Iloilo City, dubbed as the Philippines’ “City Of Love”, raised the rainbow flag for the first time as the Ilonggo LGBT community celebrated its first-ever LGBT Pride event. Creatively entitled Su-GAY-lanon – a play on the Hiligaynon term “sugilanon”, which means “to tell a story” – the event was themed “Rainbow Introspection”, the event did not only allow the local LGBT community members to gather, but also express their solidarity with the #PulseOrlando victims.
The event was spearheaded by a group of LGBT advocates led by Justin Bionat, the vice chairperson for the Visayas chapter of the Bahaghari LGBT Organization; AYLA alumni Gabriel Umadhay; and Rappler’s Move.ph representative Russel Patina.
“Being in a room with other colorful people is a rewarding experience; but being one with them while celebrating Pride is a landmark in (our) history in Western Visayas,” said Leonard Francis Alcoran, president of the Student Advocates for Gender Equality (SAGE) Network – West Visayas State University Chapter.
The actual planning for the Ilonggo Pride celebration actually began as early as November 2015, when the idea was floated by a team of LGBT grassroots organizations, HIV and AIDS advocates and school-based LGBT groups.
According to Roberto Figuracion Jr. of the Project Red Ribbon and of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines – Iloilo Chapter, holding the event “was like giving birth to your first born – you immediately forget the labor pains once your baby is out. When you labor for love, that’s what happens. Love makes you forget the hurt and the pain and you just cry with joy and beam with pride.”
The city’s first Pride event saw participants entertained by on-the-spot poetry reading, inspirational talks and coming out stories, song numbers, a stand-up comedy performance by Vince Pardilla, a drag show by Vincent Misterio of GBT-Panay Inc., and film showing. Those present also lit candles for the 49 victims of the Orlando, Florida mass shooting.
“Iloilo has always been tolerant of LGBT people; but tolerant is nowhere near accepting. For a long time, the LGBT leaders were hesitant (hosting such an event) because we did not want to stir the hornet’s nest and suffer baclakshes. It is indeed a brave bold move to finally break the silence and come out loud and proud,” said Marcel Millaim’s (a.k.a Luis Batchoy), Palanca awardee and Ilonggo LGBT advocate. “Long live the LGBT community of Iloilo! Long live Pride! Love will win, and love will win Iloilo and love will win Philippines.”
The core organizing team is already eyeing not only to make this an annual event, but as Bionat said, “maybe bring Pride to the streets of Iloilo City” with plans to “march the streets with the rainbows.”
ALL PHOTOS BY CARLO EVIDENTE