Philippine News and GMANews.TV
Text, photos and video by Ted Regencia
CHICAGO — For the first time in the 39-year history of the Chicago Gay Pride Parade, a contingent of Filipinos joined in the festivities Sunday, June 29, capping their trailblazing participation with a victory in the Best Organization Float category.
An estimated 450,000 people — 25,000 more than last year, according to reports — gave the Filipinos and Friends in Chicago (FINC) and other parade participants a wild and frenzied welcome. FINC is an organization of young Filipino professionals in the Windy City.
“We really want to highlight the rich and colorful culture of the Philippines, and make known to the world that as Filipinos, we are proud to be a part of the Chicago community,” Oliver Cutamora, a founding member said.
FINC’s street performance, a fusion of native Filipino dances and modern rhythms, conceptualized by professional choreographers Mike Vallente and Chip Payos, sent the crowd into loud cheers.
As the performers entertain the crowd, other FINC members distributed pink beads, while an advance party carried the group banner, the American and Philippines flags, and the rainbow-colored flag of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community.
An intermittent rain and a minor accident stalled the parade for nearly an hour, but the revelers stayed put in solidarity with the performers.
The parade featured scores of floats decked in colorful designs. Hundreds of organizations also participated, including Lambda Legal, a national civil-rights group and Lake View East Chamber of Commerce, which shares the same award with FINC.
Recognizing the political force of Chicagoland’s gay community, political leaders such as Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and North Shore Congressman Jan Schakowsky also marched. Schakowsky is hinted as Senator Barack Obama’s replacement, should he win the presidency in November 2008, also marched. Obama himself did not show up, but a group of supporters distributed leaflets and stickers promoting his candidacy.
Not all who showed up were in support of the event. A group of evangelical Christians rallied at the southwest corner of Clark and Belmont to condemn the parade. But their group was drowned-out by a bigger group of counter-protesters. Later, they moved to Diversey to resume their protest.
The theme of this year’s march “Live, Love, Be Proud” took on a greater significance with the legalization of same-sex marriage in California. Expanding on the theme, hundreds carried placards calling for equal treatment of all people.
Serving as grand marshal was Eric Alva, a gay rights advocate and ex-marine from Texas. Alva is calling on the government to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
Other major cities such as San Francisco, Toronto in Canada, Mumbai in India and Brno in Prague also held their parade last Sunday. The event commemorates the bloody riot in New York City in 1968 that sparked the gay rights movement.