up a display stand of all my books in their branches. A pre-Pride party and launch of Miss Queen Philippines was held at Palawan 2 Bar in Cubao, while a Task Force Pride Meet-up was held at UP Diliman. A World AIDS Day Form was also organized by Girls, Woman, and HIV-AIDS Network (GWHAN) and a Pride March victory party was held at Club Government last Saturday. As you can see, it was a beehive of activity, made possible by the sheer hard work of organized groups under the fairy wand of the the three fabulous trans divas – Sass, Dee, and Pau.

As one of our international participants, a guy from Malaysia whose name I will not disclose, said: “I am still stunned at this Pride March. We do not have something like this in Malaysia. This is called freedom.”

Only, as they say, in the Philippines. But said this time, with a wide grin on the face and the rainbow colors of pride.

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