Lea Salonga is credited for continuously making Filipinos proud – something that, for many, started in 1989, when she was chosen to play Kim, the lead role in the musical Miss Saigon, which won her – among others – the Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Theatre World awards. The achievements of Salonga – the first Filipino artist signing to an international record label, signed to Atlantic Records in 1993 – did not stop there, as she also became the first Asian to play the roles of Éponine and Fantine in the musical Les Misérables on Broadway; and, memorably, provided the singing voices of Disney Princesses Jasmine (in Aladdin in 1992) and Fa Mulan (in Mulan in 1998). It was not surprising that, under the term of former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she was given the Order of Lakandula Award, one of the highest honors given by the Republic of the Philippines, not only for her excellence in what she does, but also for using her talents to benefit Philippine society.
But beyond these, and what surfaced particularly more recently, was Salonga’s vocal pro-LGBT stance.
In March 2013, in her column “Backstory” published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Salonga said that “I spend much of my time around gay people. Some of it is purely by circumstance but a lot is by choice”. She added that “it’s time to think of gay people differently.” As she stressed: “That’s what gay people ultimately are—men and women on this adventure we call life, navigating it with much uncertainty, fear, anxiety and hope. They are our friends, lovers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, coworkers, rock stars, doctors, lawyers, lawmakers, teachers, artists, actors, writers, directors, musicians, authors, businessmen, store owners, designers, athletes, singers, dancers, and students. They are all ultimately human…”
Salonga’s online presence has been serving as a breath of fresh air, too, in confronting LGBT-phobia.
For instance, Salonga’s presence in the Twitterverse (her account followed by over 2.1 million people) has been pro-LGBT. In quips, she stated, among others: “Being gay is not a choice. Who’d choose that knowing how much hatred and prejudice there is? If you are, you were created gay, by God.”; “A new haircut, fashion sense, or pastime doesn’t make someone gay. Only by being gay is one gay. Okay?!”; “Hundreds of species have homosexual specimens. But only one practices bigotry.”; and “I don’t have problems with gay people, only with the sanctimonious and self-righteous that are too quick to condemn them.”
A Facebook post once read: “The only people that can claim to be experts on gay people are gay people. In their diversity, humanity, and general awesomeness. Shame on anyone that dares to think that gayness is a disease, something to be ashamed of, or is something to abhor in the name of Christianity. Can’t we all just be human beings, men and women navigating this earth in search of the goodness in this world, and adventurers out for enlightenment and understanding?”
In a past interview by PEP.ph, Salonga best summed up her stance. “For me, the issue of homosexuality is one of humanity — it’s not an anomaly, it’s not a disease nor anything negative. It’s as much a part of God’s creation as being straight,” she was quoted as saying.
And so with her position, Salonga highlights that, yes, she truly is a source of pride.