A Million Women Strong: Filipina Community Leaders Return to U.S. with Stories of the Philippine Movement

A Million Women Strong:  Filipina Community Leaders Return to U.S. with Stories of the Philippine Movement
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chair, FiRE NYC, fire.nyc@gmail.com

NEW YORK—As human rights violations rapidly rise during the last year of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s year as President of the Philippines, Filipina-Americans are urging women to return and see the conditions the average Filipino citizen experiences under the U.S. aid funded Oplan BantayLaya campaign.  To commemorate the anniversary of the Filipino-American War on February 4, 2010, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) is hosting its annual exposure trip report back, “Bring ‘em Back Home,” at the International Action Center .  Members of FiRE discuss their immersion experiences with GABRIELA in the Philippines.

Throughout 2009, seven U.S. based Filipina community organizers from FiRE returned to the Philippines to learn more about their roles as active players in the Filipina women’s movement under the largest and most progressive women’s alliance in the Philippines, GABRIELA.  Celebrating 25 years of local organizing, GABRIELA exposure participants were immersed in various sectors and communities that face the challenges of government corruption, landlessness, and globalization daily.   The different teams were actively involved in relief efforts after Typhoon Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng, and distributed goods to households in Pangasinan through the Liza Maza for Senator Campaign.  Other women were assigned to various communities such as the urban poor living in Tatalon in Quezon City, organizations like LILA-Pilipina – the surviving comfort women grandmothers of World War II, or with national minority communities in the Cordillera region to learn how to translate successful organizing methods to local U.S. campaigns.

While many of the GABRIELA women from various regions had harsh stories involving the effects of GMA oppressive regime, various effects of militarization, and the atrocities committed by agri-business developers, each participant returned to the U.S. with inspiring stories of transformation.   Secretary General, Irma Bajar said, “As difficult as it was to witness the living conditions and reality of our Filipino people, I feel so grateful for the women in GABRIELA and the people in the struggle for their resilience and service to the people.”

Other than being taught by the immersion hosts during a GABRIELA exposure trip, participants are highly encouraged to give back to these communities.  Sara Jimenez, a visual artist and member of FiRE, conducted a mural arts project while living in Tatalon, a squatter development with thousands of residents; she and other community members painted murals on the corrugated tin walls of homes.  She states, “Living in Tatalon was a life altering experience… (these) families may live in a physical state of poverty, but their souls are not impoverished.  We must remember that there is no oppression without resistance. As part of an international community working to change these harsh realities, unleashing the power of the people is not too far a reality.”

“Bring ‘em Back Home” is on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 from  7 to 9 pm at the International Action Center
Solidarity Center  at 55 W. 17 St., Suite 5C (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) New York, NY 10011.  A $5 upwards sliding scale donation is suggested at the door.  This event will also be streamed live at the following URL:  http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bring-em-back-home



2 thoughts on “A Million Women Strong: Filipina Community Leaders Return to U.S. with Stories of the Philippine Movement

  1. One of the more successful strategies of oppressing people is making them forget their history. Thank you for sharing your stories and the stories of the women you visited. Despite the overwhelming visions/stories of poverty, and injustices, I left the event invigorated, inspired, and most importantly, hopeful. Thank you for hosting such a powerful event.

    • Mia,

      We are honored that you shared the night with us. Thanks for driving from Philadelphia! We should plan a Philly pinay brunch soon!

      Valerie Francisco

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