Category Archives: People Power

Diwang Pinay for academics

In 2009, I had the privilege of being part of a dynamic group of people that did research, wrote and acted in a play and built very strong basis for community-building and migrant worker organizing in New York City. That year, Diwang Pinay as a theatrical production was the first and most impactful way we shared our process. Years later, as the play continues to stay with me, I’ve written about it for academics. The article will be free for 30 days and you can peep what it’s about on Action Research Journal’s blog.

If that doesn’t work, the link is here:

DPBackgroundlong v1.1

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Why May 1 Matters

What is May 1? Four days before Cinco de Mayo. The day after April 30. AND, International Workers Day all over the globe.

Whatever you need to do to remember it, do it.

In the US, May 1 has also doubled for Immigrants/Workers Day. A kasama once said, “It’s like Christmas for workers.” Its the day folks come out to celebrate the fact that without low-wage im/migrant workers, our lives would come to a halt. In the past, huge mobilizations of communities that work on different social justice issues come out to mark the day as significant and, more importantly, a day to signal the need for real change around the issues of immigration and today’s working people.

This year though, its EVEN more important to come out to a May Day mobilization near you. Why? Because in the current political debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform by the bipartisan Gang of Eight, the voices of immigrants, immigrant communities and families are on the line. Literally, many of our mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, grandparents, cousins, friends, loved ones are on the chopping block. Many will be deported. Many will be detained. Families will be separated. Jobs will be lost. Livelihood for families left behind will be severed. This reform will change the landscape of the US. For those of us who live here, those of us who have families that depend on people living and working in the US, this will change our lives.

So, we (by ‘we’, I mean everybody), must help shape this debate. We have to engage in public demonstration, public discourse and organizing around this issue to protect and defend our communities.

May Day is your chance. Get out there. Hold a sign. Sign up for an organization that is engaged with the immigrant rights struggle. Be a part of the change.

Visual graphic of pathways to citizenship:

Colorlines discussion on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill:



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CARE Project Launch

Caregiver Research (CARE) Project Launch 
Wednesday APRIL 4, 2012
35 San Juan Ave. SF CA 94112 (Old FCC Space)

Join the Filipino Community Center (FCC) to launch The CARE Project!
Filipino caregivers, youth, students and community members have completed an intensive research training to conduct research on the conditions of Filipino caregivers in the San Francisco/ Bay Area. 

Join us to learn about the CARE Project and our exciting plans for the coming year, and to
congratulate our trained community researchers for the CARE Project.  
For more information contact:
Mario de Mira
Filipino Community Center
4681 Mission St. SF CA 94112
(415) 333-6267

To Be A Woman in the Philippines

This picture is from a mobilization for International Women’s Day in the Philippines. The yellow sign says, “Fight (President) Aquino’s Oil Cartel Conspiracy!” and another sign says, “Decrease the Prices of Oil!”  The women are hurling paint balls at the US embassy in this picture as a militant protest to the collusion of the US government, its corporations with the Philippine government. This action commemorates international actions for women’s rights but it also reflects the widespread problem of the rising costs of basic goods. This is an example of womanhood in the Philippines.

A recent article in Foreign Policy, entitle “Five Surprisingly Good Places to Be A Woman” lauds the Philippines as its first site to be surprised about when thinking about the good life for women. I read this article and was irritated by its confluence of the closing of the “gender gap” and a good life for women.

Here are three things that I’d urge you to think about a bit more:

1. Foreign Policy lists “educational attainment” and “health and survival” as top ranking statistics for women in the Philippines. But without a discussion on the hotly debated and often rejected Reproductive Health Bill (See Gabriela Women’s Party’s speech)? This bill that prioritizes education about women’s health and survival keeps getting knocked down.

The second paragraph in the Philippine feature states the obvious caveats that religious (and I’d argue, capitalist) patriarchy also puts the Philippines as the only country in the world who hasn’t legalized divorce or abortion or contraceptives. Yay, what a great place to be as a woman.

2. Being a woman in the Philippines can only be good if her father, son, daughter, bakla neighbor, etc. has a good life. The women in that above picture aren’t fighting for oil decrease for women. They are fighting for oil prices to decrease for everyone. The idea that women will have it good because they can read as fast as men is misleading. Yes, education is important. But so is food. If no one has access to basic goods or jobs, how can life be good for women if its not good for men?

How good is it to be a woman in a country where life isn’t good for any person?

I don’t think the only accurate measure of a having a good life for a woman is their ability to work in the same place as men. I think its better to measure women’s well-being in context of their people’s well-being.

3. The only thing I do agree with Foreign Policy about is that women in the Philippines have a good sense of their democratic and revolutionary potential. The picture above which includes one of my personal sheroes, Nanay Neri (in the purple shirt hurling a paint ball) who is a mass leader of women’s organizations from the urban poor sector, shows that women feel the need to act, militantly and without reserve, against the neoliberal retreats of the state. They don’t only feel the need to act. But they act. All the time. Every day. In new ways. That’s good. Really good.

Happy Women’s History Month!

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The morning before the International Women’s Alliance conference in Manila, delegates from Gabriela USA were invited to participate in the Philippine-American “friendship” day, to protest the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines. We decided that it was important to participate in a mobilization to the US embassy, or “emba” as the kasamas here call it, because after all we are from the US, we have seen the inequality between the Philippines, and people of color, and poor people, and queer folks, and women folk, and the US. The mobilization was a really important political mobilization for us.
We were prepped that there might be kiskisan, or shield-to-people confrontation and we were assured that we’d be safe if any violent dispersal happened. Our conduct for the mobilization was “touch-the-seal” which means to get right in front of the US embassy to protest unequal relations between the US and Philippines. Our women braved the challenge. We were all a bit nervous but trusted the command of the people’s organizations.
At different moments in the march, we were asked to run down different streets, do an about-face and run some more.  Running down streets to outsmart the Philippine National Police was almost like problem solving puzzle. The puzzle: how to get to the embassy and touch the seal. The problem: the PNP’s riot gear and batons. People were chatting to one another about going in one way and decoying the other way. These earlier runs were fun and filled with chanting and laughter. I remember the smiling faces of the Nanays with us, the youth and students alive with chanting and the men from KMU, workers who came to protest their exploitative job conditions under US corporations.
The people’s orgs had a strategy. We assembled in 4 places so when we closed in on the embassy there were marchers from 4 different directions and at a certain point the PNP was encircled by the masses. As this militant march moved in and chants grew, the PNP got nervous and started to strike back, pushing us with shields. The command of the march told us to move back. So we did. And because there were no blows. The command told us DIKIT!–come back to hold the line. We were a bit in the back of the march for safety so we didn’t have to hold the line. But we needed a solid whole so we ran back. And then the PNP started to take to their batons and large pieces of rocks. They threw rocks at the crowd hitting a few in the head. The batons were most bloody. The PNP reacted to the weaponless masses by hitting men and women alike with batons over their shields. Later, (start at 4:26) we saw a video where the PNP beat a man from KMU as he stood, surrendered. 
From our end, we were told to RUN. And that we did. At that moment, all of our women made sure that they were together. Never leaving each other. Ensuring we would get to safety. We were all scared and jarred at the moment. But then, at that moment, we really understood state repression. Police repression against people who are simply practicing the freedom to assemble, the freedom to speech.
In all of my expos in the Philippines, I have never been more mobilized and agitated. The face of fascism showed itself, and even though I ran away, I’ve seen it. The face that peoples in the Philippines, Palestine, Greece, South Africa, Colombia and the world over face when they are struggling for a better world, a better life, a better future. For me, I felt like this was a march to remember not just because of the violent dispersal but because I saw the people’s resilience. Marchers whose faces I saw bloodied with batons got immediate medical attention from movement medics and wanted to go right back out and finish the march. All against imperialism.


I love the contradictions of the Philippines.

Jeeps and ignored traffic lanes
Mobilization and repression
Malls and poverty
Drainage and floods
Just two days ago, my FiRE sisters and i went to Barangay Damayan Lagi, a shanty town next to the San Juan river in Quezon City. Most of the residents have lived in that urban poor community for 20 some odd years, inheriting their “puesto” or space from other urban poor dwellers who built the structure before. They are in a fight against demolition. Inside of this month, the threat of demolition from the state looms over 260 families who will get pushed out in the name of President Aquino’s Public Private Partnership, where as Mylin, the lead Gabriela organizer there said will, “kill the public and make the private rich.” The PPP, as it is referred to here, prioritizes private investment and development for the public good, assuming that one more mall is good and assuming that the government, the arbiter of these deals, are for the public.
Jeni, the woman who offered her dwelling to us said, “Masakit isipin na maaalis kami dito. Nung lumipat kami dito, wala akong anak. Ngayon, tatlo na sila na lumaki dito.” It’s painful to think that we will be demolished. When I moved here, I didn’t have any kids. Now, I have all three here and they’ve grown up here. The popular rhetoric for the problem of “informal settlers” as the government labels them is that they are a nuisance, they squat, they pollute the rivers, they make the urban center ugly, etc. From the outside, we can only see their shantytowns as a nuisance, squatters, pollution and ugly.
But we often, always, fail to see the contradictions that live inside of them.
That there are families that have grown and laughed in those tiny dwellings. Those families who often barely have anything to eat, sometimes have cried together, evacuated the areas of their homes that is being swallowed up by flood, ran to the street because an electrical fire has ravaged the homes they built with their own hands.
That most of these “squatters” came from provinces. And that they way they know how to build their houses from pieces of wood, tarpaulin and corrugated metal comes from their knowledge of building bahay kubos with bamboo and parts of coconut trees. That the fact is, they all want to go back to their lives in the province but are unable to because there is no livelihood there. Landlessness is rampant. Usury and a landlord system starves their children even if they, and their ancestors have always known how to grow food.
That the pollution problem with “informal settling” is not that urban poor people are throwing their garbage into rivers but that the massive malls that excrete waste almost at the same rate as the construction of new malls are polluting as well. And because the corporations that build these malls are invisible because they serve the “public good,” the poor become framed as dirty, dangerous and decrepit.
After our visit to Damayan Lagi, my team and I went to a forum held by Alyansang Kontra Demolisyon (AKD), the Alliance Against Demolition. A metro-Manila wide coalition of urban poor organizations working towards resisting demolition through their main instrument “barricadang masa”–the people’s barricade. They have seen 2 success stories in the past year and have planned to mobilize their members to imminent demolitions. Ka Carlito of KADAMAY said that they can’t demolish all communities in one day, and if there is a demolition every day of the week the members of AKD will mobilize to fortify the people’s barricade wherever it is needed.
It’s been raining a lot here since I’ve arrived. After all, it is one of the two seasons here, tagulan, rainy season. And when it rains here, it floods. I often think of Jeni and wonder if the San Juan river has come to her family’s doorstep again. I often think of Jeni in hopes that I’ll be able to return to visit her, hoping that both the flood and the demolition won’t come to her doorstep.
The contradictions of the Philippines are stark and intense. And although, it strikes a chord in my heart, the very same organ swells with love and embrace for the conditions under which people live and the way that people resist those conditions.

Nawal El-Saadawi

In about half an hour, I’ll be going to hear a long-time Egyptian feminist, activist, sociologist, medical doctor, Nawal El-Saadawi, speak at the Graduate Center. She was present at the recent uprising in Tahrir Square and will share her reflections on women, Egypt and the revolution.

I wanted to make available the readings that were distributed to prepare for her talk today which can be found HERE on the website of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics (CPCP) at the Grad Center. I’d especially like to flag the piece by Omnia El Shakry, “Egypt’s Three Revolutions” in light of the refreshingly awake conversation we had at the Labor, Crisis, Protest seminar today about the relationships between the inspiring and sometimes surprising eruptions of mass protest from the Gaza Flotilla to the French General Strike to the Tahrir Square and now Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

We talked a bit about how we, really, are in a moment were there are these eruptions of mass resistance. And trying to understand how, why and under what conditions they are happening is sort of crucial, both politically and intellectually. Do the changing sets of relations in these revolutionary instances have anything to do with one another? Is asking the question about how they might hold something in common, irrelevant? Should we see each protest as their own, particular, discontinuous phenomena?

El Shakry argues that instead of viewing the 2011 revolution in Egypt as “new” and “spontaneous,” we should see it as a continuation of the revolutions in Egyptian history and the intensification of political contradictions and complex economic conditions.

In the seminar earlier (we had just finished listening to Paul Mason and reading his book), some of the fellows were remarking about how many of revolutions that had erupted in their lifetimes (1968, in particular) really galvanized masses of people from around the world, because it made claims to a universal humanity. People were fighting for humanity, dignity and respect. And they were all coincidentally doing it at the same time. Or were they? Is it about humanity or is it about what El Shakry is talking about, a movement-induced, crisis-embedded eruption? Or are those two sides, really on one coin?



International Working Women’s Day

100 years ago, Clara Zetkin proposed to second International Conference of Working Women in 1910 that there should be a day dedicated to the international struggle of working women. The day was adopted by this historic conference attended by over 100 working women from unions, socialist parties and working women’s clubs, representing 15 or more countries and in 1911, millions of women across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland marched to fight for jobs and suffrage.

Then, just on the heels of these inspiring actions, in New York City, the fire at the triangle shirtwaist factory killed 146 women workers who were locked in to their workplace and substandard wages and inhumane conditions. This massacre galvanized the working women’s movement and solidified March 8th as an international working women’s day, to remind us of women’s ability and need to struggle to change the conditions under which they live.

Today, that impetus remains. Even though the idea of international women’s day has gone all mainstream, from Goldman Sachs and even Michelle Obama is on board. We’ve gotta remember its roots and therefore, remind ourselves the reasons to attend March events for international solidarity or march on the street.

Women are still engaging in militant actions, grassroots organizing and movement-building strategies to empower women to take part wholly in building a society they want to live in. And the world’s ruling elite still invested in global capitalism are still doling out conditions that marginalize a big part of the world, most of them in the 3rd world and in the 3rd world sections of the first world. Women are feeling the brunt in their jobs or lack thereof, in their families, and in their communities.

In the Filipino community (here, I mean, the Philippines + Filipino diaspora), Gabriela Philippines, the largest and national alliance of women’s organization in the Philippines; Gabriela USA, a national alliance of progressive Filipino women’s organizations in the US; and FiRE, a national democratic women’s organization in NYC, have all written a bit of political analysis and call for the 100th commemoration of international working women’s day. Also, the International Women’s Alliance, an alliance of anti-imperialist women’s organizations worldwide. Peep.


Epifanio De Los Santos

Context: I just got back from the Philippines. Like. Yesterday.

All of us climbed into a van headed to Quezon City, all 12 of us. As we passed by “Our Lady of Peace” and made a right onto Edsa, my sister, Alexie, asked our aunt, MamaNes, “What is that?”

She began to tell us the story of EDSA, 25 years ago. She talked about how everyone came out to the streets to let their voices be heard against the dictatorship. She remembered how she took her 9-year old daughter to the streets on one of the last nights of the protests in fear that she wouldn’t be able to get back home that night, she had decided that the rally was important enough for her daughter to skip school for. She turned to my mother and remembered how swollen her ankles were from walking so far and how big my mother’s stomach was, pregnant with my sister. She reminisced about the lightness she felt in the streets with the people there, how people and restaurants would bring food to offer it to the random strangers who held down the protest lines; and how Nanay, my grandmother, insisted on taking pan de sal, pancit, sandwiches and water with her to the rally to give out to the protesters. MamaNes remarked at the spirit of giving that held the protesters together, from the shrine to Cubao, so close to toppling the dictator that held them apart for so long. People Power. The electricity of it not only successful at ousting a dictator, but more importantly, bringing people together in unity for a purpose, to restore life.

Yesterday was EDSA People Power 1’s 25th anniversary.

In the wake of Egypt’s People Power, and Libya’s growing resistance and the resonance across the Middle East and North Africa, it is fitting to think about the consequences and lessons learned from EDSA, if only that struggling peoples can find the strength to carry out the change they have truly intended and manifested through mass mobilization.

25 years after People Power, the Philippines is bereft of substantial social services. The costs of daily goods are consistently out of the reach of common people. Peasant and landlord systems are concretely in place in a majority of rural areas in the Philippines. And when I say majority, I mean, most of the Philippines. Like, people still live in huts with no running water. Needless to say, development is uneven. Makati condo skyrises v. nipa huts. It’s like 2011 and 1950 is all going on at the same exact moment. Migration is the only option for most Filipinos and the migrant industry is the flimsy stilts on which the Philippine GDP is perched upon. To add insult to injury, most Filipinos working abroad are working low-wage jobs and are exploited and abused at an alarming rate.

A list of few among many. So these are all rehearsed and, as a matter of fact, common knowledge now. Even to Filipinos who participated in People Power 1. They all know this is how it is. These facts are actually the reasons why People Power 2 had to happen.

But the question remains, why and what went wrong? No simple answers here. And really, this question deserves a dissertation length explanation.

But for me, and my blog, and my jetlag, and you my  wordpress readers, here are some of my thangs:

People power wasn’t followed by People’s Governance

I think that the mass mobilization on EDSA 15 years ago was botched when a government and governance didn’t follow its inspiration from the outcry and demands of the Filipino people. Then, the democracy that was inserted in was influenced heavily by US political leverage that was already in place via the 1940-shennanigans aka Philippine independence. The economic decisions and strategy development leaned on foreign investors and capital. So when could the Filipino people really say what they wanted and how they wanted their own country to be run? Nevaaa.

No on asked what they needed

For a government to figure out what things they need to work on and what thing they need to start doing, shouldn’t someone do a thorough assessment of what people need and want? I’m not sure if there were any comprehensive analysis of the national needs and problems of the Filipino people. If the Philippine government published such a document, please forward it to ya girl.

“Those who look outside dream, those who look inside awaken.” Carl Jung, said that. (And I also saw it on a subway poster earlier)

I think post-dictatorship times makes all this room for civic engagement and new democratic space, but if the outlook of those who are in positions of power is towards how to compete in the global capitalist game, then things get all screwed up. Really the above quote is about those–like national bourgeoisie, land lords and ruling elites of the Philippines–who look outside–meaning to foreign and external forces and capitalists–will always be dreaming of trying to get where the big dogs are at. But really a good start could be to look inside–to the Filipino people themselves, what they need, how they want things to be run.

Ok, last thing for tonight, this outside dreamers and inside awakeners idea really resonates with me. The whole time I was in Manila, I really took notice to how much inefficiency there was in the malls, banks, restaurants. All of the places that were disguised as first world development. All of the places that looked like wannabe-American.

And then, when I was in the Visayas, in the rural areas, I noticed all the ingenuity Filipinos had in working their land, building boats, living on such meager means. Building outriggers, boats, houses, rainwater collectors, so much more, from out of what they had at their arms reach.

When Filipinos try to look outside, and be like other people, it is a hot mess. But when I saw them understand their needs, master their surroundings and build from there, wow. That’s gotta be something.

People power, man. Power to the people, cuz we did it twice. Third time’s a charm.