LoveYourself marched together with the 70 thousand people who attended the Metro Manila Pride March on June 29, 2019 at the Marikina Sports Center. Among the organizations supporting the march, LoveYourself and its volunteers walked for equal opportunity for not only LGBTQ+ community, but for people living with HIV as well. Together we made a grand spectacle to invite everyone who witnessed the march to be #PartOfOurWorld in the HIV advocacy.

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurzbach, LoveYourself Ambassador and ally of the community shared the following testament in celebration for the 25th anniversary of Asia’s first Pride Month:

We are celebrating Pride Month, in order to uplift the spirit, and inspire love and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ Community. Let’s cultivate a world that sees the inner soul of a person rather than the differences in their outer skin. Let’s empower, and encourage one another to be brave and free for who they really are. That’s why we at LoveYourself want to show you that we are all part of our world.

Miss Universe 2018 and LoveYourself ambassador Catriona Gray emphasized the inclusivity and equality as important values that we must carry even beyond Pride Month. We make the world a better place when we are all part of each other’s world.

LoveYourself has made embracing and nurturing one’s self-worth as its mission for its volunteers and clients. In the pursuit of creating ripples of positive change in society, LoveYourself aims to lead by example. In behalf of over one thousand volunteers we would like to share a few words about pride month.

Today is a good day to be yourself; to love yourself and share that love to others. It is a historic day as we celebrate 25 years since we first marched for inclusion, unity, and equality for the Philippines’ LGBTQ community. 

In 1994, our brothers and sisters marched to commemorate the silver anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots and to push for gay rights on the political agenda in the post-Martial Law Philippines. We became the first country in Asia and the Pacific to take a stand with Pride Marches around the world. In 2019, we have a great opportunity to continue what they started and write a bolder history for our community.

One compelling issue that we have power over is the country’s HIV epidemic. Fortunately, more community-based organizations are leading initiatives to spread information and encourage citizen action so more people can get tested and be aware of their status. These grassroot organizations and their exemplary volunteers are crucial in generating data across the country which we and the government use to implement effective campaigns to address and combat HIV/AIDS. A recently notable progress our country made is the passage of the new law enabling access for HIV/AIDS health services to more Filipinos, even as young as 15 years old. 

Through our collective effort, the HIV advocacy has made great strides. There are mainstream personalities that are heavily involved in the cause for they see the inherent beauty of humanity and of our community. At the forefront of this are our staunch advocates and allies, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray. Their fearless and charismatic use of the global pageant stage are helping to normalize HIV conversation, raise awareness, push for testing, and even influence how our leaders view our needs.

Using the positive influence of our two Miss Universe titlists, Pia and Catriona recently headlined “U=U” or Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. As LoveYourself’s newest campaign, it promotes greater understanding that treatment for persons living with HIV is available and effective to achieve an undetectable status. It makes them unable to transmit the virus to their loved ones and live completely normal lives. 

Another good news to celebrate is the availability of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis or PreP in LoveYourself Anglo and soon, in other community centers. This helps more Filipinos be confident in maintaining their non-reactive status and minimizing the risk of contracting HIV.

Truly, we are now seeing the fruits of our collected effort and hard work. These ripples of positive change need to continue for the next generation. If the growing number of Metro Manila Pride Parade participants is any indication, then we are on the right track. We are getting closer to a world—a universe rather—where love trumps hate and equality overshadows division. 

Today is a good day to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, or anything else we identify as. Today is a good day to make everyone know that they belong–that we are all part of one world. And that together, we can continue to create change in our communities.

Text by Ross Manicad
Photo by Kevin Bumagat