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Philippine Pride festivals return to streets after 2-year hiatus during pandemic

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Like other LGBTQ communities around the world, the queer community in the Philippines faced increased threats and vulnerabilities as lockdowns were imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as lockdown restrictions were eased, Pride Month celebrations returned to the streets this June as LGBTQ groups were able to meet and gather in person once more.

Participants holding Pride flags and signs calling for the SOGIE Equality Bill to be passed at Metro Manila Pride March in Quezon City in the Philippines on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Metro Manila Pride)
Participants holding Pride flags and signs calling for the SOGIE Equality Bill to be passed at the Pride PH Festival parade in Quezon City on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Metro Manila Pride)
Drag artist group Supektibols at the Metro Manila Pride Festival in Pasay City in the Philippines on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Metro Manila Pride)
Drag artist group Supektibols at the Metro Manila Pride Festival in Pasay City on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Metro Manila Pride)

In 2019, the Metro Manila Pride March became the largest Pride parade in Southeast Asia as 70,000 people attended the event.

However, organizers had to resort to online Pride events in 2020 and 2021 as the COVID-19 virus spread through the country.

Now, Pride in-person has bounced back as LGBTQ people and their allies sorely feel the need to come together in mutual support.

Participants holding Pride flags at the Pride PH Festival parade in Quezon City in the Philippines on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte)
Participants holding Pride flags at the Pride PH Festival parade in Quezon City on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte)
Participants of Southern Tagalog Pride celebration on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Southern Tagalog Pride)
Participants of the Southern Tagalog Pride celebration in Los Baños on June 25, 2022. (Photo: Southern Tagalog Pride)

"The pandemic has taken a lot from us," said vlogger Tina Boado, who together with her partner Roanne Carreon founded Queer Safe Spaces, a Facebook group for the Filipino LGBTQ community that has 20,000 members. "A lot of us were pushed back into our closets because we had to go back to our parents' houses. A lot of us weren't out, we weren't accepted by our families. A lot of us were left in unsafe spaces."

Boado pointed out the fact that there were not one, but two, major Pride festivals in Metro Manila this year as proof that there was a pent-up need in the community to gather physically in solidarity.

"The community is very excited," said Boado. "We've been waiting for this for two years. You can expect that it's going to be very colourful!"

Boado added, "Our hope is for the Anti-Discrimination Bill to be passed. We want to be able to live a life that's free from fear of discrimination and violence. It's the bare minimum, but it's still something that we're fighting for to this day in this country." (Check out our full interview with Roanne Carreon and Tina Boado here.)

Over the past weekend on June 25, the Metro Manila Pride March was held in Pasay City at the CCP Open Grounds, while the Pride PH Festival was held at Quezon City Memorial Circle.

Other cities such as Baguio, Los Baños, and Bacolod also held their own Pride celebrations throughout the month.

Parade participants watched performances by queer artists and waved LGBTQ Pride flags and protest signs as they walked through the streets.

The Pride PH Festival was supported by the Quezon City government. Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, who joined in the celebration, wished the city a Happy Pride Month in a statement. "In Quezon City, we affirm that LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights," she said.

Organizers of the Pride PH Festival estimated that 25,000 people attended it. There was no crowd estimate released for the Metro Manila Pride March.

Attitudes towards sexuality remain conservative in the Philippines, whose population is largely Catholic. An Anti-Discrimination Bill, which seeks to prevent discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression (SOGIE), has been filed many times in Congress since 2000, but has not been passed by lawmakers.

Various cities and local governments have enacted ordinances in efforts to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, but the majority of Filipinos live in jurisdictions that lack any official protection from SOGIE-based discrimination.

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