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Trailblazing Filipino drag queen honored during annual 'Pines Invasion'

Don Tagala | TFC News Fire Island, New York

Posted at Jul 07 2022 08:45 PM

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In 1976, a drag queen named Terry Warren was denied service to a restaurant in Fire Island Pines, New York.

When Cherry Grove’s 1976 Homecoming Queen named Panzi heard about it, she assembled her friends who all dressed up in full drag and took a water taxi to the Pines to invade the restaurant. But to Panzi's surprise, the queens received a big welcome.

"You gotta remember what the invasion is about. We were having a great time but we came because of homophobia within our own community. If you want the world to respect you, we have to respect each other and we don't have enough of that," Panzi said.

The Invasion of the Pines has become an annual Independence Day event, where a boatload of queens aboard a chartered ferry re-enact the incident in 1976.  

"We can't ignore, as drag queens, what's going on in [the US]. We must address what's going on through political action. Women have been on the forefront of helping the queer liberation movement and it's our time to support them. Abort the court!," drag queen Levonia asserted.
Filipinos joined the commemoration to also honor the legacy of a trailblazing Filipino drag queen named Juanita. In 1989, Juanita became fire island’s first and only Pinoy Homecoming Queen.

"She dressed as Imelda Marcos and she knocked the crowd over when she got to the Pines and she was very clever, very smart, and very funny," Panzi said of Juanita.

Fire Island homeowner Medel Paguirigan meanwhile said, "we want to resurrect her legacy because we want to make sure that the Filipino is also represented as part of the diversity, equity, and inclusion component and philosophy of the gay community."
Filipinos, led by Paguirigan, are already planning their participation next year with a bigger Filipino contingent who will represent Philippine traditions and culture.