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Post-Yolanda dialogue held for LGBT communities in Tacloban

As an effort to surface issues encountered by members of LGBT communities in areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), members of the LGBT community in the Visayas gathered for “Boses Bahaghari: A Dialogue Among LGBT Communities in Tacloban”.

As an effort to surface issues encountered by members of LGBT communities in areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), Oxfam in the Philippines’ Tacloban Resettlement Integrated Programme (TRIP) hosted “Boses Bahaghari: A Dialogue Among LGBT Communities in Tacloban”.

According to UP Prof. Pierce Docena, the event was relevant not only in identifying LGBT-related post-Yolanda issues, particularly to do with rehabilitation efforts; but also because it was an avenue to: raise the level of awareness of key sectors in society on issues of human rights and discrimination as experienced by LGBT people post-Yolanda; and identify plans of action based on these issues and concerns, and as a way of moving forward for LGBT people in Tacloban, especially those living in resettlement sites.

When super typhoon Yolanda hit portions of the Philippines in November 2013, it affected about 11 million people (as per UN figures), killing over 6,000 people (with the numbers varying depending on who’s reporting, as some claim the figures to have reached over 10,000). Billions of dollars of aid were promised; though the amount that reached the beneficiaries continue to be a source of controversy, particularly due to the much-maligned weak response of the past administration of former Philippine Pres. Benigno Aquino III.

Speakers at Boses Bahaghari included Director of the City PopComm Office, Cielito Esquievel; Nina Somera, gender adviser of Oxfam Philippines, who discussed the appropriateness of an intersectionality approach to eradicating poverty; City Councilor Jom Bagulaya, the first openly transwoman elected to public office in the country; Docena, who discussed SOGIE 101; and Henry Abawag, Oxfam Tacloban’s gender and protection officer, who focused on stories of survival and discrimination from LGBT Yolanda survivors.

Issues raised during the gathering included: concerns of LGBT people in Tacloban about livelihood; water, sanitation and hygiene; disaster risk reduction; governance/participation; and housing and tenure status. As was stressed during the gathering, some of the issues may seem “trivial” to others, but these are relevant to the LGBT community as they touch not only on their being LGBT but how this identity limits their access to services that should be readily available – e.g. LGBT people are usually discriminated when using common restrooms especially in resettlement areas.

The results of the gathering will be consolidated by Oxfam, which will then write a report to be elevated to higher government and non-government authorities for their consideration.

Participants included LGBT members from various resettlement sites in Tacloban, such as those coming from the north (i.e. group called Gender Association of Tacloban for Equal Society or GATES), from San Jose (group called Haiyan), and other LGBT leaders in the city. Also in attendance were senior psychology students of St Scholastica’s College of Tacloban, headed by their department chair, Sr. Rose Ann Leonardo, OSB.

Boses Bahaghari was co-organized by the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College, through Prof. Pierce Docena; UP Iolaus (the recognized organization for UP Tacloban’s LGBT students and their straight allies); and select LGBT Psychology students of UP Tacloban.

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Partner organizations included Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Philippine Network of Rural Development (PhilNet), the City Government of Tacloban through the City Population Commission & City Council (represented by Councilor Jom Bagulaya), and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).



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