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Old Balara Pride Council: Aiming for meaningful LGBT participation

Old Balara Pride Council was established in 2013, after local LGBT leaders noted that past LGBT organization existed only to help provide entertainment for the community. “It felt like it was our duty to entertain the people every year,” Faustino L. Sabarez III said. The reorganization has been empowering the LGBT community of the barangay, which now has an LGBT center, and programs that look at providing services to LGBT people there.

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As early as the 1990s, an informal organization already existed in Barangay Old Balara in Quezon City. It was called as “Family G”, a play of “pamilyang gay (i.e. a family of gay people)”. Its main focus was to host activities during the barangay’s fiesta celebrations – e.g. beauty pageants, dance contests, singing contests, et cetera.

The people in the organization changed over time – that is, some of those in leadership positions eventually moved out of the barangay, and others had to be tapped to take over. The group’s name was also changed to WWW.G.ORG, this time to mean “Wow We Want Gay Organization”, in 2000. But even with these changes, the organization’s functions remained the same – i.e. it was solely to help plan and then implement entertainment programs for the barangay.

Sometime in 2010, Faustino L. Sabarez III, one of the barangay’s LGBT leaders, started asking “why we were always making activities for others every time the fiesta of the barangay came. It felt like it was our duty to entertain the people every year,” he said. “Diyan lang ba iikot ang mundo namin (Did our worlds just turn around these activities)?”

Sabarez’s line of questioning ended up focusing on the need of the LGBT community of the barangay. “What will happen to us in the future? What about our health? Who will take care of every LGBT person who is abandoned by his/her family?”

And so in 2013, Sabarez again re-organized the barangay’s LGBT organization; this time with the help of “Madam Erika” and “Margareth”. This new organization was called the Old Balara Pride Council (OBPC).

Sabarez said that, since then, changes have happened for the better for LGBT people in their barangay. There was a time, for instance, when he recalled how “parang mabuti lang kami kapag fiesta. Kinukutya kami na ang LGBT raw ay pasaway, adik, maingay, walang modo, hindi gusto ng community (it was as if we were only useful during fiestas. The teased us that we meddle in others’ affairs, drug addicts, boisterous, uncivilized, and that the community did not want us),” he said. “Pero pinakita namin sa kanila na hindi yan totoo (But we showed them that all those aren’t true).”

In fact, eventually, LGBT community members started taking leadership roles in the barangay.

By October 2015, Old Balara became the first barangay in Quezon City to establish its own “LGBT Affairs Office.”

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With the support of barangay chief Allan P. Franza, DP, Old Balara has also started profiling the LGBT people living there, to ensure that “the right services reach them.”

OBPC still helps out in implementing activities for the barangay (e.g. in beauty pageants, singing and dancing competitions, et cetera), but Sabarez said they are now more aware of the need to help push LGBT issues to the fore.

Future plans include developing a microfinance program for LGBT people in the barangay; develop scholarship programs that young LGBT people can access (e.g. tie-up with TESDA); and help LGBT people from the barangay find employment (through partnerships with the local government, and with private entities, particularly those with offices in the area).

The “greatest dream of OBPC,” said Sabarez, “is to establish a shelter for LGBT people, lalo na sa walang kumakalinga. Isang lugar na kung saan mararamdaman ng bawat LGBT ang tunay na pagmamahal para sa mga LGBT means caring for them through actions (most especially to those who have no one to look after them. A place where every LGBT person will feel what caring is really about, and this is by caring for them through actions).”

Aside from Sabarez , OBPC’s list of officers include: Enrico Alcayde, Alex Lipata, Jay-ar Lita, Rex Romero, Oscar Jimenez, and Loida Loquinte.

Walang bayad ang mangarap at walang bayad ang mag-ambisyon (Dreaming is free, and having ambitions is free),” Sabarez said. “Ang lahat ng aming mithiin at puwedeng maganap kung ang mga LGBT ay magmamalasakit sa isa’t isa (Our goals can happen if LGBT people care for each other).”

For more information on the Old Balara Pride Council, contact Faustino L. Sabarez III.

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