As the world marks June as the Pride Month, citing the staunch supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community particularly in the Philippines becomes essential, if only to highlight who has been at the fore of promoting equal rights for all. And here, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Philippines is a paragon worth spotlighting.
In an email interview with Outrage Magazine, Tatine G. Faylona, senior political and cultural affairs officer of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, said that while – nowadays – the Netherlands Embassy “regrets that there is no LGBT activity that we are able to support” because it has, since August 2011, been focusing on preventing and combatting human trafficking, hence its resources are likewise focused on this issue, it nonetheless continues to “follow developments in the LGBT community, especially as regards progress in the anti-discrimination law that seeks to incorporate respect for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights. We have close cooperation with key local NGOs which send us updates on latest developments.”
Whenever possible, too, the embassy “extends solidarity by attending some of their activities”.
There have been numerous past partnerships. In 2011, for instance, the Netherlands Embassy supported the Lesbian Activism Project Inc. (LeAP!) in conducting two major LGBT activities nationwide, namely the National LGBT Conference in June 2011, and the 29 Steps for LGBT Human Rights Festival in July 2011.
On the one hand, the national conference was a milestone gathering of 46 LGBT groups from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; and former Dutch Ambassador Robert Brinks gave a keynote message at the conference.
The festival, on the other hand, activated partnership with the Quezon City local government to organize Pink Booths, exhibition of LGBT-themed artworks, and screening of LGBT movies. In cooperation with Amnesty International, the LeAP! was also able to undertake an educational roadshow for the “Courage Unfolds” video caravan.
There was also some parallel inter-Embassy coordination at the time mainly among the Canadian, Dutch, French, UK, and US Embassies’ political officers. One concrete activity was a film showing and discussion in Alliance Francaise de Manille of JAY by Francis Xavier Pasion in October 2010. Jay is the name of the two protagonists in the film – one is living, the other dead. The living Jay is producing a documentary of the dead Jay, a gay teacher who was brutally killed. As Jay recreates and examines the life of his subject, his own life is affected when he unravels his subject’s hidden life and secret love. The film won Balanghai Trophy, Best Actor (for Baron Geisler), Best Editing and Best Film at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2008.
Overall, the projects “enabled a more organized and proactive Philippine LGBT community that is aware of their rights and have a stronger coordinating mechanism for advocacy in both the public (example, through legislation) and private sphere (example, through rights actualization in places of work),” Faylona said. “A comprehensive database of LGBT individuals, groups, and resources in the Philippines likewise resulted from the conduct of national consultations and campaigns, hence hopefully allowing for more concrete follow-through activities should resources be made available.”
Kudos is in order, indeed.