Pride PH  Festival 2023:  Historic, unstoppable, euphoric

The solidarity of the LGBTQ+ community grows from strength to strength. This year, the Pride PH Festival on 24 June at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City made history with 110,752 attendees, according to Quezon City government and became the biggest Pride event not just in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia!

Spearheaded by the Pride PH National Coalition in partnership with the local government of Quezon City, the event ran from 10 a.m. to midnight. People of all persuasions flocked to the festivities in droves for the Pride Expo, where organizations, sponsors and LGBTQ-run businesses engaged with attendees; the Pride march, where we as a community showed our pride and amplified our call for equal rights; and Pride Night, where we celebrated LGBTQ+ identities and talents through a night-long concert.

Pride PH posted on social media: “Sa lahat ng organizers, sponsors, partners, guests, hosts, performers, volunteers, at sa INYONG LAHAT na nakibahagi sa laban ng bahaghari at nakipag-#LoveLabanSaQC, maraming salamat po!

#PridePHFestival2023 was a successful and historical event because of each and everyone of you. Mula sa komunidad, para sa kumunidad. Kita-kits ulit tayo next year!”

Photograph courtesy of Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Stronger, together

“Love Laban” was this year’s theme. In 2022, it was “Alab for Love.”

“Last year, we were able to ignite the fire or alab in the hearts of our attendees; and for this year, we, together with the 50,000 expected crowd attending this year’s festival, will use this fire to fight for love. Stronger, together,” Rod Singh, the program and creative director of Pride PH Festival, told online magazine Mega Drag days before the event.

Singh’s fellow advocate and organizer, Mela Habijan, reinforced her sentiment: “From 25K last year, 110K showed up — a solid signifier of our growing courage and strength as a community. We are no longer afraid to go out to be seen and heard because what we fight and stand for is fundamental! Pride is to live a life free from prejudice and discrimination. Maraming salamat sa 110K sa QC. Mabuhay din ang mga kapatid nating bumuo at dumalo sa Pride sa Makati, Baguio, Quirino, Cebu, at Cagayan de Oro.”

Habijan added, “Pride PH is very personal to me. It is one of my love letters to our LGBTQIA+ family. My prayer: may it be a legacy.”

Singh is the director of the film Mamu; and a Mother Too and the competition series Drag Den while Habijan is Miss Trans Global 2020. Together, they met with Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on “how to forward a more inclusive and progressive city that recognizes and respects the expression and experiences of one’s identity.”

Posible siya as long as you have elected officials recognizing our struggles as a community. Ang gandang modelo din nito for other LGUs. Tayo sa Pride PH, hindi lang national ang calls at plans natin. Pinu-push din natin du’n sa local levels kasi mas nakakalampag natin ‘yung national dahil may existing models ka na pwedeng ipakita,” Singh told Mega Drag.

Photograph courtesy of C. Mendez Legaspi
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte led the opening ceremony of the exhibit on Pride march history in the Philippines.

Unwavering allies

Hindi na pwedeng maliitin, hindi na pwedeng balewalain, at hindi na pwedeng magbingi-bingihan sa ating panawagan na kayo ay tratuhin ng tama at buong pusong tanggapin,” said the awesome ally Belmonte, as she led her local government unit members and foreign ambassadors to push for inclusivity, gender equality and safe space in her city.

Besides the heartwarming actions from the government sector and the diplomatic corps, the Pride PH festival also enjoyed massive support from private corporations which value their LGBTQ+ employees and consumers.

Among the big companies present were Aboitiz Power Corp., BHP, Coca-Cola Beverage Philippines Inc., Concentrix, Foundever, McDonald’s and TELUS International, Balboa Digital, Mondelez International, TDCX, Alapaap Printing Solutions Inc., Castro Communication, Good Year, Hotel Sogo, IHG Hotel & Resorts, IngramMicro, S&P Global, Transcom, TTEC, Department of Tourism — Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, TikTok, Telstra, Teleperformance, Reed Elsevier, P&G, Levi’s, ING, FactSet, Colgate-Palmolive, Canva and ANZ.

Angkas, the motorcycle-riding service, hosted proud bisexual and Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Michelle Dee and transgender woman host-actress Kaladkaren in its float, saying, “RIDE WITH PRIDE. Salamat sa pag angkas sa float namin, @michelledee &
@kaladkaren! Happy Pride!”

GCash, which enlisted drag queen Turing as an ambassador and which advocates for inclusivity and equal opportunities for all, was also at the festival “so our employees can fly their flag high and #WERKwithPRIDE!

And while drag queens in the United States are being discouraged to stay away from children by some lawmakers and their supporters, charity organization Save the Children Philippines joined the festival, saying, “Thank you to everyone who joined us and visited our booth! Much work remains. Let us continue to work together in building a fairer, safer and more colorful world for and with children.”

Photograph courtesy
of Quezon City GoverNment
An attendee in their colorful outift.
Photograph courtesy of Quezon City Government
Holding the rainbow flag up high.

Phenomenal performers

A merry mix of top-notch entertainers from the fields of drag, showbiz, music and social media served glamour, humor and happiness: Sassa Gurl, Fonzi. Paul Pablo, Nica del Rosario, Lady Morgana, Minty Fresh, Maria Christina, Pura Luka Vega, House of Mizrahi, Peabo, Ayel Mari, AC Soriano, Silas, Phi Palmos, Adrian Lindayag, Raven Heyres, Lance, Drei Arias, Femme MNL, TFX and Christian Antolin.

For the first time, the first Drag Race Philippines winner Precious Paula Nicole and the first Drag Den winner Naia performed together in one stage.

Markki Stroem, sexy actor and “daddy,” gushed on his Instagram: “Over 100,000 people strong! Hosted a primetime slot of QC #PridePH with gorgeous @dragdenph winner
@naiablack_. What a turnout with some of the most wonderful and heartfelt guests including the one and only @iceseguerra.

“Wanted to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers and ICONS who made this event happen! Was able to have a selfie with my first co-host @greynelized from Side-B and the woman of the hour
@mayorjoybelmonte and incredibly thankful to have witnessed the passing of a new law to protect same sex partners in QC! We LOVE YOU MAYOR JOY!”

All throughout the festivities, the following also gave all-out euphoric performances: SexBomb Girls with Wally and Allan K, Ate Dick, Dom Guyot, Dora Dorado, G22, Ian Pangilinan, Jason Dhakal, JC Alcantara, JK Labajo, John Mark Saga, Jon Santos, Justine Pena, Lady Gagita, Lucas Garcia, Macoy Dubs, Marina Summers, Matthew Chang, Megan Young, Nectarines, Pipay, Sparks Camp Boys, Spectrum, Stef Aranas, VXON, Yes My Love and Zar Donato.

A sour note was when the band Silent Sanctuary was dropped from the roster for alleged homophobic behavior. Yes, homophobic actions are unacceptable in such celebration.

The night, however, winded down on a sparkling high as actress Andrea Brillantes came out in full drag designed by Carl Arcusa. She later posted on her socials: “Love will continue to win! Happy Pride! #PrideMarch2023.”


The singular Senator Risa

The most vocal and most vibrant ally we could ever pray for is Senator Risa Hontiveros, who floated onstage on butterfly wings to thunderous applause from the grateful crowd. Parts of her rousing speech follows: “Sa lahat kayong mga mahal ko, mga anak ko, maraming maraming salamat sa inyong walang sawang suporta. Kayo ang dahilan kung bakit hindi tayo mapapagod lumaban at makipag-debate at mag-explain sa mga sarado ang isip: Na walang nakakahiya sa pagiging bakla! Tama? Kung ganun, sabay-sabay tayong mag-chant: We are here! We are queer! We are proud and unstoppable!

Kahit 23 years na nila tayong dinededma, sabi nila, ‘Malayo pa,’ pero ang sinasabi natin,‘Malayo na.’ Someday, we will get there. Gaano man katagal tayo nilang si-seenzone sa SOGIE Bill, meron silang hindi maitanggi: You exist in this world. This is also your space. At deserve ninyo ang parehong acceptance, respect at love tulad ng sa kaninuman. Love is love, no matter what they think. Claim your space!

At sa mga allies diyannasaaan na yung mga kapwa ko allies natin?— it is our responsibility to stand with the LGBTQIA+ community. At higit pa sa pakikiisa, ipagtanggol natin sila. More pa, mga kasama. Sa totoo lang, hindi lang sila dapat ang naga-out! Dapat tayo rin!

Hindi naman humihingi ng balato ang LGBTQIA+ community. Ang hangad nila ay pareho sa hinahangad ng ninumang straight: Ang karapatan na maging totoo sa sarili at karapatang mahalin ang minamahal. At ang karapatan na maging maligaya kasama ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay.  Alangan namang mga mga straight lang ang may happy love stories.

Siyempre kasama diyan ang karapatang maging proud sa pinili mong gender expression, na maging ligtas sa ganitong mga pampublikong espasyo, na dapat walang bully sa mga eskwelahan, at walang diskriminasyon sa trabaho.

“So sa ating lahat, mga mahal, kapit lang ipu-push pa rin natin ang SOGIE Equality Bill, ipaglalaban natin yan at ipaglalaban ko pa rin yan pramis yan.

At higit sa lahat huwag nating kalimutan, mahalin natin ang isa’t isa. I’ve said it before and I say this again, say it with me: we will win! We will win!

“So mga mahal, ngayon ay ang araw to unite, stand tall, shine bright for everyone to see, not only today, but for always! It’s time to parade with pride!”


All out love from a leader

It can’t be emphasized enough how the LGBTQ+ community supported our beloved former Vice President Leni Robredo, who made history by being the first highest-ranking government official to express solidarity with the community and send her messages during previous Pride marches. She also is the first and only presidential candidate who took time to have a dialogue with the LGBTQ+ community, and the first and only candidate to be endorsed by the community.

And on that Pride day, she was among the many advocates, allies, activists and leaders, who delivered their messages that were part of the post-march program. The Angat Buhay chairperson returned the love in a video message beamed to an adoring audience: “Patuloy ang pakikipaglaban para sa mas maganda, mas bukas at mapagmahal na lipunan.”

Tiwala ako na sama-sama tayong magmamartsa tungo sa tagumpay, sa araw kung kailan masisilayan natin ang isang Pilipinas na mas matingkad ang pag-ibig at niyayakap ang bawat isa,” the esteemed public official, lawyer and developmental worker said.