Archive for migrante

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.


Filipina/o American Youth Denounces the Arroyo Administration’s Renewed Campaign Against Activists

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

For Immediate Release

December 1, 2009

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General of SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


Filipina/o American Youth Denounces the Arroyo Administration’s Renewed Campaign Against Activists
Scare Tactics by “Special Intelligence Group” Claims the Life of a Migrant Organizer

SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth mourns and expresses outrage over the death of Danilo Benalo, a member of the Center for Filipino Seafarers (CENTERFILS), who, after harassment by suspected state agents, died of a stroke on November 24. Benalo was an organizer for Migrante International, a worldwide alliance of grassroots organizations addressing concerns of Filipino migrants.

Members of a “special intelligence group” confronted Benalo around noon on November 23 and threatened to harm his family should he refuse to cooperate with the group. They warned him that they had information about him, including his record as an activist and the whereabouts of his family. In distress Benalo agreed to meet with the state agents again that afternoon. However, when a friend, with whom
he had shared the incident and whom he had promised to call after his meeting, tried to reach him later that day, Benalo had already been rushed to a hospital due to a stroke. Benalo died the next morning.

SanDiwa not only grieves the loss of a dedicated migrant organizer, but also condemns the Arroyo administration’s renewed campaign against activists critical of the government, under the direction of newly appointed Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzeles. The death of Mr. Benalo is an addition to the growing list of political killings, enforced disappearances and torture of activists committed by military and secret intelligence groups under the Arroyo regime. “This is no different from the abduction of student activists such as Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, the abduction and torture of Filipino American Melissa Roxas, and the violent dispersal of student rallyists at Malacanang last August. All these human rights violations were committed by state forces under the direct watch of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. All the victims were people advocating for human rights and fighting for positive and genuine change in Philippine society,” said Aurora Victoria David, officer of Stanford University’s Pilipino American Student Union, a member organization of Sandiwa.

“Because of desperation of the Arroyo government in quelling resistance, it is willing to use any strategy—scare tactics, torture, or direct abduction and killing—to silence its critics. This brutal campaign indiscriminately victimizes activists, journalists, women, and church people. As long as you are vocal in criticizing the government, you are an enemy and a target.” declared Anne Beryl Corotan, Chairperson of Sandiwa. With the 2010 Philippine elections fast approaching, and due to fear of losing their positions, those in power resort to coercive acts. The recent massacre of journalists and innocent civilians over local electoral campaigns in Maguindanao, and the delisting of Migrante Partylist from contending in the coming elections are just a couple of examples of countless repressive tactics utilized by the Arroyo administration and its allies in their desperate clutch to power.

Despite all of the repression, SanDiwa vows to continue to educate, organize, and mobilize Filipina/os in the United States in demanding justice for these violations of human rights. “We will continue to protect the rights of the people and will not stop until justice is brought to Mr. Benalo and all victims of human rights violations in the Philippines,” ended Corotan.

SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.