Thousands of people braved heavy downpours for this year's Gay Pride March in Manila on June 29 to press for equality, which drew criticism from Christian groups.
Even though the predominantly Catholic Philippines is noted for its acceptance of gay and transgender people, same-sex marriage is still outlawed and a gay rights bill has made very little progress in the legislature.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly used gay slurs against critics, and told a crowd in a speech last month that in his younger days he "cured" himself of homosexuality by going out with women.
Organizers of this year's Gay Pride March claimed around 70,000 people turned out for the event, the largest in recent years, despite the rain and protests from various Evangelical Christian, and even Catholic
"We believe homosexuality is a sin and is a perversion of God’s created purpose," said Derek, a member of a local Christian group.
Days before the march, the Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life
(CFC-FFL), an influential Catholic lay movement, issued a statement criticizing Ateneo de Manila
, a Jesuit university, for holding its own Pride March three months ago on March 15.
The university said its "One Big Pride" event was aimed at promoting awareness on gender equality and inclusivity among its students.
The CFC-FFL, however, said in its statement that the "continually evolving LGBTQIA+ genders ... have no basis in nature and reality," adding that "there are only two sexes as created by God, which are, male and female."
The initial LGBTQIA+ means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual.
In its statement, the CFC-FFL claimed that, "gays in the Philippines are well accepted and not just tolerated. They certainly are not discriminated against nor persecuted."
The group also maintained that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered and contrary to the natural law" while "same-sex attraction itself is objectively disordered," and the celebration of the Pride March and its message are "contrary to the Catholic faith."
The organization called on Catholic universities to "return to the very nature of Catholic education," that is "to raise strong Catholic men and women."
The lay organization also called on church leaders to educate Catholics on authentic Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and to strongly defend the faith.
Responding to the CFC-FFL statement, Ateneo de Manila's student body
said the Pride March in the campus is how they "build the nation" by "standing with the oppressed and committing ourselves to standing with a sector that has been systematically persecuted for existing."
The students said the CFC-FFL statement "perpetuates not just conscious persecution, but systematic violence committed against good and productive members of this nation by invalidating their experiences of gender identity, gender performance, and sexual orientation."
Manila’s Pride celebration is considered the oldest in the region, which started in 1994 with only about 50 people attending.