The power of the rainbow: Marching for love and equality

Rainbows usually come after the rain, but this time around, they arrived just before and powered through it.

On September 19, UP Diliman held its annual Pride March on the last day of its week-long celebration of Pride with the theme, “Tumitindi. Tumitindig.” Laine Pardilla, the Punong Babaylan, says the theme is inspired by the most relevant challenges faced by the Filipino LGBTQ+ community.

With the SOGIE Equality Bill still being challenged in Congress, leading to the possibility of it not being passed before the year ends, Pardilla says it’s important for the community and its allies to never waver in fighting for the cause.

Hindi dapat mawalan ng pag-asa ang mga advocates and allies sa pakikipaglaban tungo sa pagkakapantay-pantay,” added Pardilla.

The theme urges the LGBTQ+ community and allies to persist in the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions (SOGIE).

Pride Week consisted of numerous events such as an exhibit, SOGIE Caravan, Reigniting the Spark: A forum on LGBTQ+ Activism and Allyship, Breaking the Stigma: A Free and Confidential HIV Screening, UP Pride March, and the UP Pride Concert.

Last Friday’s events wrapped up the colorful week with the march, as well as a concert held at the Engineering Steps where the crowd sang along and cheered to performances by Radha and Frenchie Dy.

The crowd of 1,000, with members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, gathered under the giant rainbow that stretched across Quezon Hall as early as 4 in the afternoon. Before the festivities even truly began, the steps were already packed with organizations and student councils with their banners of support, people taking photos by the rainbow installation, and friends greeting one another as they arrived at the venue.

Gloomy skies soon clouded over the celebration, but the scene remained as vibrant as its participants — full of life as rainbow flags, face paint, placards and posters in support of the cause, and bold outfits occupied the event.

Serving as a place of pure comfort and acceptance, people sang and danced amid the pouring rain, and no amount of winds and water seemed strong enough to damper this sense of spirit and community.

Fueled by the buzz and excitement, the crowd marched from Quezon Hall to Melchor Hall, proclaiming gender equality and acceptance. It was in this crowd that the people found love, in all its colors and among all genders.

Rain poured shortly after the crowd left Quezon Hall, leaving them soaking by the time they were in front of the Vargas Museum. This was not an uncommon occurrence, as according to Pardilla, the Pride March gets rained on every year.

But the the harsh downpour seemed unable to shake the large number of participants, as a massive portion of the crowd continued marching under the rain.

“When it rained… I guess in a way it showed the commitment of some of the people which was heartwarming talaga,” said Alvin Dela Fuente, a first timer and ally.

Getting crafty, the crowd began using their posters and banners as makeshift umbrellas as they continued to march on, undeterred by the weather and even livelier than before.

For unity and equality

The event was organized by the UP Babaylan, the leading LGBTQ+ students’ support and advocacy group in the University. Founded in 1992, Babaylan is the longest-running and recognized LGBTQ+ student organization in the country and in Asia, advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and Filipinos of different SOGIE.

“Pride is about the unity of the community against discrimination and the greater fight against patriarchy that has perpetuated harassment on the community for so long,” said UP Babaylan member Amber Quiban. According to Quiban, people of different SOGIEs, even straight allies can come along and celebrate Pride, adding that “the unity that we have … [is] because of that one objective.”

“The happiness [was] visible [on] everyone’s faces… the march [also] served as a platform for the LGBTQ+ community to express themselves freely without judgments.” said Pauline Alvarez, a freshman and another first-timer and ally.

“The atmosphere was inviting and full of good vibes. Everyone was just so happy.” Dela Fuente added. Alvarez and dela Fuente were among the many allies present at the event.

Dela Fuente said that as an ally, it was important for him to attend and participate at the march, emphasizing the importance of allies’ support of the community. “By celebrating pride, they help in making the LGBT community feel welcomed and accepted,”

For acceptance, not tolerance

Despite the growing number of allies, the LGBTQ+ community continues to face discrimination in different institutions- the family, establishments, schools, workplaces, and even online. The Philippines may be more liberal than other Southeast Asian countries but the difference between tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is clear.

“As long as the LGBTQ+ Community receives unfair treatment and discrimination in the society, Pride is something we should always celebrate,” said Alvarez.

This is echoed by Kat Estrella, USC Gender Committee Co-head, who said, “As long as the culture that allows discrimination and oppression of the LGBTQ+ community persists, we must be celebrating pride everyday.”

For love and for freedom

Two years after coming out to her high school best friend, Kathleen Jacildo and her girlfriend attended their very first Pride together at the march. “Celebrating UP Pride was great especially since I could feel safe with the person I love and be surrounded with hundreds of loving and supportive people,” said Jacildo.

Jacildo’s coming out didn’t happen all in one go. “It took awhile feeling around if it were safe already and if it was good timing,” she said, noting that it was during this year’s Pride celebration she was really able to feel free and accepted. “One moment that struck me the most was when it rained and everyone still had a smile on their face and kept on marching,” she added.

Although UP is regarded for having a more open minded environment, in a dominantly Catholic country, members of the LGBTQ+ still face difficulties finding a safe space for their free expression.

According to Jacildo, “it’s important to celebrate Pride not just for ourselves but for those [who] could not as well.”

Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community remains present in the traditional Filipino home, on the streets, and online. This is why participants say that now, more than ever, it is important to foster a free and safe space for those who struggle for acceptance and equality.

“Pride is a protest against discrimination and violence… [and] is also an avenue for the LGBTQ+ community to express themselves freely,” said Pardilla.

No amount of rain dull the colors of the rainbow. If anything, it is the very downpour that causes the colors to shine through.

As long as discrimination and unfair treatment of the LGBTQ+ community exists, the people will march with the rainbow.

“Pride is for everyone! It’s a march to symbolize the fight for equality and acceptance – it’s for love,” concluded Jacildo. “[It’s] a march that’ll continue on even after the day it is known everywhere that love is love.

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