Stories from the Global 99%: Fil-am Women Share Stories from Mass Movement & Recent Exposure Trip in the Philippines

November 16, 2011

Reference: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE),


Stories from the Global 99%: Fil-am Women Share Stories from Mass Movement & Recent Exposure Trip in the Philippines


In 2011, six women from the NY-based GABRIELA USA organization, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE NYC), traveled to the Philippines on an exposure and integration program with Gabriela Philippines. The women, Hanalei Ramos, Candice Sering, Jennine Ventura, Zarah Vinola, Julie Jamora, and Krystle Cheirs, had one major goal in mind: to experience first-hand what the MASS MOVEMENT is like in the Philippines, and bring back what they learned to their community in the United States. On Monday, November 21, 2011, FiRE will host a special report-back from 7:00pm-9:00pm at the International Action Center’s Solidarity Center (55 W. 17th Street, Suite 5 C).


“We want people in New York to feel the dynamism of the National Democratic Movement in the Philippines,” stated Candice Sering, FiRE’s Cultural Director. “It was also important that we pay tribute to the organizers and communities that we met in a creative way.” The event will include interactive elements (guerilla theater, sound installation, and visual arts), traditional Filipino street foods, and stories. FiRE has also made it possible to view the event live via, a live-streaming Internet site, for those who are abroad (both nationally and internationally) but wish to support the event. “Our friends and fellow organizers in the Philippines can’t physically be here, but we wanted them to be able to share in the telling of their stories, so we’ll set up a live-stream,” stated Hanalei Ramos, who served as team leader for the summer trip.


In the wake of a global economic crisis and the worldwide Occupy people-led movement (including Occupy Philippines), FiRE is drawing connections to the people-powered National Democratic Movement in the Philippines. “By sending our members to the Philippines for an extended period of time, they witness and experience first-hand the concrete conditions that the basic masses, the real 99% of the Philippines, are living under every day,” said Jackie Mariano, Vice Chairperson of FiRE. “Most importantly, they learn how the masses have organized themselves to take action to build a brighter future.” The report-back will shed light on the daily injustices committed in the Philippines and the ways in which Filipinos are responding, challenging and changing the system.


For more information on Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment and the Exposure & Integration Program, visit




A Reportback brought to you by FiRE


MONDAY NOV 21, 2011

International Action Center Solidarity Center

55 West 17th Street, Suite 5C


8PM-10PM, doors open at 7:30PM. (Please note the time change!!)

For live-streaming:


News Release
October 8, 2011
Irma Salvatierra Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment-NYC, email:
Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA, email:


NEW YORK, NY—On Wednesday, Filipino women of grassroots organization Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), under the banner of GABRIELA USA, a member organization of the newly formed International Women’s Alliance (IWA), joined a mass rally and march to Zucotti Park, the site of the 3-week-long Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City. The rally and march, organized by community organizations and labor unions, drew in thousands of participants and has been the largest demonstration since the launch of Occupy Wall Street. The rally commenced at Foley Square where more than fifteen public sector organizations and unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, United Auto Workers, and Transit Workers’ Union, gathered with other community and labor leaders to protest against income inequalities and poor public education in New York City.

FiRE marched with fellow BAYAN USA Northeast member organizations, Anakbayan New York, Anakbayan New Jersey, and the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, as well as with member organizations of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON). This Filipino contingent joined the “New York Communities Contingent” which included People’s Justice, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, Picture the Homeless, and FIERCE. FiRE members chanted “The banks got bailed out. We got sold out,” carrying signs reading “No to Imperialist Globalization. End U.S. Economic Intervention.”

Malou Logan of GABRIELA Australia, which is also a member organization of the International Women’s Alliance, is visiting New York City and joined the march. Of the march she stated, “I joined the march in New York as an expression of my support, and to represent the voice of the Filipino women of GABRIELA Australia and MIGRANTE Australia. Wall Street is the financial capital of the world, the epitome of corporate greed that sucks all the profits labored by the immigrants and citizens of third world countries. We as immigrants in the U.S. and in Australia are forced to leave the Philippines to look for decent jobs for our families and the women workers bear the brunt of the financial crisis.”

Monica Moorehead, an organizer with the Women’s Fightback Network, and a steering committee member of the International Women’s Alliance says, “The Occupy Wall Street actions amount to a growing mass rebellion against the global capitalist economic crisis which has already devastated the lives of millions of people, especially women, and promises to destroy the future of the youth. This radicalization of youth must continue to open up political space for the workers, who are losing their jobs, their homes, their health care and their pensions, and the most oppressed, who face political repression in the form of police brutality, cutbacks in social services, and the prison industrial complex. The Occupy Wall Street actions must be wholeheartedly supported and continue to flourish throughout the globe until ‘Occupy the World’ becomes a reality, not just a slogan.  This dynamic movement inside the U.S. has been inspired by righteous occupations in Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Spain and Wisconsin–many of them led by women.”

Irma Bajar, Chairperson of FiRE-GABRIELA USA, stated, “Women in the U.S. and all over the world have been fighting against capitalist exploitation, patriarchy, and multiple intersecting oppressions and discrimination. The enemy is this unfair capitalist system and imperialism. People across various immigrant communities and people of color have been standing in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. because people are fed up with the injustices and unfair systems.” Bajar continues, “As a Filipino American woman, I can connect the reasons why my mother had to leave the Philippines to the Occupy Wall Street struggle because of the economic conditions and joblessness there. Women are forced out of the country and legally trafficked by the Labor Export Policy that benefits imperialist countries like the United States and big corporations like Dole and Nestle.”

The International Women’s Assembly (IWA) successfully held its First General Assembly on July 5 and 6, 2011 in Quezon City, Philippines under the theme, “Advance the Global Anti-imperialist Women’s Movement! Strengthen the International Women’s Alliance!” FiRE-GABRIELA USA urges other anti-imperialist organizations to join us in fighting against capitalism and imperialism from the level of grassroots organizing expanding to global networks. Class consciousness becomes the basis for women to fight for economic equity, political rights, freedom of association, and to oppose colonial and imperialist wars.

Local Women Artists Combat Violence Through a Movement to Uncover Self-Expression


July 30, 2010

Reference: Irma Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE),

Local Women Artists Combat Violence Through a Movement to Uncover Self-Expression

New York, NY – On Thursday, July 29, 2010, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), a grassroots Filipino women’s organization under the GABRIELA USA alliance, held its first gallery opening at Gallery 1199 of SEIU.  The exhibit showcased work produced by various women artists during FiRE’s new five-week art program, Movement to Uncover Self-Expression (MUSE.)  Through the generous support of the Bread and Roses Cultural Project, the MUSE program’s workshops invited women in the local New York metropolitan area from diverse racial, generational, and socioeconomic backgrounds and sexual orientations to discuss female identity and issues faced by women in a safe, nurturing, and creative space.

One hundred friends and family of the MUSE artists, and organizational supporters and allies filled the gallery space throughout the night.  “We really wanted to create a safe space where different women could explore their everyday life through art and I’m glad to see its product tonight in this gallery.  The women artists really connected and opened up dialogue about experiences they share,” said Arlene Rodrigo, Cultural Chair of FiRE and one of the teaching artists of MUSE.  Each week was dedicated to a different medium: collage, drawing, watercolor, poetry, and photography. Workshops were also led by Anna Sian and Sara Jimenez, with a guest appearance by Lolan Buhain Sevilla, all of whom are FiRE members.

Within the five weeks, the MUSE participants explored the various forms women experience violence in their lives, and learned more about GABRIELA USA’s nation-wide educational campaign “iVOW to Fight Violence Against Women” (iVOW.)  The iVOW campaign expands the definition of and awareness around violence against women, as well as create ways to combat its various forms in society.  An interactive installation titled “Unpacking Violence,” inspired by FiRE member Julie Jamora, featured the campaign’s Seven Deadly Sins Against Women. The installation featured seven balikbayan boxes (care packages commonly sent by Filipino migrants to family members left behind in the Philippines) each representing sex trafficking and prostitution; domestic violence; sexual harassment; rape, incest, and child abuse; sexual exploitation and discrimination; limited access to reproductive healthcare; and violence as a result of political repression.   “The iVOW campaign not only creates awareness around the physical, sexual, and emotional abuses as experienced by women,” said Irma Bajar, chairperson of FiRE, “but also points to effects created by government repression and economic migration.”

“We see the importance of a safe space like MUSE, which investigates how creative expression impacts society,” said Joseline Davila, Finance Chair of FiRE.  “Through a collective artistic process, we hope to show the intersections between the arts and political action, not only for our members, but for our entire community.”

FiRE members Amihan and Mona taking vows to fight violence against women

MUSE Gallery Exhibition

"Unpacking Violence" installation inspired by FiRE member Julie Jamora

FiRE members and MUSE Teaching Artists - Arlene, Anna, Sara



Filipino Women in NYC Share Stories, Strength, and Vows to Fight Violence Against Women

For Immediate Release
April 24, 2010

Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chair, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-GABRIELA USA,, 925-726-5768

Filipino Women in NYC Share Stories, Strength, and Vows to Fight Violence Against Women
3rd Annual Pinay Herstories in NYC ——

New York, NY–On April 22, 2010, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) held its annual Pinay HERstories at Bluestockings Bookstore on the Lower East Side, Manhattan. The well-attended event, part of GABRIELA USA’s national showcase, explored the Filipina experience through personal narratives, focusing on the important and often-silenced issue of violence against women.

During the event, audience members participated by reading aloud the seven categories of violence against women and children GABRIELA USA is highlighting in their campaign “iVow to Fight Violence Against Women”– sex trafficking and prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and exploitation, limited access to reproductive health care, and violence as a result of political repression. An impressive lineup of Pinay performers from New York, New Jersey, Seattle, California, and the Philippines gave voice and depth to these issues sharing their experiences through poetry, music, and spoken word.

CUNY Hunter student and a first time performer, Rosalyn Jimenez, shared a poem about the disgust and shame that she feels when she is harassed by men in the street. Kristine Juntura, a 17-year old student at Archbishop Molloy High School, performed an emotional piece about a story of a friend who was in an abusive relationship. Joanna Mariano, another 15-year old high school student, dedicated a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” to any woman who has ever felt insignificant or weak, reminding us that we are all beautiful.

“Although this year’s theme was a bit more serious than past years, it also featured the cultural and creative work of young Filipinas which showed the audience and our community that it is important to talk about this important issue with our younger sisters, siblings and children,” Jackie Mariano, one of the organizers of the event stated.

Laurel Fantauzzo took us back through time in a funny yet poignant nonfiction essay, as she tried to make sense of the history of violence in her family that has been passed down from mother to mother. Maria Avetria and FiRE members Hanalei Ramos and Melanie Dulfo also performed, sharing poetry that directly pointed to globalism and militarism as main factors that have forced many Filipinas into prostitution.

Valerie Francisco, FiRE’s chairperson, extended an invitation to the audience to become more involved in their communities especially on the issue of violence. She noted that Gabriela Women’s Party in the upcoming Philippine elections will be raising this issue at the forefront of their campaign and that our work echoes the brave women who are blazing trails in stopping violence against women in such a patriarchal culture. Francisco reminded the audience that everyone in the audience can take a stand as well, “Exploitation of undocumented workers and ICE raids in our community is violence too! Let’s take a stand together on May 1st, we ask you to march for genuine U.S. immigration reform at Union Square!”

A surprise performance by representatives of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, Jen Awingan and Jill Carino, who are participating at the annual UN Forum on Indigenous People, engaged the audience through an indigenous song and dance in Ilocano. Rogue Pinay of 1st Quarter Storm closed the night off with poetry, interpretive dance, and hip-hop. Her work addressed violence against women in a global, capitalist context. Audience members moved and danced while shouting, “Makibaka, huwag matakot!” along with the hip-hop artist. The night concluded on an energetic note, as audience members and performers alike shouted their participation in the “iVOW” campaign.

On its 3rd run of Pinay Herstories, the audience and FiRE members are reminded of how important and significant all women creative spaces and events are to bring to light the issues that are pressing in their lives. The event brought violence into the center of the dialogue and encouraged the audience to take up violence as a community issue, not just an individual problem. “We need to keep talking about violence against women and children. We need to keep creating spaces that empower women and put their stories in the forefront,” Mariano continued.

Pinay HERstories is a part of GABRIELA-USA’s national campaign to end violence against women. “iVOW to Fight VAW” is a comprehensive campaign that addresses violence against women as issues of sex trafficking and prostitution, domestic violence, rape, incest, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and exploitation, limited access to reproductive health care, and violence as a result of political repression. The campaign, which launched in February 2010, urges people to take a stand and commit to ending violence against women.

Join FiRE on May Day!
Saturday, May 1, 2010
12:00pm – 4:00pm
UNION SQUARE 14th St. & Broadway, Manhattan

FiRE Says Yes to Affordable Childcare on Campus!

December 21, 2009

Reference: Jackie Mariano, Deputy Secretary General, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE-Gabriela USA),

Warm Greetings of Solidarity to the Student-Parents of CUNY Hunter College!

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE-Gabriela USA) stand in solidarity with the student-parents of CUNY Hunter College, and their allies, who have been fighting for the past several months to defend the maintenance and expansion of the Children’s Learning Center at CUNY Hunter College. Your continuing struggle to defend the rights of parents, especially mothers, and their children to have clear access to an affordable education is an inspiration to the women of our organization who fight every day for the rights and welfare of Filipino women and children locally and across the globe.

It is disturbing to know that the administration of CUNY Hunter College supports the 28% decrease of space from the Children’s Learning Center. It is the outstanding objective of the Hunter College community to remind their administration that they must uphold CUNY Hunter College’s mission to provide affordable education to women, students of color, low-income individuals, and other underserved demographics. Since 10% of Hunter students are parents, a substantial population of the Hunter community will experience the negative effects of the proposed cuts to the Children’s Learning Center. The maintenance and expansion of childcare on campus would mean a great deal to Hunter’s student-parents. This struggle fights for the option of affordable childcare on campus; supplemental education for the children of Hunter’s student-parents; and the right of student-parents to attend class and earn their degrees in a comfortable and timely manner.

To the student-parents of CUNY Hunter College, we join your struggle and commend your resilience.

In solidarity,
Members of FiRE-Gabriela USA