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"Take Pride In Being Our Authentic Selves Every Day:" BJ Pascual's Heartwarming Message About The 2018 Metro Manila Pride Fest Will Make You Wave Your Rainbow Flag All Year Long

"'Tanggap na naman ang mga bakla sa Pilipinas! Ano pa bang gusto nila?' I hear variations of this from people all the time. Working in an industry where #LGBTQIA+ people are accepted so easily can make me feel so comfortable that it's easy to forget that in reality, for most of us it can be quite the opposite."



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These are the words of celebrated fashion photographer BJ Pascual, a proud member and vocal advocate of the Philippine LGBTQ+ community, who attended this year's highly successful—and deeply emotional—Metro Manila Pride Fest.

Like many Filipinos (regardless of what gender they identify with or who they fall in love with), BJ excitedly anticipated Pride Month's slew of celebrations with last weekend's Pride Fest being the most memorable one of all.

Held last weekend and staged at the Marikina Sports Center, the festival more than tripled its participants from 8,000 in 2017 to 25,000 this year, with LGBTQ+ Pinoys and their straight allies making up the electric crowd. The all-encompassing event dedicated to providing a safe, informative, and welcoming space for the country's LGBTQ+ community members hosted a myriad of activities to empower attendees and promote deeper understanding of the many plights of non-heterosexual Filipinos.



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Beginning with All Families Day, Pride Fest participants spent an afternoon bonding with the families they were born into, as well as those who they chose for themselves. Talks from LGBTQ+ Filipinos who have become pillars in their industries ensued later in the day to inspire attendees to reach for their dreams, proving that one's potential to succeed is in no way influenced by one's gender. And of course, the vibrant Pride March and Festival was everyone's favorite part of the day.

Looking back at his Pride Fest experience, BJ emphasized the true meaning behind the festivities. Attending the event with partner Mike Lavarez, the master lensman trained the spotlight on the struggles many LGBTQ+ Pinoys have yet to overcome and penned sincere messages on social media to raise awareness on LGBTQ+ related issues.



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On Instagram, he wrote, "25,000 STRONG (from last year's 8,000) NAKAKAIYAK GRABE!!! So happy to see the #LGBTQ+ community (and our straight allies) all come together and celebrate as one! I hope everyone won't stop speaking up and showing up in events like this just because #Pride month is over. We should take pride in being our authentic selves EVERYDAY. Went home from Marikina exhausted but extremely hopeful for the future!!! Congratulations to the @mmprideorg team for this beyond successful event! And a huge thank you to all the volunteers, all of us wouldn’t have had a safe space to celebrate if it weren’t for all your hard work! #RiseUpTogether #Equality #LoveWins."

The post was a follow-up to an earlier message he wrote to open Pride Month.



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Speaking with absolute transparence and sincerity, BJ shared, “So many young people are still being disowned by their families simply by being themselves, often ending up homeless. Some couples, no matter how long they've been together, won't even have the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital in case something happens because they are not legally recognized.

"A lot of elderly gay people get neglected by their families when they stop providing financially after years of supporting them. The government’s refusal to acknowledge the rising number of HIV cases as a threat, and the anti-discrimination bill that keeps getting pushed back are just a few real and tangible examples of the struggles of our community. I can go on and on about these issues.

"#Pride may just be another hashtag, another parade or another party to some, but for me, it's about giving a voice to anyone who’s been discriminated against, to anyone who has been made to feel like an 'other' simply because they choose to be true to themselves. This is for you. Let's all #RiseUpTogether this June 30 for @mmpride!!! WHO'S GOING? #HoldTight #loveislove #lgbtq."



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Taking BJ’s convictions into account, it’s clear that the LGBTQ+ community will continue to celebrate who they are and support one another in the unpredictable, but rewarding journey of replacing prejudice with acceptance, and ignorance with inclusivity, despite Pride Month coming to a close.

Rainbow flags might be folded and stored in drawers until they’re needed again next year, but LGBTQ+ Filipinos will surely wear their colors proudly all year long!



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Photos from @BJpascual