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Metro Manila holds first Pride march during pandemic

Forgoing the commercialized version of LGBTQIA Pride, hundreds of members of Metro Manila’s LGBTQIA community gathered in Quezon City to highlight that this annual observance remains relevant for showing the still ongoing fight for equal rights for all.

A return to the political roots of Pride.

Forgoing the commercialized version of LGBTQIA Pride, hundreds of members of Metro Manila’s LGBTQIA community gathered in Quezon City to highlight that this annual observance remains relevant for showing the still ongoing fight for equal rights for all.

This is the first Pride event in Metro Manila even as the country – and the world even – still faces COVID-19. No mass gatherings have been allowed for months to avoid the spread of the 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOV ARD) that causes COVID-19; but the local government of Quezon City allowed Pride 2021 to push through with the proviso that existing protocols were followed related to the limited number of participants, social distancing of participants, and wearing of face mask and shield.

According to Regie Pasion of LGBTBus Philippines, marking Pride even when there’s a pandemic is important because “this helps us, the LGBTQIA community… or any other marginalized groups, to convince the community and the government (to back) what we’re fighting for, which is equality for all and the elimination of discrimination.”

Various issues continue to plague the local LGBTQIA community, with these issues worsened by COVID-19 – e.g. many LGBTQIA Filipinos are part of informal workforce as beauticians, events organizers, etc. and yet have issues accessing government-provided support.

As stressed by Rev. Ceejay Agbayani Jr. of the LGBTS Christian Church and VP of the LGBTQ Plus Partylist, this is a sector that’s “among the most affected by the pandemic.”

“What we’re saying here is: the LGBTQIA (community) is part of those that want this (COVID-19) resolved fast.”

That the LGBTQIA community’s struggle is not detached from the struggles of other Filipinos was stressed by Ms Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas Inc. and spokesperson of the LGBTQ Plus Partylist, who said that fighting abuses is necessary no matter people’s SOGIESC.

In a statement released before the event, Fontanos stated: “Hindi natigil ang diskriminasyon at karahasan laban sa mga Pilipinong LGBTQI sa panahon ng pandemya. Patunay rito ang naitalang pandarahas sa mga taong transgender dahil raw sa pagviolate sa pandemic protocols tulad ng curfew. Pero bakit mas mabigat ang pataw na parusa? Walang duda dahil ito ay dahil sila ay transgender. Ito’y isang uri ng diskriminasyon base sa sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression o SOGIE. Marami ring pinatay na mga Pilipinong transgender sa panahon ng pandemya: Donna Niera, Kathlyn Aviels, Ebeng Mayor, at Junjie Bangkiao. Masidhi ang pangangailangan ng tugon sa pandemya na sensitibo sa isyung pang-sekswalidad at pang-kasarian. Ang panawagan ng komunidad transgender sa Pilipinas, ‘Stop trans killings! Pass the SOGIE Equality Bill Now!’.”

During the actual gathering, Fontanos was also critical of the profiteering happening during COVID-19, which she said worsens the situation of other minority sectors, from women to Indigenous Peoples to the LGBTQIA community. “And we need to show our Pride even at the time of the pandemic to show (Pres. Rodrigo) Duterte that we’re not afraid of him, and that we’re ready to fight whether we’re LGBTQIA or not.”

Fontanos added: “We need to show to this fascist government that we’re not afraid; that we will fight for human rights, for democracy, and the sovereignty of our nation.”

In the end, Pasion said that Pride is a reminder that “we don’t just parade (to celebrate/show we’re happy). Instead, it is to protest. While we’re colorfully walking, shouting ‘Huwag mashokot, makibeki!’, we’re protesting.”

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And this is the very essence of Pride, he said, which is the fight for “equal rights for all, and stopping all forms of discrimination.”

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