Ilocano "Project E" founder calls for intersectoral equality

Jun 25, 2018 ...

Pride month is a colorful time for Rogie Balino, head of the Sirib Youth Academy and Advocacy Center (SYAAC), as he continues painting the lives not only of the LGBTQI+ community but of everyone who shares his advocacy for equality.

"I want them to see that the world does not have to be scary for them, that our world is healthy for living," he shared. "I am an out-and-proud gay, so I've experienced being bullied. I've experienced being discriminated in society, in my circle of friends, and even inside my family."

Such difficulty pushed him to become a leader, start exposing himself to different organizations and trainings, and establish Project E, "so that I can prove that I am not just a gay, that I can be more than of being a gay," he added.

Balino, together with his colleagues, built Project E as a committee under the SYAAC of Sirib Ilokano Kabataan Association Inc. (SIKA). It stands for Project Equality and Equity.

Project E aims at gender equality and sensitivity, and was established on June 22, 2016. For the first three years, Balino said that they had only focused on sex and gender, but have now decided to establish a broader perspective of equality.

Balino is also an advocate of mental health, being a member of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition of the Philippines-External Youth Committee Affair. Thus, he considers the recent passage of Republic Act 11036, the Mental Health Law, as a triumph towards equality and equity in the Philippines.

"Equality is not only associated with gender or sex; it is also associated with the marginalized, so we came up with the new Project E: Project E Level 2," he shared.

Project E Level 2 focuses now on seven sectors which are, gender, indigenous or ethnic groups, persons with disabilities (PWDs), men, women, the youth, and the less fortunate.

With the help and support of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos, Project E Level2 has grown with more volunteers and activities such as the info-drive campaigns not only for the LGBTQI+ groups but also for other equality and equity advocates in high school and college.

"Project E [Lvl.2] is not only limited to LGBTQI+ community; it is for everyone who are experiencing discrimination at any levels," Balino clarified, adding they are constantly in search of fellow advocates to join their cause.

He recently partnered the committee with Thailand-based organization Young Voices Count, which brings together young leaders from all over the Asia Pacific Region to address issues related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), other health issues, and human rights through capacity building and community mobilization. Balino is among seven Filipinos who are part of YVC.

"I keep on fighting for mental health and other advocacies because I don't want others to experience what I've experienced before. I can't afford to see people suffering from discrimination, suffering from bullying, and all other youth-related issues," he stated.

Balino hopes that through these efforts, people will understand that equality is not only associated with the LGBTQI+ community, but rather is an advocacy for every sector of society.


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