On June 30th, first-time Pride-goer, 19-year-old Jamilah Salvador of Marikina, Philippines captured a viral moment fit not only for Metro Manila Pride but for #20gayteen.
According to BuzzFeed News, the group pictured above is Freedom in Christ Ministries (FICM) of Makati whose “I’m Sorry” Campaign has seen the light of Pride marches for about four years now.
*for a close-up of the banners and signs double-click:
The biggest banner read:
We’re here to apologize for the way that we as Christians have harmed the LGBT community.
…for hiding behind religion when really I was just scared.
….I’ve looked at you as a sex act instead of a child of God.
…I have looked down on you instead of honoring your humanity.
…I’ve rejected and hurt your family in the name of ‘family values’.
…for not listening.
…for judging you.
With accompanying signs in all caps that said everything from: “God loves you so do we” + “Can we hug you?” + “#LGBT you are loved” + “I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe. SORRY!!!” to “Jesus didn’t turn people away, neither do we“–and matching shirts from members present, it’s no wonder Salvador’s viral tweet presented a wide array of emotional replies.
A week later, asienne caught up with the 19-year-old about the story of her capturing these powerful photos on-site and what it meant to her personally.
A: Let’s talk about the importance of your faith and tying it with your sexuality.
JS: This is quite hard since I’m not very religious but maybe…let’s not hate on people.
This isn’t just about those who identify as LGBT. It’s just a representation. For example, don’t hate on a specific group of people because of their choices being different from yours.
Because even in the Bible–even Jesus mingled with sinners, right? So what’s wrong with being an LGBT? Why keep on hating when you could just show respect? How hard is it to respect others?
There’s been a lot of hate on Twitter with people saying it’s a sin.
Ever since I was born, I’ve been a Catholic. I studied in Catholic schools even up to now. My faith doesn’t pose a problem with my sexuality. I serve the Lord, I do good things to others. For example at school, with outreach efforts, I don’t even think twice to join.
But the most important thing I’ve probably learned that’s applicable to my life right now regarding sexuality is that: no matter who the person is, they should still be respected. It’s important to reach out to that person because you really don’t know what anyone, in particular, is going through in life. Lahat kasi tayo, we all have stories to share. I think it’s important to just respect each other.
A: Wait. You’ve been getting a lot of negative comments?
JS: Yeah, a lot of them. About four out of ten replies are negative. But it’s ok since it’s impossible to not encounter those.
But of course, there’s been more positive comments from those who can relate. So, that’s a good thing. That’s a really good thing.
A: Did people approach you in real life after that Twitter post?
JS: My friends who know about me already knew. So, no.
But in my DM’s and on Facebook, yeah, there’s been a lot where they’re thanking me and telling me they’re not alone and they’re saying that society is slowly accepting it.
Then there are others who have said that before they’ve hated on the LGBT community and then they met a friend who’s part of the community and it’s super (sobrang) heartwarming to hear those words from other people.
Most of the other people who have messaged me are actually from abroad, so I guess wow, it really went viral, huh? (laughs)
Don’t feel invalidated just because of what other people say. Whatever you do with love will always be great. No matter how small or big it is, as long as it’s done with love it will always be remarkable and you don’t need people to always like you or what you’re doing and also you have to accept who you are and you have to love yourself first.
A: In terms of acceptance, have you always felt accepted by your faith or your family? What was it about the signs that moved you and made you cry?
JS: I’ll just tell you the story of how I saw them.
After the parade, we went around Marikina and when we entered the venue, they were actually the ones who welcomed us. We were so tired from walking [for about 15 to 20 minutes or more] and then I saw the signs, I was actually stunned talaga. I wanted to really process and absorb all the words that they were trying to say [on the signs].
I slowly approached each of the signs and the people holding them because I really wanted to read it and I don’t really know––
I got goosebumps, I started tearing up because…in my family, I don’t think I can say that it’s accepted, it’s more of tolerated.
Now when it comes to faith, aside from priests–as you know, the Philippines as a country is just really very conservative. I’ve attended mass and in their homilies, they say a little segway about LGBT “You should love and respect others” and things like that and it made me realize that there are really some people who read beyond what the Bible says.
So, when I saw those signs, I thought, ‘Wow, these people…there’s really no pride, there’s no ego in the mix–it’s pure and genuine sincerity.‘
This interview was partially translated from Tagalog + English and lightly edited for clarity.