Members of the Philippine gay community called for greater equality when participating for the first time in an annual giant Christmas lantern parade in Pampanga province, north of Manila on Dec. 20.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to San Fernando City to see hundreds of giant Christmas lanterns illuminated by almost a million lights.
This year's parade, where participants depict themes or advocacies in their lantern-making, followed a three-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Finally, we’re back! After three years, we are once again here to show not just how creative Filipinos are in making lanterns but how we convey our advocacy and principles using lanterns,” parade organizer Ogie Samson told UCA News.
This year organizers based their theme on human rights.
“We expected lantern makers to depict human rights — violations thereof or advocating for it,” Samson said.
The LGBTQ group made a giant rainbow-colored parol symbolizing their fight for equality and same-sex marriage.
On top of the lantern were the words “equality” — the battle cry of the gay community, according to LGBTQ youth leader Ernest Laguesca.
Laguesca said the gay community in the Philippines felt the need to fight for gay rights and equality during the Christmas event.
“We are bold and we will not get tired fighting for equality. We are also making a statement that even in events like this [Christmas lantern parade], the members of the gay community in the Philippines can make their quest or advocacies known,” Laguesca told UCA News.
Parol maker and gay rights advocate Harold Que claimed he found inspiration in the United Nation’s call to legalize gay marriage in the Philippines.
The call, however, was rejected by Philippine lawmakers in November saying the country was “not yet prepared” for such legislation.
“It is a sad realization that our Congress is advocating for human rights but not gay rights. Without same-sex marriage, gay couples shall remain in the shadows where there is discrimination and a deprivation of a bundle of rights exclusive in heterosexual partnerships,” Que told UCA News.
The Justice Department, however, has maintained its position that gay marriage is still not acceptable in the highly Catholic nation.
“They want same-sex marriage just like in the US and European states. But this kind of marriage is still contrary to our country’s public policy. You see, laws should mirror a country’s public policy and customs,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told reporters on Dec. 21.
Gay rights lawyer Karen Santos, however, stressed the importance of legislation in attaining respect and acceptance of LGBT people in the Philippine context.
“Here in the Philippines, the majority are still making fun of gay people as if being gay is a psychological disease. Gay unions are not protected. They are not governed by property regulations. Thus, we are pushing for equality. We demand respect from all religions, all of the year, especially during Christmas,” Santos told UCA News.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said that although Christmas was for every walk of life, Christian principles still governed the season.
“Yes, Christmas is for all as Christ came to redeem the world and all of mankind. But this does not mean that when we talk about moral issues like gay rights or same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church will allow it because of the idea that Christmas is for all. There are boundaries,” the prelates’ Family and Life Commission executive chair Father Rico Ayo told UCA News.