Friday, December 9, 2011

The 2011 Manila Pride March

Last December 3 marked the date of this year's annual Manila Pride March, which typically takes place on the first Saturday of December. It's a great event for celebrating LGBT diversity in the Philippines, even if the timing feels a bit weird.

There's a lot of lore behind the march that tries to explain why it happens in December instead of June (which it used to). The most common answer has more to do with the fact that June is the height of the rainy season and more often than not it leads to the parade being rained out. So moving it to December has remained to be a generally more practical alternative plus it coincides with AIDS Awareness month here in the Philippines.

This is my third-ever march and my second together with Tobie. When we became a couple, the Pride March was one of our first activities together that involved being this public about our sexuality and being a couple and we've enjoyed the experience ever since. It's a shame that last year we weren't able to march together since a family trip to Singapore kept Tobie out of the country at the time.

Two years ago we purchased our rainbow pendants as a sort of memento of that first march. This year we bought matching "I WANT A MARRIAGE TOO" pins, that were rather cute even if slightly awkward in phrasing. If anything, they certainly sent the right message.

In years past we've ended up joining other friends by marching with the party list group LADLAD. This year was different since it was the first time that our friends from the Pinoy G4M forum marched as an organization as well. I gave us an alternative group to march with, one that included a lot more of our friends. Plus a few of our close (yet non-forum) friends also joined us for the march this year, although in hindsight I regret not having taken photos of the actual group.

Then again, I barely took any photos since we were too busy having fun - and this was despite the small turnout of religious protesters trying to get us to turn away from our life of sin. Funny that. I did take a few videos though - I felt that it was a better way to capture the experience a bit more compared to just still images.

It was a long and somewhat tiring march, but I don't think we really felt the physical fatigue at the time. We were marching for very important reasons, all to do with the importance of LGBT rights, the fight for equality and our call to end gender discrimination. And it was also a clear reminder that the pink community is very much alive and thriving in the country and we remain to be a legitimate group that deserves equal treatment and better representation in government.

I could go into a bunch of different stories and anecdotes about what made the march memorable such as the creative ways some of the marchers dealt with the religious protesters - one of my favorite examples is the image to the right. Or I could go on and on discussing the even crazier jokes and antics our group got into as we marched, which was a big part of the reason why we didn't feel tired at all.

In the end, what made this year's Manila Pride march so different was not the general turnout (which was rather good) or how crazy some of the signs and placards were. More than all that, it felt amazingly empowering to be marching with people who were near and dear to our hearts - our friends who had taken the time to join us for the event regardless of how simple it was.

It really means a lot to me (and Tobie too, I'm sure) that a number of our good friends took to the streets that day. We can only hope that more of our friends join us during next year's march and the many marches to come given how important it is that we continue to send a strong message to our government and to the country at large about how relevant we are and how at the end of the day we're people too - people who deserve the right to love whomever we choose to.

So a belated Happy Pride, to you readers! Hope to see you at next year's march!

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