by Florante A. Nicolas, PGIN- CMO
“This festival is more than a showcase of talent and artistry of the least recognized gender. Like in the mainstream sexual categories- male and female, the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) has also all the rights and privileges that we in the common gender are being granted”
This is the opening statement of Gov. Ma. Imelda R. Marcos in her opening remarks amidst thousands of spectators during the 37th Sunflower Festival held in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte last December 26 which was participated in by 32 contingents from the different towns and cities of Ilocos Norte.
According to Pasuquin Tourism Officer Edilberto ‘Bert’ Lagoc, ‘the festival is one of the oldest beauty and artistry competition among the ‘third sex’ in Ilocos Norte if not in the country, because even before the Miss Gay Philippines has existed, the Sunflower festival has long been running in our town.’
Tracing the history of the festival, Mr. Larry Orque, now based in the United States and one of the crowned Sunflower Queen, wrote in 2004 that ‘Sunflower was organized by a group of gays in Pasuquin in May 1975 where Mr. Mario Guerrero was crowned as their first queen. Then on, the festival was an annual awaited event for the folks of Pasuquin.’
“The petals of the sunflower radiates to all directions which he visualized to that of a gay life being multi talented and truly excels in his field of expertise. It’s amazing that the sunflower always follows the direction of the sun from sunrise to sunset where it gets its energy – this relates and proves that gays are energetic, creative and very resourceful in their everyday lives,” Mr. Orque recalled citing Mr. Guerrero who organized the yearly event since its inception in 1975.
Meanwhile, the festival was attended by different LGBT groups such as the Task Force Pride Philippines, LADLAD Party List, Lesbian Activism Project (LeAP) Inc., and the UP Babaylan which is the leading LGBT students support group in the University of the Philippines.
The controversial Metropolitan Community Church of Metro Baguio led by Pastoral Leader Myke Sotero who recently con-ducted a marriage ceremony of two gays also attended the festival.
“Ilocos Norte is very fortunate because Gov. Marcos is very open to this kind of activities of LGBT’s. Her message is an indication that she is in full support to the ‘babaylans (gays)’ in your province. We are so proud to hear from her that she is ‘one of us!’” LADLAD Party List Media Officer Dexter Macaldo beamed.
Out of the 32 contestants, Richard Bumanglag of Laoag was 3rd runner-up; Dan Teano of Pasuquin, 2nd runner- up; Japhet Raquel of Badoc 1st runner- up; while Dexter “Phem” Paraoan of Carasi was crowned the 2011 Sunflower Queen. The winners received cash prize, bouquet of flowers, and sash.