Originally from the Abra province of the Philippines, Marrz Balaoro first arrived in Hong Kong in 1981 as a full-time domestic worker. The metropolis isn’t known to be kind to ethnic minorities, migrant domestic workers and the transgender community. At the intersection of all three identities, the founder of Filguys Association Hong Kong was determined to serve his community from day one and quickly became a pioneer in domestic worker activism.
Founded in 2006 and with over 400 members, Filguys sought to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community, holding regular community events and seminars across the city. The organisation sheltered migrant workers in need of urgent accommodation and provided legal advice and counselling at their centre, which unfortunately closed down in 2018 due to lack of funding.
Marrz is the first transgender man to be ordained as a reverend at the LGBTS Christian Church in the Philippines. Although he was raised in a Catholic family, he faced challenges with his faith on a daily basis. He even stopped going to church in high school due to his concerns about discrimination. However, faith came calling again, in the form of a slogan at the LGBTS Church that read “you are accepted for who you are, and saved for what you are.” Marrz became a pastor in 2013 and set up the Hong Kong branch of the LGBTS Church the next year.
In 2017 he was arrested on suspicion of breaking Hong Kong’s marriage laws by officiating “Holy Union” ceremonies for same-sex couples. He faced the risk of being deported. However, the authorities dropped the case after the intervention of multiple parties over the course of a year.
For lack of a better description, Marrz truly is an “unsung hero” who continues to put in a tremendous amount of work: not for his own gain or agenda, but merely to serve and offer his blessings to his community.
Marrz more than deserves this year’s Prism Award. It’s our honour to be able to celebrate Marrz’s lifetime work with this award, and we are humbled by the likes of Marrz whose work is so essential, and yet so unrecognised by the Hong Kong LGBTI community at large. In his own words, “I think it is my role, it is my duty, not only to the LGBT community but to all people out there (to say) that we exist and there’s nothing wrong with us.”