It was a motley crew, from ProGay Philippines and MCC Manila, marching in the rain from EDSA to Memorial Circle.
Saturday December 13th this year it was pouring down rain at the3pm March time, but it cleared up enough for hundreds to jubilantly march in almost the same route to the Circle.
Elsewhere the festive, very very gay, and lesbianly flavored too, activities at the Circle’s Carillion tower are recounted. The rally and program showed beyond a doubt that L G B and T life and lifestyle are alive, well, and hopping with joy and excitement in Quezon City.
The Mayor, Herbert Bautista, was there. The Vice Mayor, Joy Belmonte, was there. Hundreds in every imaginable costume, some on ambitious prize-winning floats, were there.
They remembered the 20thanniversary, but, as a pioneer of the first march, I can honestly and proud say – the contrast showed, “We’ve come a long ways, Baby.”
A rather sedate, but confident and determined crew of 50 or so had a discreet program of speeches and manifestos in 1994 (although as the first such bold venture in Asia, there were a lot of people afraid even to come out of the shade of the closets of the surrounding trees and bushed). Even Danton Remoto peeped out of the closet to say a few words, “as a journalist,” he said.
In 1999 after a series of very impressive Marches led by Jomar Fleras and Reachout, Task Force Pride was founded to keep the annual Marches going. 20 of the Who’s Who of LGBT Activists, unincorporated, gathered and planned for months that first Task Force Pride March in 1999. Many of the meetings were held at the offices of Bayani Santos’s ManilaOut Magazine, the forerunner of today’s Outrage Magazine and the Philippine Online Chronicles of Philippine LGBT news and events.
The Quezon City Pride Council added the impressive Quezon City Pride March in 2014. After the March in the fast moving animated lively program on the huge impressive stage with booming sound system, time was allotted for awarding to UP Babaylan, Humphrey Gorriceta, and Hon. Mayen Juico the Rainbow Award from Quezon City Pride Council and also Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Atty. Claire Padilla, Dr. Margie Holmes, Anne Lim, Eric Manalastas, Trippers Philippines, Bishop Richard Mickley, Jessica Soho, Boy Abunda the Rainbow Awards from the Quezon City Pride Council.
I felt it was not only an honor, but a great honor to be in such distinguished company.
Of course in such a joyful ambiance, it was not a time for speech -making, so I am going to share here what I would have said if the atmosphere had been more academic than the party before the fireworks.
Unfortunately I was not able to read the inscriptions on the other magnificent trophies, but mine was described as follows. Part of the LGBT program will be the awarding of the 1st Quezon City LGBT RAINBOW Awards to outstanding LGBT and non-LGBT individuals and groups who have asserted the promotion of LGBT rights in the Philippines and for their inspiring contribution to promote respect for all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE). From a list of nominees and after a thorough research and deliberation we were able to come up with a set of winners for different categories. We are proud and happy to inform you that the Quezon City Pride Council and the Quezon City Pride March team have chosen you as one of the recipients for the QC LGBT RAINBOW Awards for your long time commitment to these ideals.
The speech that would have been.
I never would have guessed 20 years ago that I would live 20 more years, or that you would have done what you have done.
I am standing here today because YOU are the ones to be praised for bringing the struggle for equality and justice to where it is today.
Thank you to the City Council of Quezon City.
It is an even greater honor to know that Ging and Soxie are associated with this event. Soxie, it was always such a thrill to share a television show with you because of the great esteem you have earned from the entire LGBTI community. And Ging, year after year it was a joy to work side by side with you, month after month on Task Force Pride along with so many.
When we were giving out annual “Pink Feather Awards,” (to such deserving persons as you, Ging, and Etta Rosales) little did I imagine that such an award as this would think of me on the 20th anniversary of the first Philippine Pride March in 1994.
The work of my coming to the Philippines in 1991 is another story. I was an MCC pastor in Auckland New Zealand and borrowed money to come here in order to “check out” the situation after a letter was received saying, “I have been kicked out of my church. There is no one here helping us gays and lesbians who want to be Christians but are made to feel unwelcome.”
I came and began networking. With the help of Jomar Fleras, a Methodist Pastor and many others, we held the first public Pride Mass with 50 people in attendance, in Holy Child Cathedral on June 26, 1991. I preached on the work of Troy Perry to bring the truth of God’s love for God’s gay and lesbian children throughout the world. Afterwards 43 people signed a petition for me to come to the Philippines and open an affirming ministry for gay and lesbian people.
I came and established Metropolitan Community Church Manila on September 7, 1991. It turned out to be the first openly gay and lesbian organization in the country.
Today I am so proud of the good pastors and people who are continuing to provide this affirming ministry in five MCC parishes.
And especially I praise the longest serving affirming pastor of all, Fr. Regen Luna, now pastoring after many years a beautiful community of mostly LGBT people in the Church of God parish of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit in Dasmarinas.
In 1994 Oscar Atadero and I were both on the Board of Directors of MCC Manila, and he was a Founding Officer along with Allan Tulosa and Murphy Red of Pro Gay Philippines when MCC and Pro Gay planned and co-sponsored the first Pride March in Metro Manila in Quezon City on June 26, 1994, which turned out to be the first Pride March in Asia.
When I reached the MCC retirement age, I founded The Order of St. Aelred and the Gay Men’s Support Group which continued affirming sex-positive, self-esteem building work for hundreds of gay men over many years.
In 2004 Bishop James Burch who lives and works near Washington, DC, selected and ordained me to be the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit Philippines following the LGBT affirming ministry model he had set up world-wide.
With Argel Tuason we felt called to begin a work of healing and wellness for Persons living with HIV and other serious life difficulties in May 2013, and we called it The Well Wellness Program. I devote most of my time and energy to that “service to humanity” now; no charges, no fees, no salaries, but focusing on wellness and fulfillment for the persons living with HIV. And with unparalleled passionate service the dedicated senior staff of The Well, Ryan, Fr.JP, Mark, Fr. Regen, Robert, Stephen carry on that work every day.
I love my work supporting PLHIV in The Well to build a life of wellness and fulfillment, but of course best of all is going home for 15 years now to the love of my life at the end of the day, something I could not do in Saudi Arabia and maybe could not do here had you not done all the work you have done.
My greatest LGBT joy is that, now in 70 or 80 organizations, you are carrying on the dramatic struggle to build a better life for us all. We had only two organizations marching in 1994. Yes, a motley crew got it started, 50 of us marching in the rain.
But it would all have been worthless without what you have done since then. Three cheers to the LGBTIQ of the Philippines. Pilipino na ako, Pilipinas kung mahal.
Mabuhay ang LGBT sa Pilipinas!!!
Photos by Eva Callueng. Some rights reserved.