Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘Gay Pride

The matriarchs of drag

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Outrage Magazine | 20 October 2017

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“Age does not matter. Every time we perform, we forget our problems. Every time we are on stage, all our stress goes away. It’s a way to keep us fit physically and mentally.”

So said 62-year-old Mama Bobby, one of the Lola Divas, the oldest drag performers in the Philippines, along with Mama Roming, 67; Bong, 62; and Annie, 57.

“(We may already be) in our sunset years,” Mama Bobby said, but the energy is still there. “Age ripened us.”

Mama Bobby, the lead of Lola Divas, first got his taste of being in the limelight in the 1970s.

“I started performing at the age of 18. I used to be a live mannequin in department stores. And when I entered college, I started getting different offers,” he said. “Then I eventually became a member of a group that regularly had a show.”

Mama Bobby was also a front act performer of Pilita Corrales, Didith Reyes and Pia Moran, among others.

For the Lola Divas, “we were already together since the 1980s. One of our first stints was at the legendary Coco Banana. We were the Cocoquettes. At that time, we were very much ahead of the entertainment scene. That experience opened a lot opportunities to us. And the rest, as they say, is history,” Mama Bobby narrated.

The lolas (Filipino word for “grandmother”) claimed to have also pioneered the Filipino-style gay entertainment scene in Japan, where they were actually regulars at different clubs. But in the mid 2000s, when Japan-based entertainers started having problems with their status there, they all went back to the Philippines.

It was in 2004 when Mama Bobby and the other lolas became known as the Lola Divas. And not for long, The Library – a renowned comedy bar in Malate, Manila – welcomed the Lola Divas to its family.

“When we were just starting as a group, we didn’t think that we would survive because we are already old,” Mama Bobby said. “But then dancing is really our passion and performing is in our blood, so we were challenged.”

Mama Bobby is first to admit that “we do lip syncs and dancing; but we are not gifted when it comes to live singing.” Nonetheless, “as long as we are able to entertain the audience, and we enjoy what we are doing, it’s all good.”

Their journey has “not always been rainbows and butterflies.” For one, their age is admittedly a deterrent for them to get more gigs. Another challenge, related to this, is the changing landscape of LGBT entertainment in the metro. There are now only few venues that offer drag shows, and unlike before, most bars now emphasize stand-up comedies and dance numbers.

A DYING ART?

Drag, simplistically the “art of performing and impersonation”, as Mama Bobby put it, has changed throughout the years. Today, someone who knows how to put make-up on and do some lip syncs is already considered a drag performer. While these qualities complement the art of drag performing, Mama Bobby says that there is more to it than those two things.

“There’s YouTube and the Internet now. Young drag queens can easily copy the people that they want to impersonate. But during our younger years, we only used our imagination to recreate things, and we had our own personal style,” he said. “And of course, we were fabulous!”Mama Bobby added: “Some young drag queens are like dragons, they breathe fire every time they are on stage. I like watching them. But there are those who give lackluster performances; when you watch them, there is no impact – you cannot even remember them afterwards. They need to step up. Yes, they are disciplined and they rehearse all the time, but they need to have a unique selling factor. Otherwise, they will just be plain impersonators. And there is no real art to that.”

LIVING LEGACY

The Lola Divas fear that one day the world of drag in the Philippines will just die out and they will be forgotten. They recalled how the world of drag was also centered in Malate, now considered as the “old world” of LGBT nightlife, a reminder of the Bohemian past of Manila. But with LGBT spaces now no longer confined in one area, and there is a lack of substantial exclusive LGBT bars and clubs, the fear for the risk of “just disappearing” is there.

Nonetheless, the Lola Divas’ members are still optimistic that one day, the drag world will thrive again at levels they remember it to be.

“Among the challenges that we face as drag queens is the lack of funding. Even if we want to create a really good show, complete with costumes and props, we cannot. It’s really frustrating,” Mama Bobby said.

Add to this the fact that “ageism exists even in the LGBT community.”

But these challenges “do not mean that we will give an unremarkable performance.”

Every life, said Mama Bobby, has a unique meaning and purpose attached to it. For the Lola Divas, it is to entertain and bring a smile to the people. “Hanggang pinapalakpakan kami, we will not stop, we will continue to perform,” Mama Bobby ended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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Fulfilling a lifelong dream to be in the spotlight

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Outrage Magazine | 8 June 2017

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBT people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

“Two hundred binayad sa akin noong una akong mag-perform, pero masaya na ako. Okay lang kasi matagal ko na itong pinangarap (I was paid P200 the first time I performed, but I was already happy. It’s okay because this has been my dream for so long).”

That was how Richard Fabella, better known by her stage name as Princess Jolens, broke into the drag scene, perhaps highlighting how her journey into the spotlight was not an easy one. But more than the failed attempts, it was perseverance that “paved the way for the fulfillment of my dreams,” she said.

Princess Jolen’s exposure to the drag scene was somewhat atypical.

“One time, nagkaayaan kaming mag-barkada, mga workmates ko, na pumunta sa isang hosto bar. Habang aliw na aliw sila sa mga macho dancer, ako naman manghang-mangha sa gay impersonator. Sobrang na-impress ako sa host (One time, me and friends went to a male go-go bar. While there, they were so fascinated with the macho dancers; but me, I was fascinated with the gay impersonator. I was so impressed with that host),” Princess Jolens said.

That first exposure to the world of drag left an indelible mark on her.

Habang pinapanood ko ung impersonator, maraming sumagi sa imagination ko – kung ako ung nasastage, sisiguraduhin ko na magandang-maganda ung suot kong gown (While watching the impersonator, a lot of things entered my mind. I was thinking that if I’m the one onstage, I’d make sure I’d be wearing a really fabulous gown),” she laughed.

When the night ended, as they headed out of the bar, Princess Jolens saw the impersonators eating outside. She didn’t let the opportunity pass. She walked over to them and introduced herself.

“Mama, magkano per night niyo dito sa bar (Girls, how much do you earn every night here in the bar)? Princess Jolens asked. “P150 a night lang; tapos kung walang tao, P100 lang (They earn P150 per night; and if there aren’t any people, just P100 per night). Oh my God!

She was shocked after hearing how much the performers were earning, “but they seemed happy with what they were doing, and that’s the most important thing.”

That encounter encouraged her to pursue her desire to perform.

During one of her night-outs, she stumbled upon an opportunity to make her dreams a reality.

“I went to this bar in Pasay and I saw at the counter a poster announcing the bar’s annual beauty pageant. The floor manager approached me and asked if I was interested. I immediately said ‘no’. It never crossed my mind to join beauty pageants,” Princess Jolens said. “I told the manager that I prefer performing than be a ‘beauconera‘.”

The floor manager told Princess Jolens “that one of the prizes that I would get if I win the pageant would be a regular set at the bar,” she recalled. With some hesitations, Princess Jolens joined the contest.

She was able to reach the grand finals. But, unfortunately, she did not win

A few days later, she joined another pageant in Cubao. And this time, she won the title.

Princess Jolens went back to the bar in Pasay to let the performers – with whom she became friends with during the contest – know about her victory.

That night at the bar, she met the floor manager again.

“He introduced me to the owner. They asked me what my talents are. I told them that I can do anything – that I’m even willing to perform for free. I just want to perform,” Princess Jolens said.

And that was the turning point for her, as she “officially” entered the drag scene.

She earned P200 on her first night and she was happy with it.

It was a thankless beginning to a drag career.

Different bars noticed her, and eventually, she started getting bookings left and right.

“I started from P200 a night, but when I started performing in other bars, it became P3,000 per night,” she said.

She juggled her daytime job and the demands of being a performer.

“It’s all good. I love what I was doing. It did not matter if I was only able to sleep for a few hours because of rehearsals. There was also a time when I made costumes while at work. It was tiring, but it was really fun… because I love what I was doing,” Princess Jolens said.

But then, another chapter of her life started. Princess Jolens got an offer to work abroad with her ex.

She gave up everything for love. Princess Jolens and her partner at that time went to Jeddah.

Pero isang taon pa lang ang nakakalipas (But after only a year), I felt that my ex could not love me the way I was hoping he would. After I gave up everything, that was what happened,” she recalled.

When she finished her contract, she went back to the Philippines.

Princess Jolens got in touch with the bars that she was connected with before – and in no time, she started performing again.

“The art of drag is slowly dying,” she sadly said. Nowadays, “there is no production value, especially those who perform in small bars. That’s wrong. Regardless if it’s a small or a big venue, you should always be at your best. Your next performance will depend on your last performance. If you do well with your last performance, expect that you will have another set the following day. But if you did not do well, don’t expect another booking the following day.”

Although there is a growing number of drag performers in Manila, for Princess Jolens, “the quality of their performance is no longer that good.”

“It’s not always about how much you are earning. It’s not always about the money. It’s about entertaining the audience. It’s about being beautiful on stage and giving your best performance,” she said.

Princess Jolens also said that some drag performers now do not value the opportunity given to them. “You will see that they are not taking their job seriously, like as if they are just playing on stage. Some of them are prima donnas.”

For Princess Jolens, “whenever you perform on stage, put yourself in the position of the audience. Ask yourself what you would like to see and experience. That’s what you should give. The audience should be in awe when they watch you. And if you successfully achieve that, then that’s the only time you would leave a mark as a performer.”

And Princess Jolens ought to know, of course; considering what she had to go through to be where she is now.

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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The hottest gay man in the world

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Outrage Magazine | 20 May 2017

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ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF MR. GAY WORLD ORGANIZATION

A LANDMARK VICTORY FOR FILIPINO LGBTS.

Thirty-five-year-old John Fernandez Raspado brought home the Mr. Gay World crown – the first for the Philippines.

He also won several awards during the competition, that include: Best in Swimwear, Best in Formal Wear, Mr Gay World Closed Door Interview, Mr. Online Vote, and Mr. Social Media.

“It was very fulfilling. I served as a voice for the entire (LGBT) community; it was a moment that helped Filipinos become visible and be heard,” Raspado said in an exclusive Outrage Magazine interview.

He added that the experience was overwhelming and unforgettable, and “I learned a lot from it – the place, the people, and the other delegates, as well as their stories.”

Raspado is first to admit that “it was not an easy feat.” Perhaps highlighting how pageants dwell on the physical (first, before anything else), he admitted that he had some insecurities during the pageant.

“I was not the tallest and sexiest, nor did I have the most chiseled body,” he said. But “despite all this, I had to exude confidence. It paid off.”

Raspado also made friends during the competition, becoming close with Mr. Gay Belgium, Mr. Gay Venezuela, Mr. Gay Finland, and “my new besty” Mr. Gay New Zealand.

Leading up to the pageant, Raspado went through a series of trainings, courtesy of Mister Gay World Philippines Organization; Wilbert Tolentino – the first Filipino to join Mr Gay World; and Kagandahang Flores.

“Physically, I had to trim down my weight. And since my legs were quite big – which made me look small, short-legged, and heavy – I had to tone it down as well,” he said. “I conditioned myself emotionally and spiritually. I also prepared for the Q&A by updating myself with current events.”

Now with the title, Raspado plans to further promote his advocacy – #iheartLGBTQI, which stands for:
I – image modernization
H – healthy lifestyle
E – equality
A – acceptance
R – responsible sexual behavior and awareness
T – testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS

Recognizing that his win somehow gives him a platform to be heard, Raspado stressed his support for marriage equality and the anti-discrimination bill.

“I’m all for the rights that LGBTs should have – we should experience the full benefits of these rights. And these two (marriage equality and anti-discrimination bill) are important and beneficial for us to be protected as citizens and as human beings,” he said.

And his message to LGBT Filipinos is to “have faith and fight for what is right. Be true to who you are and empower yourselves. Have courage and be involved in the community.”

Albeit the emphasis on physical beauty (first of all), Mr. Gay World is still considered as one of the more celebrated beauty pageants in the LGBT community. And by winning the competition, Raspado hopes that it will “give Filipino LGBTs the platform to be recognized and be heard,” he ended.

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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And Ryan met Sebastian

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Outrage Magazine | 18 June 2016

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“He has been my crush since I saw ‘Bubble’ (Sebastian Castro’s music video),” Ryan Chua said.

But initially, there were no intentions for the two to have an actual face-to-face meet-up.

“I was (just) thrilled when he added me on Facebook and followed me on Twitter,” Ryan added.

As is common with online friends, the two chatted now and then.

But then fate had other plans for them.

In 2013, they finally met when Sebastian invited Ryan to his art exhibit. And that first time they met, “no one had to put his best foot forward or send chocolates and flowers just to please each other,” Ryan said to Outrage Magazine.

It was not an immediate “thing”; there wasn’t even any second meet-up. At that time, Sebastian had to fly to US and Ryan had to prepare to leave for the UK for his journalism scholarship.

But their communication continued. That is, while they were away from each other, they would Skype on a regular basis and talk about different things – from Philippine politics and entertainment gossips, to ideas for Sebastian’s new songs. And there were also surprise visits in between.

Ryan-and-Seb“We became best friends first even before any love confession was made,” Ryan said.

When Ryan finished his scholarship, he returned to the Philippines. The two started living together.

As a couple, they were almost always present in LGBT-related events. But as their relationship grew stronger, it also attracted bashers, many even from within the LGBT community.

“Hearing (negative) views comes with making a relationship public, especially when it’s between two men,” said Ryan, who nonetheless noted that the observations were somewhat superficial, comparing Ryan and Sebastian on “how we look.” “But we don’t let those comments affect our relationship. Most people see only the physical. Often, they don’t see the emotional and intellectual connection.”

But just as they’ve started establishing a life together in Manila, an opportunity came up for Ryan to work for a media outlet in Beijing, China.

Being apart from each other is not new to them; after all, they started out as online friends. Now, social media has become a tool for them to constantly communicate with each other.

“It is not always easy. Being away from each other always has challenges. I miss him every day. Nothing beats physical contact and intimacy,” Ryan said. “But we’re both mature enough to appreciate the joys of a one to three-hour Skype or Facetime call. When we don’t have time to call, short messages would do.”

Sometimes they would even watch movies or TV shows together while on a video call “because enjoying anything with him is always double the fun,” Ryan added.

Though they had not planned too far ahead into the future, they are currently focused on their own respective fields, so eventually, they could enjoy their successes together.

“I am very fortunate to have a partner who knows me more deeply than anyone does, who has big dreams like I do, and who understands that, sometimes, we need to be apart so that we could build a stable future,” Ryan ended.

Seb-and-Ryan1 Seb-and-Ryan7 Seb-and-Ryan8 Seb-and-Ryan6 Seb-and-Ryan5 Seb-and-Ryan2 Seb-and-Ryan3 Seb-and-Ryan4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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Divided we fall

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Outrage Magazine | 18 June 2016

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Faces-of-LGBT

We love to say that the LGBT community revels in diversity – after all, our multi-colored rainbow flag is supposed to highlight that even if there are many of us who may come from different walks of life, we are still united in our struggle for the same cause (i.e. seeking equal rights for all).

Suffice it to say, I have seen the various faces that constitute the LGBT community in the Philippines.

I have met some who claim to represent (and – perhaps reflective of the elevating of the rich in a largely elitist heterosexual society – with actual pride at that) the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT”, the elite who fail to see their privilege.

I have met some of the “karaniwan (common)”, whose main concern is to ensure day-to-day survival.

And I have met some of the “bekinals (a play with “beking kanal” or gays from the gutters; a term that may be politically incorrect, but is still used by many when referring to themselves to highlight their lowly status), those who are at the fringes of society; and whose very existence is marked by the hardships encountered not only by being LGBT, but also by their social status.

I’d have to say that, unfortunately, these segregations do not at all “blend”. That is, at least as far as my experience in the Philippines is showing, there’s no “waving of the same banner/flag” for the LGBT community.

We are too… broken; too divided.

And this could spell our fall.

Hear so many of the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT” speak supposedly on behalf of the “entire LGBT community” while only focusing on such issues as marriage equality and passing the anti-discrimination bill in Congress (they do this in between parties or photoshoots or the likes). The mainstream media gives them the platform; and their allies in the ruling class (from politicians to celebrities) only “consult” with them on just about every LGBT-related issue (before publicly claiming they already spoke with the entire LGBT community). But they remain mum on other day-to-day issues, e.g. the policies being developed in Muslim areas in Mindanao that also affect LGBT people there, the effect among LGBT pensioners of the veto for SSS pension hike, and the failure of the Department of Health and PhilHealth to deal with the disparity of services offered in treatment hubs. Here, there seems to be more concern with faux publicity stunts that supposedly banned the expression of LGBT love, than actually finding practical solutions to deal with those who perpetuate the ills that affect us.

And then hear many of the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people, whose stance is – because they are often ignored anyway – to just keep to themselves.

We call our divisions “diversity”, as if by doing so the cracks from within are covered up and are therefore made more appealing. In reality, there is nothing empowering about this often unspoken great divide.

We have to bridge the divide.

Because there is always room for everyone on the table.

Start getting immersed in different contexts. Ask the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people to speak about their issues (in Congress/Senate, in the media). Stop only talking about the glamorous and start including issues of those who are unable to speak.

Because only if everyone is represented will our community be truly united.

And only then will we be truly a “community of diversity”.

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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QC LGBT Pride celebration: More than just a parade

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VERA Files | 13 December 2015

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More than the parade, more than the march and festival, this celebration is the delivery of actual programs and policies for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people,” Percival Cendaña, commissioner of the National Youth Commission, said of the recent LGBT Pride celebration in Quezon City.

The celebration took special significance held after the court ruling on Jennifer Laude’s case, which found US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty of homicide.

Though many LGBT advocates and groups said that “murder” should have been the rightful verdict, they still see it as something that they can learn from. “Now, more than ever, especially because of the decision on Laude’s case, is the right time for the [LGBT] community to get together and reflect on what happened to Jennifer, and to also inspire the next course of action,” Cendaña explained.

Cendaña also said that the event is the highlight of all the achievements throughout the year, specifically the passage of the Gender-Fair Ordinance in Quezon City.

An ordinance providing for a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression signed November last year, is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

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The ordinance states: “It is hereby declared a policy of Quezon City to actively work for the elimination of all forms of discrimination that offend the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, and other existing laws and to value the dignity of every person, guarantee full respect for human rights, and give the highest priority to measures that protect and enhance the rights of all people.”

According to Councilor Lena Marie “Mayen” Juico (First District), author of the Gender-Fair Ordinance, “they (Quezon City officials) have tackled all areas where the LGBT community may experience discrimination.”

“The Quezon City government expanded the ordinance to be the most comprehensive so far. In fact, it is more comprehensive than the anti-discrimination bill that is still pending in Congress right now,” Cendaña added.

There were more young participants in this year’s Pride celebration, which was a good indication that LGBTs are slowly becoming aware of their rights, observed Juico.

“LGBTs in Quezon City [should] take the time to find out what their rights are. The city already has an ordinance that encompasses all areas where they can experience discrimination. It is all a matter of utilizing it and making sure that it is implemented,” she explained.

Juico also said that it is the desire of Mayor Herbert Bautista to see gay union or gay marriage happen in Quezon City. Adding, Bautista also knows, “it can only happen if gay marriage becomes a national policy.”

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(Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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LGBT Pride Month—more than just about street parties

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 13 June 2013

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Festive street parties, parades and marches usually mark the annual celebration of Pride month in June by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the country and elsewhere.

“But Pride Month is not just about parties,” Michael David Tan, executive director of Bahaghari Center for LGBT Research, Education and Advocacy, stressed. “What we want to do in Bahaghari Center, or in the LGBT community in the Philippines in general, is to change [public] perception and [instead] look at the conditions and situations of the LGBTs more closely.”

In recent years, LGBT organizations have resorted mainly to plain street parties to celebrate Pride Month, which do not fully convey the real meaning and message of such celebrations in the country.

This year, Bahaghari Center and the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay Philippines) aim to promote a more thorough LGBT acceptance and education in the coming Pride celebrations.

“We want everyone to know that LGBTs are not just about being happy-go-lucky or the stereotyped ‘softies’; we are just like everyone else [entitled to equal rights],” Tan said.

The LGBT community is holding the annual Pride celebrations to let everyone know that they are asking for equal rights (not special rights) in their daily activities— in schools, offices, public establishments like malls and restaurants, and many other places.

For instance, early this year a high school teacher in a province brought her girlfriend to one of the weekend school activities. After a couple of days, the principal asked the teacher to submit her resignation, saying that the school decided to revoke her employment for fear that she might teach the students the wrong kind of lifestyle.

Last year, Dr. Andres Gumban, 63 years old from Bacolod City, was bashed and then stabbed to death 35 times by two male sex workers. The worst thing about the crime was the recording of the incident by one of the teen suspects via his mobile phone, which eventually spread online.

The police said the suspects admitted they were drug users and that they had bad experiences with gays, which eventually turned them into gay haters.

“People need to know about these things, that LGBT killings and everyday discrimination have been happening in our country,” Oscar Atadero of ProGay Philippines said. “We (LGBT organizations) have been monitoring these kinds of instances, and yes there is really indifference when it comes to the treatment of the LGBT community.”

Pride Month is usually the only time when LGBT killings, discrimination and other issues are given enough attention. And so in the month of June, LGBT organizations in the country hold awareness programs in different locations, organize small festivals, and other related activities, which aim to empower LGBTs aside from merely showcasing their talents.

“We’re planning to have more extensive programs and festivals in the coming years, so as when Pride Month comes, people from all over the country can really learn and experience how diverse the LGBT community in the Philippines is,” Tan added.

The month of June was chosen by the LGBT community as their Pride Month because of the series of violent activities against the gay community, leading to demonstrations against the police that happened in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, USA.

In the Philippines, the first Pride celebration was held on June 26, 1994, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. LGBTs, led by ProGay Philippines and the Metropolitan Community Church Manila (MCC), marched and paraded along EDSA to Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.

Through the years, the celebration of Pride Month in the country has evolved from just holding marches and parades within Metro Manila or in several provinces, to a more dynamic celebration involving improved partnerships with the local government (such as Quezon City and Makati). Thus, the celebration is becoming more and more effective in advancing the equality movement.

In 2003, organizers of the Philippine Pride events decided to move the annual Pride March from June to December to mark other significant events, namely: World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), Philippine National Lesbian Day (Dec. 8) and International Human Rights Day (December 10).

 

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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