March 31, 2009
Reference: Raquel Redondiez, GABRIELA-USA, Chairwoman, (415) 244-9734,
FOUNDING ASSEMBLY OF GABRIELA-USA, FIRST OVERSEAS CHAPTER OF
GABRIELA-PHILIPPINES, MARKS MILESTONE IN THE PROGRESSIVE WOMEN'S ALLIANCE
25 YEAR HISTORY
Los Angeles, CA--On March 29, 2009, over one hundred Filipinos from across
the U,S. came together to celebrate 25 glorious years of women’s
resistance led by GABRIELA, an alliance of Filipino women’s organizations
in the Philippines. At this special event, scores of women representing 4
different organizations came together to formally establish GABRIELA-USA,
the first overseas chapter of the progressive and world-renowned
Philippine women's alliance.
The founding assembly of GABRIELA-USA was aptly named “Sulong GABRIELA:
Celebrating the Advances of the Filipino Women's Struggle! Twenty Five
Years and Onward!” During the all-day event, members of Filipinas for
Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) in New York, Pinay Sa Seattle, Babae in San
Francisco and Sisters of GABRIELA Awaken (SiGAw) in Los Angeles affirmed
their commitment to GABRIELA’s principles, approved chapter bylaws and
adopted a two-year plan on developing and building an alliance of Filipino
women’s organizations that have localized grassroots approaches.
Proud of their long lineage of strong Filipino women’s leaders, the four
women’s organizations that comprise the national women’s alliance were
elated to extend GABRIELA’s vision and mission to the U.S. Along with
taking up the local issues and concerns of Filipinas in their respective
regions, GABRIELA-USA also places prime importance to supporting the
women’s and struggle in the Philippines.
Emmi De Jesus, Secretary-General of GABRIELA Philippines, was the keynote
speaker of the US chapter’s founding assembly where she shared the rich
and full history of victories of the women’s movement in the Philippines
in which GABRIELA is an integral force.
"It was with great honor and pride that I presided over the founding
assembly of our first overseas chapter, GABRIELA-USA, a major milestone in
GABRIELA's 25 year history. With the growing population of Filipino women
in the US and the many challenges that they face, there is a great need
organize and expand the work of GABRIELA in Filipino American
Raquel Redondiez, nationally elected chairwoman of the alliance also
added, “With the economic crisis severely impacting women and children and
the majority of Filipino families, it is with great urgency that we
organize fellow mothers and sisters to tackle our collective concerns and
challenges. We look forward to doing this with the guidance and lessons
imparted by the long history of women's struggle waged by our mother
A key aspect of the 2 year plan that the assembly approved is for GABRIELA
USA to continue their work to fight for social reforms such as universal
access to healthcare and same-sex marriage. They also pledged to struggle
against all forms of violence against women and children, including U.S.
militarization of the Philippines through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
PAGTULAY SA ALAMBRE*
(ISANG LIHAM SA MGA FILIPINA NA NANINIRAHAN SA ESTADOS UNIDOS)
Joi Barrios, BAYAN Philipines, Women's Desk
Mahal na kabaro,
Mahal na kapatid,
Ang balita tungkol sa babaeng ginahis,
nagsakdal, at nagpalit ng testimonya
ay balitang batid kong lumatay sa bawat dibdib,
pinipilit ang bawat isa
na bumagtas sa ngayon at sa nakalipas,
sa ngayon at sa hinaharap.
Pagkat paano nalilimot ang gahasa?
Ang paghablot ng dangal?
Ang dahas ng pag-angkin?
Tayong lahat ay mga babaeng naglalakad sa alambreng nakasabit,
waring tumatawid sa hangin.
Araw-araw ay naninimbang,
isang paa sa harap ng isa pang paa,
hawak nang nakadipa ang kahoy na mahaba,
tinitiyak ng pagtitig sa patutunguhan
na hindi sasablay sa bawat paglapat,
na ang tindig, ay mananatiling matatag.
Nabubuhay tayo sa bayang mapanakop
habang ang diwa ay nananahan
sa Inang Bayan sa silangan.
At tulad niyang hinalay, lumaban, at nag-alinlangan,
Araw-araw nating hinaharap, tinitimbang,
ang bawat tanong at kontradiksiyon.
Ay, kayraming tanong, kayraming kontradiksiyon.
Hawakan sa ating mga kamay ang alaala
nina Victoria Laktaw na minsan nang tumula tungkol sa gahasa,
ni Karangalan, ang babaeng tinalikuran si Macamcam,
sa dulang ipinalabas sa tanghalan sangsiglo na ang nakalipas,
ni Tandang Sora, na sa edad na nobenta
ay hindi sumumpa ng katapatan sa dayuhan.
Kung sabay-sabay tayong hindi iwawalay
ang pagtitig sa dako pa roong patuloy na pakikipaghamok,
ang bawat hakbang, saan mang sulok ng daigdig,
ay ambag nating hakbang,
sa tunay na kalayaan ng bayang Iniibig.
Hindi totoong walang pangamba ang mga tumutulay sa alambre.
Nananalig lang sila na bukong-bukong man ay pumihit,
ang talampakan ay hindi manginginig sa pag-apak sa lubid.
(A LETTER TO ALL FILIPINAS LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES)
Joi Barrios, BAYAN Philippines, Women's Desk
Dear fellow Filipina,
The news on the woman raped,
the plaintiff who recanted her testimony,
was news that whipped our hearts,
news that asked us to bridge the present and the past,
the present and the future.
How does one forget the violation of the body,
the stripping of dignity,
the violence of conquest?
We are women walking tightropes,
seemingly floating on air.
Each day a balancing act,
one foot in front of another,
ams outstreched holding on a balance pole,
eyes front to the point of destination,
the key to the certainty of our steps,
the stability of our stand.
We live in a colonizing nation
while our spirits reside
in our mother country in the East.
Like her, the woman raped, she who fought,
and then again, went forward and backward,
Each day, we face, we weigh,
our questions and contradictions.
Yes, so many questions, so many contradictions.
And yet, we hold in our hands the memory
of the Victoria Laktaws, poets who wrote verses on colonial rape.
of Karangalan, or Honor, the heroine who rejected Macamcam the Greedy
in a play performed a century past.
of Tandang Sora, the 90-year old revolutionary
who refused to take an oath of allegiance to America.
Together, if we look towards the struggle in the homeland,
each step we take, anywhere in the world,
is a step we offer towards the freedom
of the country of our hearts.
It is not true that tightrope walkers have no fear.
They just have faith that even when the ankle pivots,
the soles of their feet will never sway.
*This poem was inspired by the work and statements of Nicole's lawyer,
Ging Ursua, as well as other fellow TOWNS members (June, Tita Letty,
Lorna, Nina, Tessy, etc.) who have fought hard not only for Nicole but
also for true sovereignty in the Philippines. I also acknowledge Gabriela
Philippines's consistent struggle against the Visiting Forces Agreement. I
dedicate this poem to the following women I work with in the US: Kuusela
Hilo, whom I relied on for comfort and friendship when I was a homemaker
in Boston; to Chat Aban, Rachel Redondiez, Rhonda Ramiro, and Roseli Ilano,
my co-workers in the Bay area, and to Julia Camagong, my friend and fellow
Peryante member for twenty-five years.