Friday, April 30, 2010
GLBT FlorEZ de Mayo
Two days from now on 2 May 2010, STRAP women bedecked in beautiful gowns and Filipiniana couture will brave the summer heat and parade in a much awaited santacruzan in the streets of Bgy. Bagong Pag-asa in Quezon City (see poster above). Entitled FlorEZ de Mayo, this Pride event is co-organized by the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (PROGAY), Metropolitan Community Church Quezon City (MCCQC), and Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines. The santacruzan is a parade that usually closes the month-long festival of flowers in different parts of the Philippines each May. Catholics in different towns all over the Philippines celebrate the many flowers that bloom in May and in anticipation of the June rains gather together the most good-looking men and women of their town in a procession that depicts the finding of the Holy Cross by Queen Helena, the mother of Constantine.
The santacruzan was a dying tradition until the Department of Tourism (DOT) sometime back decided to revive it with a splash. The DOT asked the country’s top designers to lend their most beautiful Filipiniana gowns to be worn by selected transwomen who paraded in the old walled city, the historic Intramuros. Since then, the gimmick caught on with other towns throughout the country imitating the DOT which put the Catholic Church in a pickle.
On the one hand, an almost extinct custom was being revived which was also almost always a fundraiser that directly benefited the Church. On the other hand, it was being organized by TLBG people with transpinays taking center stage in the hallowed tradition. Of course at the end of the day, bigotry reigned supreme and in 2008 the Church bishops took a stand by outlawing santacruzan activities involving transsexual women. Because May is also the month when most town fiestas are celebrated, the Church also forbade local governments from holding beauty pageants involving transgender people. The worst hit of all in this witch hunt was Cebu, which has the great misfortune of having a hateful bishop who announced that he would withhold his blessings to parishes caught staging a beauty pageant involving transwomen. Nobody dared disobey him, of course, to the great dismay of the community of Cebuana transpinays.
Many transpinays are born to Catholic families so it is not surprising to find transpinays who are Marian devotees. The Flores de Mayo is actually a tradition meant to honor the Blessed Virgin. Many who participate in this tradition are actually coming from a place of devotion. Of course others join the Flores de Mayo procession for the experience, prestige, and the proverbial 15-minutes of fame as transpinay-attended santacruzans attract media attention.
This Sunday, STRAP, for the first time, will participate as a group in a santacruzan that is much-awaited by the TLBG community. This is our way of starting our anniversary celebrations with a bang. I would like to believe that we are also doing this above-all for the visibility. I may not be a Marian devotee but I certainly would like to experience this Filipino tradition and I am not letting anyone stop me.
When I went to Cebu two years ago, I had the honor of meeting a long-time activist there, a famous lesbian lawyer who, in my opinion, gave the best analysis of why the Catholic Church was so opposed to the participation of TLBG people in the Flores de Mayo. She said that it was mainly because the Church was afraid of our numbers. Transwomen-led santacruzans bring out the TLBG community in full-force and from Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao we are everywhere and there are so many of us. And the Church hates that families come out to watch beautiful transpinays parading in the streets as if it were the most normal thing on earth. Children and old ladies alike have been seen cheering us on!
Well as they say in Filipino “Hindi nyo na kami mabubura.” You can no longer invisibilize us. Join us on 2 May 2010 at 7 pm and see beautiful transpinays bloom in the summer night as they strut in the streets in this first-ever TLBG santacruzan. See you there!