This Sobering Video Campaign Aims To Make Philippine Schools More Inclusive


Pride PH’s Batang Hinarang Sa Lupang Hinirang is a campaign that sheds light on the discrimination of transgender students in Philippine schools.

While it’s already 2023, there is still is a long way to go in fostering safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community who continue to experience discrimination, violence, and homophobia worldwide. The trans and non-binary community, most especially, are at risk to face this unjust treatment. A study has found that transgender people are over four times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than cisgender people. 

That is why it is of paramount importance to continue shedding the light on and make people aware of the struggles of the oft-marginalized community and help in fostering a more secure social environment for them. It is important that our trans and non-binary friends feel visible and bloom in a place where their self-expression is not suppressed. This is at the core of the mission of the local non-profit group Pride PH with a video campaign that aims to make Philippine schools inclusive.

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To mark this year’s International Transgender Day of Visibility, advocacy group Pride PH launched an affecting video campaign about the discrimination that Filipino transgender students experience in schools. Titled Batang Hinarang sa Lupang Hinirang, the two-minute short features a transgender woman student, who is forced to present herself as a male during a flag ceremony. This means neglecting the character’s gender identity and expression by changing her uniform, cutting her hair down, and removing her make-up.

Jelai Balbaera plays the role of the discriminated student. A transgender woman student herself, Jelai understands the struggles and stigma that the community faces in schools. “Kailangan po namin ng tulong dahil dini-discriminate po kami ng school namin,” she says. Jelai has experienced it firsthand. In 2022, her video of getting a haircut went viral and resonated with many, both her trans sisters and allies. “So kailan kami matatanggap?” asks Jelai in her caption.

It was in 2017 when the Department of Education released a memorandum that recognizes the sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC) of teachers and students. Under the Gender Responsive Basic Education Policy (No. 32, s. 2017), both teachers and students should be respected and allowed to dress according to their gender identity. Six years later, many schools still refuse to understand this policy and suppress the free expression of transgender students like Jelai.

“Transgender students and teachers deserve to be in schools and to present themselves as they are!,” Pride PH National Convener and Miss Trans Global 2020 Mela Habijan declares. Habijan hopes that the campaign convinces schools to follow the DepEd memo and for the institution to create a new memo specifically accounting for transgender and non-binary students and teachers. 

“We continue to get tragic accounts of trans nenes (girls) and totoys (boys) who are prohibited from expressing their true selves by their schools,” Habijan furthers, noting that the fight to recognize and protect the rights of transgender students is far from over. “Yet, we shall continue to fight.” While the DepEd memo has since been reiterated last year, there’s still no penalty or sanction for schools that do not abide. 

The campaign organizers from Ad Hoc Marketing also strive to create more urgent and relevant materials to further adovacies that aim to protect the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. “There’s still so much to do and to fight for when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community,” Henson Wongaiham, co-founder and managing partner of Ad Hoc Marketing, says. “We look forward to developing more creatively effective campaigns in the future.”

Whether you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community or an ally, may we all stand in solidarity in trumping prejudice, hatred, and discrimination against transgender and non-binary people. Schools should be a safe place conducive to the growth of all students. A place where they are free and welcome to embrace and express themselves fully.

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