LGBT culture in the Philippines
|Military||Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly since 2009|
|Discrimination protections||None at the national level but many anti-discrimination ordinances exist at the local government level.|
|Recognition of relationships||None|
|Restrictions||The Family Code of the Philippines defines marriage as "a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman". The Constitution of the Philippines does not prohibit same-sex marriage.|
|Adoption||Allowed for individuals but not allowed for same-sex couples.|
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Philippines have a distinctive culture in society and also have limited legal rights. Gays and lesbians are generally tolerated (if not accepted) in Filipino society, especially with the recent events that promote the rights, general acceptance and empowerment of the community, but discrimination remains. Filipino gays are known as "bakla", but are not limited to this term.
According to the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey, 11 percent of sexually active Filipinos between the ages of 15 and 24 have had sex with someone of the same sex. According to Filipino poet and critic Lilia Quindoza Santiago, Filipino culture may have a more flexible concept of gender; kasarian (Tagalog for "gender") is defined in less binary terms than the English word; kasarian means "kind, species, or genus".
Gender crossing practices go back to the history of pre-colonial communities in the Philippines. The Babaylans are the priestess in native communities, whose position can also be taken by males who crossed genders, and were called asog, among many names. According to J. Neil C. Garcia, they were similar to women in almost all aspects, except for childbearing. The institutionalization of gender, and gender roles in the Philippines begun during the American colonization wherein education and mass media were used to regulate sexuality. This includes the widespread use of the ‘homosexual’, and ‘heterosexual’ distinctions in society.
Movements to promote the acceptance of the gays in Philippine society include, but are not limited to the establishment of the Home of the Golden Gays by Justo Justo, the 1980 Women’s Movement which focused on the lesbian struggle of Filipinas, the formation of The Lesbian Collective which was the first formal lesbian organization in the country, the organization of the First LGBT Pride March in Asia and the Pacific in 1994. Beyond this, there have been numerous efforts to spread awareness of the LGBT. The community has become generally accepted in society, and have continued to initiate efforts that move for the greater acceptance, protection, and empowerment of its members.
Representation in Indigenous Mythologies
The Philippines is known for a variety of mythologies which do not adhere to the 18th-century Western and Middle East notion of 'man' and 'woman' only. Majority of indigenous mythologies view mankind as a singular species with numerous roles to play, disregarding biological gender. Among the most significant representation of indigenous LGBT culture in the Philippines are seen in the role of the babaylan (spiritual leaders, also called as asog, bayog, katalonan, binabae) of a community, who have feminine expressions, whether they are biologically male or female. The babaylans are also known for having relationships with the opposite and same gender, as these relationships are viewed by the pre-colonial society as an integration of the sexes, and thus a balance of nature. Respected anthropologist Villariba noted that the babaylan is “a specialist in the fields of culture, religion, medicine and all kinds of theoretical knowledge about the phenomenon of nature.” Additionally, Dr. Brewer noted that "being composite of both sexes, [the babaylan's] unconventional and gender dualism is a sign associated with the primal creative force". Another major representation of LGBT culture is deeply rooted on the deities from epics.
In pre-colonial Philippines, particularly in Visayas, the death god Sidapa is depicted as robust and handsome and he fought the god of war, Macanduc, and the goddess of the tides to obtain the lover he pursued: the comely lunar boy deity Libulan/Bulan. The myth tells how the god of death, who was lonely, saw the beauty of the moons and desired them, but he had competition. He battled and defeated the other gods and goddess. He romantically pursued the boy moon who resides in the heavens. The god of death ordered the mermaids and birds to sing praises for the boy moon. He also asked the flowers to makes sweet perfumes and nectar for Libulan/Bulan, and lastly, he gave light to the fireflies so the boy moon could descend to where they could meet. Stories say that Libulan/Bulan was so fair that the vicious mermaids became gentle and that the fishes and birds forgot to fly and swim. Sidapa took the boy moon to be his child bride and, as legends say and most natives still believe, they reside together sleeping in each other's arms in Mount Madia-as, in the province of Antique.
In Tagalog mythology in Luzon, the deity of fertility was the kind Lakapati, who was a hermaphrodite or intersex, having both female and male genitals. The personification of Lakapati as intersex has been attributed to the indigenous view that an intersex shows the 'balance deemed by nature', thus Lakapati became one of the most loved by the people, aside from the supreme deity Bathala. Lakapati is given one of the most lavish offerings and sacrifices, and people also prayed to her vigorously as she is depicted as having powers on a person's life. Lakapati is said to have married Bathala, the supreme god of the Tagalog people, making her the queen in Bathala's celestial court and abode known as Kaluwalhatian. In later stories, her other form, Ikapati, goddess of cultivated land, is said to have married Mapulon, deity of medicine and seasons.
Additionally, homosexual love is also depicted in the Tagalog story of Uwinan Sana, god of grasslands and forests, who was fond of Dumakulem, god of mountains. Dumakulem courted and married Anagolay, leading to Uwinan Sana to promise to never marry. Aside from these three stories, non-heterosexual love and affection are exhibited in numerous stories throughout the country as well.
Bakla and bading are Tagalog words for a man who has feminine mannerisms, or dresses or identifies as a woman. Although the terms are not the equivalent of the English "gay", the bakla are the most culturally visible subset of gay men in the Philippines. They are often considered a third gender, embodying femininity (pagkababae) in a male body. Although bakla is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, bakla people have largely embraced it. In addition to this, lesbians in the Filipino community are called tibo or tibs, which are likewise often used as derogatory terms. However, lesbians too have recently embraced this terms, and have used these terms jokingly to refer to each other. But despite being used to refer to lesbians, the word tibo or tibs often refer to the more masculine lesbian, otherwise known as the ‘Butch’.
In the Philippines, the word "gay" is used to refer to any LGBT person. For Filipino gays the Tagalog phrase paglaladlad ng kapa ("unfurling the cape") or, more commonly, paglaladlad ("unfurling" or "unveiling") refers to the coming-out process. Some lesbians (butch and femme) use the words magic or shunggril to refer to themselves; paminta describes masculine gay men. Neutral slang terms for gay men include "billy boy", badette , "badaf" and bading. Although many of these terms are considered derogatory, they are sometimes used casually or jokingly by the Filipino gay and lesbian community.
Although legislation supporting same-sex marriage in the Philippines has been proposed several times in the Philippine legislature, none has been passed. The Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) disqualified the Filipino LGBT political party Ladlad from fronting a candidate in the 2007 general election, concluding that the party did not have a nationwide membership. COMELEC again refused Ladlad's petition to contest the 2010 elections on the grounds of "immorality". However, on April 8, 2010, the Supreme Court of the Philippines overturned COMELEC's decision and allowed Ladlad to participate in the May 2010 elections.
The Philippines has been ranked one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world and is the most gay-friendly in Asia. In a survey of 39 countries (only 17 of which had a majority accepting homosexuality), the Philippines were the 10th most gay-friendly. The survey, "The Global Divide on Homosexuality" conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center, showed that 73 percent of adult Filipinos agreed that "homosexuality should be accepted by society" (up from 64 percent in 2002).
The House of Representatives and their approval of the LGBT Rights Bill
The House of Representatives approved on the LGBT Rights Bill on September 20, 2017. The lawmakers had voted 198-0 in the approval of House Bill 4982, otherwise known as the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality (SOGIE) Bill. Those who violate this bill are required to pay a penalty of PHP 100,000 - PHP 500,000 and imprisonment for one to six years. This bill prohibits and penalizes any discriminatory acts against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender people.
The SOGIE Bill penalizes the following acts:
- Gender Profiling
- Denying or revoking a professional or other similar kind of license, clearance, except marriage license, issued by the government
- Denying access to public service, including military service including SOGIE as criteria for human resource action
- Refusing admission or expelling a person from any educational or training institution
- Denying a person access to public or private medical and other health services open to general public
Swardspeak, or "gay lingo", is cant or argot derived from Taglish (Tagalog-English pidgin) and is used by the Filipino LGBT community. It uses elements of Tagalog, English, Spanish and Japanese, celebrities' names and trademarked brands, giving them new meanings in different contexts. Words derived from local languages or dialects, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bicolano and other Philippine dialects, are also used by LGBT communities.
A Swardspeak speaker could be identified as homosexual, making it easier for people in the LGBT community to recognize each other. This created a group of speakers, helping the community resist cultural assimilation and marginalization. Straight people have begun to use Swardspeak, however, particularly in gay-dominated industries such as fashion and film.
While there are no laws pertaining to same-sex marriage or unions, the Open Table MCC, the Metropolitan Community Center’s local chapter in the country, cites freedom of religion in sanctioning what it calls holy unions. These ceremonies are conducted solely for the purpose of celebrating love and are not legally recognized. The Filipino Ang Ladlad party, whose founders, leaders, and core constituency belong to the LGBT community, was recognized by the government and participated in party elections in 2013.
Transnational networks such as LGBT non-government organizations allow connected brokers in the Philippines to widely adopt goals and strategies that are cross-culturally recognizable. Efforts to pass an anti-discrimination bill that prohibits using sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis for discrimination is an example. Goals and tactics used in the Philippines such as emphasis on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as a distinct part of the self, the idea of being “out”, and pursuit of rights-based remedies are hallmarks of transnational LGBT politics.
The diffusion of LGBT subjectivities affected by the shifts in the global system allow studies exploring links between LGBT advocacy and hegemonic geopolitics to increase. An example is through the non-relational diffusion though media, technology, and shifts in democracy and neoliberalism. According to Oscar Atadero, one of the organizers of the 1994 Pride in Manila, the decline of interest in a style of mobilization that is public and militant and the failure of mass movement in the Philippines can be attributed to “the sudden appearance of the Internet at the same time gays and lesbians were forming political movements.”
There are, however, notable movements as well. One mobilization was Ladlad’s “immoRALLY” in front of the COMELEC office in Manila, two weeks after the rejection of their petition for party-list accreditation in the 2010 elections. The protest rally was held after COMELEC rejected the petition based on moral grounds, claiming that the LGBT people are not immoral. The event brought together national organizations such as Babaylan, Task Force Pride, and the Akbayan party-list to protest the charge against the LGBTs.
Geraldine Roman is the first transgender person to be elected to the Philippine congress. She has been a staunch advocate of an anti-discrimination bill. Entertainers Aiza Seguerra and Arnell Ignacio are the first LGBT-community members appointed as government officials; they were appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte chair of the National Youth Commission and vice-chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, respectively.
The Philippine media and show business scene--encompassing film, radio, and television--comprises a vital part of LGBT culture in terms of representation. Prominent celebrities including Vice Ganda, Boy Abunda, and Ricky Lo are all featured in major programs and are often tapped to endorse major products and services.
In 2004, the Republic of the Philippines Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) had disseminated a memorandum calling homosexual relationships—particularly lesbian relationships—an “abnormality of human nature”, discouraging producers from broadcast any sort of portrayals that promoted these relationships. While there are still several LGBT personalities in show business as well as LGBT characters in films and television programs in the Philippines, notices such as this have limited particular LGBT portrayals in media.
For the gay Filipino man, two main stereotypes have been revealed in studies to be dominantly presented in media. There is the feminine gay who often cross-dresses, demonstrates stereotypically feminine actions and speech and is attracted to stereotypically masculine men. The following films have portrayals of the feminine gay:
- Markova: Comfort Gay
- Aishite Imasu: 1941: Mahal Kita
- Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros
- Petrang Kabayo
Lesbianism in Philippine media has also been studied with two common stereotypes emerging: the butch and the femme. The two are often seen in a butch-femme dichotomy, where in a lesbian couple one assumes the traditional roles of the masculine-male and the feminine-female, respectively. Femme-to-femme relationships, when depicted, have been shown more often as abused or ridiculed couples in a more heteronormative society. The following teleseries are recent portrayals of femme-to-femme lesbian relationships in the Philippines:
Die Beautiful, a 2016 comedy-drama narrating the life (and death) of a transgender beauty queen, was entered into the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival and won two awards at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2016.
LGBT representation outside of television and films have been made through existence of gay beauty pageants such as Miss Gay Philippines. It is in this competition that all manner of gays, men or women, as well as transgender and bisexuals are eligible to enter, granted that they first meet the qualifications/requirements of the pageant. However, the organization of these events have been met with controversy in certain cases. For example, in 2013, at the 9th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival awarding, transgender woman Mimi Juareza was still considered under the “male” category as Best Actor and referred to with the pronoun “he”.
With the general tolerance of the country towards the LGBT community, its members have organized a number of events in the past years to empower the Filipino community in creating a safe space for the LGBT. Since the First Pride March in 1994, the LGBT community has continued to celebrate this event on the month of June.
The more recent Pride Marches have become more visible to the public with its organizers' use of social media to promote the advocacy, and the event.
More Recent Metro Manila Pride Marches
2015 - Fight For Love
The 21st Metro Manila Pride March in 2015, entitled Fight For Love, was held on the 25th of July. The turnout of the event was an estimated number of 2,000 participants.
2016 - Let Love In
The following Metro Manila Pride March was themed Let Love In. There was an uncertainty whether or not the event would take place due to the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, but the event still pushed through. The march began at Luneta Park on the 25th of June 2016.
2017 - #HereTogether
Pride March in 2017 was entitled #HereTogether. On the 24th of June that year, members and supporters of the LGBT Community gathered at Plaza de los Alcaldes, Marikina to begin the 2017 Metro Manila Pride March.
2018 - #RiseUpTogether
The most recent Metro Manila Pride March, which took place on the 30th of June 2018 and began at Marikina Sports Center, was themed #RiseUpTogether. Compared to the previous year with about 7,700 participants, this year’s Pride March round up to 20,000 attendees.
- Alpha Nu: Begun in 2014 and considered the Philippines' first openly gay fraternity, Alpha Nu is recognized by the University of the Philippines-Diliman and advocates non-violent initiations, gender sensitivity and psychological support. It holds annual forums on HIV awareness.
- USeP Maharlika: The first LGBT student organization at the University of Southeastern Philippines, established in 2013
- PUP Kabaro: A gender-equality activist organization at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines
- UP Babaylan: Established in 1992, UP Babaylan is the first LGBT student organization in the Philippines and is the only LGBT support and advocacy student group at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Metro Manila.
- Doll House: A community group for open-minded individuals at Ateneo de Manila University
- ProGay Philippines (Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines): A gay-rights organization in Metro Manila that led the Asia and Pacific's first Pride March in the Philippines in 1994.
- Metropolitan Community Church: A network of LGBT-affirming churches in Quezon City, Metro Baguio, Makati and Marikina
- Open Table MCC - the Quezon City chapter of Metropolitan Community Church
- Can’t Live in the Closet: Lesbian activist group in Metro Manila
- Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP): Metro Manila
- Lunduyan ng Sining (Sanctuary of Art): Registered lesbian art studio, providing a venue for lesbian art. The studio has produced a lesbian literary and art folio, What These Hands Can Do, and holds monthly music, film or art performances at Mag:net Katipunan in Quezon City
- IWAG: Social and support group in Davao City
- Northern Samar LGBT Community (NSLGBT): Northern Samar
- GAHUM: A gay support and advocacy group in Cebu City
- Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Philippines (formerly the Rainbow Rights Project): Non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization to create an environment which upholds human rights and equal opportunities for all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (SOGIE).
- Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP): Metro Manila
- PinoyFTM: Founded in July 2011 as the first organization for transsexual and transgender men in the Philippines. Based in Metro Manila, it has members throughout the Philippines.
- Order of St. Aelred: Spiritual gay center in Metro Manila
- AKOD: Gay support group at the Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology
- Gorgeous and Young (GAY): Support group
- Philippine Forum on Sports, Culture, Sexuality and Human Rights (Team Pilipinas): A forum promoting human rights, sexual and gender diversity and equality through sports, culture and recreation
- UPLB Babaylan: LGBT organization and support group at the University of the Philippines Los Baños; promotes gender equality among the student body and beyond. Sponsors Pink Flicks (a film festival focusing on gender issues), symposiums, educational discussions and gatherings with other LGBT organizations.
- Metro Manila Pride: Umbrella organization for the annual Metro Manila Pride events
- Quezon City Pride Council (QCPC): A pioneering initiative of the Quezon City government and the first of its kind in the country, it is a council to enforce LGBT rights and gender-based policies and programs. Created by Mayor Herbert Bautista with an office order, it was launched on 25 March 2013 to highlight the city government’s support for the implementation and enforcement of gender-based policies, programs and activities.
- Equality Philippines (EqualityPH): Non-profit organization to promote and safeguard the rights of LGBT members and allies in the Philippines
- True Colors Coalition (TCC): Political LGBT organization to continue the community's struggle for equality, acceptance and freedom by organizing, educating and mobilizing the community and its allies and campaigning to end all forms of discrimination. TCC is a member of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KILUSAN).
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- Barangay Los Angeles - Filipino LGBT organization in Los Angeles.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LGBT in the Philippines.|
- Outrage Magazine - publication for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (GLBTQIA) communities in the Philippines.