#DearSurvivor Pride 2024: Celebrating Queer Joys and Empowerment through Collective Care and Vogue

Here is an inspiring thought piece contributed by one of our dedicated volunteers. In this article, "Alex" guides us through their #DearSurvivor PRIDE journey as a volunteer facilitator. Through their perspective, we explore the queer joys, empowerment, and the profound impact of collective care and solidarity.

On June 15, Lunas Collective commemorated this year's Pride Month with its flagship event, #DearSurvivor: Pride Edition. It's a safe space for queer folk and allies, where they quite literally took center stage. Along with its signature sharing circles, this #DearSurvivor partnered with  Filipino Ballroom Community leaders, Father Misha dela Blanca and up-and-coming legendary trailblazer Mother Xyza Mizrahi, and concluded with a vogue jam.

#DearSurvivor was held in the We are Shapeshifters Movement and Gatherings Studio at the First United Building in Escolta, Manila. True to its name, the two-room dance studio that day was transformed with a pride flag and other decorations in queer colors to welcome over 30 participants. This number marks the biggest face-to-face run of #DearSurvivor yet.

Photo Credit: SPARK STUDIOS, De La Salle - College of St. Benilde

As a volunteer facilitator, it was comforting to see circles of people sitting casually on the floor as they shared lunch—volunteers and participants alike, friends and strangers alike. Everybody stayed seated and cozy during the opening remarks by Lunas Collective’s Founder, Sabrina Gacad and warm welcome remarks from Father Misha dela Blanca. This was followed by a Safety Orientation by the organization’s Helpline and Project Coordinator, Janine Del Mundo. Before the activities started, they also played a video message of solidarity from Commissioner Faydah Dumarpa from the Commission on Human Rights.

After the welcoming portion, we got to the heart of the event—the sharing circles. Participants gathered in small groups, each assigned to a uniquely creative space, thanks to the support of Belg Belgica and Espacio Creativo Escolta, Ziv Rei Alexi, and Arts Serrano and One Zero | MNL | Design. 

Being a trained facilitator for these conversations, I'm aware of the kaleidoscope of emotions that they could bring about. With tissues and a few discussion questions prepared, my partner documenter and I made sure our participants felt comfy and started the discussion. 

Sharing the Care
Each time I facilitate a sharing circle discussion, I find myself grateful for the diversity of perspectives, fears, and hopes the group shares with one another. It's through these that I'm able to learn from and connect with different people, which nurture my practice as a responder. 

For this conversation in particular, I was in awe of all the different ways one's sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) can color their experiences in aspects of life. These labels carry with them implications, many times making queer people vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV) and othering. 

Yet beyond these experiences of GBV, Lunas Collective believes that queerness is about discovering and living one's most authentic life, which deserves to be celebrated. So together, we shared stories about intimacy, sexual health, work, and even growing older as queer people, as well as the tears and laughter that come with them. 

And just as we shared our vulnerabilities, we also discovered our collective strength. While events for queer folk and survivors of GBV typically bring people together to talk about their shared struggles, an often overlooked aspect of their healing journeys is joy and lighthearted shared experiences that help unapologetically bring out their authentic selves. 

Photo Credit: SPARK STUDIOS, De La Salle - College of St. Benilde

By the end of the discussion, the participants wrote messages for their fellow survivors and allies, and they put this up on the studio mirror for everybody in the big group to read as we reconvened for snacks. 

Following the snack break, Mother Xyza Mizrahi from Ballroom Culture PH enlightened the group about the rich history of the ballroom community as a safe haven for self-expression. She then led the group in an exhilarating vogue jam session. Members of Ballroom Culture PH joined Mother Xyza in sharing their art and their passion for ballroom with #DearSurvivor participants and volunteers. They demonstrated how movement and empowerment intertwine to hold space for healing in this vibrant cultural space.

So on that day, we shed more light on queer joy through movement.

The Art of Voguing
Mother Xyza talked about how people in the Black and Latino queer communities in New York, excluded from positions of power in their communities, families, and the workplace and whose identities were erased by mainstream media, gave birth to ballroom. They came together after hours to discover and showcase their own power via subversive dance movements that were inspired by fashion photo shoot poses, which they called "voguing." This caught on fast in the 1980s and created an international movement, which is now making its way to the mainstream in the Philippines.

Photo Credit: SPARK STUDIOS, De La Salle - College of St. Benilde

Today, ballroom culture continues to liberate people in the queer community, and sometimes even outside of it. The movement hyperbolizes gender as performance and gives everybody the opportunity to express their most flamboyant, authentic selves, whatever that may look like. This way, ballroom reminds people time and time again about the autonomy they have over their bodies and their stories. 

The vogue jam began with basic tutorials as we slowly got into the groove and awkwardly watched ourselves in the mirror. Yet after a while, the speaker started blaring punchy music with hard basslines. Through the increasingly maarte movements, we discovered parts of ourselves that we rarely get the chance to discover, much less bring out around other people. 

Photo Credit: SPARK STUDIOS, De La Salle - College of St. Benilde

By the time the sun had set, the vogue jam ended and the program was officially concluded soon after. Yet the notes from survivors stayed on the mirror and I left the venue feeling a little more in touch with my queerness and the community. 

Regardless of where we might be from or where we're going, events like #DearSurvivor Pride stand as a testament to the importance of finding comfort and pleasure in one's own skin. Chances like that might not be available everywhere, especially for the LGBTQ+ individuals, but I like to believe that a vibrant and welcoming community has always existed—and will continue to exist—for as long as queer people do.

I'm grateful that the queer community can grow more connected and empowered through events like #DearSurvivor. Even beyond Lunas Collective, it was supported by the UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies, EMpower - The Emerging Markets Foundation Ltd,  and The Asia Foundation

Everybody was brought together with the help of our partner organizations, Aromatic and Asexual Support PH, GALANG Philippines, UP Community Development Circle, Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network, Commission on Human Rights, and LakanBini.

And of course, none of the memories we made would have been possible without the spaces of We are Shapeshifters, Espacio Creativo Escolta, Ziv Rei Alexi, and One Zero | MNL | Design, and the refreshments and freebies from First United Building Corporation, the Kula Press, SogieLane, and the Kabataan Community Health Advocacy Team (KaCHAT).

PRIDE 2023: Making Meaningful Connections and Celebrating Diversity

We proudly commemorated PRIDE 2023 through a series of inclusive events, which not only celebrated the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies, but also facilitated meaningful conversations, promoted self-expression, and emphasized the importance of collective care.

June 17: Connecting Feminist Care and SOGIESC Equality Advocacy

On June 17, we collaborated with the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY) in a learning exchange: a safe and welcoming space for org members and volunteers, which aimed to connect people through shared experiences of exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination.

Vince Liban, National Convener of PANTAY, delivered an enlightening talk on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) while Lunas Collective's Director of Services, Lyka Lucena, facilitated a Feminist Care workshop, addressing diverse needs for care.

This event set the tone for the month, highlighting the power of collective action and the significance of sharing care within the community.

June 24: Embracing Pleasure and Power at LOVELABAN sa QC Pride PH Festival

Continuing the momentum, our volunteers participated in LOVELABAN sa QC Pride PH Festival on June 24. 

"When we say PLEASURE, you say POWER,” the collective chanted, emphasizing the need for truly inclusive communities that respect diverse definitions of safety, healing, and justice.

This event served as a powerful reminder that diverse pleasures should be celebrated in a space free from judgment and discrimination.

We express our gratitude to UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies for sharing their booth with our volunteers. We also congratulate Pride PH and the Quezon City Government for organizing the inspiring #LoveLabanSaQC event.

July 1: Stories, Songs, and Dances to Cap Off Pride Month 2023
Closing off Pride Month on July 1, Lunas Collective and PANTAY, joined by a caring community of volunteers, storytellers, advocates, and allies, hosted a celebration filled with stories, songs, and dances.

This event reinforced the idea that Pride extends beyond festivities, promoting self-love, compassion for others, and empowerment for the entire community. Our organizations marched for those who can't, and shared the care with those who might need it – advocating for a world where love, sexuality, and expression are free from violence and discrimination.

This culminating event encapsulated the spirit of PRIDE, emphasizing the need for ongoing support and understanding.

We extend our sincere thanks to PANTAY for co-organizing these events, the storytellers who trusted the safe space, the Puresoul band and Mrs Tan for sharing their talents, and allies and partners from UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies, UP College of Social Work and Community Development, and EMpower - The Emerging Markets Foundation Ltd.

#DearSurvivor 2022 Pride Edition: Celebrating Individual Power and Collective Pleasure

We at Lunas Collective marked an empowering and historic moment this Pride Month with its first-ever #DearSurvivor: #PrideMonth Edition on June 28, 2022.

The event focused on creating a safe space for queer individuals and allies to come together and discuss stories of resilience in the face of gender-based violence – while also celebrating the pleasures that make each person unique.

This #PrideMonth edition highlighted the importance of care, compassion, and support in helping individuals take the first step toward healing, justice, and empowerment.

The event was held in collaboration with esteemed partners including the PAP LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group, the University of the Philippines Department of Psychology, UP Center for Women's Studies Foundation, Inc., and UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies.

Our event brought together a distinguished panel of speakers who lent their voices to the cause:

  • Bea Torre - Chairperson at PAP LGBT Special Interest Group, Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines Department of Psychology, and Qualitative Analyst at Lunas Collective, served as the host, guiding the event with wisdom and compassion.
  • Brenda Alegre - A board member at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association - Asia (ILGA) and the Society of Trans Women of the Philippines (STRAP), as well as a Gender Studies Teacher at the University of Hong Kong, shared her insights on the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQI+ community.
  • Nina Araos - Qualitative Data Analyst at Lunas Collective and a Graduate Student majoring in International Development and Policy Studies in Tokyo, Japan, brought a global perspective to the discussion.
  • Lakan Umali - A talented writer and graduate student based in Metro Manila, added a creative and reflective touch to the dialogue.
  • Philline - A Movement Artist and Embodiment Teacher, showcased the power of art and expression in healing and celebrating one's identity.
  • Brian Baretto - SOGIE Specialist for the Ateneo De Manila University Gender Hub, Lead Volunteer for Flourish by LoveYourself, and a Drag Artist and Host known as Clea T, embodied the diversity and strength of the LGBTQI+ community.

#DearSurvivor, an initiative born out of empathy and solidarity, has been a sanctuary for survivors of gender-based violence to share their stories and heal.

We introduced this virtually in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, it took a hybrid form, incorporating on-the-ground activities during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a period running from November 25 to December 10 of that year.

The #DearSurvivor: #PrideMonth Edition was a testament to the strength, resilience, and unity of the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies. It served as a reminder that even in the face of adversity, healing and pleasure can be found, and that together, we can overcome challenges and celebrate love and identity.

Watch the online streaming here: #DearSurvivor PRIDE 2022