FRANKLIN Delano Roosevelt is believed to have said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
Pride Month is celebrated in June, the same month in 1969 when the Stonewall riots took place, an event that would set into motion the modern pride movement. These days, Pride Month is celebrated with rainbows, parties and the promise to do more. In the early days of LGBT activism, Pride was not a party. There was a real danger to being seen and heard.
“Before Rainbows” is a series of documentaries produced by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, with the help of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Philippines. The series shows the lives of four early advocates of LGBT activism in the Philippines, namely Aida F. Santos-Maranan, Bishop Richard Mickley, Nick Deocampo, and Anna Leah Sarabia. The films were made by the teams of Rae Red, Cha Roque, Gio Pites, and Petersen Vargas. The films premiered on June 12, and were shown in previews at the residence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands late last month. They can be viewed on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJe9oRB1PT1hSCaapmDvGJA
(only two have been uploaded so far, and the others will be released in phases in the next week).
The film about Ms. Sarabia centers on her book, the first recognized Filipino lesbian anthology: Tibok, the Heartbeat of the Filipino Lesbian, published in 1998. The documentary about Bishop Mickley is about his arrival in the Philippines in 1991 to set up the country’s Metropolitan Community Church, which allowed LGBT members to worship and continue their relationship with religion. Bishop Mickley was also instrumental in organizing the country’s first Pride March in 1994, an event shown in the film.
The story told about Aida F. Santos-Maranan, a poet, writer, teacher, feminist, and NGO worker, shows her work in activism, especially her 1983 founding of Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan, one of the first feminist groups in the country. Finally, the documentary about film director Nick Deocampo shows clips from his early documentaries and films, some of the first to show LGBT life in the Philippines. Mr. Deocampo also organized Asia’s oldest gender-based film festival, the International Pink Film Festival.
“We think there’s a disconnect between the advocates of [the] present and LGBT advocates from generations past,” said Brian Tenorio, Chair of the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “The forerunners of LGBT advocacy in the country who faced more challenging times… do not have as many opportunities for telling their stories.
“These stories will then [be] great sources of inspiration to our younger advocates as they persevere in moving the advocacy forward.”
It is now 2019, and one still hears that transpeople can turn up dead from violence and torture, or same-sex couples can still be beaten up in a bus. But if it is dangerous now to be within the spectrum of the LGBT rainbow, it was more dangerous then when there was an utter lack of awareness of the lives led by its people.
“The times called for it: for us to be brave, for us to be courageous,” said Mr. Deocampo. “The times called for it, and we were there. We stood up and answered that call.”
For these people, there was a lot to fear, but as we referenced in the quote at the beginning, these four people made the judgment that something else was above fear. “You had to make a decision. You either do nothing, and just watch. Or you could make history for yourself,” said Ms. Sarabia. “If in times of crisis, you cannot wait for people to tell you what to do.
“Fear prevents change.” — Joseph L. Garcia
(For more information on the project, visit http://lgbtph.org/idahot2019/.)