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Same-sex unions stir Baguio City

/ 11:29 PM June 25, 2011

BAGUIO CITY—The city’s homosexual community was “Here, There and Everywhere” at a local bar, which served as a chapel for Baguio’s first ceremonial gay unions on Saturday.

This tune by The Beatles served as the wedding march when pastors of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Metro Baguio here solemnized the union of a male couple and of seven lesbian partners at the Ayuyang Bar.

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This was MCC Baguio’s first ceremony, which was witnessed by a largely lesbian community and which has agitated Baguio’s mainstream and evangelical churches.

MCC Baguio is the local chapter of the MCC in Quezon City, a Christian church that ministers to homosexuals. A third MCC chapter serves Makati City.

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Bhaya de la Cruz, 28, and Shielo Sabaot, 30, who have been living together since 2009, strode on rose petals as they headed for the altar. Sabaot wore a white cocktail dress while De la Cruz wore a three-piece suit.

They exchanged wedding rings and vows to the delight of their adopted three-year-old daughter.

Myke Sotero, pastor of the MCC Baguio, said today’s service was “a Christian celebration of love and relationship.”

MCC Baguio earlier advised reporters that the rites should not be referred to as “same sex marriages” because the community acknowledges that no laws recognize homosexual unions in the country. Instead, it referred to the weddings as “same sex holy unions.”

American Richard McLelland, 64, who wed 22-year-old Jhon Jhon Punzal, said: “[Our] wedding had been postponed twice, but long before this we have been married in heart already.”

Posters adorned the walls of Ayuyang, expressing the community’s messages. A poster states: “Love is a human right not a heterosexual privilege.”

But these couples were criticized by local church leaders prior to the Saturday ceremony.

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Bishop Donald Soriano, of the Bethesda Ministries Calvary Pentecostal Church, said representatives of the city’s evangelical community met to determine what steps to take to denounce the same sex unions.

“[The rites] will only destroy family values and this must stop,” Soriano said by telephone on Friday.

On Saturday, evangelical groups announced plans to mount rallies to protest the MCC activity.

In a June 25 statement, the Association of the Ministers from Baguio-Benguet said its members “believe that… these same-sex weddings will further weaken our already struggling family and community structures.”

Bishop Carlito Cenzon, of the Catholic Vicariate of Baguio, has not participated in the meetings organized by the evangelical groups, but he supported their position.

“Is this type of marriage accepted by Filipinos? They are creating disorder,” Cenzon said. With a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Baguio City, gay, homosexual, MCC, Metropolitan Community Church, same sex marriage, wedding
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