A coming together in the name of pride, the MEGA Equality Ball was a marriage of glitz and glamour, as well as of inspiration and empowerment. This is what went down on that beautiful, inspiring night.
A lot has been said about the annual Pinoy Pride Ball at this point. You’ve seen the photographs, browsed through many IG Stories, and yes, felt some whiplash effect by the accounts that transpired. On the surface, it was a celebration—a glitzy, gleaming, and grand showing of fashion, society, and celebrity. But at its heart, it still was and is a coming together of pride in every personal sense and definition possible.
This year’s fete, called the MEGA Equality Ball, saw many things: high-profile personalities, an endless clicking of cameras, deafening chatter and conversations, and an impressive setup befitting the night of pride. More than the frivolities and fanfare, what made the extra special were the awardees honored for their laudable efforts to make a better world, whether it is at a game-changing local level or a global waving of the Filipino flag.
The night progressed as parties like this progress, with cocktails and blockbuster-like lines at the photographer vignettes, which continued to the main event at the Sofitel Grand Ballroom. Decked ever so majestically, the guests were treated to a stellar four-course meal that was enjoyed as the program commenced. With many memorable moments and scenes all throughout the night, here are the five highlights that made the MEGA Equality Ball a beautiful, rousing night nonetheless.
Vice Ganda And The House of Ganda
In between dining courses, the music seamlessly transitioned from a romantic, gala-appropriate to something upbeat and akin to a nightclub. Conversations drowned out to the beats and suddenly, the room was being taken over by glamazon-like figures dripping in fine and opulent glinting gold. Swift, snappy, and striking, the gilded individuals came together at the foot of the stage to welcome its leader, the one they call mother: Vice Ganda.
Decked out in the couture creations of Neric Beltran, it was as if a scene from the hit TV show, Pose played before us, and say what you want but we were completely living for it. More than the fashion of it all, this united, scene-stealing entrance also made it known that as an LGBTQIA+ nucleus, we all deserve to be seen and present even in a circumstance like this. This was after all a showing of a chosen family bound by likeness, as well as their differences, and if anything that is a true manifestation of pride.
Aicelle Santos’ Rendition of I Can Go The Distance
Marking a shift from high-octane visuals, Aicelle Santos took to the stage in her sparkling dress and rendered a heart-stirring and soaring version of Michael Bolton’s I Can Go The Distance, which signaled the beginning of the core of the ball: Pinoy pride at its finest.
“Allow me to share this honor with the rest of the cast, performers, and singers who are part of the production making us Filipinos proud of their work and talents,” she said in effect as she accepted her trophy. A combination of star power, smooth and spine-chilling vocals, this was a moment that took everyone’s breath away. And it also cemented the fact that as a Global Pinoy Awardee for her turn as Gigi Van Tranh in Miss Saigon, Aicelle Santos is poised for even more greatness.
Empowering And Inspiring Speeches
There was certainly no shortage of passion and pride on June 12 as the Global Pinoy and NewPH awardees all gave moving and inspiring speeches that truly empowered everyone in attendance. Ranging from unending gratitude to stories of struggle and success, the words expressed by the honorees rang loud, proud, and true—we are all here to fight and win for a singular, similar cause.
From fashion-savant, Bang Pineda, his speech was a reminder of how someone with grit and tenacity can make it past the trenches of a no-name designer to easily one of the most recognized style superstars in the metro today. More than his dreams and his skills, he highlighted hard work as to what got him to where he is today. Meanwhile, the luminaries of women-empowered media, She Talks Asia, were humbled by the recognition, even going as far as assuring that while they are a fairly new group championing female equality, they are committed to continue telling more stories for the women with the help of the people in the room, of course.
Carlyle Nuera, Global Pinoy Awardee for Design, attributed his success to his parents and their risk to send him to art school, as well as thanking his employers at Mattel for opening their doors for him. But the most moving part of the speech was his sworn promise to be visible and to represent even more in his craft as “a Filipino-American and a queer person,” which was met by loud cheers, most especially from his parents who were in attendance with him.
Perhaps the most captivating and emotional articulations came from NewPH awardees, Paulo Castro of Panty Monsters and Mikhail Quijano who represented Metro Manila Pride Organization. “I know that tonight is a celebration but I just want to remind everyone that for as long as we are murdered, denied civil rights, stifled, judged and discriminated for who we are and who we love, every day is a battle. But through awareness, empathy and love, a battle that I believe we can win,” says Paulo, stirring the guests into clear and concise attention. Using this unique platform to speak to known and would-be allies, as well as several members of the LGBTQIA + community, the vocal and staunch figure threw in courage for the rest to join the ranks and fight along with the rest of the frontliners of the movement. Finally, he closes the speech reminding everyone of love and how we are all worthy. “There is nothing wrong with you. Your existence, your love, your sadness, your happiness and your struggles are all valid. And most importantly, you are enough.”
Picking up from where Paulo Castro left off, Mikhail Quijano on behalf of the Pride Movement, reiterated how equality and pride is rooted in resistance. In his impassioned address, he says, “The only reason why we can even gather in the name of pride is because of activists. Activists who are not here tonight, because they are out there, still laying their lives on the line, to fight against a culture of oppression that threatens not just the LGBTQIA+ community, but all other minorities as well. Ang pride ay protesta. Pride is Protest. Pride is Community. Pride is solidarity in action.” Naming the valiant efforts of pride pillars from marches past, the speech educated the greater good about how the pride march isn’t a one-organization deal but rather a collective effort of people with years down the line. “They and so many other organizations, advocates, and activists made that 25,000-strong Pride March possible, and continue to make Pride gatherings like this tonight possible. Laying down the foundations through all their years on the ground, fighting fearlessly, and relentlessly to champion human rights, of our community, and all those living under the weight of cultural and legislative injustice,” he says. “As a Human Rights group, this is our goal: to march in SOLIDARITY with others. To march as a community, for our community, and WITH other communities; To march in protest, with all our different colors shining equally bright: for those who paved the way, for those who march alongside us, and for those who will continue the resistance long after us. We hope you continue your pledges for equality by marching and resisting with us not just today, not just on June 29 at the Pride March and Festival, but every single day.”
And that is the heart, soul, and spirit of why we celebrated pride on this cornerstone day, make no mistake about it.
KZ Tandingan Electrifying The Ball With Her Performance
Closing off the festivities was another bold beacon of Filipino pride, KZ Tandingan, who commanded the stage with her famous re-works of hits such as Royals and Rolling In The Deep. Decked out in an edgy Kaye Morales ensemble, the firecracker of a performer lit up and blew up the room with her energy, talent, and overall star power that had everyone up on their feet singing, dancing and jiving along with her. It truly was a fitting punctuation to the formal program of the night, and one that will surely be remembered for years to come.
The Careless Music Manila-Led After Party
Just as everyone thought the party was over, the Grand Ballroom opened the entrance to La Nuit by Sofitel, where the after party was starting to gain some traction led by NewPH awardees, Careless Music Manila. Dishing out tracks to ease into a fun, merry mood, James Reid, Curtismith, and Massiah provided the rhymes and beats that had everyone dancing the night away.
There was no case of a Cinderella moment at the after party of the MEGA Equality Ball, because almost stayed on to the music provided by ace DJ, Nix Damn P. While the revelry lingered on, everyone from the guests and the awardees eased up on the formalities of the night and switched into unassuming human beings all ready to have a good rest of the time in the name and honor of pride.
Photos by Ed Simon and Floyd Jhocson of Studio 100
Special thanks to our partners BYS, Volvo, Charriol, H&M, Beautederm, Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Str8, Michael Ruiz Events Styling, Casa Luxia, C&L Decor, Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, Estate Wines, Yellow Tail, Compadre Beer, Summit Water, Johnn Lemon, Locally, Str8, Frankie’s New York Buffalo Wings, Healthy Foodie Manila, and Pub Express.