SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD Humanist Alliance Philippines Junior member Junius Dale Capus, to this day, remembers one instance fondly from his high school years: “When I was in Grade 9, I joined a pageant in school. During the pageant, I was interviewed by a panel of organizers. They told me that, ‘We heard some stories, some murmurs that you are gay. Is that true, because gay people are not allowed to join this pageant.’”
The discrimination did not stop at the school level. Capus recounts other stories of his lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) friends going to church, where “they were mocked by priests.” The priests would humiliatingly imitate his friends, flailing their arms in exaggerated motions.
This discrimination holds similarity in the lives of other LGBTQ members. Grade 12 student Girard Mariano Lopez adds on to Capus’ sentiments: “All my life, I was brought up in a homophobic school and extended family. I was homophobic for quite a while, as a defense mechanism. Although, when I was young, I knew that I had affection for the same sex,” he said.
Thus, it is with these accounts of backlash against their identity and self-expression that Capus and Lopez, along with Joshua Villalobos, formed the first LBGTQ youth organization in Bacolod, named “Tribu-Duag.”
“Tribu-Duag, or ‘Type of Colors’ in English, was formed as a reaction to the fact that there wasn’t going to be any Pride event this year in Bacolod City. We decided to step up to take the initiative and bring back Pride,” Lopez said.
Additionally, this year also marked the 50th anniversary of the Stone Wall Riots, an event that would ignite the worldwide spiral of LGBTQ activism. Hence, to honor this event’s legacy, these young leaders organized the first Pride parade Bacolod has seen since 2015.
It is important to note, however, that while the Pride parade commemorated the Stone Wall Riots and freedom of self-expression, it was also a message to the government and citizens of modern society. “Pride is protest. It is a call to government for them to know what we need to feel safe and more comfortable in our community,” Capus said.
Additionally, Lopez pointed out the importance of having Pride in our contemporary society: “We are in the 21st century. It is important for Bacolod City to be in step with other highly urbanized metropolitan cities around the country who are doing their own advocacies in creating a safe space for the LGBTQIA community,” he said.
Thus, with their youthful energy and aspirations, these students held the Parade on June 22 at the Old Bacolod City Hall. The beginning of the event featured these leaders explaining to the LGBTQ community what they stood for and the peaceful mechanisms in which they protest.
Furthermore, they hosted numerous political bodies to come and talk to the LGBTQ community. It was with these efforts that members of this overlooked community finally felt like they were being listened to and fought for.
As they marched down the busy streets of Metro Bacolod, Lopez, Capus, Villalobos, and hundreds of the LGBTQ community were exuding a radiance of joy and happiness. They filled the busy streets with loud music, dancing as they stepped forward. Many people, on the sidelines, were shocked – this was a comeback, after a very long time that the LGBTQ community had stood forward.
They were screaming at Bacolod: “We exist! We are humans too! We only want happiness for everyone!”
After the Parade had concluded, the team had recognized the different members of the LGBTQ community that were present in the event: they even recognized deaf members of the LGBTQ community, who expressed their gratitude through sign language. Once again, this is the inclusivity this community was standing for.
Additionally, the student team also received the help of Clint John Severino, a father who wore the sign “Free Dad Hugs” on his t-shirt. Severino symbolized the parental acceptance many LGBTQ did not receive. As he stood in one corner, people were piling up to meet and hug him.
From his own words, on a Facebook post that has received 3.2K likes, he wrote: “It’s heartbreaking to realize how much these kids want our acceptance and love, how much we have shattered their confidence in us as parents they would be afraid of us finding out they joined something that every parent should be proud of. We all love our kids. We just need to show it to them.”
Currently, Tribu-Duag and its members are focusing their attention in one direction: the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (Sogie) Bill, a law that, if passed at the national level, will grant protection of the LGBTQ community from discrimination in society and the workforce.
To this date, this bill has never borne true fruition: “It never got passed, just keeps getting into readings. Because of the transitions in our government, the bill keeps dying,” Capus said. He stressed the importance of having legal protection for the LGBTQ community.
Asked about the importance of activism, Capus said, “Joining activism is a very tough challenge for me. I find joy, happiness because this was a great opportunity for us to be heard by the government. You don’t need to be a leader. You can be just a volunteer or be a member of these organizations. As long as you live a life of advocacy, you have a voice, and the strength to take action.
“I want to show them that, at the age of seventeen, I have this advocacy: to help the LGBT have a safe space. To establish protection for everyone.”
Furthermore, when asked about the main purpose of Tribu-Duag, Lopez said, “If you cannot accept us at the moment, we hope that you can respect our beliefs, like how we respect your beliefs. All we want is a place where we can all exist harmoniously as well.
“At the end of the day, that is our main goal - that there will be no more need for a safe space, although it will take millennia for this to be achieved, we hope that there is no more need for all these organizations to exist.
“We hope that one day, we’ll have a very loving and accepting society.”