On the day we observe our nation’s independence, let us also look back on the history of Metro Manila Pride —a movement that celebrates LGBTQIA+ diversity while highlighting the struggle for our right to live and love freely and without fear.

Freedom March - History of Metro Manila Pride

Social movements are product of social conditions within which they sprung. The choice of advocacies, tactics of engagement and strategies of mobilizing resources are shaped by certain political, social, cultural and material conditions. The opening of opportunity in the political, cultural and material landscape shapes the potency of social mobilizing.

Origin of the Pride March

Pride, as part of larger LGBT movements, originally emerged in the early 1970s. The march is intended at solidifying the collective memory about the violent Stonewall Riot. Stonewall is an inn located along Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, New York. The inn is a popular hang out place not only for LGBT individuals but all individuals from the margins including the homeless and hippies.

On the night of June 27, 1969, police officers raided Stonewall Inn. The raid sparked into a violent riot which came to be known as the Stonewall Riot. The riot is treated as the the most important turning point in contemporary LGBT organizing.

The Pride March is designed to annually commemorate the historical riot. The first Pride March was held in three American cities namely New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in 1970–the year following the Stonewall Riot.

In the last four decades, Pride March spread not only across the United States but also across different cities and localities around the globe.

The Character of Pride

At different times and in different localities, Pride is designed differently. In some cities, organizers intend to keep the straight-forward and militant character of the march. They see the Pride as a way to militantly tackle social issues.

Some organizers in other cities design the parade as festive and carnivalesque. There are exaggerated performances of masculinity and femininity. Scholars have argued how these exaggerated performances stand as critiques to the traditional and homophobic norms.

Pride could be understood as a marriage between fun and activism, celebration and critique, partying and protesting.

Regardless of what characteristics are highlighted, Pride remains to be more than a celebration. The parade is what some activists term as “fun activism”. The march should be fun but it has to be also critical and political. Pride could be understood as a marriage between fun and activism, celebration and critique, partying and protesting.

The Controversial March

Arguably, Metro Manila Pride March is the first Pride not only in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia. In 1994, Pro-Gay Philippines in cooperation with the Metropolitan Community Church marched from Quezon Avenue corner Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) to Quezon City Memorial Circle. The march was intended to commemorate the Stonewall Riot and to fight against oil price hike and Extended Value Added Tax (EVAT).

1994 LGBT March - History of Metro Manila Pride

The 1994 March, to some local LGBT activists, is the first Pride in the Philippines and Asia. Some do not feel that this is the case. There was a substantial discussion last year on social media about this march. The discussion is not about whether this march actually happened. The discussion was about whether the march constitutes a Pride March.

It matters less whether the 1994 March is Pride or not. What this discussion demonstrates is the fluidity of meanings attached to the March. This fluidity is something we have to be proud of as a movement. This means that the movement is becoming more queer which means we are becoming open to various meanings. Pride is evolving into an open space amenable for the creation of various meanings and display of different ideologies.

The ‘Reach Out’ Years

From 1996 to 1998, Reach Out was the leading organization in preparing the annual LGBT Pride March. Reach Out is a non-government organization carrying  HIV/AIDS advocacy. The substantial funding that the organization received in the 1990s gave it the capacity to lead the organization of the annual march.

Some local activists describe the Pride during these years as festive and celebratory. It seems that the design of the parade during these years highlighted the celebratory character of the march.

Pride and Power March - History of Metro Manila Pride March

Arguably, the highlight of these years was the 1998 March which was held on the centennial anniversary of Philippine Independence. As part of the celebration of Philippine Independence Day, there was a march along Roxas Boulevard. After several negotiations and discussions with the organizers of the Philippine Centennial March, LGBT contingents were allowed to join the march.

The decline in the funds Reach Out was receiving at the end of the 1990s made the organization give up its role as the leading organizer of the LGBT Pride March. The organization had to pass on the torch (or the crown) to other LGBT organizations.

The Formation of Task Force Pride

Akbayan Party-list first won congressional seats in 1998. Since there were already LGBT individuals in the ranks of the party and there were already LGBT advocacies embedded in the goals of the party, they ask LGBT activists what bill they want to fight for inside the Congress.

Lagablab Network was born in response to the need for legislative lobbying. The network is composed of various representatives from different local LGBT organizations. The primary task of the network is to lobby for laws addressing needs of the community.

In 1999, the same members of Lagablab decided to form a task force that will lead the annual LGBT Pride March. The task force came to be known as Task Force Pride (TFP), an informal network composed of different volunteers from different LGBT organizations willing to help organize the annual parade.

Got Pride 1997 - History of Metro Manila Pride

Under the leadership of TFP, the LGBT Pride March saw two name changes. In 2008, it became known as Manila Pride March. Four years later, TFP leaders changed it to Metro Manila Pride March in an effort to highlight that Pride was not limited just to the parade and to the city of Manila.

In 2016, TFP itself saw a name change as it adopted the name Metro Manila Pride (MMP).

Today, the Metro Manila Pride March remains to be one of the most important avenues for the LGBT community to celebrate their diversity while highlighting the struggles of the different sectors within the community.

These years could be described as the queerest years of Pride. Under this leadership, the design of the march became more eclectic. Perhaps, the representation from various groups made the design of the parade more amenable to various meanings, ideologies and tactic of engagements that different organizations bring into the march.

Today, the Metro Manila Pride March remains to be one of the most important avenues for the LGBT community to celebrate their diversity while highlighting the struggles of the different sectors within the community. Regardless of how it came about, the Metro Manila Pride March and its safe spaces guaranteeing to keep the shokot [fear] away are here to stay.

For more information about this year’s Metro Manila Pride March, check out the official event page.


John Andrew Evangelista

John Andrew Evangelista

John Andrew G. Evangelista is a self-identified gay man working as an instructor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman where he is also taking up his master’s degree in Sociology. He is currently writing his thesis tentatively entitled “Pakikibaka sa Pakikibeki: Framing the Annual Metro Manila Pride March”. His research interests include gender and sexuality studies, queer sociology and popular culture. He can be reached via Facebook.
John Andrew Evangelista

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