They tried to bury us.
They didn’t know we were seeds.
This maxim was dancing in my head to the beat of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” booming from some locomotive speaker, as we paraded along the busy streets of Session Road. It was the 10th Baguio Pride event – a festive spectacle and public protest meant to put the LGBTQ community and relevant issues forward. My heart felt full as I relished my first time to participate in a Pride event, walking side by side with fellow LGBTQs and straight allies, fighting and celebrating our right to be heard and seen, to be respected, to be recognized, to be represented, and to just be.
Baguio Pride participants donned on statement shirts, holding up signs and flags echoing current LGBTQ issues, chanting and laughing together, marching purposefully, and some, flamboyantly, all under the metaphoric banner of equality as they blazed on through the heat of the day.
The hot and blinding sunrays did not feel like the flaming furnace of eternal damnation, which bible-thumpers were threatening us about. What was felt was light – like the heavens very warmly kissing into our being with the glorious salvation from every demon that tried to oppress us. The sky shone on us, willing us to go on; resonating our liberty from the stuffy darkness of closets, chasing away the shadows that religious rigidity and closed-minded dogma have cloaked us with.
There were the onlookers standing amusingly and curiously by the sidewalks, as well as people watching as they cross the walkways hanging over us. These eyes were not of the hostile stares from a wrongly cultivated belief that we were unnatural. We didn’t get the harrowing frown from the disapproving, disgruntled status quo. Rather, it was a mix of attentive smiles, nonchalance and quiet understanding.
Or, maybe, gay pride at that moment made me unwary of those who were cursing us as they plunk themselves down on the sides and corners of society’s spiteful ignorance.
A kid was marching alongside her lesbian parents. The rainbow flag was draped on her back. She was also casually sporting rainbow socks and a round rainbow pin. She seemed wise beyond her years and so sure of herself, with the spring in her steps and presence pointing toward an embracing dawn of a better tomorrow.
LGBTQ groups and LGBTQ-friendly organizations dotted Igorot Park as the march ended here. Colorful Pride flags were raised high around the stage that was set against the backdrop of the Cordillera Freedom Monument, an imposing statue signifying the tribal groups who settled in the mountainous region of Northern Luzon. It exuded a magnificent semblance of valor and dignity.
People were chatting and moving enthusiastically, snapping away pictures to capture the fun and loving moments among friends, families, lovers and other kindred spirits. It was bustling with encouraging speeches and entertaining performances. Everything was a show of jovial engagement and fiery determination of people coming together in spearheading hope for equality, as well as in encouraging meaningful actions against forces that dare to tear it apart.
Some of us sat by the concrete benches as we enjoyed the unfolding crowd and event. The little girl, who had a rainbow flag as a cape, sat next to me and opened up an empty red box labeled “condoms”, only to find that its happy emptiness was disturbed by a leaflet about Christianity’s concept of good and evil, and how Jesus Christ would redeem us all from sin. She browsed through the content of the leaflet while the other woman sitting beside her, seemingly a bit bothered by the flyer, calmly whispered to her that whatever was written in it wasn’t true. God (if s/he exists) only knows what was going through that little girl’s mind while she read through it. I wasn’t sure if the content was preaching against the event held or it was just a flyer being given out by a gay-friend religious group. My personal years of being subject to Christian indoctrination made me blasé about it. In my mind, I was thinking that it probably contained the same old guilt-and-fear-based rhetoric.
Musical performers and spoken word artists continued on gracing the stage as the hot sun bade goodbye and the night was gradually coming through. As night fell, a huge rainbow flag was spread on the ground welcoming us to rest on it. My date for the Pride, who was also the one who invited me to tag along, scooted beside me while I circled my arm around her. Every now and then, her proximity was inducing butterflies in my tummy. In those sweet hours, things felt all good. There were no questioning looks and whispers to ignore. There was neither malicious gawking from strangers nor the creeping paranoia blowing against our nape. It was only this piercing awareness that holding her close felt a million times right, and it was refreshing that people around couldn’t care less about it – a privilege that heteronormative society currently do not freely give to LGBTQ couples.
The cold night breeze pleasantly swept through around us. Steadily, people were leaving the park as the event was nearing its conclusion. Pretty soon, the streets and places graced by Pride would go back to their usual grind. We’d all continue on with our daily lives; but now, all the more empowered with renewed courage, a newfound support system and a stronger outlook in effecting societal change, at least, when it comes to LGBTQ-related matters.
December 3 was a definite highlight of my 2016.