MANILA—Rainbow flags, unicorn headbands and colorful placards were worn and waved at the Marikina Sports Center Saturday, as thousands of lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals (LGBT) attended a festival and a march to call for equal rights in the Philippines.
Maxim Vasiliev, 39, traveled from Russia to join his friend, Chad Rosales, in this year’s rainbow rally in Metro Manila.
Vasiliev said he is overwhelmed by the colorful displays and the happy faces of the Filipino gay community as its members rally against discrimination.
“It’s my first gay parade because it is impossible to organize a gay parade in Russia because the people there are very homophobic,” Vasiliev told ABS-CBN News.
“I’m free here. I feel so special. I like it. Everybody smiles at you. I feel that we are one, big gay family,” he said.
Rosales, meanwhile, has been attending the Pride March since 2013.
“Lagi akong uma-attend dito kasi kahit na ang kabaklaan ay culturally celebrated sa Pilipinas, hindi pa din ito totally accepted,” Rosales said.
Felicia Mejia, a 65-year old grandmother, said she attended the Pride March for her 15 gay nephews who were bullied and discriminated in their community.
“Sinasabihan sila nu'ng ibang taga-sa amin na bawal sila sa langit kasi bakla sila,” Mejia said.
“Kailangan suportahan natin ‘yung mga ganito para ipaalala sa iba na kahit ganun sila (LGBT), tao pa rin sila.”
Vasiliev, Rosales and Mejia were among the estimated 8,000 participants of the 24th Metro Manila Pride March, an annual festival-protest that serves as a “platform for visually communicating the issues” of the LGBT community in the country.
The event is organized every June to provide a “safe space” for LGBT members to “call for their rights,” Nicky Castillo, overall co-coordinator of Metro Manila Pride, told ABS-CBN News.
“This is the one time in the whole of 12 months that suddenly they are listening to us,” Castillo said.
This year’s Pride March, coming days after the Supreme Court concluded its oral arguments on same-sex marriage, is “a call for the realization, promotion and fulfilment of our human rights,” she added
Castillo said they have been pushing to legalize same-sex unions “not for the “cakes and parties” but to be recognized as their partner’s legal spouse and immediate family.
“Many of these couples are estranged from their biological families. These families that they were born into are practically strangers already pero kapag dumating sa point na they are on their death bed or are sick, their partner who has been with them for all these years can’t make decisions for them,” Castillo said.
“It’s completely unfair. You remove so many rights from same-sex couples just because of their sexuality.
“We think that is a gross violation of all the human rights and privileges that we should be experiencing not just as Filipinos but also as human beings.”
Same-sex marriage in the Philippines
Hours before the Pride March began, the Social Weather Stations released a survey that showed 61 percent of Filipinos are not in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in the Philippines.
The findings are a “barometer of how Filipinos are still uneducated in terms of what the community is asking for,” said Mikhail Quijano, Metro Manila Pride co-head for Communications and Campaigns.
“A lot of the pushback is anchored on the violation of their religion. That in itself shows how uninformed the community is in terms of understanding the needs of the LGBT community,” he said.
The Supreme Court has yet to set a date for deciding on a petition to revise a Family Code provision that limits marriage between a man and a woman.