By Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon
Never in the 48-year history of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) that an LGBT students’ rights movement gained a stronghold, but it finally happened this month, thanks to the efforts of PLM Propaganda, a campus-wide and non-academic organization that aims for gender equality and empowerment. With the approval of the Office of Student Development (OSDS) and Services and support of the Supreme Student Council, it succeeded in bringing LGBT visibility to the entire university, as students from various colleges gathered at the Tanghalang Bayan (grand stand) last September 4 to take part in the first-ever “PLM Pride March.”
The parade kicked off at the grand stand around 1:00PM, made its way past the Muralla and Gen. Luna streets outside PLM, and then back to the school grounds again. Not even the afternoon downpour stopped the participants to celebrate the pride, passion and power of the queer and allied community on campus. PLM Propaganda also made history that day, by becoming the first university-based LGBT group that fearlessly conducted a Pride March in the city of Manila.
“(Fortunately), PLM is becoming more liberated and open-minded about this matter, not just that the administration legally allowed us to operate this organization, but because they believe that our ideologies must also be heard and taken into consideration,” said John Rapid Canonizado in an interview with Outrage Magazine. The mass communication junior is the supremo (founding leader) of PLM Propaganda.
Canonizado formed the group with 16 original members on August 17, 2011. But it took them “one year, 11 months and 29 days” to be finally accredited by the university’s OSDS, just last August 15. “This is our first move, as LGBT people in PLM, in order for us to be admitted as normal people in our society. We are empowering… the LGBTs (nowadays) to say no to discrimination among us, and of course to stay away from being victims of hate crimes.”
Canonizado said that “the only challenge for me is to challenge myself to fearlessly go with it and still stand for PLM Propaganda’s principles despite a lot of conservatives and traditionalists around us.”
PLM Propaganda nominated three faculty members, but after careful and lengthy deliberation, the OSDS designated Cecilia Sabio, College of Accountancy and Economics secretary, to become the group’s adviser. “She’s not a lesbian, but she also believes in what PLM Propaganda is fighting for… to achieve parity among genders in the society. We are grateful to have her,” Canonizado said with a smile.
PLM Propaganda patterned its name from the “Propaganda Movement,” a literary and cultural organization established in 1872 by Filipino émigrés who settled in Europe. Composed of Filipino liberals exiled in 1872 and students attending Europe’s universities, the organization aimed to increase Spanish awareness of the needs of its colony, the Philippines. “(So I may say that) we are the Propaganda of this generation… mandated to fight for any discrimination and LGBT hate crime upon achieving gender equality and empowerment through holistic activities and programs (in PLM).”
To become a legit member of the group, a student should submit a photocopy of his/her registration card and ID, fill in a membership form, and then undergo an orientation to be facilitated by Canonizado or the other founding members. “(But) we don’t (have to) force anybody to come out of their closets. It’s their choice and (it is) their basic right to decide everything for themselves… whether to be open or remain discreet (in PLM)… we now have lesbian members who are very proud of their identity and blissful to find an organization that caters to LGBT people, along with the (straight) men and women,” he said.
PLM Propaganda is fairly new, yet it already lined up a lot of educational, social and recreational activities for this school year, to reach out further to the general population and to encourage members regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or religion to feel comfortable expressing themselves.
“I wish I could reset everybody’s mind, personality and perspective into something that only thinks for peace and equality… how I wish,” Canonizado concluded.