For Immediate Release
Filipinas Take the Stage and Talk About Vaginas and Violence
March 1, 2009
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, 925-726-5768, email@example.com
New York, NY— On February 28, 2009, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment and V-Day presented two sold out performances of The Vagina Monologues at the Robert Moss Theater in the East Village. The proceeds from the shows go toward Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network, a New York City program of Philippine Forum for domestic workers, and LILA Pilipina, a Philippines based organization that advocates for the rights and welfare of the remaining comfort women who are now well into their 70s to 90s. The production brought together a multi-generational cast of Filipina women on stage to share the stories of the surviving comfort women of the Philippines, explore ideas around gender, and discuss violence against women. The women in the cast was a myriad of community members, including those from Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network, and the young women of Girls Night Out. The 200 person audience consisted of family members, friends, organizational partners, and community workers who commended the cast and crew’s work in advocating for the rights of fellow Filipinas, and all women who share a history of violence.
The one day production prompted an audience hailing from all over the tri-state area, and as far as Baltimore, MD, affirming the importance of an all-Filipina cast performing The Vagina Monologues. This production, which addresses violence against women, comes at a critical time for women living in the Philippines, as 6000 U.S. troops are to be deployed to the Bicol region of the Philippines this April for Balikatan 2 joint military war games exercises under the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). With an increase of military activity, there is an urgent plea to protect women and children from the resulting militarized violence committed against the Filipino people.
To better understand the harmful effects of military activity on the livelihood of Filipinas, FiRE’s production of The Vagina Monologues highlighted the piece “Say It for the Comfort Women.” This specific monologue described the experiences of women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. Knowing the continued struggle of LILA Pilipina, cast members ended the monologue by demanding an apology from the Japanese government for the unacknowledged atrocities committed against these grandmothers more than sixty years ago. “With the guidance of our director, Ria Mae Binaoro, we chose to do ‘Say It for the Comfort Women’ to honor the surviving lolas, or grandmothers, and bring attention to the detrimental effects of militarized violence on Filipinas and their communities,” stated Hanalei Ramos, Secretary General of FiRE. Unfortunately, the current case of Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, convicted of raping a 22-year old Filipina named Nicole, shares the same history of special protections afforded to military offenders instead of the Filipinas who are victims of rape and sexual assault. Smith has been sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment for the 2006 assault, yet remains in the protective custody of the U.S. Embassy. Despite the pressure placed by the Philippine Supreme Court to negotiate the transfer of Smith from the U.S. Embassy to a Philippine detention center, the case is still ongoing, and justice has yet to be served for Nicole, three years after her assault.
During the discussion with the audience, it was revealed that many were shocked to hear about the case of the comfort women for the first time, and were appalled at how the surviving grandmothers have not been acknowledged for decades of pain and suffering. The cast and director were also asked about their involvement with the project and the inspiration behind producing the play. Jackie Mariano, External Education Director of FiRE saidd, “We wanted an all Filipina cast in our production because it’s an important way for us to begin the discussion about sexuality and violence against women with our own community – our families, our friends.”
This community dialogue initiated by The Vagina Monologues allowed local Filipinos to learn about the atrocities faced by Filipinas daily, as seen in the case of 22 year old Nicole, and that of the comfort women. “The Vagina Monologues is another way for us to bring awareness about the issues that affect the Filipina community: domestic violence, sexual repression and abuse, and militarized violence against women in the Philippines. This is a step in really resolving these issues and truly bringing justice to our women,” stated Irma Bajar, Financial Officer of FiRE and producer of The Vagina Monologues.
US TROOPS OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!
JUNK THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT!
PUT DANIEL SMITH IN THE CUSTODY OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!
END MILITARIZED VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!