Love Laban, the 2023 Pride PH Festival, is the Biggest Pride Event in Southeast Asia

Love Laban, the 2023 Pride PH Festival, is the Biggest Pride Event in Southeast Asia


The record-breaking Love Laban turnout at the Quezon City Memorial Circle, which made it the biggest pride event with 110,752 LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies, was a powerful celebration of the community’s identity, strength, and diversity

The grand finale to the city’s month-long Pride celebration was the Love Laban Festival, which witnessed a monumental assembly, quadrupling last year’s attendance of 25,000. In partnership with the Quezon City government, Pride PH brought the celebrations to a moving and sensational close. 

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Echoing Pride’s shining essence of awareness about issues the community faces, Mayor Joy Belmonte said: “Ipinapakita natin ang ating suporta sa sigaw na wakasan ang iba’t-ibang uri ng abuso at diskriminasyon. At higit sa lahat, binibigyang-diin natin ang kahalagahan ng pagkakapantay-pantay at pagsisiguro sa kaligtasan ng bawat isa, anuman ang kasarian.” 

Queer power in numbers

The show of force exhibited at the Love Laban Festival is a testament to the community’s size and diversity. The explosion of queer representation in social media platforms resonates with a larger audience, making more and more LGBTQIA+ youth feel comfortable in their skin and express themselves freely—a beautiful shift in societal acceptance.

Galing sa 25,000 attendees sa unang taon namin last year, mahigit 100,000 ang nakisaya sa amin ngayong taon. This is a solid signifier of our growing courage and strength as a community together with our allies,” Pride PH convenor Mela Habijan said.

Photo: PRIDE PH (via Instagram)

As I inched my way into the thick and jubilant crowd, the infectious “Happy Pride” was thrown around at every meeting of gaze—like a sincere embrace tantamount to saying, “I see you, and I celebrate you.” More than a heartfelt greeting, it also serves as a poignant reminder of our collective purpose. Watching the unending exchange of love stretched my smile to the edges of my face and was the kind of warmth that the sun cannot rival. 

Hindi na kami takot to be seen and heard. Kasi alam natin lahat that what we fight and stand for is fundamental—to live a life free from prejudice and discrimination.”

Mela Habijan

Love Laban began at 10 in the morning with the Pride Expo and bazaar participated by close to 100 booths. A wide range of organizations, sponsors, partners, food vendors, and queer-owned businesses contributed to the vibrant spirit of the celebration. 

The Pride March that happened in the afternoon witnessed the participation of thousands, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community, allies, government and non-government organizations, private businesses, and ambassadors and delegates from the diplomatic field. It set off from Quezon Memorial Circle, marching toward East Avenue, V. Luna Road, and finally, Kalayaan Avenue. 

As the evening crept in, the stage came alive with performances and appearances by celebrities, beauty queens, P-Pop groups, and queer entertainers who brought inspiration and sparkle to our colorful evening. 

Maki-beki! Huwag ma-shokot!

Sa dami nating narito ngayon, LGBTQIA+ community and allies, I can proudly declare: Our voice is stronger than ever. Hindi na pwedeng maliitin, hindi na pwedeng balewalain, at hindi na pwedeng magbingi-bingihan sa ating panawagan na kayo ay tratuhin nang tama, at buong pusong tanggapin,” Mayor Belmonte said. 

Pride in the Philippines is significantly growing and setting new milestones each year. Our journey as a community has taken us far, yet there is still much more ground to cover. The daily threat of hate crimes against the community continues and we still don’t have comprehensive legislation protecting us from discrimination. 

Video: PRIDE PH (via Facebook)

The reverberating and continuous roar throughout the day was the call for the passing of the SOGIE Equality Bill that rose with powerful volume, as seen on placards, banners, and shirts. “We exist at hindi ninyo kami mabubura. Kaya dapat ipasa ang SOGIE Equality Bill. 23 years na itong nakabinbin. Isa itong maingay at makulay na kalampag sa ating mga mambabatas. If you genuinely care for the Filipino people, pass the SOGIE Equality Bill now,” Mela Habijan said. It is profoundly challenging to grasp that even in 2023, we still need to fight for these rights as our country’s lawmakers refuse to unlearn their obsolete religious convictions. 

We’ve been put aside for far too long. We’ve endured too much belittlement and dehumanization. How long must we wait for recognition and respect that are rightfully ours? How many more generations must fight this battle? As a community, we all should play a role in changing the perceptions of those who misunderstand us, fear us, and as a result, harm us. There are several ways to shift conversations and educate: call out transphobia in your family, correct derogatory comments or “jokes” against queer people, openly support a newly outed lesbian friend, or come to Pride with your non-binary child. 

The Quezon City government listened and launched a groundbreaking initiative that allows LGBTQIA+ couples to make medical decisions for their partners. The Right to Care Card will operate under a special power of attorney and be first recognized in the city’s three government-run hospitals. This remarkable development gives attention to a side of love rights often overlooked by heterosexual couples, reinforcing the significance of legally validating queer partnerships. 

Of rainbows and hope

I’ve been to many Pride celebrations for years—from an assembly of a few hundred to today’s historic numbers. My boyfriend has been by my side through it all. Existing laws keep our queer love from legal protection despite having been together for 16 wonderful years. 

At nearly all Pride events I’ve attended, the rainbow makes its appearance. One could consider it as nothing more than a simple coincidence, a chance manifestation influenced by the timing of Pride here in the Philippines coinciding with the rainy season. However, from my perspective, it is evidence of something far more profound. Perhaps the universe is encouraging me to believe in hope and embrace joy, even for just that brief moment—a fleeting instance with a lasting impact. There is always that enduring hope that someday, somewhere under the symbolic arc of the rainbow, our love will find recognition as we seal our devotion with a tender kiss. 

How many more generations must be denied this fundamental right?


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