Archive for May, 2010

Journey to the Motherland

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

“Beautiful Motherland, with tears of joy, your son has returned.”

That was my first twitter post I did the first chance I got when I arrived in the Philippines. That’s exactly what happened when my plane touched the tarmac on Ninoy Aquino International Airport. This is my 4th time back to the motherland in 6 years, and each time I come back I become more attached to the land of my ancestors. Although I was born and raised in the U.S., the land of my parents and ancestors always felt more like home to me. This was my goal way back in August 2010, when I twittered “The homeland is seriously calling me back. Pagbabalik ko sa Pilipinas, summer 2010.” Perhaps it was the rollercoaster of emotions I was feeling at the time being overwhelmed with my duties as a community organizer with SanDiwa, Bayan-USA, and PEP, coupled with the passing of Pres. Cory Aquino. Nevertheless, I truly felt the motherland was calling me to come back.

Now that I’m here, it’s an incredible feeling to know I’m beginning to accomplish that goal. I spent the first couple days going over my expo program with Bayan-Philippines and Migrante International. I wanted to do so much with the cultural work and human rights sectors that I realized my wild ambitions were taking over, which tends to happen with me a lot. The kasamas gently reminded me to slow down and just take things day by day, and first and foremost, “enjoy just being back in your motherland.”

My first adventure was to visit the family of my grandfather, Juan “Johnny” Agbayani Raymundo, the most important father figure in my life, who passed away in 1997. I still feel his spirit even though he’s no longer physically around. I stayed with his oldest living sibling, Lola Doting, and the family of his nephew, my Tito Eddie. They live on a quiet 5-hectare farmland in the province of Isabela known as the Raymundo Estate. My family has owned and farmed on this land for over 4 generations, but unlike big comprador landowners like the Ayalas or the Cojuangcos, my family doesn’t have any tenants and they farm the land by themselves. Whatever they grow, harvest, and sell, they own 100%. This is something I’ve never heard of before, farmers in the Philippines actually owning the land they live and farm on. I can only hope all land in the Philippines will one day be returned to its rightful owners, the peasants. And compared to the huge estates of the Ayalas or Cojuangcos, 5-hectares is really not that big. Although my family lives and farms on this small piece of land, they still live in meager conditions. Their income is largely dependent on the weather, and the recent El Nino dry spell has really affected their income. My Tita Hermie’s husband actually works abroad as a construction worker in Qatar to help with the family income. Same with my Tita Lorna, who travels back and forth between Isabela and around the world working as a domestic helper. I’m trying to help Tita Lorna with the immigration process to the U.S., where she can be the live-in caretaker my Lola really needs. When I asked about the socio-political climate in Isabela, namely the effects of the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, my Tito Eddie said this:

“For the most part, it is peaceful and quiet here. We have a name for the “insurgents”: the Nicest People Around! Whatever you read about them in the news; gangsters and terrorists, is really not true!”

Wow, Nicest People Around. I’ve never heard that before! I had to laugh, because all we see about them in the news is very negative and criminalized.

Tito Eddie shows newly harvested monggo beans

My Lolo Johnny and Lola Mely's wedding picture (1946) at Tita Hermie's house.

To be able to see where my Lolo Johnny grew up and perfected his craft as a farmer was very special to me. It made me appreciate all he did and sacrifice for our family even more. He was the first in the family to go to college. He survived the Bataan Death March as a soldier in World War II. He held multiple degrees in Engineering, yet worked in the U.S. as a humble repairman. He was able to bring my Lola and all 5 of his kids to the U.S., my mom included, and put them all through college. He is the most hardworking man I’ve ever known, and now seeing where he grew up, I now know why he was such a hard worker. He is still very highly regarded in Isabela. My family talks about him as if he was still alive.

Each time I come back, I am truly humbled and reminded not to take my privileges for granted. It’s only been 10 days and I feel the personal and spiritual growth. I can’t wait for my next adventure here in the motherland.

A Unity Statement of the Filipino Community on Immigrant Rights

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

A Unity Statement of the Filipino Community on Immigrant Rights

Together, We Have
Worked the fields and in the canneries
Nursed the ill and the elderly
Taught the young and tomorrow’s leaders
Fought for freedom and defeated tyranny
Invented new technologies and perfected the old
Ministered to congregations celebrating life and coping with grief

Together, We Are
The doctors and nurses who heal the sick and tend the wounded
The engineers who build skyscrapers and roads
The accountants who keep businesses running, small and large
The custodians and room cleaners, clerks and dock hands who do thankless jobs with dignity and pride
The veterans who braved world wars to defend democracy
The farm workers, cooks and waiters, who put food on America’s tables
The playwrights and poets, painters and musicians who awaken our dreams and inspire our actions
Four million people who are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, employees, partners and community members

Together, We Will
Continue to cherish the American values of equality and freedom, and oppose misguided policies that undermine them
Keep families and communities, workplaces and homes together, because dividing us weakens us all
Fight for immigrant rights that value our contributions to society and give us the opportunity to fulfill our potential to build a better world.

Our Principles and Demands:

Uphold the dignity and humanity of all individuals. Legalization now!
Civilized society embraces equality and upholds the humanity of all people. Labeling individuals “illegal” demeans them, and forces millions to endure dangerous jobs, and to toil in the shadows in slave-like conditions. Criminalizing people for being “undocumented” subjects millions to the exploitation of traffickers, to remain in abusive relationships, or to refrain from reporting crimes because the authorities may imprison the victim instead of the perpetrator. We need legalization now, to free our community from the indignity of being labeled as “illegal”, and the inhumane treatment which is sanctioned by it and endangers us all.

Unify and Protect Families
Families of all shapes and sizes—parents and children, siblings, cousins and grandparents, same sex couples–deserve to be together. Many Filipino families have been waiting over 20 years to have their petitions for loved ones approved. We must clear the Family Visa backlog to stabilize our communities, both in the U.S. and in our homeland. We must protect immigrant women and children escaping abuse, and refuse to allow them to be subjected to the further cruelty of deportation. Children of immigrants should be shielded from all harm, including separation from their families and the threat of deportation. Support services must be provided in our languages and with sensitivity to our cultural values and norms.

Value Our Labor– Workers Rights for All!
The U.S. was built with the blood and sweat of working people. All workers must have the right to organize and to be free from exploitative contracts and working conditions. Having a underclass of workers drives down wages and protections for all of us. We must normalize the status of guest workers, because temporary contracts serve as a tool to undermine all workers. Law enforcement should punish illegal recruitment agencies and unscrupulous employers and lawyers, who maximize profits by preying on vulnerable and desperate workers—workers should not be penalized for the actions of their employers. The labor and contributions of all people, including immigrants and those who are undocumented, should be valued equally.

Dignity, Respect and Due Process for All!
The US government’s aggressive foreign policies of war and exploitation fuel economic and social instability worldwide. Immigrants should not be blamed for our national security concerns. Rampant raids, deportation, and inhumane conditions in detention centers jeopardize the safety of everyone. The billions of tax payer dollars contracted to build up and further militarize the U.S.-Mexico borders does not make us safer. We must build our immigration policies on the sound universality of human rights, not the volatility of criminalization and militarization.

Forced Migration is a Result of the Global Economic Crisis
One-sided and unfair trade agreements that have been designed to maximize profits for greedy corporations have destroyed the economy of the Philippines and many other countries, contributing to the ever-worsening economic crisis that has forced millions of Filipinos to seek jobs and means of survival elsewhere. U.S. political and military support to corrupt regimes who bankrupt their countries and repress their people also fuel worsening migrant and refugee conditions. We will link arms in solidarity with all migrant communities in the U.S. and internationally, until we have built a society where all people can thrive, families are not fragmented and separated by the urgent need for survival, and our homelands have the conditions in which all people can live a decent and humane life.

Signed:
National Alliance for Filipino Concerns * BAYAN USA * GABRIELA-USA * SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth* Filipino Advocates for Justice * FOCUS (Filipino Community Support – Silicon Valley) * Philippine Forum New York * Fellowship for Filipino Migrants – Chicago * AnakBayan Chapters of East Bay, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, New York/New Jersey * Babae SF * League of Filipino Students-SFSU * SiGAw (Sisters of Gabriela Awaken) * Philippine Forum New Jersey * South of Market Community Action Network * Filipino Ministry – Diocese of San Bernardino * Filipino Migrant Center – Los Angeles* Stanford Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) * Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) – New York* Pinay sa Seattle * Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines – Portland, New York, San Francisco Chapters * Filipino Community Center – San Francisco * Pilipino Youth Coalition – Southern Alameda County * Habi Arts – Los Angeles