Rainbow milestones in Mayon country

Albay held its first Pride march, and its capital, Legazpi City, had its first rainbow pedestrian lane

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Buragons Pride The first rainbow pedestrian lane in Legazpi City, located in the barangay of Buraguis.

September 5, 2022

The LGBTQ+ community of Albay achieved milestones this year as they celebrated LGBTQ+ Pride Month last June. The province in the Bicol Region, southern Luzon, known for its iconic Mayon Volcano, hosted its first Pride march, and its capital and regional center, Legazpi City, had its first rainbow pedestrian lane.

The rainbow pedestrian lane is in Barangay 58 or Buraguis, unveiled on 20 June. The project was spearheaded by the Sangguniang Kabataan of Buraguis and local LGBTQ+ organizations Buragons Pride and Gayon Cares.

The youth proved to be active during Pride celebration.

“This pedestrian lane symbolizes that Buraguis is a safe place for our community; that we, as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, should be accepted and celebrated, not just by ourselves but also by those who recognize our existence,” said Buragons Pride.

First Pride march

Albay joined several other provinces, towns and cities that held Pride marches for the first time this 2022.

Spearheaded by Gayon Cares with Grupo Hablondawani kan Bicolandia, the march was held on 29 June, beginning in the afternoon in front of Governor’s Mansion in Barangay 2 and ending at Peñaranda Park. A solidarity program followed, where representatives of LGBTQ+ organization delivered their messages.

IT takes many colors to make the cause of diversity come alive.

Prominent LGBTQ+ ally, Senator Risa Hontiveros, sent her video message to the community, saying that she will further push for the SOGIESC Equality Bill, which she has been championing for many years. She said also that she will not give up and feels more positive this time around.

“Let’s build a world where coming out is a moment of tenderness between parent and child instead of fear of disowning or hate. Let’s build a world where we can appreciate each other’s differences without fear or closed-mindedness,” Hontiveros said. “Let’s build a bigger world for each other, one that allows us to take up the space we need to be who we truly are without borders or shame. Let’s build a world without glass ceilings or windows. That means a world where we can all participate in, belong in, and truly be with each other as one nation in which everyone is free, safe and equipped with a real chance to pursue the life we dream of.”

Sending a message of acceptance.

She added: “There are gaps in our society. This post-pandemic world is the perfect chance to lay down new bricks for a strong foundation for our country. We ensure access to basic services, education, livelihood for every Filipino.”

The Pride march was a culmination of Pride celebration in Bicol, which had several events including Buragons Pride’s seminar, “Bakit Ako Mahihiya: Why Does SOGIE Matter?” on 19 July at the Buraguis Elementary School Covered Court; and Gayon Cares’ Bikol Pride Queen 2022 Grand Coronation Night on 29 June and Pride Night at Eruption Bar on 30 June.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FB.COM/Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Albay 13th
Provincial officials during the public hearing of the ordinance.

Anti-discrimination ordinance passed

The Pride celebration in Albay was aptly more celebratory as about six months ago, the LGBTQ+ community achieved a milestone in the province.

The 13th Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay has unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), the first of its kind in the Bicol Region.

Provincial Ordinance No. 0065-2021 or “Prohibiting Discrimination in the Province of Albay on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Equality, and Expression, and Providing Penalties Therefor” was passed by the provincial board on its 10th Special Session on 20 December 2021.

Also known as the Albay Anti-SOGIE Discrimination Ordinance, the local law was authored by the province’s vice governor Edcel Greco Lagman. First District Board Member Baby Glenda Bongao served as proponent.

CLAD in rainbow.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment and in the workplace as well as in education and educational institutions. Also, illegal are disallowance from entry and refusal of service in any establishments including restaurants, bars, stores, resorts, and other commercial establishments that are open to the general public.

The law also disallows discrimination in the delivery of goods and services; in public accommodations; and the issuance of licenses, certifications and other documents.

It also penalizes “verbal and non-verbal ridicule and vilification” which include “contemptuous taunting, cat calling, jeering, mocking or imitating whether in writing, in words, or in actions; expressions of slanderous and abusive statement whether in writing, in words, or in actions; execution of any activity in public which incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of a person or LGBTs in general; and doing any other analogous acts of ridicule in any time and place which may intimidate or result in the loss of self-esteem or sense of safety and security of or infliction of psychological or emotional harm on the person.”

Participants go all out with their costumes.

Discrimination through harassment, unjust detention and involuntary confinement is also considered against the law.

Aside from the act of discrimination, the ordinance also prohibits promotion of discrimination against LGBT persons. “It shall be unlawful to organize groups and activities which promote and incite discrimination, hatred and bigotry against” LGBTQ+ persons, it says.

Aside from laying out what are prohibited, the law also outlines plans and programs such as the dissemination of anti-discrimination modules as well as installation of gender-inclusive lavatories in public places.

Makeup artist Marchson Nilkkrram.

Affirmative actions in the areas of employment, education and healthcare are also defined.

The conduct of gender sensitivity education and training seminars in both private and public offices are encouraged.

In the education, the law ensures equal access to educational opportunities and elimination of gender stereotyping. A review of educational materials is urged to “ensure that these do not contain sex-role stereotyping and gender discriminatory role modeling.”

The establishment of LGBTQ+ help desks in hospitals as well as HIV/AIDS-related concerns are addressed by the law.

Moreover, it mandates the creation of the Albay Pride Council (APC) and lays out its duties and functions including acting on violations of the law, monitoring and documenting discrimination cases, assisting victims, and recommending policies.

The ordinance also declares 2 June as Albay LGBTQ Equality Day, which will be celebrated with several activities including a Pride march, spearheaded by the APC.

“In Albay, we want an inclusive society where every Albayano — regardless of age, sex, gender identification, social status, educational attainment, religious belief or political persuasion — is assured of a voice that will be listened to and respected,” Lagman wrote in his Facebook page.

He added: “In this province, we do not pay lip service to lofty ideals like non-discrimination, equality before the law and participatory local governance. We make sure that these high-minded words and phrases become as real as they can possibly get.”

In line with the new law, the Office of the Vice Governor conducted its Gender and Development capacity building and consultation seminar with the LGBTQ + community of Albay on 7 March. It invited a seasoned leader, LGBTQ+ activist Percival Cendana, as its guest speaker to discuss SOGIESC.

“Rest assured that the provincial government of Albay (PGA) will work to be this community’s enduring partner as it creates an environment that does not only tolerate diversity but will celebrate and empower it. It is the PGA’s vision to have a genuinely inclusive society where all Albayanos regardless of gender and/or gender identity will be free from all kinds of threats and discrimination,” Lagman enthused.

The passage of the Albay Anti-SOGIE Discrimination Ordinance was lauded by the Commission on Human Rights and LGBTQ+ organization PANTAY (Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders).

“We stand in solidarity with our Equality Champs and fellow advocates in Albay for reclaiming safe spaces for people of diverse SOGIE and upholding human rights,” PANTAY said in its 9 February Facebook post. “We strongly encourage other LGUs (local government units) to take part in this historical movement for equality and pass their respective local anti-discrimination ordinances. At the same time, we firmly reiterate the need for the SOGIE Equality Bill, a national legislation that would protect all Filipinos from SOGIE-based discrimination.”

While the number of anti-discrimination ordinances around the country is growing, the SOGIESC Equality Bill is still languishing for more than 20 years now.

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