Pride goes beyond June with Mondelez Philippines’ “#ProudToBeMe, Proud To Be Blue” event
How empowering it is that we get to celebrate Pride every day?
With the ever-changing landscape of the Philippines, it becomes challenging, especially for minorities, to navigate the constant uncertainty. While it may be difficult for a culture as traditional and conservative as the Philippines to evolve in terms of its view on gender, there are individuals, groups and institutions that go above and beyond in taking steps to move forward.
Thanks to Mondelez Philippines and their mission to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the #ProudToBeMe, Proud To Be Blue event was made possible, and was held at the Ateneo de Manila University. With various Ateneo alumnae part of the LGBTQIA+ community present, the event showcased the powerful people who paved the way for current students to live out their identities freely and openly.
While the country and the university still have a long way to go in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion, the #ProudToBeMe, Proud To Be Blue event proved to be a step in the right direction.
Hosted by the captivating Miss Mela Habijan, Miss Trans Global 2020 and an Ateneo alumna, the event fostered a safe space—successfully empowering LGBTQIA+ students to reach their full potential and become persons for and with others.
Host Mela Habijan greets the students participating in the “#ProudToBeMe, Proud To Be Blue” event at the Ateneo de Manila University
Drag queen Miss Juicy, an Ateneo alumni, performs “Break My Soul”
Leaps in the sphere of gender at the Ateneo de Manila University
To represent the stakeholders in Ateneo, the event featured two Ateneans: Isabelle Delos Santos, the Community Engagements Co-Deputy of the Ateneo Sanggunian Commission on Gender Equality and Mibo Borres, the Gender, Care and Advocacy Coordinator of the University Gender Hub.
As a student in Ateneo, Isabelle (or Isay), emphasized the importance of support networks that the youth can rely on. With this, her organization, the Ateneo Sanggunian Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), acts as a bridge to address the concerns of Ateneans and forms initiatives to further the advocacy of gender equality. An example of this is One Big Pride, an event held annually in Ateneo, which serves as a celebration of love for the LGBTQIA+ community and a protest against the ongoing injustices that the community struggles with. Isabelle also highlighted their Gender Sensitivity Training, which they provide to their CGE members, as well as all departments of the Sanggunian. They are planning to extend this training to other organizations within the university, where they can properly focus on training that is “more tailor fit to an organization’s needs.”
Partnerships are important when it comes to forwarding the advocacy. Isay reiterates: “Partnerships with organizations get a raw insight of the very sector that you’re trying to serve.”
Mibo Borres, an advocacy coordinator at the university, mentions that one of the goals of the University Gender Hub is to “guide students as much as possible.” With this guidance, it makes it easier for one to embody their identity. As students continue to work toward this advocacy and become more empowered, Mibo stresses the “power in the collective,” saying that it is vital to “extend collaborations with people outside one’s group, to tap on their strengths.” Mibo also notes how the university takes steps to advance gender equality and inclusivity through constant discussions with various university departments and units.
“There are constant discussions about initiatives. Offices that used to be silent are now engaging,” Borres notes.
Speaking of advances and leaps in the university, the University Gender Hub partnered with Love Yourself PH where they launched the first-ever HIV testing activity in the Ateneo. Initiatives such as this show that it is possible to make waves in any setting and space.
Mondelez Philippines and their promise of diversity and inclusion in the workplace
To elaborate on the culture of inclusivity and DEI programs of Mondelez Philippines, the event also featured April Valencia, the People Lead of Mondelez Philippines, and Monch Cruz, the Mondelez Philippines Lead of E-commerce.
While Mondelez may be known for their renowned snacks and treats such as Cheez Whiz, Oreo, Toblerone and Cadbury Dairy Milk, they work to ensure that the products are made the right way and can be enjoyed without limitations.
“Mondelez Philippines will always be on the side of championing equality, no matter who you are. We are committed to being part of this movement of promoting DEI in the country, and that includes our own backyard,” shares April.
In its organizational structure, the company also has an impressive leadership ratio, where 60% of its leaders are women.
Now, you may be thinking, how do we know this isn’t a case of another giant corporation using the LGBTQIA+ community to create more profits AKA rainbow washing? After multiple encounters with corporations “rainbow washing,” it may become difficult to differentiate good intentions from profit-gaining tactics. However, time and time again, Mondelez Philippines proves that they live out their promise of inclusion, equal employment rights and opportunities for all—without exclusion, without borders. Mondelez Philippines is able to walk its talk with the various policies that it formalizes in the workplace. It is one thing to say that you are an advocate, and it is another to live out the advocacy through both internal and external practices and mechanisms.
When asked about Mondelez Philippines' DEI policies, Cruz explains they are committed to fostering policies that are gender-neutral, ensuring belongingness for all. “In the Philippines, most policies are created with distinction between those who are married [and those who are] not. At Mondelez, you can extend benefits to your partner as long as necessary documents are provided.”
Mondelez Philippines also prides itself on its gender-neutral restroom and DEI policy that safeguards three rights: the right to a name, the right to dress and the right to safe spaces.
With this, Ateneo student Isay shares that she is now hopeful and confident that students like her can seek employment opportunities with companies that do not “discriminate against their SOGIESC.”
April Valencia and Monch Cruz from Mondelez Philippines, together with Mibo Borres and Isabella De Los Santos from UGDO and CGE, discuss DEI policies in their respective departments
This event by Mondelez Philippines proved also to be a tribute to those who came before us—those that fought long and hard to make sure that the queer youth of today have welcoming, fair and inclusive career paths ahead of them. While the conversation has progressed greatly compared to a few years back, there is still a long way to go and much to be done. Pride does not stop in June—it is in the everyday discussions, the steps we take and the choices we make. The choice to stand out, to fit in, to be loud, to be proud, to be you.
Words Julia Makalintal
Art Macky Arquilla