A gospel serenade of deep baritones echoed through a dim alley in one of Manila’s red light districts on a humid Sunday evening -- the joyful sounds emanating from a rare religious outpost for gay Filipinos.
In the small room, where a rainbow flag hangs next to a lace-covered crucifix at an altar, a few dozen worshippers raised their hands in prayer as sex workers strutted in front of fleabag motels on the street below.
Tucked away above a seedy bar, the makeshift Protestant church is a safe haven for gays who for decades have struggled for acceptance in the conservative Roman Catholic society.
“We are a sanctuary for those who are heavily burdened. If you are suffering because of bigotry, you can come here to unload,” Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) pastor Kakay Pamaran told the Agence France-Presse on Sunday (19 July 2015).
Like many in her flock, the 33-year-old former television commercial producer agonized her entire life trying to reconcile her sexual orientation with the Christian faith that she was born into.
Pamaran said she led a “double life,” keeping a girlfriend and going to church with her conservative parents who tried to ignore her being a lesbian.
“I was taught that being gay is an abomination. I struggled as a Christian because I feel there is nothing wrong with me,” she said, preparing that evening’s sermon on her smartphone.
At the MCC, which says it is the country’s biggest gay-friendly church, Pamaran said she learned that “God’s diversity is manifested in God’s people.”
Gay pride marches and pageants are freely staged across the Philippines, and a primetime television soap about two gay men was a major hit. But barriers remain, said AFP.