Following the recently concluded Pride month celebration, the Puerto Princesa City government opened its doors in supporting the LGBTQ+ community projects and programs to help advance their rights against harassment and violence.
Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates said that they are open to providing help to any programs and projects that will come from the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) sector as long as they are significant, feasible, and would provide for better community-setting in the city.
“We are very open to all programs, projects, ihain lang sa amin at kung ito ay makabuluhan talaga, full support ang ibibigay ng pamahalaang panlungsod,” Socrates said on Saturday.
Attending as a special guest at the Pride parade in the city, Vice Mayor Socrates said that to promote dignity and equal rights, increasing visibility as a social group and celebrating sexual diversity and gender variance is essential to building a better community.
Over 500 LGBTQ+ members in Puerto Princesa City showed up on June 29 to wave their rainbow flags and parade their colorful costumes from the Old Airport to the People’s Amphitheater in Mendoza Park.
Balangaw president Favs Gabo said that there was an increase in the number of this year’s participants, which indicates an improvement in the openness of city residents to accept them and the queer issues.
Gabo said that lately, the city government has made them a beneficiary of some Gender and Development (GAD) projects and they hope that soon, it will recognize them as a sector worthy of becoming a partner in community development.
He said that the separate fund their sector will receive will be used to fund projects and programs for the benefit of their members so they will become productive in their communities.
“‘Yong pakikipag-communicate namin sa government, malaking bagay ‘yon kumbaga na mas maintindihan nila na bigyan talaga kami, paglaanan talaga kami ng sabihin na natin na pinansyal o pondo para sa amin kasi kami rin ang una na magri-reach out sa mga kasamahan namin. Kami ang nakakaalam kung ano ang problema nila,” he emphasized.
Gabo pointed out that their Balangaw organization is targeting to also become active in discussing community issues that also affect their lives, such as social justice, environment, and health.
He said that they will be more visible now as they want to open the minds of the public on what the LGBTQ+ is all about so they can be treated no differently.
The Pride parade, Gabo said, is to also help the next generation of LGBTQ+ to freely express themselves and not be afraid to fight for their rights as equal members of the society.
“Kumbaga ‘yong stigma ng pangungutya sa mga generation ng mga LGBTQ+, sa simula pa lang, hindi sila mahihiya mag-voice out o maglabas compared sa dati na takot ang mga bata na makutya sila ng kapwa nila. Makikita naman ng mga kabataan sa generation ngayon na okay naman pala sila kasama, okay naman sila makihalubilo,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Fitz Mendez, a student of Palawan State University (PSU) and a member of Bahaghari, said that he was encouraged to join this year’s parade due to the existence of Balangaw, the established community of LGBTQ+ in the city which serves as a family to its members.
“Di lang siya for the LGBTQ+ community but for the supporters, sa mga gusto lang mag-participate, so what encouraged me is ‘yong family ng LGBTQ+ here in Puerto Princesa City kasi nafe-feel ko na we are united, we are unique,” said Mendez.
Mendez said that he does not see any problem against individuals who are not willing to support their community as long as they will not do any discriminatory acts that can affect their safety and their equality rights.
He emphasized that the battle for gender rights is also for their human rights.
“It’s okay, it’s their opinion, it’s their will not to support the LGBTQ+ community but ‘yong message ko sa kanila is do not discriminate. Pwede naman na ‘di niyo suportahan pero wag na kayo magdi-discriminate, it degrades the LGBT community and it really affects us in mental health aspects,” he added.