Those who fought for equal LGBTQ+ rights as early as the ’60 know there’s still a lot to work on in 2019. Compared to before, we have the power and privilege to spread awareness on social media. But, as director and writer Nick Deocampo noted, this movement was launched through various forms of media back in the day—from short stories to films.
The sad part is several pieces of history of the Philippine LGBT movement in the Philippines have not been digitized. According to the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, “The heritage and history of LGBT Advocacy in the whole of Asia and in the Philippines is extremely important for current and future advocates to understand their work, themes, and thrusts. While the current movements of the advocacy are very much well-documented by digital media (posts, online material, news features on the net, etc.), much of the decades before 2000 remain inaccessible to the digital world because their stories were not digitized as they were happening. This, plus hard copies of photos and texts, remain inaccessible to the world as they are kept in files and vaults of individuals throughout the region. Some/most of their efforts also, have been largely forgotten or not acknowledged.”
Which is why it’s both exciting and intriguing to hear such stories via the upcoming short film series, Before Rainbows. This was conceptualized by the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with The Netherlands Embassy in the Philippines, to bridge the gap between the past and present generations of the LGBTQ+ movement and activism.
The four short films will be premiered digitally on June 12, and we were able to see the teasers of each one at The Netherlands Residences last Thursday. Here are quick synopses of the films, plus notes from the subjects who were there.
Anna Leah Sarabia
Directed by Petersen Vargas (2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten), this short film revolves around writer, media expert, and feminist Anna Leah Sarabia. Here, she talks about making her book, Tibok: Heartbeat of the Filipino Lesbian, where she compiled short stories and poems from various writers in the country. During the panel, she shared there was a mother who wanted to pull out her entry a day before printing because her daughter “found out and was ashamed.”
Anna Leah also talks about fighting for women’s rights as an out-and-proud lesbian during the ’80s and ’90s. “Much of the LGBT movement here in the Philippines is all thanks to the women’s movement,” she said, noting that women activists helped in fighting the discrimination of sexual minorities.
Rev. Fr. Richard Mickley
Rev. Fr. Richard Mickley came to the Philippines in 1991 and founded MCC Manila, a church where the LGBT community is welcome and same-sex unions can be officiated. Director Cha Roque wanted to highlight Fr. Richard’s accomplishments and how he served LGBTQ+ Filipinos since coming to our country. This also includes MCC Manila’s role in the very first Pride March in 1994. This story is also timely because of the conversation surrounding the legalization same-sex marriage in the country.
As a celebrated filmmaker, Nick Deocampo pushed boundaries via his short films and documentaries on LGBTQ+ Filipinos since the ’80s. He was also in the frontlines of several LGBT rights rallies back in the day, and has helped write IRRs for the government. He is now an associate professor at the UP Film Institute in Diliman.
Gio Potes’ film about Nick not only tackles his life as a filmmaker, but also the hardships he went through as a gay man. “I was a walking word. They would call me ‘agi‘ (gay) before I even knew what it meant,” he said, recounting the times he was defined by a homophobic slur. “Now, if you call me, ‘bakla,’ then eat me. I’ve learned to embrace the slurs.”
Aida Santos-Maranan was the co-founder of Katipunan ng Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan (KALAYAAN), which was the first feminist organization established in 1983. She also co-founded WeDpro, an organization that aims to protect women and youth from violence. One of their initiatives is to “educate and organize community-based LGBT youth leaders.” Rae Red’s film on her will show how she and her groups helped in pushing for LGBTQ+ rights during the early days of activism.