The Manila Pride March bills itself as the “oldest gay pride march in Asia” having first started in 1994. But the annually organized gay parade and festival in Pasuquin is older than that having started 42 years ago in 1972, reports herdylayumul.com.
This year’s festival held on May 4 and like every year, a Festival Queen is identified and crowned. The queen is someone who has been successful in his field and has contributed significantly to the community.
Amor Albano, a top fashion designer who made a name in the national scene by being a finalist in Project Runway, a television reality show was year’s queen.
Pasuquin is a backward municipality in Ilocos Norte province. It is economically slow, unprogressive, and stagnant and has never made it big on a national or regional scale.
Salt-making, used to be its main traditional industry until it became cheaper to import in bulk from Australia.
Even its gay pride parade, a huge step for the LGBT community, was hardly publicized or known outside the locality.
The gay pride has its origins when a group of gay professionals formed the Sunflower Organization in the 1972.
“Its first project was the Sunflower Festival, a drag parade that celebrates pride in gay identity and fosters camaraderie among its members,” reported herdylayumul.com. “Surprisingly the people of this small and tightly Catholic town welcomed the idea.”
Parents were supportive of their gay sons and the town folks watched festival participants not with ridicule or contempt, but only with respect and admiration.
“Sunflowers was started by successful professionals who were respected members of the community,” said Benly Agudelo Academia, current Sunflowers Organization president.
“At the end of the day, people looked at our talents and contributions, and not on our gender,” he told herdylayumul.com
The organization, through its yearly parade, has shown that success and honor is no monopoly of straight people and so no gay person must be forced to linger in the dark, he added.
The yearly event became the basis for American filmmaker Shawn Hainsworth to produce a documentary “Sunflowers” that earned critical acclaim in the 1997 Chicago Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
In the absence of any record that would prove otherwise, Sunflowers is the oldest gay organization in the Philippines, if not in Asia.
The University of the Philippines Babaylan, the largest LGBT student organization in the Philippines, was organized only in 1992 while another organization Progay-Philippines was formed in 1994.