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GANDA Filipinas: Pushing for new transactivism

Around April 2012, Naomi Fontanos – with Yasmin Lee, Princess Jimenez and Seanel Caparas – formed Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas to “advocate on gender and development issues, which we see is a gap that current LGBT advocacy or transactivism does not address”.



Around April 2012, Naomi Fontanos, with her “closest transgender friends (Yasmin Lee, Princess Jimenez, and Seanel Caparas), “felt that in order for us to contribute better to building the transgender movement in the Philippines, of which we had already been part for some time, it would be best for us to form our very own organization that reflected who we are as people, as women, and as transgender Filipinas.”

Thus, after around two months spent on brainstorming “on our vision, mission, and goals”, Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas was formed. “Simply, it means that we are Filipinas who advocate on gender and development issues, which we see is a gap that current LGBT advocacy or transactivism does not address,” said Fontanos, the group’s executive director.


For the group’s first year, the priority issues for the group are: the right to the highest attainable standards of health, economic justice and regional human rights activism. “We are currently focusing our efforts on these issues and their impact on the transgender community.”

And to attain its goals, like many emerging groups, the group’s main challenge is funding. “We have the energy, drive, passion, know-how and skills for advocacy work having done it for a long time, but it is sustaining all these through proper funding that is something we need to address,” Fontanos said.

At the same time, the group is also faced with the “usual concerns of finding enough volunteers for our activities, attracting the right mix of people who will fit in our group culture, and mentoring our sisters who are new to activism to continue the work that we have started.”

But Fontanos stressed that “we face all these issues head-on. We have prior experience so we have already learned valuable lessons that we carry in our hearts. The best part about being with a group of people who have your back, understand you, respect you, care for you and want you to succeed is that the work becomes secondary. The joy of being together and having a sense of community and belonging is foremost.”



“We recognize human rights work as highly intersectional. Economic, social and cultural rights are not disconnected from civil and political ones. We also see how in a country such as ours, marginalization can be brought about by the pursuit of development,” said Fontanos, who cited as a case in point the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. “A strong lobby from the BPO industry worked hard to get that law passed to protect BPO companies from corporate sabotage and other cyber threats. But in the government’s acquiescence to the BPO lobby, many voices were neglected to be heard: women including transwomen were left out of the conversation. So you have an existing law that, as Sen. TG Guingona points out, legislates morality when its main aim was to protect the BPO sector which lobbied for it in the first place.”

Fontanos added that “that is why it was very important for us to make our stand heard on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 because it is one of several laws that are proof of the inadequacies of the democratic process in our society. In March 2012 during women’s month, a law was passed decriminalizing pimps as vagrants but maintaining that prostitutes are only women. Having such a law in 2012 is almost unbelievable when you think about it. But it brings to the fore how much lacking we are when it comes to issues of human rights, development, and democratization. These are issues we want to address through GANDA Filipinas.”

GANDA Filipinas wants to push for “a group whose values were crystal clear. GANDA Filipinas values dignity, community, wellness, joy and change. Every step we take, as an organization and as individuals, is guided by these values.”

Even though it’s a new group, GANDA Filipinas already has efforts that the group is proud of.

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“We advocate for genuine gender equality for all Filipinos and we believe in mainstreaming. So far, I am very proud of our dynamic Facebook website page ( We have seen social media users grow in leaps and bounds over the past year and we are glad that we decided to create a community fan page for our group,” Fontanos said. “There, we are able to show people our work but also our lives as sisters and friends.”

Linked with the group’s push for social media presence, GANDA Filipinas was able to get PictureCity as a corporate sponsor for its photography needs. “We see how people are starved for empowering images of beautiful, larger-than-life, and empowered transwomen. I believe that through our Facebook page and the images we have posted there, we have been able to reach and touch many people and address this lack,” Fontanos said.

In fact, even as Fontanos noted that “so far we have very few members, but when we post a spectacular picture of us girls, we get more clicks and ‘likes’ than we expect. And we see complete strangers from all over the world, high school and college students, people of all ages, our friends and the family and friends of our friends liking on our page. It is quite thrilling knowing that we are very new but, at the same time, it is also a form of validation of the hard work we put in at GANDA Filipinas.”

GANDA Filipinas is also “making headway in our advocacy for transgender health and wellbeing. We are part of several important networks addressing this issue.” In September 2012, GANDA Filipinas was invited by the World Health Organization Western Regional Pacific Office (WHO WPRO) to a consultation on HIV, STI and other health needs of transgender people in Asia and the Pacific. “We have also joined or are joining several initiatives in line with HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care within the transgender community,” Fontanos said.

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GANDA Filipinas was also represented at a regional workshop in Singapore this December addressing gender in the corporate world and how gender gaps can be addressed through corporate social responsibility (CSR). “We hope to share this expertise to the companies we belong to in order to create change for sex and gender diverse people in the workplace.”

Also, “we have also been lucky to be approached by media continuously as recognition of the kind of discourse we bring to our activist work. Many groups have also signified their intention to work with us, which is really humbling. I’m happy to see our sisters like Ms Justine Ferrer bring attention to our group through her celebrity status or through their wide networks of friends,” Fontanos said.


GANDA Filipinas now eyes growing its membership, and “contrary to what some believe, we are actually open to all genders because even boys and men can also be ‘ganda’. In Filipino culture we have a concept of ‘gandang lalaki’. And that beauty or ‘ganda’ can refer to the interiority or exteriority of a person of any gender. We believe that to achieve real gender equality, we ourselves should create spaces where gender equality is the norm. In short, we don’t only talk the talk, we walk the real walk,” Fontanos said.

The group is also looking at working with more institutions in the future. As Fontanos said, “many actors are involved in gender and development, so we want to get the chance to collaborate with them.” This way, we hope to initiate programs that benefit our community in a deep and meaningful way.”

For those interested to become a part of GANDA Filipinas (, you may contact the group through its Facebook page, or email:, so that the membership and volunteer coordinator – Princess Jimenez – can get in touch with you.


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Balangaw: Gathering the LGBTQI people of Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Like other LGBTQI organizations, Balangaw shares the same vision and mission to spread equality and be united. But, this time around, “we want for those in Palawan to do it for themselves,” said Evo Joel Contrivida.



In June 2018, local LGBTQI people from Puerto Princesa in Palawan saw the need to “formally organize to be able to speak with one voice on many issues affecting us, including discrimination that LGBTQI people experience locally,” said Evo Joel Contrivida.

And so – with the help of the city government of Puerto Princesa, Pilipinas Shell Foundation and NGO Project H4 – the Balangaw LGBTQ+ Association of Puerto Princesa was established.

Balangaw is a Cuyonon word for rainbow, the universal sign of the LGBTQI community in the world.

From the get-go, Contrivida said, they knew it was going to be challenging. Surprisingly, the initial challenge came from the LGBTQI community itself – i.e. “It was, at first, difficult getting the approval/support of the members of the LGBTQI community,” he said, adding that “particularly the local lesbians, which are not as open as their gay counterparts, had to be convinced to join the group, and be part of this history-making in Palawan.”

Contrivida is now a member of the Board Of Directors of the association, overseeing its corporate affairs.
Other officers include: Geofred Gabo (Nay Favz), president; Rodelo Coneles, VP for internal affairs; Rica Belleza, VP for external affairs; Roland Joseph Palanca, secretary; Marlon San Juan, treasurer; and Jester Roque, auditor.

As of the last general assembly, Balangaw has 207 registered members.

When he took the top post of the association, Gabo noted that there actually already exists an organization for senior LGBTQI people in Palawan, and that its members are known for being united. It is this that he wants for Balangaw to replicate; even while building on this by providing more opportunities to the LGBTQI people of the city.

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Contrivida said that, like other LGBTQI organizations, “we share the same vision and mission to spread equality and be united.” But, he stressed, this time around, “we want for those in Palawan to do it for themselves.”

And this, in the end, is what Contrivida wants LGBTQI people in Palawan to recognize: That there’s a group composed of and for them to help them dictate their community’s future.

For those interested to know more about Balangaw, contact Evo Joel Contrivida at +63 917 554 6533 or

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Revisiting the ‘alternative family with a cause’, Cavite Smart Guys Global

When Cavite Smart Guys Global was established as a “clan” in 2006, it only had 13 members. But even then, said Jhasper Pattinson Zaragosa, it always had lofty dreams to do “charitable efforts to promote goodwill.”



Growing strong.

When Cavite Smart Guys was established as a clan (an informal organization for men who have sex with men, whose members mainly communicated with the use of tech, from mobile phones to the Internet) in 2006, it only had 13 members. But even then, said Jhasper Pattinson Zaragosa, CSG head of marketing, ads and multimedia arts, it had lofty dreams. Specifically, it eyed to do “charitable efforts to promote goodwill.”

“In (CSG), we keep on giving emphasis to the core value of sharing through charity works and other socio-activities,” added one of the clan’s heads, Micollo Zaragosa. So that “every events, we would always (give a) portion to a certain charity.”

CSG later evolved into a “global community” – that is, the membership expanded to include those not just from Cavite. The name changed, though it still gave tribute to its origin: Cavite Smart Guys Global (CSGG).

A “trademark”, if you will, is the consistent use of the surname “Zaragosa” by its members, mainly because CSGG was – to start – founded by Marcus Zaragosa with his friends. In a way, this is akin to LGBTQIA “families” involved in the “ball culture” in the US. There, competitors compete – e.g. voguing – while carrying the banner of “houses”. In the case of clans, no competition per se happens; but the same concept of belonging is applied by carrying a common house/family name.

With the help of the likes of Facebook, CSGG was able to grow its (online) membership to over 37,000, easily making it Cavite’s largest MSM group.

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And among clans, it has been recognized as – among others – the #1 provincial clan; one of the top five ‘bi’ groups in the Philippines; and more recently, as a “Bi-Rainbow Community Diamond Awardee (Mega Manila)”.

But according to Micollo Zaragosa, even with their successes, there remain challenges for the clan. For instance, “a challenge we are facing right now is how (to) retain our members, and for them to be engaged in (online and actual) activities.” This challenge, however, helped “make us to become innovative,” he added, so that “we keep on providing new and innovative activities and events that most members haven’t heard/seen before. We want to keep them curious and hyped about the events and activities we are offering, so that they always join.”

Looking forward, Jhasper Pattinson Zaragosa said that the group has numerous plans – e.g. be SEC registered, start including lesbians into the clan, and further strengthen the clan’s presence (on- and offline). But in the end, the intention is always to “be relevant to its members, even as we eye to be relevant to the community.”

For more information about Cavite Smart Guys Global, visit HERE.

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Transman United Iloilo: Lending a hand to our trans and non-binary brothers in Panay

On September 17, 2017, Transman United Iloilo (TUI) was established to allow trans and non-binary brothers in that area to be able to offer support to each other.



In the third quarter of 2017, two trans men from Iloilo – Lee Co and PJ – saw the need to “encourage the trans man community to come together within Panay, especially in Iloilo.” Because even then, “(our) trans and non-binary brothers (did not have means to) exchange their experiences as well offer support to others,” recalled Lee Co.

And so on September 17, 2017, they established Transman United Iloilo (TUI) to be – exactly – this channel to allow trans and non-binary brothers in that area to be able to offer support to each other.

Lee Co said that nowadays, particularly for those in non-metropolitan areas, major challenges continue to abound for trans and non-binary people.

In TUI’s experience, in particular, “we still have issues with getting adequate medical care despite multiple health issues, from depression to high rates of suicidal as well as searching for trans-friendly doctors.”

Currently, TUI is connected with one doctor “who agreed to help fellow trans brothers and non-binary people when it comes to hormone replacement therapy (HRT),” Lee Co said. This “helps us out (a lot).”

The group is still very new, but it aims to be the best in what it does – i.e. “To assist our fellow trans and non-binary brothers within Panay island and guide them properly.”

And here, Lee Co said, “everyone is welcome… if they want to learn what being trans and/or non-binary is.”

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For more information, head to Transman United Iloilo’s Facebook page.

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San Julian PRIDE: Aiming for equality in rural areas

In 2017, a group of LGBTQI community members noted that the one existing LGBTQI organization in San Julian in Eastern Samar was – to be blunt – “dead” because of its inactivity. And so San Julian PRIDE was established to give the LGBTQI community here a presence that can actually be seen and felt.



On December 23, 2017, a group of LGBTQI community members noted that the one existing LGBTQI organization in San Julian in Eastern Samar was – to be blunt – “dead” because of its inactivity. And so – because “the prolonged inactivity meant that the community was unserved” – Roel Andag founded San Julian PRIDE.

“We are still without legal protection,” Roel said to Outrage Magazine, so that “not surprisingly, LGBTQI people remain marginalized and prone to discrimination, which adversely impact (our) health, career, livelihood, education and life as a whole. It is also sad to note that Pride-related developments remain Metro Manila-centric, and this is even if rural LGBTQI people face more acute economic and sociocultural vulnerabilities.”

Aside from Roel, also involved in the organization’s establishment were: Wilmar Operario, Judy Operario, Francis Cabrales and Jill Jargue.

San Julian is a rural, fifth class (i.e. very poor) agriculture-based municipality with 16 barangays (villages) located in one of the chronically poorest provinces of the Philippines. Poverty incidence here – already at 64.7% in 2009 – deteriorated further when Typhoon Haiyan hit the area in 2013.

“Predominantly Roman Catholic… the rural attitudes towards LGBTQI people here remain fraught with stigma, thereby resulting in extremely limited opportunities,” Roel said. “Organizing and mobilizing for equality will mean significant empowerment.”

San Julian PRIDE, in its own way, eyes to remedy this situation by giving the LGBTQI community from here a presence that can actually be seen and felt.

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An interesting tidbit of info: San Julian actually has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO), which was passed in 2015, making it the first municipality in the Philippines to pass such legislation.

But this does not mean that the local LGBTQI community’s issues are already dealt with.

“Our tagline, ‘Rural and Equal’, captures our unique essence. The multiplicity of our challenges (rural poverty, geographical predisposition to frequent natural disasters, our being a discriminated minority in a rural milieu, and low health-seeking behavior in the face of the HIV epidemic) define the intersectionality of the identity that makes us unique,” Roel said.

To date, San Julian PRIDE has 40 active members.

Considering that the organization is relatively very new, plans are lofty, including:

  1. Lobbying for the formulation of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of San Julian’s ADO, and popularizing its salient points;
  2. Raising awareness regarding sexuality- and gender-based bullying in schools;
  3. Building the capacity of LGBTQI people in universities and municipalities of Eastern Samar to organize themselves;
  4. Partnering with the treatment hubs in the province to implement the Department of Health’s HIV program; and
  5. Creating/supporting livelihood and skills enhancement opportunities for LGBTQI people in the province, and then involve the community in promoting LGBT rights and equality in our rural setting.

For Roel, “(let this serve as) our ad hoc platform for advocacy and serve as a safe space where members engage in discussions of topics of interest including human rights, HIV and SOGIE, among others.”


San Julian PRIDE is open for membership, though the focus is on gay men and transwomen from San Julian, Eastern Samar. For more information, visit

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BU Magenta: Raising the rainbow Pride in Bicol

Sometime in 2013, students at the Bicol University’s College of Arts and Letters (BUCAL) formed Bicol University Moving Ahead Gender Equality, Empowering and Nurturing Talents (BU MAGENTA), which is now the only LGBTQI organization in the university that eyes to “help LGBTQI students be more than what society expects us to be.”




Sometime in 2013, students at the Bicol University’s College of Arts and Letters (BUCAL) encountered a flippant statement during the election of student leaders about “forming a partylist for LGBT students since most of the students who actively aspire to be leaders are LGBT anyway,” recalled Lester Dellosa.

So on March 13, 2013, Bicol University Moving Ahead Gender Equality, Empowering and Nurturing Talents (BU MAGENTA) was formed to “give flesh to that thought”. Behind the group were a faculty member of the English department, Ariel Guban, who is now its adviser; and LGBT students of the College of Industrial Technology (BU CIT) including Dean Babelonia (a.k.a. Beyonce) and Jerwin Macasinag (a.k.a. Chesa). Dellosa helms it.

As a startup organization, numerous challenges were encountered – e.g. “We didn’t even have an office,” Dellosa said. Though, to deal with this, “we find ways to hold meetings and events”, such as “meeting in boarding houses of the officers/members”. Obviously, there’s also the “lack of financial support so that the main source of our funds are from the members.” To deal with this, “we make sure we partner with different organizations out there to achieve the goals and objectives of our organization.” And then there’s the non-acceptance of some sectors in the university – e.g. a member of a religious student organization handed them pamphlets to inform them of the “errors” of being LGBT.

Dellosa noted, nonetheless, that the biggest challenge they have so far faced is the “seeming apathy of members of the LGBT community.” In BU Magenta’s case, “the passivity of the members can’t be stressed enough,” he said. Nonetheless, he looks at this as a challenge for the leaders “to make a way for them to participate more.”

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This is the only way, said Dellosa, for “us to be able to help LGBT people to be more than what society expects us to be.”

BU Magenta is proud for being part of various activities both on-campus and off-campus that stress LGBT participation. For instance, “we partner for disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts via repacking of goods for those affected, we promote HIV and AIDS awareness and so on,” Dellosa said. “In our organization, we don’t want to stagnate. We always push our members to create new and innovative ways instead of just redoing old concepts (of expressing being LGBT).”

Already there are plans to become bigger by “holding Pride events, and others that we can be proud of,” Dellosa said. “This is our way to showcase that we are here, and yes, we matter.”

To join BU Magenta, one has to be enrolled/have been enrolled in Bicol University. There is a membership fee of P50 per semester to become a member of BU Magenta. For more information, visit

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Open Table MCC: Celebrating beautiful diversity

For those looking for “a progressive church that accepts and celebrates who you are, a community where you can be a part of, and where your talents and gifts are valued,” join Open Table MCC, a progressive Christian church that welcomes, affirms and celebrates all people and their beautiful diversity, including LGBTQIA persons and people living with HIV and AIDS.




In 2016, one of the first LGBTQI-centric faith-based organizations in the Philippines – the Metropolitan Community Church-Quezon City (MCCQC) – “closed” its doors. This “closing”, however, may actually also be considered as part of an evolution, with the people from MCCQC “who strongly believe and are passionately committed to community work, justice, and love as exemplified and taught by Jesus Christ” eventually established Open Table MCC as “a prayerful result of the congregation’s renewal and rediscovery of our Christian mission.”

According to Pastor Joseph San Jose, the current administrative pastor, “Open Table MCC is a progressive Christian church that welcomes, affirms and celebrates all people and their beautiful diversity, including LGBTQIA persons and people living with HIV and AIDS. It is a safe community of faith for people.”

As an “open” and “progressive” church, “we welcome all walks of life, color, Christian traditions, sexualities and gender identities.   It is a place of healing and support, where each one is equipped and called to do God’s work of justice in the world.”

With Pastor Joseph are four officers of the Administrative Board of Officers (called LCAB), namely: Jack Nicklaus Quimpo, Sean Malang, Glenn Del Monte and Ivan Malapit. Choi Discipulo is the Ministry Leader for HIV/AIDS Program, Marco Puzon helms the Christian Education, Michael Mia works for Congregational Care, and Christopher Celeste is the Web developer.

Open Table MCC has three missions: 1) it is “committed to keep and maintain a safe space for all people, including LGBTQIA persons and people living with HIV and AIDS, to be who they are and celebrate their identities, sexualities and gifts; 2) to proclaim God’s radically inclusive love; and 3) and to “call people to participate in God’s greater work of justice and peace in the world.”

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To help in its targeted endeavors, Open Table MCC has a congregational care ministry; a Christian education program (where “we hope to guide, equip and transform individuals towards a participative and collective ministry of justice work”); and – for PLHIVs – programs that involve pastoral visitation in hospitals and yes, provide HIV screening and awareness. Underneath all these is a leadership development program to equip and develop current and future lay and clergy leaders.

“There’s no easy road map to do all that,” Pastor Joseph admitted, “but we are intentional in keeping a welcoming and loving fellowship among members and guests. How can one actually do this in a roomful of divas and queens and all sorts of personalities should be a challenge; but with loving support comes accountability and through both formal and informal means, we would be able to be with each other through active service rooted in love.”

For those looking for “a progressive church that accepts and celebrates who you are, a community where you can be a part of, and where your talents and gifts are valued,” join Open Table MCC every Sunday at 4:00PM at Conference Room B, Cafe Oikoumene, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), 879 Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA), Quezon City.
For more information, contact +639 17 829 0932, email, or visit or

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