Celebrating the struggle, continuing the fight: UP honors legacy of diversity and equality during Pride Month

| Written by Philip Jamilla

Oble joins the celebration of Pride March in June 2013. Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO.

Half a century ago, on June 28, 1969, riots in response to a police raid on New York City’s Stonewall Inn signaled a turning point in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Today, the legacy of the Stonewall uprising is the annual commemoration of Pride marches and activities all throughout June, and all around the world.

In the Philippines, the first Pride marches came amid the consolidation of the country’s LGBTQ+ rights movement during the 1990s—from the Lesbian Collective’s participation in the International Women’s Day protests of 1992, the first Pride march led by Pro-Gay Philippines and the Metropolitan Community Church Manila on the 25th year since the Stonewall Inn riots in 1994, to the organization of the first Metro Manila Pride march in 1996.

Even the University of the Philippines (UP) played a crucial role in this colorful history: 1992 also witnessed the establishment of the UP Babaylan, the country’s first LGBTQ+ student organization, which joined the University’s annual Lantern Parade for the first time in the following year with the proud and defiant call “Out of the Closets, Into the Streets!”

Since then, the LGBTQ+ community has made great strides in asserting their rights and welfare, as well as in fostering solidarity with the struggles of other marginalized sectors. Pride marches have also grown larger and more festive; more are now also being held outside Metro Manila, often with the significant participation of members of the UP community. 

Despite these triumphs, the LGBTQ+ community still faces challenges such as abuse and violence from their own families, discriminatory policies in schools and workplaces, and barriers and stigma in access to healthcare. Thus, the fight for equality and inclusivity marches on, with Pride activities led by the UP community celebrating the struggles and hard-won achievements of the LGBTQ+ community.

 

Pride in the regions

 

Kulayan ang Kalayaan art exhibit, June 11 to 22, 2024 at the UPD College of Fine Arts’ Parola Gallery. Photo by Kevin Roque, UP MPRO

Organizations from the UP community across the University’s constituent units not only organized activities as part of regional Pride events, they also demonstrated their solidarity by marching with the LGBTQ+ community and even hosting Pride marches on their campuses.

Last June 1, the at UP Baguio’s (UPB) Teatro Amianan, where various LGBTQ+ organizations in the region — including Bahaghari’s UPB chapter — gathered to discuss the proposed Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIE) Equality Bill as well as Baguio City’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Meanwhile, the Carabao Park of UP Los Baños (UPLB) was once again the site of this year’s  last Sunday, June 23. Alongside calls for the passage of the SOGIESC Equality Bill, advocates and organizations also marched to denounce imperialism and militarism, as well as the red-tagging and attacks against the region’s human rights defenders.

A  was also held at UPLB’s Student Union Ampitheater last June 15. It featured performances from Lavading, Alva Rondilla, Jom Garcia, and Nadine, along with solidarity messages from various organizations — including the UPLB Babaylan and the UPLB chapter of the League of Filipino Students — which highlighted the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized sectors in the region.

 

Spotlighting queer artists

 

The UP Diliman Gender Office (UPDGO) together with other offices, student organizations, and sectoral formations is currently coordinating the activities for . Themed “Rampa Kweens! Tungo sa Kaligtasan, Kalusugan, Kalayaan!” the month-long celebration includes discussions on the history and struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines, along with art fairs, exhibits, drag performances, and cultural gatherings which aim to spotlight queer artists.

“Garden of Blossoms” by Naomi Alexis R. Laviña for the Kulayan ang Kalayaan art exhibit. Photo by Kevin Roque, UP MPRO

Among the highlights of UPD Pride so far include the  at the Camerata Courtyard last June 4, which featured performances by Bayang Barrios, the CMu Staff Shakers, Lharz Lazo, Malou Matute, Gitara at Awit Group, the UP Dance Company, and the Iskollas. 

24 queer artists and their works were also featured in the , which ran from June 11 to 22 at the UPD College of Fine Arts’ Parola Gallery. The exhibit also hosted the FADragdahan drag brunch last June 14, where drag queens Sassme, Skinishaa, Tina Moran, and Oh Eiko took the stage with garments from the UP Association of Clothing Technology Students.

Last June 14, the  also launched the first episode of Kinaiya: Baklaan at Likhaan, which featured the works and virtual performances of various queer writers from the UP community.

The UPD Pride is set to culminate in a Pride march this Friday, June 28, which will begin at the Palma Hall’s AS Steps. The march will be followed by a concert which will feature performances from homegrown drag queens and bands, as well as solidarity messages from advocates and various sectoral organizations.

 

 

Telling stories, fostering conversations

 

UP Oblation draped with Pride flag. Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO

Together with marches, concerts, performances, and art exhibits, Pride activities across UP’s constituent units also aim to cultivate inclusivity by amplifying the stories of members of the LGBTQ+ community and by fostering conversations about the issues they face through forums, gender sensitivity seminars, lectures, and film screenings. 

 aired a series of special episodes for Pride Month covering various topics and discussions on the struggle of the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines such as the community’s history of resistance and participation in other social movements, queer narratives in Philippine media and cinema, religiosity, and queer couples’ right to care.  

Following a series of discussions and regional conferences on SOGIESC issues and concerns, the UP College of Law Gender Law and Policy Program in partnership with The Asia Foundation hosted last June 11. Justices and legislators, law enforcers, civic leaders, and academics joined as plenary speakers for the panel discussions.

The UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies also supported  — which was hosted by the Lunas Collective, the Philippine Ballroom Community, and We Are Shapeshifters — last June 15 at the We Are Shapeshifters Movement + Gatherings Studio in Escolta, Manila. The event featured private sharing circles which served as a safe space for queer folk to connect with each other and with allies, and to share their stories of vulnerability and healing, as well as a vogue jam which invited its participants to learn more about ballroom culture.

The UP Open University (UPOU) Center for Open and Digital Teaching and Learning’s Open Talk, in partnership with the UPOU Office of Gender Concerns, likewise aired  last June 18 titled “Speak OUt”, where the University’s LGBTQ+ students shared their stories and experiences.

In coordination with the UPLB Gender Center, the UPLB chapter of the All UP Academic Employees Union also held  with the theme “Pagtahak sa Daan Tungo sa Pantay-Pantay na Lipunan,” also last June 18.

Meanwhile, the UP Visayas (UPV) Gender and Development Program and the Ugsad Regional Gender and Resource Network will hold the forum  this Friday, June 28, at the Little Theater in UPV’s Iloilo City campus. Resource speakers for the forum are set to discuss concerns regarding sexually-transmitted infections, especially community-based and peer-led HIV interventions, as well as the role of academic institutions in fostering inclusivity.

The UPD School of Library and Information Studies is also holding  on the representation on the same day, titled “​​Bakla, Bakla sa mga Kuwentong Pambata: The Representation of Bakla in Filipino Children’s Literature.”

On Saturday, June 29, the UP Film Institute (UPFI) and the Philippine Collegian will host the  AlternaTV film screenings and talkbacks organized by the Altermidya Network together with Karapatan and Bahaghari at the UPFI Film Center. The morning session will feature the short films “Congratulations, DX!” by Mark Felix Ebreo and “Nang Maglublob Ako sa Isang Mangkok ng Liwanag” by Kukay Zinampan, while the afternoon session will feature PJ Raval’s documentary “Call Her Ganda.”