Does the Catholic Philippines discriminate gays? Some don't think so.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer published an article for their "Highblood" column, wherein middle-aged readers submit their personal essays about different issues. This week's article is a reaction to a contributor of "Youngblood," a column of PDI for younger essay writers. Pompeyo S. Pedroche, a semi-retired ESL teacher in New Jersey, wrote his contradiction to Renee Julienne Karunungan's statement that gays in the Philippines "suffer discrimination" and "are looked down upon," citing the ruling of Manila's Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales that male homosexuals are disallowed from participating in Santacruzan processions.

According to Mr. Pedroche, "Filipino gays and lesbians are so free, if not spoiled, and organized, in our country. They can hold their own fashion show, they have their own dance and singing groups, they have their Ladlad voice in Congress, and have already created their own gay lingo. So, what discrimination, bashing and obstacles is Renee crying about?" He also added that "Second perhaps only to the United States, the Philippines is the most tolerant country toward gays and lesbians."

I personally would like to contradict Mr. Pedroche's second statement. I know of countries that are more tolerant towards gays and lesbians compared to the United States (like Thailand, Australia, and Canada). Hasn't Mr. Pedroche heard of reports of hate crime against gays and lesbians in his own adopted homeland, most prominently that of the murder of Matthew Shepard ten years ago?

His views about the Filipino gays and lesbians being so free can be naive (or outdated) at best. The Ladlad party was rejected by the Comelec, we have yet to see Filipino actors come out of the closet without being bashed by the equally gay press with sensational headlines like "laos na, bakla pa" (they did that to Aiza Seguerra), gays are being treated as the mainstream media's laughing stock. So what tolerance Mr. Pedroche has been harping about?

The author further writes: "If the Church doesn't open its portal to an individual just because he's gay, that is discrimination... But when the good Cardinal stops gays from staging their own distinctly gay Santacruzan because such would have been an irrelevance, if not an irreverence, an incongruity to, and a distortion of an otherwise religious tradition, is not discrimination but simply official discretion... Do gay devotees of Mama Mary need to showcase themselves in a procession to parade their devotion? Why couldn’t they simply be one of the many in the procession who light candles, say a few 'Hail Marys,' or sing 'Dios te Salve'? What the gays were asking for was a separate show of gays, not a religious procession to express their so-called devotion. Such gay passion to be different and spectacular is one reason why the masses hardly 'see them as their equal.'"

It is true that gays are still allowed to enter the church, but there are accounts of Filipino transsexuals being refused to receive Holy Communions. Is it because it would have been an irrelevance to an otherwise religious sacrament? And it is apparent that he ate his own words about gay tolerance in the Philippine when he blames gays for having that "passion to be different and spectacular," which is why "the masses hardly see them as their equal."

I believe in the freedom to practice your religion in whatever manner you please as long as you do not hurt other people. Mr. Pedroche should be thankful that the Catholic gays are trying to preserve a dying religious procession, when all other traditional Catholic celebrations are being forgotten by modern times. How many of you have been to a Pabasa lately? How many of you have heard of the Pabasa being sung like a pop song?

Mr. Pedroche may have mistaken about the Philippines being tolerant towards gays when in fact we still get to hear kids shout "Ah bakla bakla" to every gay man they see. Come to think of it, the struggle of gays in the Philippines should not end with tolerance, but rather acceptance.

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