By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY -- Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla on Saturday challenged members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) to organize and make it as a forceful group in shaping society.
Mercado, in addressing members of the LGBTQ in Bicol, said she fully supports the group because of their “God-given” talents, creativity, and resourcefulness in the field of business, fashion, arts, movies, music, and culture.
Mercado cited famous personalities in the fashion, movie, and music industry such as Ricky Reyes, Fanny Serrano, and Vice Ganda.
She describes the specific sector of the society as “masarap at masaya (sweet and happy people), creative and hardworking”, saying “it’s about time that we give them support and develop their full potentials rather than discriminate, neglect them.”
She said that in addressing LGBTQ issues and concerns, she and his son Jolo Revilla have passed two significant local ordinances in protecting the rights of LGBTQ in Cavite.
The ordinances give members of the LGBTQ protection against discrimination, abuse, neglect as well as providing them with free and fast access to health and consultations services.
The first Bicol LGBTQ congress was organized by Kusog Bicolandia a regional political party in Bicol, in cooperation with the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) that served as facilitator.
The event was attended by over 300 LGBTQ members in the six provinces of Bicol.
Popular TV host Vice Ganda in his live stream message told the participants that “my heart is with you,” assuring all-out support for the newly organized group in Bicol.
As this developed, Noel de Luna, chairman and founder of Kusog Bicolandia (KB), said he has organized the event to eliminate the social stigma being felt by members of the LGBTQ.
De Luna quoting social research studies said: “the LGBTQ has been tagged as the most discriminated and neglected sector of society.”
“LGBTQ’s are not bacteria, or a virus, that destroys a society or a community,” de Luna said.
He even cited a City Councilor in Bicol, who was strongly criticized for submitting a proposed ordinance recognizing and giving protection to members of the LGBTQ.
That local legislator was even called by his bashers as “Ding Ba Siya,” he said.
Addressing the issues on discrimination and rights of LBGTQ, de Luna said he decided to organize a congress that would serve as a venue for addressing the challenges confronted by the LGBTQ.
De Luna claimed that an organized LGBTQ would be considered as a strong political bloc that would build a strong and dynamic group in creating a viable economic agenda for the region.
Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal said there are clamors to create a law that would grant protection to LGBTQs. He cited that in other countries, LGBTQs are duly recognized.
“This is the right time to come out in the open to ask for equal rights and opportunities given to all,” Rosal said.
Other resource topics taken up were: “Know Your Rights Under the Law,” by Kate Aventajado of the Department of Justice.
Maricel Banzuela of the Department of Health (DOH) spoke on Know Your Health Benefits, while Maria Elena Catajan, Senior Reporter and Desk Editor of Sun Star Baguio talked on “Portrayal of LGBTQ in Media.”
LGBTQ in Naga
Meanwhile, in Naga City, Councilor Lito del Rosario has invited LGBTQ members in the city to come and organize themselves into a unified group in order to become an empowered sector of the community.
Del Rosario, who described himself as “straight”, said it is for the interest of the city that all sectors should not be excluded from all human activities, particularly in the management and operation of city affairs as Naga is noted for inclusive governance and empowerment of its people, regardless of their creed, sex, and political persuasion.
Friday last week, some gay and lesbian leaders of the community met with city councilors Del Rosario and Greg Abonal, as well as Bicol Mail editor Joe Perez, to help pave the way for the formal organization of the LGBTQ in all barangays in the city which should later expand to other towns within Metro Naga.