MANILA, Philippines - Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transexuals and their supporters paraded around the streets of Quezon City wearing fabulous costumes and riding colorful floats to celebrate gay pride on December 4.
Collectively known as LGBT who are tolerated within the Philippine society, they are pushing for legal rights, including coverage in civil partnership, protection against discrimination at work, in school and hospitals, among others.
This year's theme is "One Love" to highlight that "we are all one humanity who shaare the same love," explains Rica Paras, a former reality show Pinoy Big Brother housemate who is currently the vice president of STRAP, or Transexual Women of the Philippines.
"We are in the streets because we want to declare that we exist while, at the same time, asking for compassion and sympathy [because] we are marginalized and we are seeking a quality life," Paras added.
"We are in the process of making sure that the anti-discrimination bill is passed in congress to protect the LGBT community," Paras stressed to ABS-CBN News.
Gatherings of the LGBT members and supporters are crucial to the efforts in pushing legislation like the Anti-Discrimination Bill, stressed Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño.
"The anti-discrimination bill has been stalled in the past... But, as we have seen tonight, the LGBT community and their supporters are growing in size. I think that, eventually, we will reach a critical mass for legistators to reconside their earlier positions against any bill respecting the rights of the LGBTs," he explained to ABS-CBN News.
"Congress has a macho culture. Despite its posturing that it is a democratic institution, in many ways, it is still difficult to push for democratic legislation. Plus, the fact also that the Philippines, being a predominantly Catholic country, [brings in] a religious aspect [into the congressional debates]. These are the things we are up against," he said.
LGBTs and TNLs
The gay parade was met by hecklers or members of concerned Christians who denounced street spectacle. They expressed grave concern over what they considered as "misappropriate ways" of the LGBT members.
It's a claim another partylist, Akbayan, which was well-represented at the street parade, shrugged off.
"We have a sector on LGBT. And I am here as a straight man because yung tunay na lalaki, or TNL, ayaw ng discrimination," an Akbayan official said.
Another Akbayan official, Riza Hontiveros, share that she is supporting the LGBT community since their cause is "dear to my heart."
"I do it (joining the gay parade every year) in memory of my uncle, Tito Boy, who went on an exile to the US to live in a way he believed he was: a poet, spiritual searcher, philosopher.
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista said their local laws, which had called for the creation of a gender and development coordinating office, has pushed for the them to "advocate and ensure that all rights are preserved and given attention," LGBTs notwithstanding.
"These (street parades) are their venues by which they are able to ventilate themselves in what ever way or form so policies can be adjusted accordingly," he explained to ABS-CBN News.
"Here in our city, we need them. Businesses need them because they are talented people. Most, if not all, of the businesses here (in Tomas Morato Street) have integrated our policies not to discriminate in hiring anyone," he added.
After all, even the LGBTs have spending power. "Everybody has buying power. All human beings are the same," stressed Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte.
"I think businesses will be more creative (when they appreciate the LGBT's buying power). Also, since the LGBT community are creative people, businesses find it more of a challenge to cater to them (LGBT)," she added. - with reports from Gretchen Malalad of ABS-CBN News and Katherine Visconti, Princeton-in-Asia fellow