Last May 17, different LGBT groups in Metro Manila celebrated the IDAHO Day in the Cubao Expo. IDAHO stands for International Day Against Homophobia and is celebrated annually to commemorate the day when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its original list of mental disorders in the year 1990.
Cubao Expo in Araneta Center located in Quezon City is a fitting venue to celebrate IDAHO. The venue is a hub of different shops and restaurants and other establishments. The IDAHO organizers chose this site because it was known as a place where the LGBT communities are openly accepted as regular customers without any bias on anybody’s sexuality or gender identity. And so, eight establishments in Cubao Expo were chosen to be recognized by the different LGBT groups and the IDAHO Philippines Organizers for their past record of being welcoming toward the LGBT people. The eight establishments that were chosen to receive recognition from IDAHO are Alan’s, Escobar, Fred’s, Green Halo, Sweet Ecstasy, Penpen’s, The Reading Room and Bellini’s.
A few hours before the IDAHO celebration commenced, the decoration committee started the work by putting up the IDAHO announcement tarpaulin in the front gate of the Cubao Expo with the assistance of the friendly administration personnel of the venue. Next up was the installation of the rainbow flags in all 8 establishments that will be receiving the special recognition from the IDAHO organizers. The tarpaulin and the rainbow flags that were put up around the Cubao Expo were courtesy of the Philippine Atheist and Agnostic Society (PATAS). After putting up the flags and the tarpaulin, the Cubao Expo looked more colourful than ever.
The IDAHO decoration committee subsequently started decorating the wall of the venue, which was inside one of the establishments receiving the IDAHO awards, The Sweet Ecstasy. A giant rainbow flag was put up on the wall of the venue highlighted by an IDAHO logo in the middle of the flag. After the set up of the flag on the wall, everybody started getting excited and started taking pictures with the flag. Then the rest of the organizers and guests started arriving one by one. The IDAHO organizers afterwards started distributing little rainbow flags which are to be used during the actual toasting for the IDAHO.
Then Tonet Alcantara, as host of the show, opened the IDAHO event and introduced the speaker to represent for the owners of the establishments in Cubao Expo. "We live in a world where we NEED to safeguard our freedom. Ours is a world that unfortunately discriminates against diversity – and so we need to protect that at all costs." said Sandy Beltran of The Reading Room who opened the program as representative of the business owners. Beltran added that "acceptance is, for most of the masses, not an instinctive mindset, rather one nurtured by environment, education, and relationships."
Cubao Expo business owners then signed a commitment to continue their practice of acceptance and non discrimination. The signing was immediately followed by the celebratory toast. In his closing remarks, Ron de Vera, IDAHO Spokesperson, reiterated that "business owners, people in a position of power, have a responsibility to respect the rights of those who work for them as well as those they work for." "Policy change is not the only solution to eliminating discrimination. But it is definitely a step in the right direction" said de Vera. The event culminated with a toast for IDAHO. Picture takings took place with guests toasting and waving flags with the IDAHO rainbow flag as the backdrop. .
This IDAHO event in Cubao Expo is just the start of the continuous campaign to promote, among all sectors of business, equality and acceptance towards the LGBT community. The Cubao Expo establishments that received recognition are just few of the first businesses that will lead in setting an example to every business enterprise in the country towards removing prejudice and discrimination against humans of different gender identities.
By Vladimir Atheistmov