LGBT leaders who pioneered Pride celebrations in Asia, including in the Philippines, stressed the relevant role of Christianity and militant activism in the development of Pride in these parts of the world.
In Pride Speaks, a gathering that eyed to educate and engage both the members of the LGBT community and heterosexual allies on the fight for equality and non-discrimination of LGBT people, Bishop Richard Mickley of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, Murphy Red of Kapederasyon, and Allan Tollosa of Pro-Gay recalled how in June 26, 1994, the first LGBT Pride March in the country happened. The first Pride March, called Stonewall Manila, was participated by more than 30 individuals from Sine Café, Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Pro-Gay, Can’t Live in the Closet (CLIC) of Ana Leah Sarabia and Malu Marin, UP Babaylan, and students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
The march was a call to “tsugiin ang VAT. Ang VAT ay salot sa mga bakla at mamamayang Pilipino (eradicate VAT. VAT is a curse to gays and the Filipino people),” said Red, referring to the first march as “Stonewall Manila”, which gathered members of the LGBT commuity in the fight to junk the value added tax (VAT) in 1994. “Ang mga bakla sa parlor ang grabeng apektado ng VAT. Maraming nagsasarado dahil hindi sila makapagcharge sa mga costumers nila. Huhulihin sila ng BIR. Matingkad ang mga panawagan ng mga bakla na bitbitin ang VAT issue (Gays in the parlor were most affected by the VAT. Many would close because they could not charge their customers. They were caught by the BIR. The call was clear: that gays should carry the VAT issue). We campaigned to junk VAT.”
The first Pride manifesto in 1994 showed the militancy of the LGBT struggle.
“Bawiin ng mga Pilipinong bakla ang ating mga karapatan at kalayaan sa anumang paraan mapayapa man o madugo. Sama sama kaming kikilos buhay man ang ialay (Gay Filipinos should reclaim our rights and freedom though any means, peaceful or bloody. We will act together even if we offer our lives),” the 1994 manifesto stated.
“Ang militansiya ang nagsimula nitong lahat. Ang panawagan natin noon ay ang panawagan pa rin natin ngayon. Wala pa ring nagbabago sa taon taon nating pagdiriwang ng Pride. Hindi lang ito dapat pagdiriwang lang, ito ay ang pagpapatuloy ng pakikibaka (Militancy started this all. Our calls before are still our calls now. There has been no change in every year that we have celebrated Pride. This should not just be a celebration but a continuation of the struggle),” said Tollosa.
For Tollosa, the period from 1994 to 1998 was lively, when “we called for gays to come out,” he said.
The march started at EDSA corner Quezon Avenue, where the articipants marched to Quezon City Hall. “There was no permit, but the activists worked it out,” Mickley recalled.
“Talagang takot na takot na magmartsa ang mga bakla. Sa Quezon Memorial Circle kami kasi doon ang madalas na hadahan. Ang monument din ni Quezon ay simbolo din ng ating pagka semi-colonial at ng phallus (Gays were so scared to march. We were Quezon Memorial Circle because that was a frequented gay cruising area. The Quezon monument was also a symbol of our semi-colonial status and the phallus),” laughed Tollosa.
“When we are at the circle there were some MCC members hiding in the trees. In 1994, people didn’t congregate as LGBT people but they all did secretly. That’s why they hid in the trees and it took them a while to be out of the closet,” Mickley added.
A Pride mass was held, highlighting the Christian roots of Pride.
“After the first march, Jomar Fleras and his organization called ReachOut organized three different marches, and the last of it was called People’s Parade of the Centennial Celebration of the Philippines in 1998. It was the only LGBT Pride march scheduled in front of the President.
In 1999, people started to get together early in the year. “If what we did in 1994 stopped in 1994, it would have been useless. How can I be proud of just us marching in 1994 if nothing happened after that?” said Mickley.
“It was fulfilling to see a yearly celebration after that. Despite our yearly commemoration of the first gay Pride march in 1994 , we struggle with the same systemic orders that discriminated us, that put us inside boxes. Let’s keep the militancy ablaze. Carry the torch towards victory,” said Red.
“Maraming mga LGBT sa mga mahihirap na komunidad. Mas higit natin silang tulungan . Hindi tulungan para magdole out. Kung para ipaglaban ang kanilang mga karapatan. Magakroon ng pagkakaisa ang mga baklang mayayaman at ang mga LGBT na poor. Magkaisa ito dahil apektado sa parehong isyu sa lipunan. Tiyak tayo sa paglaya ng LGBT at kasama na ang buong sambayanang Pilipino (There are many poor LGBTs in the communites. We should help them more. Not dole-out help but the help to let them fight for their rights. Rich and poor LGBTs should be united. Be united for we are affected by the same issues in society. We will be certain of the liberation of LGBTs together with the whole Filipino people),” Tollosa ended.