Archive for Gabriela-USA

Typhoon Ondoy…One Year Later

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

On September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy struck the Philippines, wrecking unimaginable havoc that left thousands of our kababayan dead and many more displaced. It’s been considered one the worst natural catastrophes in the history of the Philippines, but the much worse catastrophe followed with the Philippine government’s lack of response to the damage. The public emergency relief fund was completely spent before the typhoon even hit, most likely spent on former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s extravagant trips to the U.S., which included a 100+ member entourage and luxurious dinners costing tens of thousands of dollars. Much of the relief efforts in response to the typhoon’s damage was left to non-governmental organizations, with little to no help at all from the government.

For us Filipina/o progressives in the U.S., our analysis of the situation in our homeland was clear. We could not and would not just leave our kababayans alone to fend for themselves, even though we are an ocean apart. We wanted to help in a way that was direct, responsible, and accountable, while at the same time being critical of the Philippine government’s inaction. A disaster relief operation of NAFCON and SanDiwa’s general program of action was always in place, but was never utilized until Typhoon Ondoy. This relief operation was thus launched, in cooperation with Bayan-USA and Gabriela-USA as BAYANihan for Philippine Disaster Relief. Gathering aid for the victims, both monetary and in-kind, became the primary focus in all of our member organizations. What soon happened in the several weeks that followed was nothing short of remarkable. Thousands of people came and donated what they could in terms of volunteer time, monetary, or goods. Hundreds of balikbayan boxes full of donated clothes, medicine, and food began piling up at the different drop-off sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York/New Jersey. Tens of thousands of dollars were raised at countless club events and fundraisers. Programming at our respective community organizations were put on hold to channel all our efforts into helping our kababayan. Filipino Americans who didn’t care about what was going on in the Philippines had a change of heart after seeing the devastation as well as the community’s efforts to get aid directly to our kababayan. I remember getting a call from one Filipino American in particular who said he never made the effort to know about his cultural roots because he felt ashamed of it, but after seeing on the news the sheer devastation, he didn’t want to be ashamed anymore. He said he’s now 33 years old, and now wants to help out as much as he can to make up for all the lost time he spent hiding from his Filipino culture. Despite our lives being disrupted and the stress of organizing the donations and events, I don’t remember anyone complaining too much, because we knew all this was for our people back home. In the end, we were able to ship 750 boxes of in-kind aid to the Philippines as well as over $50,000 in monetary aid.

I can’t believe it’s already been one year since the Typhoon Ondoy disaster, one year since our operation, BAYANihan for Philippine Disaster Relief. As I remember back to the devastation of the typhoon itself, the devastation of the government’s lack of response, and how our transnational community came together to rebuild and heal our beloved homeland, I’m always brought back to that very emotional moment one year ago, fighting to hold back the tears. This was by far the most daunting task I have ever taken up and also certainly the most rewarding in my life as a community organizer. I’ve learned and grown much from that experience, and I am still deeply inspired by our collective work as a community and the work we were able to accomplish, the breadth of work that still remains unmatched by the efforts of the Philippine government. This past summer, I was able to integrate with Migrante International, who took me to visit the communities they work with and that were hard hit by the typhoon. They did receive our donations, and sold much of the clothes to help buy beds and building materials and tools. They are still rebuilding their communities to this day, and it was truly humbling and inspiring to see them still pushing forward and surviving.

One year later, and our communities in the Philippines, though still recovering and still neglected by the Philippine government, are true survivors and still resilient as ever. It has been said that the Filipino is like bamboo, we bend but we do not break. This disaster, both natural and man-made, may have bent us over backwards to the brink of despair. But we have proven through our transnational collective effort, we are far from broken.


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.

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


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 2, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

“Kasama” is a pretty loaded word in the Tagalog language. We call each other kasama in the movement for true national democracy in the Philippines. If you translate it literally, it means “ally, comrade, partner, colleague, etc.” Over the years of being an activist for my people in the homeland and in the diaspora, I’ve realized that this term, or title as some folks may call it, is not something we just throw around for just anybody. Now, I’m not meaning to be exclusive with the term, I believe everyone can and should be a kasama. But to call someone your kasama means that they are much more to you than just a “ally, comrade, partner, colleague, etc.,” whether you’ve known each other for years upon years or just a few minutes, or even not having ever met. At the heart of kasama is love and humility, for self and for the masa (masses). My kasama Melanie D. in New York, another activist for true national democracy for our homeland, best describes what a kasama is. Thank you, my kasama!

“Love for a kasama is not love for a friend, not love for a lover, not love for family. It is a love that allows us to know each other intimately, know each other’s dreams, each other’s hopes, each other’s tragedies without having met each other because we share them. We share the love for the people, we share the hope for freedom, we grieve for the same loss. And the more I know you, the more I love you.”


To my kasamas I got together with at this weekend’s Bayan-USA/Gabriela-USA Congress, much love from this revolutionary’s heart. Whether we’ve known each other for years, or just this past weekend, you all hold a special place in me in our collective lifelong struggle for our people. To building and working together for the next 3 years and beyond, ISULONG!

In Honor of International Womyn’s Month

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 23, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

FilAm Women Remember Rebelyn

On Rebelyn Pitao’s 21st birthday, GABRIELA-USA remembered the life of the slain daughter of a New People’s Army commander, Leoncio Pita known popularly as Commander Parago. The abduction and murder of Rebelyn by armed men is characteristic of past executions linked to the Philippine government and the military.

With so much of Philippine politics swirling around the maltreatment and downright abuse of Filipino women and their rights (namely the controversial Nicole case and the Visiting Forces Agreement), FilAm women are moved to look to Rebelyn’s life as a teacher, daughter, woman and friend to claim her life as evidence of a guilty and corrupt administration only looking to silence its people.

“Rebelyn, among so many other Filipino women, was unnecessarily taken by a fear mongering government in the name of insecurity,” Melanie Dulfo the poet who wrote the below poems in Tagalog and English on behalf of GABRIELA-USA, “In the endlessly rotten administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, it’s the ordinary people that get hurt. But we will not forget their lives and remember them in our art and work even across the oceans.”

*trapo= a dirty rag; in colloquial use, a traditional politician,


Baka nagkamali sila.
Inisip na, komo,
Sintinig ang pangalan mo
Ng kinatatakutang uri
Sa lipunan nating lubog
Sa dumi at basura
(Ni ‘di malinis ng mga
Sandaan trapong nagkalat)
Eh, dapat ka nang paslangin.

Nabulag kaya sila?
Inakalang banta ka
Sa buhay nila,
Ikaw na babae,
Ikaw na guro,
Ikaw na biente anyos pa lamang?
Kaya ka ba nila pinaslang, Rebelyn?
Kaya ka ba nila pinahirap
Kasi akalang armas ang lapis mo?

Rebelde ka,
Anong klase,
Kung ganun?
Ikaw ba ang
Ibinuhos ang dugo
At buhay
Para patalsikin
Ang mga Kastila,
Ang mga Amerikano,
Ang mga Hapon,
Si Marcos, at
Si Erap?

Ikaw ba ang rebeldeng
Napagod lang
Sa kalokohang ipinamumukha
Sa sambayanan?
Iyung tipo na
Hindi tatahimik,
Na hihiyaw,
Sa pagnanakaw ng mga
Panginoong maylupa,
Ng mga korporasyong
Nagmula sa ibayong dagat?

Ikaw ba ang rebeldeng
Nagsabi na,
“May ibang paraan
Para mabuhay.
May ibang klaseng buhay.
Hindi lamang ang paghihirap
At pagdurusa
Ng tumataas na tuition,
Tumataas na bilihin,
Tumataas na pamasahe,
Ngunit walang taas
Ng sahod. .
Pag-iibang bansa,
Kawalan ng trabaho,
At kawalan ng sariling lupa” ?

Kung gayon,
Kung gayon.
Dapat silang matakot. .
Ang mga hindi tatahimik,
Ang mga ordinaryong tao
Na siyang itinataas
Ang kanilang kamao
Sa galit,
Ang nagpapakita sa lahat
Ng katotohonan:

Na tayo’y nasa gitna
Ng isang kotradiksyon,
Sa araw-araw
Na inaapakan
Ang simpleng dignidad
Ng naghahanapbuhay,
Ng mga magsasaka,
Ng mga manggagawa.
Ng kabataan,
Ng kababaihan.

Sila ang pinaka-makapangyarihang
Rebelde, Rebelyn.
Ang mga ordinaryong tao
Na ito,
Ang siyang tinatawag mong
Bayan. .
Ikaw ang pinaka-makapangyarihang
Rebelde, Rebelyn.
Ang siyang walang ginawa
Kundi ang panindigan
Ang kanyang pagkatao,
Nagsisilbing ilaw
Sa iyong ama.


Maybe, they made a mistake.
Thinking that
Your name marked you
As one of those feared
In our society that’s been steeped
In dirt
(Something even
The trapos could not freshen up),
They should kill you.

Did they go blind?
Assumed you were a threat
To their lives—
A woman,
A teacher,
Someone who was 20 years old?
Is that why they killed you?
Is that why they tortured you?
Because they thought your pen was a sword?

You’re a rebel,
What kind
Would you say?
Are you
The rebel
Who gave up
Her life
To drive out
The Spaniards,
The Americans,
The Japanese,
Marcos, and

Are you the rebel
Who was just tired
From the lies
Offered to the people?
The type who
Would never be silenced,
Who would scream,
At the depredations
Of the landed elite,
Of the multi-national

Are you the rebel
Who said,
“There is another way
To live.
There is a different kind of life
From the one we lead now,
With no choice
But to accept the tuition hike,
The rice crisis,
The energy crisis,
Without a rise
In wages for ten years.
No choice but to migrate.
Because there are no jobs,
And there is no land”?

They should quake and tremble.
For, those who will not stay silent,
Those ordinary people
Who raise
Their fists
In anger,

We are stuck
In a contradiction
As every day,
Simple human dignity
Is crushed under a heel.
The dignity of those who just want to live,

They are the strongest
Rebels, Rebelyn.
These ordinary
Whom you call
The people.
You are the strongest
Rebel, Rebelyn,
The one whose only crime
Was to affirm
Her humanity,
By living as a light
To your father.