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UP Visayas – LIPAD: Soaring high to fight discrimination

The University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) Miagao and Iloilo City campuses are known for offering quality education. But now, these are also known as the home of UPV LIPAD. “Young as we are, we want to tell people that you don’t have to be gay to support our cause; you just have to be open minded,” Jose Maria Paolo Santos says, adding that symbolic of the group’s name, “we want to soar high and be free.”

The University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) Miagao and Iloilo City campuses are known for offering quality education, particularly in the fields of Public Health, Psychology, Management, Biology, Marine Science and Fisheries. But now, these are also known as the home of UPV LIPAD, an organization that – formed through the efforts of Jose Maria Paolo Santos and Jesse Caspe Cogollo in 2013, with about 15 members when it started – aims to be a medium through which the rights and welfare of LGBTQI students are advanced and defended, while also protecting and promoting access to justice of LGBTQI students, and raise awareness and educate Philippine society about LGBTQIA issues and concerns.

UPV LIPAD is composed of gender advocates (with members aged from 16 to 21) who fight and defend the rights and welfare of the LGBTQI community, anchored on the belief that all persons should be treated equally regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

UPV LIPAD believes that “to ignite change we (they) have to start from the core, which is inside the university, focusing mainly on SOGIE education and (pushing of) LGBTQI rights and welfare.”

“Young as we are, we want to tell people that you don’t have to be gay to support our cause; you just have to be open minded,” Santos said, adding that symbolic of the group’s name, “we want to soar high and be free.”

UPV LIPAD’s most recently hosted the very first UPV Pride Week with the UPV university student council, various fraternities and sororities, other student organizations and the rest of the UPV community. The UPV Pride Week was filled with forums and interactive activities, like Gender Debates, all highlighting the diversity of the LGBTQI community.

The group now intends to continue the UPV Pride Week every year to raise other issues as well, such as HIV and the need to pass the anti-discrimination bill.

For UPV LIPAD, “equality of all persons is the basic foundation of all democratic ideals. We are determined to forge unity among our ranks, desirous of establishing an organization reflective of our aspirations, united in efforts to create legitimate avenues of protecting and advancing our rights and welfare, and devoted to the struggle for the creation of a humane, just, progressive and democratic society.”

Do you want to soar with UPV LIPAD? Visit the group’s Facebook page.

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Justin is a proud Ilonggo, as much as he is a proud LGBT advocate for the youth. A political science student from West Visayas State University, he is the founder of The Student Advocates for Gender Equality (SAGE) Network. At 19 years old, Justin has already given SOGIE, HIV and AIDS, and human rights talks and lectures. He is also a Department of Health HIV and AIDS VCT counselor; and a volunteer and member of Youth Voices Count - Asia, a youth initiative led by young MSM and transgender women. As an advocate, he believes that "only when a brave few will raise the rainbow flag can the LGBT movement really reach its pinnacle."

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