Filipino Domestic Workers, Fil-Am Women, and Local Immigrant Communities Find Solace In One Another this Mother’s Day

Members of Kabalikat and FiRE's Mother's Day Celebration

Members of Kabalikat and FiRE's Mother's Day Celebration

Filipino Domestic Workers, Fil-Am Women, and Local Immigrant Communities Find Solace In One Another this Mother’s Day

KABALIKAT and FiRE Celebrate Mother’s Day Together

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE),fire.nyc@gmail.com

Woodside, NY- Mother’s Day was historically founded by Julia Ward Howe in 1870 as a day for mothers to advocate for peace during the Civil War in the United States. During that time in American history, about 650,000 people lost their lives fighting for the interests of their families’ futures in the face of a changing nation. Currently in the Filipino community, migrant workers are pressed by the same concern to ensure the survival of their families’ futures in the face of the change promised by a new administration. Filipinas in the New York City area find new meaning in Mother’s Day by celebrating the mothers who leave the Philippines daily to seek gainful employment abroad, and supporting the budding population of Filipina mothers in the U.S. who are thousands of miles away from their families. Last Sunday, Kalayaan Hall of the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center was at full capacity, and over 30 mothers from KABALIKAT,Domestic Workers Support Network, a project under Philippine Forum; and the local community, including the Jornaleros Unidos, came together to celebrate Filipina mothers.

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE-NYC) wanted to honor the mothers of KABALIKAT, who have sacrificed time with their families to pursue either live-in or full-time jobs as domestic workers and care givers. Over the four-course meal prepared for KABALIKAT, FiRE also celebrated their time together with a sharing circle, where participants talked about their mothers and children, and a special shadow puppet performance created by members of Anakbayan NY/NJ. During the women’s testimonials, a palpable sense of longing came across Bayanihan Community Center. It was difficult to hold back the emotions in the room as mothers evoked the presence of the children, and their own mothers, whom they left in the Philippines. “Particular to Filipinas, we live in an economy where financial means determines how we relate to our families in the long run. Having this space in Woodside with FiRE and KABALIKAT on such a meaningful day allows us to push through the pain of separation, and convert it to celebrating those challenges, together,” said Bebot Galvan, co-coordinator of KABALIKAT.

karaoke unites everyone together!

karaoke unites everyone together!

Sunday’s guests were also honored by the presence of the Jornaleros Unidos (Day Laborers United), an organization of immigrant workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries; as well as John Choe, Chief of Staff for NYC Council Member John Liu, who announced his electoral campaign for City Council member at the Mother’s Day Brunch. While the FiRE Pinay Brunch space is usually for Filipinas only, it was amazing to have had these special guests this past Sunday to enrich the experience, as The Jornaleros also shared their stories of distance from their mothers and wives, and one shared a song in Spanish dedicated to all the mothers of the world.

Cris Hilo, a Southern California native and the current FiRE Vice-Chair said, “As daughters with our mothers far away, KABALIKAT women have really filled that gap; we liken them to the mothers we left. They see us as their daughters. It’s an honor to hold that title in the lives of women who have sacrificed so much.” This is the second Mother’s Day Brunch organized in collaboration between KABALIKAT mothers and the FiRE daughters, many of whom are NYC transplants helping organize a growing local Filipino community.

“We are also here to celebrate our motherland on Mother’s Day,” began Julia Camagong, Co-Executive Director of Philippine Forum,”The Philippines is in pain because her sons and daugters continue to leave for better economic opportunities abroad. The Labor Export Policy (LEP) created by the Philippine government only further encourages her children to leave, instead of creating opportunities to stay. As migrants, we will continue to carry the pain of our inang bayan (motherland) with us wherever we land, as we make sacrifices to ensure the survival of our families. Unless we find the support of organizations and centers like FiRE, KABALIKAT,Philippine Forum, and the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center, and until the Philippine government holds itself to a higher standard, the separation of families as a result of the highly questionable LEP is the loss we have to bear on our own.”

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