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Cagayan Province hosts 1st LGBT Freedom March

The Province of Cagayan in northeastern Luzon hosted its 1st LGBT Freedom March with members of the LGBT community gathering to “show people our presence, and that we can do much for the betterment of society,” says Maxie Umoso, president of LGBT Cagayan. Beyond the march, though, there are already plans to help organize grassroots LGBT organizations for them to have voice in mainstream discussions.

Pride comes to Cagayan.

The Province of Cagayan in northeastern Luzon hosted its 1st LGBT Freedom March as members of the local LGBT community gathered to “show people our presence, and that we can do much for the betterment of society,” said Maxie Umoso, president of the local lead organizing group, LGBT Cagayan.

Cagayan is a province located in the Cagayan Valley region in the northeast of Luzon island. It has one component city (Tuguegarao), 28 municipalities, and 820 barangays – with a population of over 1,120,000 (as of 2010).

“We wanted to give a voice for the LGBT people in Cagayan,” Umoso said. “But we also wanted to create awareness sa tao (with the people) that it’s high time for us to be accepted, for them to know na meron tayong magagawa sa pag-unlad ng bayan (that we can also help in bettering the country).”

Holding the freedom march proved challenging, said Umoso, mainly because – with the LGBT communities in these parts of the Philippines still largely not organized – “we didn’t even know the focal persons in every municipality.” There was also the challenge of “the reaction to the march – we didn’t know what to expect on how people would accept us.”

Umoso was helped in the organization of the march by Atty. Tin Antonio. Kapederasyon also assisted the office of the governor, which sponsored the march, which was part of Aggaonac Cagayan Festival (a week-long annual foundation celebration of the province of Cagayan).

“It’s a breakthrough (event) for northern Luzon since it was the first time that such an event was held in the province of Cagayan,” said Murphy Red of Kapederasyon.

Surprisingly, said Umoso – and as if signifying at least a (not expected) tolerant, if not accepting, view of LGBT people – “naging supportive ang mayors ng ibang municipalities (the mayors of the other municipalities were supportive),” Umoso said.

In the end, representatives came from all the municipalities and, of curse, the component city of the province of Cagayan.

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Ako, nabigla ako. Akala ko may mga tao na may mag-bo-boo, tatawag ng ‘Bakla!’ at ‘Mga walang kuwenta!’ sa martsa (Me, I was surprised. I thought people would boo us, shout ‘Faggot!’ or ‘Useless people!’ during the march),” Umoso said. “But personally, naramdaman ko na mahal din kami ng mga tao. Naging daan ang march para maipamulat sa kanila ang presence namin (I felt their love. The march became a way for us to show them of our presence).”

For Umoso, however, the march is only the beginning “ng mga plano pa naming gawin para sa mga LGBT ng Cagayan (of our plans for the LGBT people of Cagayan),” he said.

Already, there are activities being planned – including hosting workshops on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) and HIV. Already, as per Kapederasyon’s Murphy Red, a province-wide Pride council was also already established (just as the LGBT cmmunity held the Pride march), and there are now steps being taken to establish Pride councils in all the municipalities. Similarly, “they are now looking at passing a province-wide anti-discrimination ordinance,” Murphy Red added.

For Umoso, a major focus is on community organizing to ensure that the LGBT people “are properly given a face,” he said. Particularly, LGBT Cagayan intends to “go to the grassroots to help LGBT people there form their own organizations. This way, masisiguro natin na magiging mas maganda at mas matibay ang samahan ng mga LGBT ng probinsiya (we can ensure that the organization of LGBT people in the provinces become more beautiful and stronger),” Umoso ended.

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