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Rainbow flag raised in Davao City’s first Pride March

For Mikko Epe dela Cruz of UP Mentefuwaley, this year’s gathering also proved timely because of the recent events that have the LGBT community “that showed that true acceptance for us is still low in the country, and that’s why we still have to fight for our rights. Pride March is one avenue to let people know of our battle for equality and listen to our plight.”

Pride reaches Davao City.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Davao City, as well as their allies held on the 4th of March the first-ever city-wide Pride March in these parts of the Philippines. Initiated by the only LGBT organization in the University of the Philippines (UP) in Mindanao, the UP Mentefuwaley, in cooperation with the UP Mindanao’s Office of Gender and Anti-Sexual Harassment (OGASH), this year’s gathering is actually a broadening of the effort to promote equal rights for all.

According to Mikko Epe dela Cruz, UP Mentefuwaley actually hosts Pride March every school year. “(We) envision a society where people are free from judgments and criticisms based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he said. “Through this event, we get to celebrate our identity by marching with pride, as well as making our calls in our fight for equality be heard.”

This year’s Pride March, however, was the first time for UP Mentefuwaley to reach out and invite other LGBT organizations in Davao City, thereby making the event city-wide. And while there were challenges encountered (e.g. funding), “we overcame that through collective effort.”

For Dela Cruz, this year’s gathering also proved timely because of the recent events that have the LGBT community “that showed that true acceptance for us is still low in the country, and that’s why we still have to fight for our rights. Pride March is one avenue to let people know of our battle for equality and listen to our plight.”

According to Ash of the United Lesbians of Davao, the event was important because it highlighted that the local LGBT community did not only exist, but are united. “Pride means being proud of who you are and what you are. And if it is not something we can freely exercise, then we are nothing but slaves to the dictates of the society (that does not often accept us). We should never be slaves to anyone,” Ash said.

Since the event also came at the heels of the Manny Pacquiao debacle, Ash said that efforts to unite are not done because “we are a fad or anything like that.” Instead, the daily struggle for being LGBT signifies “how important Pride is.”

Davao City already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, but this does not spare LGBT people there from discrimination.

“The LGBT community should highlight calls to end homophobia and discrimination of all forms, put pressure on the government to investigate gender-related hate crimes nationwide, and forward the urgency of laws that will protect the LGBT people against discrimination especially in the workplace and schools, where it is most common,” Dela Cruz said. “The Pride March is one of the proofs that the LGBT community has a voice. This event is also a starting point to show people that the LGBT community exists and our struggles are real. Through Pride March, we let ourselves be seen, we let our calls be heard, hoping that these will lead to greater avenues for equality. Collective actions like these, hopefully, touch other people, LGBT or not, to forward our calls, especially our legislators in creating laws that protect us.”

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Interested to know more about Pride in Davao City? Contact Mikko Jan dela Cruz (+639308467223) and James Dela Cruz (+639198630629).

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