OSLO - Around 50 Filipino members and supporters of the newly-formed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, and Intersexual (LGBTI) Filipino-Norwegian group joined one of the biggest gay Europride parade ever held in Oslo last Saturday.
Waving the Philippine flag, the group’s participation in the Europride Mardi Gras is its first ever "outing" since its formation this month.
The Pinoy contingent was described as among the "prettiest and sweetest" in the parade. The contingent was the 71st group to be included in the parade.
LGBTI Board member Arnie Quiblatin said he is "proud" to represent the Philippines in the parade and is happy that Filipinos had joined this year’s Europride parade and enthusiastically pointed out that many spectators had their pictures taken with them.
"Norwegians cheered for the Philippines," Quiblatin, who wore a gold and black gown in the parade, told ABS-CBN Europe Bureau when asked how the contingent was received in the Oslo event.
Also thankful for the chance to be able to march at Europride is LGBTI Board Member Sanny Gipgano.
"As we all know, it is only in a few countries that gays can show gay pride. As gay, I am fighting for my right to be one, but I also joined the parade, not only for myself for the others who, for various reasons, are not allowed or unsure of how they will be accepted by the public, cannot come out in public and declare who they really are," Gipgano said.
He also said the decision to join this year’s Pride Parade was aimed at not only pushing for homosexual rights but also to focus attention on the Philippines.
Revealing what his group is going to embark on after the festival, Gipgano said that they are also going to "conduct health and education for LGBT brothers and sisters in the Philippines in the future such as conducting lectures and seminars on AIDS awareness and prevention."
He was also pleased that their group was warmly welcomed by the Europride Committee and that the Filipino community has been supportive of their decision to join the pan-European international event for the LGBTI community in Europe.
Oslo is this year’s host of the Europride festival, usually held in a city with established gay pride event or a significant LGBTI community.
This is the second time that Oslo had been host to the festival, the first in 2005 where at least 12,000 to 15,000 took part. This year’s participation broke that record, with estimates of about 20,000-30,000 that took part this year.
Part of the swell in this year’s number is to mark the Norwegians’ protest of a group that tried to stop the holding of the gay festival. A Facebook group had been created called "Stop the gays in Oslo’s streets" to campaign for people against the festival. At least 10,000 Facebook users reported the group that led to its shutting down by Facebook.
Most of Norway’s political parties and significant gay organizations took part in the parade where more than 70 organizations had been part. Even the Norwegian police force in Oslo marched with the organizations to show their support to equality and diversity. Their first openly-gay member of the police force also marched in the parade for the very first time.
The Europride Festival in Oslo was held from June 20-29, and had 200 different activities ranging from art, culture, politics, parties, with human rights and LGBTI issues as focus. These activities are centered around the three major events: Pride Park, Pride House and Pride Parade.
The Europride Festival was first started in London in 1995 and has since been held in major European cities including Madrid, Stockholm, Zurich, Warsaw, Rome, and Marseille.