Alex and Chloe first met in a youth camp of their Christian church in December 2010. Though not formally introduced, their paths first crossed through their common friend’s invitation to the activity.
“First impression, masungit! Hindi man lang ako nakuhang ngitian nung mga panahon na yun. Pero nakikitawa naman siya sa mga jokes ko. Nachallenge ako sa kanya, parang gusto ko siyang kilalanin pa (My first impression of her was how grouchy she was! She didn’t even smile at me then. But she laughed at my jokes. I was challenged by her; it was like I wanted to know her more),” recalled Alex.
“Actually aloof ako sa kanya kasi alam ko sa sarili ko na noon pa mang mga high school days ko ay lapitan na ako ng mga ‘tibo’. Ewan ko ba. Nakakatawa kasi ang first impression ko sa kanya ay mahirap i-approach at parang elite ang dating na mahirap i-reach. So ako naman si deadma, nakikita tawa lang sa kwentuhan ng grupo at di ko siya ganung pinapansin. At ang first impression ko din kaya ayaw ko syang i-close ay baka ma-fall siya sa akin at eventually ma-fall din ako sa kanya (I was aloof with here because I know in myself even in high school days lesbians usually approached me. I just don’t know why. It is funny because my first impression on here is that she is difficult to approach and she seemed elite and unapproachable. So I just ignored her and laughed at conversations. I did not want to be close to her as she may fall for me and me for her),” added Chloe.
Chloe admitted that at that time they met, they both had girlfriends.
“After ng December meeting ay casual pa rin sa personal pag nakikita. Siguro dahil sa mga pagkakataon na tuwing nakikita kami ay kasama namin ang mga karelasyon namin. Medyo complicated ang status namin na kung idedescribe ko ay parang pinagtagpo kami sa sitwasyon na kung saan hindi na okay ang commitment sa kanya kanya naming mga karelasyon, (After meeting in December, we treated each other casually when we personally met. Maybe because when we met we were with our girlfriends. Our status then was quite complicated and it seemed that we met at a time when our commitments in our respective relationships were not doing okay) which made our journey more complicated and challenging,” said Chloe.
Alex knew that there was something different when she saw her again in an activity when they were invited to sing.
“Napaka-civil lang namin, parang di magkakilala, inappear-an ko lang siya nun then wala na. Pero yun na pala yun, na-a-attract na ako sa kanya. May mga times na patago ko siya tinitingnan, kahit nasa malayo ako hinahanap ko siya. Inadd ko pa siya sa FB pagka-uwi ko. But then, pinilit kong burahin lahat ng yun because… parehas kaming may karelasyon that time (We were just very civil, like we really din’t know each other. We just give high-fives to each other and then nothing. But that was already it, I was already attracted to her. There were times I would secretly look at her. Even if I was far, I was looking for her. I added her on Facebook when I got home. But then I tried to erase all that because we were both in relationships),” said Alex.
Alex admitted that she and her live-in girlfriend were not in good terms since 2010. Chloe also admitted that her relationship at that time was experiencing difficulties because of the lack of time for each other.
Both kept in touch on Facebook until they saw each other again on April 2011 in an activity where both their partners were present. After this they started texting and calling each other everyday.
FALLING IN LOVE
“Umaabot ako ng 8:00 PM sa office para lang makausap siya dahil nga nasa bahay na ang karelasyon ko nun (I would stay until 8:00 PM in the office to just talk to her because our girlfriends were at home). We had this sharing din about our crushes, ang code name ko sa crush ko ay ‘one and only you’ tapos yung sa kanya ‘out of reach’. She didn’t know na siya yung ‘one and only you’ ko, pero I have no clue kung sino yung ‘out of reach’ or maybe I just didn’t want to assume,”said Alex with a laugh.
It was on May 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm, on her way out of the office, that Alex finally admitted to she is the “one and only you.”
“Sabi ko sa kanya ‘hindi ko na kaya, hirap na hirap na ako. Mahal na kita (I told her I can’t take it anymore. I’m in a very difficult situation. I already love you)!” said Alex
Chloe was was shocked and said Alex is her “out of reach.”
On May 15, 2011, they had their first date.
“Nung nakita ko pa lang siya, I already said to myself ‘siya na!’ However, things became more complicated kasi naging ‘bawal na bawal na pag-ibig.’ Sa paningin ng iba bawal dahil same sex, tapos bawal parin dahil both were committed (When I saw her, I already said to myself ‘She is the one!’ However, things became more complicated because it was a forbidden love. In the view of others, it is forbidden because it is of the same sex and also because we were both in committed relationships). But eventually, we made a choice. We chose to be happy. We decided to be with each other as a couple),” said Alex.
“Naisip ko din na sa mga panahong iyon ay masarap at madaling sabihin na mahal ko siya pero pano siya na may girlfriend noon at paano ako na nagtatago pa sa aking closet. Ginawa namin ang dapat gawin. Dahil di rin naman na nagwowork ang mga relasyon namin sa dati naming mga karelasyon, nagdecide na kami na tapusin( I thought at that time that it would great and easy to say that I love her but I still had a girlfriend and I am still hiding in my closet. We did what we have to do. Since our respective relationships were not working anymore, we decided to end them),” said Chloe.
WORKING INSIDE CHURCH
“Ever since we started, kasama na yun sa relasyon namin dahil parehas kaming workers sa church institution. Though sa akin naman ay walang problema dahil 2007 palang nag-out na ako sa family ko and they accepted it, at maging sa workplace ko din naman ay ine-embrace at minamahal ang mga katulad ko (Ever since we started, it was part of our relationship to be both working for a church institution. Though for me there are no problems since I came out to my family in 2007 and the accepted it. Even at my workplace, I am embraced and loved for who I am),” said Alex
“Super daming mga away, pagpapaliwanagan, pagpapanggap, panghuhusga ang tinahak namin para unti unti ay mapagtagumpayan ito dahil hindi madali ang lahat lalo na sa akin na “discreet”dahil sa line of work at sa super conservative na environment. Kaya di rin maiiwasan na magkaroon ng conflict dahil kahit pareho kami ng line of work ay magkaibang magkaiba ang mundo naming (There were many fights, explanations, pretensions, and judgments that we struggled through so that we can gradually overcome this. It was not easy especially for me who is discreet and for my line of work and environment which is super conservative. That is why conflicts are inevitable even if we are both working for our church. We both live in different worlds),” said Chloe.
“Ang major challenge sa amin ay ang pagharap mundong ginagalawan namin, especially siya na hindi pa nagka-come out dahil siya ay nanggaling sa isang conservative family at nag-wo-work sa isang conservative na institution. Kaya ngayon nabubuhay kami sa mundo na kung saan ay nadedeprive kami bilang magkarelasyon sa mga karapatan namin.. karapatang maging masaya, karapatang maging malaya at karapatang mahalin ang isa’t isa,” said Alex.
Chloe feels that these challenges of their environment has made their love for each other stronger.
“Pero sa tuwing nararamdaman ko na napakahirap, dun ko din nararamdaman na mas lalo naming minamahal ang isa’t isa kahit na parang all hope is gone. Me against the world lang ang peg. Marami mang individual flaws pero we treat them as strengths para mabuild up ang isat isa. Sa mga nararanasan namin minsan sumasagi sa aking isip kung bakit hindi ako bumibitaw. Siguro ay mas higit kasi ang pag iisip ko na hindi ko na makita ang sarili ko na kasama pa ang iba (But when I feel that it has become so difficult, I also feel that we have loved each other more even if is like all hope is gone. Even when it feels that is me against the world. There may be many individual flaws but we treat them as strengths to build each other up. With our experiences, I have thought of letting go. But I have always thought more that I could not see myself being with anybody else),” said Chloe.
Alex and Chloe had a wedding last May 2013, witnessed by their closest friends.
“Kaya October of 2012 I answered ‘YES’ to a question na buong akala ko ay kailan man ay hindi niya itatanong sa akin dahil tuwing pinag-uusapan namin ang tungkol sa pagpapakasal ay ending point ng usapan ay ayaw niya. So to top it all, we vowed and sealed this relationship last May 29 2013. Kinikilig pa rin ako tuwing naaalala ko ang special moment na yun (On October 2012, I answered ‘YES’ to a question that I thought that would never be asked to me. Because every time we talked about getting married, it always ended that she didn’t want it. So to top it all, we vowed and sealed this relationship last May 29, 2013. I still feel giddy when I remember this special moment),” said Chloe.
“May mga hindi pagkakaintindihan dahil nahihirapan magtago, magpanggap at dumating na rin sa puntong gusto nang sumuko. Ang nagpapatatag lang siguro samin ay yung kahit anong mangyari , our love for each other will always win at di namin bibitiwan yung sinumpaan namin sa isa’t isa dahil nangako kami na haharapin namin ang lahat ng pagsubok ng magkasama (There are misunderstandings because it is difficult to hide and pretend. It also reached a point that I also wanted to give up. What keeps us strong is that whatever happens, our love for each other will always win and we will not let go of our promises to each other to face every hardship together),” said Alex.
PARTNER, SISTER, BESTFRIEND
“Siguro the best thing about this relationship is that I have a partner, a sister, a consultant and a best friend all rolled into one. Meron din akong fashion consultant at make-up artist. We both love music, traveling and trying something new. Madalas magkasundo dahil we share the same interests,” said Alex.
Chloe feels to have found a partner, sister, and bestfriend in Alex.
“Marami man struggle at for sure marami pang darating, I can say wala na akong hahanapin pa. We found a partner, a friend, a sister, a companion sa isa’t isa.I mean a loving partner, a best friend, a selfless sister and a loyal companion. I can say through thick and thin ito,” said Chloe.
WISHING FOR A HOME
In their home, Alex and Chloe make sure that they both communicate regularly and share household responsibilities equally.
“We communicate every day and we make sure na alam namin ang nangyayari sa bawat isa. Minsan may mga ‘surprises’ pa rin kapag special day namin and we see to it na palaging masaya at nakakakakilig parin kapag nagkikita. As to finances, pina-practice namin yung equal sharing tulad ng pag may mga expenses, kailangan hati kami o kaya naman pag wala siya, ako muna mag-shoulder, then sa susunod siya naman (We communicate everyday and we make sure that we know what is happening with each other. Sometimes there are surprises on our special days and we make sure that we are always happy and excited to see each other, With finance, we practice equal sharing like splitting the expenses in half or when she doesn’t have money, I will pay for it and she will pay next time), ” said Alex.
“And as we share this relationship, we also share the same vision na ‘sana bahay na’ which we always say pag nakakaramdam kami ng panghihina. Sana bahay na which pertains to sana makamit na ang tagumpay, na balang araw ay may ginagabayan at tumatawag saming “nanay”, na balang araw wala ng uwian pagkatapos ng day off dahil yun lang ang chance na lumuwas para makasama isa’t isa, at balang araw lumipas ang panahon na gumigising at natututulog na namamasdan ang kumukulubot pero masayang mukha ng katandaan dahil kasama ang isa’t isa (I wish for home, is what we say when we feel weak. I wish for home pertains to that hope that we can be successful. One day we will be guiding someone who would call us mother. One day, there will be no need to go home to each other’s houses after a day off since this is the only chance that we travel and be with each other. One day, time will pass that we will sleep and wake up watching our wrinkled but happy old faces while with each other). To infinity and beyond,” said Chloe.
“At isa rin sa mga plano, na tingin ko po ay una sa listahan ng mga plano namin, ay magkaroon na ng ‘courage’ para mag-out sa family ko (And one of the plans, which I think is one of the priority in our list of plans, is that I would finally have the courage to come out to my family),” Chloe ended.
Inter-Agency Committee on Diversity and Inclusion created via executive order
An executive order intends to create an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is flexing his supposed anti-discrimination cred with the signing of Executive Order (EO) 100, which focuses on minority sectors, including members of the LGBTQIA community, Indigenous Peoples, youth and persons with disability (PWDs).
The EO – titled “Institutionalizing the diversity and inclusion program, creating an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion (IACDI), and for other purposes – intends to create the aforementioned IACDI, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
The order was signed on December 17, prior to Duterte meeting with a politicized organization composed of LGBTQIA Filipinos that eye to win seat in Congress in the next elections via the country’s partylist system; but was only released to the media on December 19.
The to-be-established IACDI will be composed of: Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Budget Management (DBM), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), and National Youth Commission (NYC).
Worth noting: No LGBTQIA representation is specifically mentioned/included in the committee.
The committee is expected to work with “relevant stakeholders, advocacy groups and NGOs” to develop a DIP; dictate the direction of the DIP; “encourage” local government units to issue ordinances promoting diversity and inclusion; and recommend possible legislation to address gaps in existing laws.
Meanwhile, the to-be-established DIP is supposed to “consolidate efforts and implement existing laws, rules and issuances against the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, national or ethnic origin, language, religious affiliation or belief, political affiliation or belief, health status, physical features, or sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”
For trans activist Naomi Fontanos, who helms GANDA Filipinas, there are provisions in the EO that are problematic.
“(It) looks good on paper but has problematic provisions,” Fontanos said.
For example, “the composition of the IACDI excludes key government agencies like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Civil Service Commission (CSC). Instead they have consultative status. This is surprising since based on RA No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), the CHR is the Gender and Development (GAD) Ombud.”
Fontanos noted that with “funding for the implementation of EO No. 100, s. 2019 will either be from sources identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) or through Gender and Development (GAD) funds, why then does the GAD Ombud only have consultative status?”
Also excluded from the IACDI is the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, “which is unfortunate since the EO seeks to prohibit discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief,” Fontanos said.
Fontanos similarly questioned the chairmanship of the IACDI by the DILG.
“The DILG’s main function is to ensure peace and order, public safety, and building the capacity of local governments for basic services delivery. Implementing a nationwide DIP better fits the mandate of the DSWD, which is to empower disadvantaged sectors in our country. The DSWD is only the committee’s Vice Chair.”
For Fontanos, “also most telling is that the committee is tasked to consult relevant stakeholders and NGOs to develop the DIP. Given that EO No. 100, s. 2019 was signed during the oath-taking of officers of LGBT Pilipinas Party-List at Malacañang Palace, will they be the default ‘stakeholder’ to be consulted on LGBT issues? If they are running for a congressional seat in 2022, won’t that give them undue advantage given that they will be working with LGUs through the chairmanship of the DILG?”
Following the release of the EO, future steps to be taken have yet to be announced.
Province of Capiz holds first Pride parade
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz.”
Pride in Capiz.
The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz,” said Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan, who helmed the organizing of the event via Queens of all Queens and LGBT Community Capiz.
The local LGBTQIA community is not exactly completely “invisible”, admitted Catalan, having participated in the city’s/province’s past gatherings – e.g. last August 12, 2019, when a contingent joined the parade for the International Youth Day. But this Pride is “important – particularly as it is being held as the world observes World AIDS Day – because it highlights what’s solely relevant to our community.”
As is common with non-commercialized Pride events, “the main problem (we encountered) was financial,” Catalan said. This is because “we only relied on donations of generous individuals (to be able to hold this event).” But since “it had the backing of the community… we were able to push through.”
With Catalan in organizing the Pride parade were Atty. Felizardo Demayuga Jr. and Sandro Borce.
For Catalan: “I believe we still need Pride in this day and age to celebrate the unique individuality of the members of the LGBTQIA Community, and – of course – to continue the advocacy of equal rights and mutual respect and the causes that we are fighting for.”
Roxas City, in particular, still records LGBTQIA-related hate crimes. In a 2015 interview with Outrage Magazine, Catalan recalled the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and even killings.
This is why Catalan said she hopes for (particularly local) LGBTQIA people to attend the gathering as a show of strength that “we’re in this together.”
Catalan, nonetheless, recognizes that many non-LGBTQIA people still detest/discriminate LGBTQIA people. And so to them she said: “To all our bashers/haters, please take note that we have no ill feelings towards you; we love you and you are always in our prayers. Please take note that sticks and stones may break our bones but you won’t see us fall.”
‘We need inclusive responses to HIV’ – Bahaghari Center
For Ms Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center, “it needs to be emphasized that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
In early 2019, Jay (not his real name), a Deaf gay man who lives outside Metro Manila, was encouraged by his friends who knew community-based HIV screening (CBS) to get himself tested. It was, he recalled, “the first time someone offered me this service; so I caved in.”
Jay was reactive; and “my world crumbled,” he said.
Though his friends tried to comfort him, telling him that knowing his status is good, “since at least now I can take steps to get treatment and live a normal, healthy life,” Jay wasn’t assuaged. His friends had to eventually go back to Metro Manila, and he worried that he would be left on his own to “find ways to access treatment.” And the same issue that did not make testing accessible for him – i.e. him being Deaf – is now the same issue he believed would hinder him from getting treatment, care and support (TCS).
Jay’s case, said Ms Disney Aguila, board member of the Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc. (Bahaghari Center), highlights how “numerous sectors continue to be ignored in HIV-related responses.”
Aguila, the concurrent head of the Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, the pioneering organization for Deaf LGBTQIA Filipinos, added that “it needs to be emphasized – particularly today as #WAD2019 – that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”
WORSENING HIV SITUATION
As reported by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has 35 new HIV cases every day. The figure has been consistently growing – from only one case every day in 2008, seven cases per day in 2011, 16 cases per day in 2014, and 32 cases per day in 2018.
In July, when HARP released its (delayed) latest figures, there were 1,111 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals; this was 29% higher compared with the diagnosed cases (859) in the same period last year.
Perhaps what is worth noting, said Aguila, is the “absence in current responses of minority sectors” – e.g. when even data does not segregate people from minority sectors, thus the forced invisibility that used to also affect transgender people who were once lumped under the MSM (men who have sex with men) umbrella term.
For Aguila, this is “detrimental to the overall response re HIV because specific needs are not answered.”
DEAF IN FOCUS
In 2012, Bahaghari Center conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices (KAP) of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.
To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%). Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.
Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.
Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) considered HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).
The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.
For the Deaf community, at least, accessing testing and – if one tested HIV positive – the TCS is challenging because “we’d need Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters who can help make sure we’re getting the right information/treatment/et cetera, Aguila said. And in the Philippines, the numbers of service providers who know FSL remain very limited.
Already there are Deaf Filipinos trained to conduct CBS particularly for other Deaf Filipinos – here in “Stop HIV Together“, a photo campaign stressing the need for inclusion.
INCLUDING OTHER MINORITIES
Aguila stressed that forced invisibility, obviously, does not only affect the minority Deaf community as far as HIV-related responses are concerned – e.g. “other persons with disability continue not to have HIV-related interventions,” she said.
For Aguila: “To truly stop HIV and AIDS, we need to be inclusive.”
Back in the city south of Metro Manila, Jay was forwarded to a counselor who knows FSL so that he can be supported in accessing TCS. Even that was “problematic,” said Jay, because “I was ‘forced’ to come out to someone I didn’t necessarily want to disclose my status only because I had no choice.”
For him, this highlights “how we just have to make do with what’s there; and there really isn’t much that’s there to begin with.”
He feels “lighter” now, however, having started his antiretroviral treatment (ART). But he knows he’s one of the “lucky people with contacts”; and that “not every one has access to the same support I had… and that’s something we need to deal with.”
‘Ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng mamamayan’
As Baguio City holds its 13th #Pride March, there is emphasis on the de-commercialization of Pride to ficus on issues affecting all minority sectors including the #LGBT community. As stressed by Nico Ponce of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, hopefully other sectors join the fight for human rights for all because “ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng buong mamamayan.”
The struggle of the LGBTQIA community is the struggle of the people/nation.
So said Nico Ponce, chairperson of the UP-Baguio University Student Council and of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, which helmed Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the 13th Pride March in Baguio City.
This is why, Ponce added, at least particularly for Pride in Baguio City, there was an intent to veer away from commercializing Pride, to instead focus on the issues of all LGBTQIA people no matter the sector they belong to. There was also an emphasis on intersectionality – i.e. that other minority sectors have a stake in the fight for equal treatment of LGBTQIA people, also a minority sector.
“We are against the commercialization of Pride,” Ponce said, “since naniniwala tayo na ang historic roots of Pride ay… sang protest (we believe in the historic roots of Pride as a protest).” And so, to maintain the militant nature of Pride, we “make calls that… are comprehensive; and that affect not just LGBTQIA people but all Filipinos.”
The position, of course, is relevant considering the seeming (if not eventual) move towards commercialization of Pride events – e.g. cash-dependent Metro Manila’s Pride parade was able to gather over 50,000 participants in this year’s party/gathering; though the same number won’t surface to push for the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“There is still no equity,” said transgender activist Ms Santy Layno, which makes hosting Pride still relevant.
“We still march,” added Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, “because even if people say that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines, we continue to suffer discrimination… with our transgender siblings still killed/murdered. We still need to march for Pride… as a form of protest.”
‘We (still) need Pride because of the apparent need of the LGBTQIA community (for acceptance) in all sectors of society,” Ponce added.
Baguio City already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, that wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history. For instance, in 2011, eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB. Oppositions were raised by the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet. Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church, for one, stated that “these unions are an anomaly.”
In the end, said Sotero, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
“To people who ridicule/mock us, we’re open to discussions,” said Ponce. “Hindi sila kaaway… kaya sana makiisa kayo dahil ang laban ng LGBTQIA ay laban ng buong mamamayan (We are not enemies… so we hope you join the struggle because the fight for equality of LGBTQIA people is similar to the fight for social justice of the entire nation).” – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Baguio marks 13th LGBTQIA Pride
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.” According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”
Equally diverse; equally human.
The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.”
According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero, who helms Metropolitan Community Church-Metro Baguio (MCC-MB), which is part of the Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the annual event, even now that LGBTQIA issues (continue to) gain traction in mainstream awareness, holding a Pride event remains relevant because “kahit na sinasabi nating tolerated na ang mga LGBTQIA dito sa Pilipinas (even if it is said that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines), we continue to suffer discrimination.”
Sotero noted that, in fact, “patuloy pa din ang pagpatay sa mga kapatid natin na transgender (our transgender siblings are still being murdered/killed).”
Only in September, for instance, the lifeless body of Jessa Remiendo was found on the shore of Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan – only approximately 94 kilometers away from Baguio City (just over two hours of road trip).
A few weeks before the gruesome murder, LGBTQIA people have been highlighting the need to pass an anti-discrimination law in the Philippines, particularly since the bill that eyes to protect the human rights of sexual minorities have been pending in Congress for 19 years now.
“Kailangan pa ring ipagpatuloy ang pagmamartsa sa Pride bilang sang protesta (Marching for Pride is still needed as a form of protest),” Sotero said.
Sotero added that Pride is also a way to inform society “na andito kami, hindi kami aalis, at dapat i-accept ang mga LGBTQIA people (we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people).”
Baguio City actually already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, and notes that “discrimination is a crucial and serious issue” and it wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”
But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history – e.g. in 2011, when eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB, there were oppositions from the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet.
In reaction, Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church stated at that time that “these unions are an anomaly.” Meanwhile, the Guiding Light Christian Church maintained that “marriage should be between a man and woman only”.
And so for Det Neri, chairperson of Bahaghari-Metro Manila, a multisectoral militant and nationalist LGBTQIA organization based in Metro Manila (and whose arm in UP Baguio healed this year’s gathering), even now, LGBTQIA people are still mocked and “ginagawang katatawanan (made fun of).” And so celebrating Pride is “mahalaga para hindi tayo nawawala sa kasaysayan, hindi tayo mawawala doon sa hinaharap (we aren’t erased in our history, and we aren’t neglected as we head into the future).”
Neri added that Pride’s essence remains militant, and should remain as such. – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.
Dumaguete City passes SOGIE equality ordinance
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
Dumaguete is a 3rd class city in the province of Negros Oriental. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 131,377 people.
It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Negros Oriental, it has a population of 131,377 people, according to the 2015 census.
Authored by Councilor Rosel Margarette Q. Erames with co-authors Councilors Lei Marie Danielle Tolentino, Bernice Ann Elmaco, Edgar Lentorio Jr., Lilani Ramon and Nelson Patrimonio, the anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) penalizes actual or perceived SOGIE-based discrimination in the workplace, school and other similar acts that undermines and harms the rights of the LGBTQIA people.
Under the ordinance among the prohibited acts include:
- Actual or perceived SOGIE-related discrimination from employment, training, promotion, remuneration;
- Delaying, refusing or failing to accept a person’s application for admission as a student;
- Expelling or any penalty on the basis of SOGIE;
- Harassment and intimidation committed by teachers, administrators and fellow students;
- Refusing to provide goods or service, or imposing onerous terms and conditions as a prerequisite for such;
- Denying access to health services and facilities;
- Refusing or failing to allow LGBTQIA to avail of services or accommodations;
- Denying application for licenses, clearances, certifications or other documents;
- Vilifying, mocking, slandering or ridiculing LGBTQIA people through words, action and in writing; and
- Executing any activity in public which incites hatred towards or serious contempt for or severe ridicule of LGBTQ and other analogous acts.
The bill didn’t have smooth sailing before it passed. For instance, the Diocesan Commission on the Laity (whose members consist of 42 Parish Pastoral Councils from the different parishes of the Diocese of Dumaguete, covering the provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, with the exception of the municipalities of La Libertad and Vallehermoso, and the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon), as well as the Diocesan Organization of Renewal Movements & Communities (composed of 14 organizations) expressed their opposition of the ADO.
When the passage of the ADO also made the news, a handful of locals expressed their disapproval, stating – among others – that LGBTQIA people do not face discrimination in Dumaguete (thereby contradicting their own statement), prioritizing other issues of the city, and that protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA people is against the will of God.
But now with the ADO, first time violators will be made to attend a gender sensitivity training. Second time offenders may be jailed for not less than 60 days but not more than one year, or be fined with not less than P2,000 but not more than P 5, 000 (or both at the discretion of the court).
With the ADO, SOGIE-related concerns will be incorporated in the functions of existing Barangay Violence Against Women and Children (VAW) Desk, which will document and report cases of discrimination against LGBTQIA persons.
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