Seven stories, seven inspiring Filipinos

AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Yahoo Southeast Asia

When we started the ‘Pitong Pinoy’ project, we thought it would be hard to find seven Filipinos who have made a remarkable difference.

After all, it’s not everyday that you run into people who could actually devote their entire life to serving others or champion advocacies that are seemingly hard to accomplish.

But we gathered an overwhelming number of nominations—from loving parents, courageous law enforcers,  devoted health workers, brilliant artists, magnanimous celebrities, exemplary athletes, astute youth leaders, inspirational public servants, to simple folk who have touched others with their kindness.

Believe us, it was a tough job to choose seven amazing Pinoys. Nonetheless, it is heartwarming to read stories of change, volunteerism, and selflessness.

Thanks to all your nominations, we finally have the seven people who make us prouder to be Pinoys (in alphabetical order):

1. Alexis Belonio. This engineer figured out an out-of-the-box way to make use of rice husks. He created a cooking stove designed to help poor people have access to hot meals.

Belonio invented a environment-friendly rice-husk stove which has a fan in its base. It provides air used in the conversion of rice hulls into gas—helping poor families cook without needing expensive fuel.

Belonio could have gotten a patent for his invention and gain millions from it; yet he left it patent-free so the technology would be free for everyone to use. His efforts have already been recognized abroad but shouldn’t we appreciate him first?

2. Jean Enriquez. If you want to see female power at work, you’d have to meet this woman.

Despite the danger of drawing the ire of huge human trafficking syndicates, Enriquez continues to fight for the welfare of Pinays. Her steadfast efforts to empower Filipino women is admirable.

She heads the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific, which vigorously fights sex tourism, the mail-order bride trade, pornography, and sexual exploitation.

Enriquez also holds education camps among young women to ensure that they are not vulnerable to abuse. She also oversees the healing process of survivors and makes sure they get a second shot at having a decent life.

3. Jay Jaboneta. All it took him was one Facebook status message to change the lives of dozens of children in a far-flung village in Zamboanga.

When Jaboneta learned that 200 children in Layag-layag village had to swim to get to school everyday (painstakingly making sure that their books, if there was any, wouldn’t get wet), he knew had to do something.

Through a Facebook status message, Jaboneta was able to raise funds—as much as P70,000—on the first week of his call for donations.

A Facebook group “Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids” was later established, expanding his advocacy’s reach.

Now, the kids of Layag-layag go to school in their bright new yellow boats, each aptly dubbed as “New Hope.”

4. Tomas Leonor. For Leonor, initiating change literally begins with a single step.

To raise funds for cancer-stricken children at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Leonor organized ‘StepJuan’ and volunteered to travel sans any motored transportation.

Leonor’s belief that cancer must not kill the hopes and dreams of children motivated him to walk hundreds of kilometers.

His walking expedition started on April 4, 11 at Allen, Samar.  To date, StepJuan’s Leonor has walked a total of 1,241.5 kilometers and taken 2,887,208 steps in seven islands, ten provinces, 86 municipalities, and 20 cities.

5. Heidi Mendoza. She made headlines and risked her life to expose supposed corruption in the military, allegedly led by ex-Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Mendoza braved Senate hearings and bared details of suspicious military transactions, strengthening the multimillion plunder case against the former general.

In all likelihood, she could’ve chosen a simple, quiet life but she decided to take the road less traveled for the sake of the country.

She has recently been appointed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino as commissioner of the Commission on Audit and we have high hopes that this would pave the way to clean and honest governance.

6. Anna Oposa. A lot of people claim to care for the environment but how many actually go out of their way and really work beyond lip service?

Oposa, director of the Law of Nature Foundation, has proven her love for Mother Earth by vigorously working on protecting marine life.

She also initiated “Save the Philippine Seas,” spurred by recent reports of massive coral reef destruction in several parts of the country. Her initiatives made quite a huge social network ripple and united Filipinos through a national blog day to save the Philippine seas.

She is also lobbying to strengthen laws for environment protection, a long-term goal that we hope would live on far beyond our grandchildren’s life spans.

7. Tzarina Saniel.In the age of e-books, tablet apps, and the internet, one would easily prefer going online instead of going to the library. But for Saniel, nothing beats a real book—the feel of the old manuscript, the smell of the paper and the idea that it has cultivated the minds of many.

Bibliophile Saniel has collected and preserved old Filipino books, even original manuscripts from Jose Rizal.

Because of her inspiring advocacy, she is definitely noteworthy for keeping Pinoy literature alive.

If your nominee did not make it to this list, fret not. This is just the beginning of our collection of good news and stories of how Filipinos beat the odds and make a difference.

CATW-AP exec finalist for Ruby Award

Please vote for CATW-AP Executive Director Ms. Jean Enriquez, now international finalist for Soroptimist’s Ruby Award: For Women Helping Women.

Please click here to vote

2011 Soroptimist Ruby Award Online Voting

The Soroptimist Ruby Award: For Women Helping Women acknowledges women who are working to improve the lives of women and girls through their personal or professional activities. Their efforts help to promote the issues that are important to the Soroptimist organization. Honorees are women who have worked in extraordinary ways to benefit women and girls.

The program enables local Soroptimist clubs and the Soroptimist organization to thank these women and encourage others to explore ways to assist women and girls. The program begins on the club level, where the type of recognition varies. Award winners at the club level are eligible for additional awards at other levels of the organization. The finalist receives a $5,000 donation to the charitable organization of her choice.

Soroptimist members and friends will choose the finalist for the Soroptimist Ruby Award: For Women Helping Women. The Soroptimist Program Council has narrowed the field to three extraordinary finalists. Now it’s your turn to select your favorite.

Learn more about these three wonderful women and cast your vote now!

We are Children, Too

We are Children, Too.

The Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE), the youth arm of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women- Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), envisions a society where men and women enjoy genuine equality. It aims to see a world where all human beings are free from all forms of abuse and discrimination and where everyone works together towards uplifting the dignity of humanity and promoting empowerment.

We are the transformed young men and empowered young women after having attended life-changing camps organized by CATW-AP. Such camps on gender issues, sexuality, and prostitution have allowed us to reflect on the deeper causes of violence against women and children. Such camps have inspired us to unite and empower the youth, to organize echo camps, to change more lives and to campaign against patriarchal values and policies towards a more equal and gender-responsive society.

We are children, too. We know how it feels to be ridiculed and made fun of. We have had our own share of experiences of such cruelty and demeaning acts while five family members at home were listening in or while fifteen people from the neighborhood were watching. We know how it feels. It was shameful and it took us a long time to heal the pain those have caused. How much more for a defenseless child with millions of people watching? Again, we do not want such shaming to be repeated and we want the world to know more that children have rights, too.

We are children, too, and many of us have been commodified, violated, sexualized, and our dignity trampled on as children and as girls. We know the strong role of media, and even families and communities, in sexualizing children and women, while glorifying aggressive and violent masculinity. We cannot allow more of us to be violated or to be rendered vulnerable now, nor later as adults.

We are children, and our situation of poverty compounds that vulnerability. We refuse to be used as toys, to be exploited because of poverty, to be used so that others may continue to profit.

We are children, too. There are those who consider our ideas useless and our efforts inadequate. There are those who think that we are too young to understand the situation of the world or to effect change on it. They think that we lack experience and knowledge, and that our young age puts us in a lower position than adults. However, those people cannot discourage nor weaken us. Instead, they give us more reasons to push for dignity, equality, and respect. They give us reasons to continue what we are doing — fighting for what is right and just.

We are children, too and our ideas are worth listening to. Our individual and collective efforts towards change can become as significant as those of older people. We can shake the world and let it see the impact we can create. We have rights, equal with anybody else’s, rights which we inherited from the very beginning , rights which we in YSAGE vow to defend until the end. We are children, advocating for our own rights and the rights of every child around the world.

Thus, YSAGE members support the courageous move of our youth camp adult facilitators Ms. Jean Enriquez and Mr. Gerald Imperial, and other advocates from SCREAM (Stop Child Rights Exploitation and Abuse in Media), who took legal action to ensure that children’s rights are protected. We stand by the credibility of Dr. Lourdes “Honey” Carandang, who has helped our Coalition in empowering the survivors of prostitution, many of whom were exploited, too, as children.

We hope that justice for all children will be served.

Richelle Verdeprado

For the National Council

Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality – Philippines (YSAGE)

Abuse of Power

Dear Editor,

Women friends asked me, why is Cristy Fermin even allowed to say the

following on air in defending Willie Revillame?:

1. “…dalawang lalaking personalidad lang ang parang pinapayagan ng

publiko na maging ‘matulis’. Si Rico J. Puno lang atsaka si Willie.

Pag sila ang nagdeliver para bang malaking karangalan mo pag mabastos


2. “(Aiza) Seguerra should not talk about morality as she lives an immoral life.”

The first justifies sexual harassment when done by certain

individuals. Is there a worse way of humiliating women than by dignifying

harassers? The second maligns lesbians as immoral. Both are

appallingly, terribly sexist statements which condone abuse of women.

Media has long played a critical role in objectifying women, including

children (as shown by the now controversial episode of Willie

Revillame’s program), and this has led to the normalization of abuse

against us. Men have thought it acceptable to harass or buy women

(and children) as long as one is able to ‘deliver it well’ ala-Rico J.

or Willie R. Those who own media outfits as well as advertisers capitalize

on the sexual objectification of women and children. Homophobia and

stigmatization of lesbians is also a form of gender-based violence.

We have had enough. It is high time that we talk about the role of media

in stereotyping, sexualizing and justifying abuses and violence against women

and children. It is heartening that artists are speaking up against these forms of abuse.

Corporate media, stop profiting at our expense!

Civil society, let us join hands in shaping a more

responsible and gender-sensitive mass media.

Jean Enriquez
Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia
Pacific (CATW-AP)

First Asia-Pacific Meeting of Prostitution Survivors!

Statement of Asia-Pacific Meeting of Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Survivors

In this meeting, we have shared stories of resistance, survival, healing, recovery, accessing education, self-organizing and mobilization.

Collectively, we agree to reject the legalization of the prostitution industry which serves as the demand side to sex trafficking, and to punish the buyers and the business, instead of the women. As Fatima, one of our leaders said, “As long as there are buyers, we will not end sex trafficking.”

Laws in the region have long been criminalizing and stigmatizing those exploited in prostitution, when they are the ones whom society and government should protect.

Prostitution thrives because of the false ideas that women are inferior, sexual objects and commodities while men are superior, the sole decision-makers and owners of properties. Many of us have been victimized in child marriage, incestuous rape, different forms of child abuse, and domestic violence before we were victimized in prostitution. The system thrives because economic disparity widens between the rich and the poor. Because state policies continue to compromise our countries to sex tourists, foreign and local military, and big business, at the expense of our women’s livelihoods and bodily integrity. These are the workings of patriarchal, militarist and neo-liberal economic policies.

We unite with our sisters in the feminist movement and the labor movement who call for real jobs, not prostitution; for economic programs that create local, sustainable employment, and not push women out of the country; for the socialization of the care economy while recognizing that domestic work is work; for greater budget for women and away from military expenditures.

We unite with the Dalits, aborigines and indigenous peoples’ movements in the region who decry the targeting of our communities for sex trafficking and prostitution.

We have young people, including men, and grassroots women with us, who continue to challenge not only economic and political systems but also ideologies of masculinity that continue to subordinate women.

We also call for comprehensive health services for us as women and our children, as our health needs are manifold. We call on HIV-AIDS advocates to reject the legalization of the sex industry, not to resign to calling prostitution as “sex work”, but to bring back the advocacy to women’s reproductive rights and sexual rights, which is about women’s control over our own bodies, not exploitation by buyers and the industry.

Feminist healing shall recognize the continuum of violence, promote alternative families (instead of pushing them back to areas of origin where they may be revictimized), foster community support, and bring out women’s creativity. All services should include their children.

We call for income-generating projects that are gender-sensitive (non-traditional work) and uphold the principles of cooperativism, sustainability, shared profits and fair trade.

Governments should provide housing as many women and children in prostitution cannot be returned to communities where relatives are their perpetrators.

We call for free legal aid for victims and witness protection. We call on local and national governments to involve the women survivors in policy-making, and to revoke licenses of prostitution establishments.

We and the youth among us call for the gender-sensitization of and greater access to higher education.

Social movements have to carry out prevention and public information campaigns alongside us, and help in shifting the stigma away from the victims and onto the perpetrators – the buyers and the business.

We call on the application of citizenship rights to all, especially the women in prostitution, as a fundamental human right. Victims of cross-border trafficking should not be forcibly removed from a country of destination but be accorded services consistent with the Palermo Protocol principles.

We will strengthen our self-help groups, and our networks among youths, survivors and social movements. We will primarily call for the removal of provisions in laws that criminalize women in prostitution, and put provisions that will criminalize the buyers and the business. These laws shall include extradition of traffickers and buyers to ensure their prosecution.

“Nobody is our owner”, as one of our leaders, Fatima, stated. Not the husband, not the father, not the pimp, not the buyer, not the sex industry. We reiterate that we stand for our bodily integrity and autonomy.

Finally, we collectively pledge to continue our journey to healing, recovery, empowerment and activism, as we educate, organize and mobilize ourselves to change society and uproot patriarchy, racism, casteism, militarism and capitalism which generated and sustain prostitution and sex trafficking.

April 3, 2011, New Delhi, India

World March of Women

Today, women in the Philippines and all over the world gather in different places and spaces to show our collective strength and make our collective voice heard as we speak out our sufferings, challenges, triumphs and aspirations. Our voices are joined together as we resist the abuses and marginalization wrought upon us by economic policies that discriminate against giving women productive employment, just wages and benefits at the workplace, and opportunities for livelihood and income; by societies that allow, or even promote, violence to be committed against women with impunity; by governments and public institutions that turn a blind eye to the human rights of women.

We march to the streets, gather in spaces of protest and launch myriad forms of collective action, as we draw our strength from the wisdom forged by the historical herstorical struggle of our ancestors and our continuing efforts to sustain these struggles. We are telling our governments, the men in our societies, the people and institutions whose actions, policies, perspectives, ideologies and behaviour maintain the political, social and economic oppression of women that change we want, and change we are making happen.

Here in the Philippines, the state of the majority of Filipino women remains precarious. True, there has been renewed hope under a new government that promises to be the total opposite of the bad inept government that GMA’s administration was and to undertake reforms in governance, but this breath of fresh air is so thin it is fast depleting, threatening once again the gains that the women’s movement in the Philippines have achieved.

Even as the P-Noy government is feeding us with platefuls of rhetoric, the reality speaks stronger and more truthfully. The promise of poverty alleviation has fallen short—and what we have now is a government that is promoting an economic policy with nothing new to offer and has been tried and tested as far as exacerbating conditions detrimental to workers and other basic sectors is concerned. The Public-Private-Partnerships or PPP have in the past resulted in increased outsourcing, casualization and contractualization of work. The PPP now is nothing but “build-operate-transfer on steroids,” which will only deepen privatization of more public utilities and services, making these more expensive and prohibitive for the basic masses. Privatization in the past two decades has successfully handed over large sectors/industries of the economy to the hands of oligopolies. Privatization together with liberalization and deregulation ushered in years of jobless growth, precarious work and declining real wages. The PPP will further weaken labor and trade union rights, as it worsens poverty situations of the basic sectors, including urban and rural poor women and women workers. The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan or MTPDP where it is contained lacks an industrialization program, despite consultations. We are anxious that the workers yet to be repatriated given the Middle East turmoil will not be absorbed into local employment.

The MTPDP remains wanting in the areas of food self sufficiency based on sustainable, ecological and organic agriculture, and in prioritizing new and renewable energy sources. Filipino women have no access to and control over economic resources in the same way that we continue to be deprived of control over our own bodies—our health and reproductive capacities.

The traditional politicians in the legislature cannot stand up to the influential Catholic Church and has held hostage for a long time now a reproductive health bill that has been relegated in the back burner of Congress. President Noynoy Aquino made a verbal commitment that he supports reproductive rights, as it is articulated in the Constitution, but as with his other pronouncements, he hasn’t undertaken a more concrete action to support the bill. He didn’t even include this bill in the list of the priority legislative agenda of his government.

If the state’s efforts to protect women from harsh economic conditions has been found wanting, another kind of violence is posing as much danger to Filipino women—this is the increasing violence committed by government security forces, as seen in the recent cases involving a woman vendor that was raped by a police officer in a police station, of a child victim of sexual abuse and trafficking whose abuser the police chose to protect, of women activists and a female teacher that the police in Central Luzon threatened because of their political activities.

P-Noy has paid lip service to the promotion of human rights, but his rhetoric has not been translated into justice for victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings and their families. No soldier or paramilitary group has been made accountable for these disappearances and killings, and violations of human rights.

With its commitment to continue pursuing the Visiting Forces Agreement, the P-Noy government is turning a blind eye to the harmful impact of such arrangement. The VFA has not only compromised the sovereignty of our country but has resulted in more cases of abuse and prostitution of women and, through the unconventional warfare the VFA facilitated, has exacerbated forced migration of families.

If the government is unable to give justice to victims of violence and abuse in the home front, outside the country Filipino women working abroad face a more imperilled situation. They have often been abandoned during situations of abuse and violence. Legal assistance from government has often been slow in coming if not altogether denied. Rescue of Filipino women from households and work places where they have been exposed to risks of physical, emotional and psychological abuses is more exception than norm. This despite the fact that the number of Filipino women pushed to work abroad has been increasing because of lack of decent jobs in the country—in 2009, 71000 Filipino women left the country to work as workers/helpers in households; they made up 21 percent of the newly hired in the top 10 job categories abroad. While many local households benefit from their remittances, working in the private homes of their employers have placed them in situations very vulnerable to abuse, ranging from maltreatment to sexual harassment, including rape. In addition, their absence has had negative impact on some two million children left behind without mothers.

Meanwhile, the government’s efforts to get diplomatic agreements with countries where there are significant populations of Filipino women working have often been weak; in several cases even a failure. Such weak response from government shows lack of recognition, maybe even ignorance, of the presence of abuses in other societies.

In this light we recognize that the women’s struggle is one of solidarity, because violence and disregard for women’s human rights are happening within other societies of the world and are allowed, even supported, by certain states. In particular, the Philippine women’s movement is affirming its commitment to support women in Burma who continue to suffer all forms of abuses perpetrated by a brutal, rogue state, which is using rape as a weapon of war and promoting discrimination based on ethnicity.

On this occasion of the international day of women, we Filipino women continue our struggles; we shout out our protest; we are angered by the oppressors and abusers of women all over the world.

But we dream too; we remain inspired by our visions of a better world for women and other marginalized, discriminated members of society.

Our cries of resistance are reinforced by our joyful shouts affirming our aspirations—Kabuhayan, katarungan, kapangyarihan sa kababaihan, kontrol sa sariling katawan, kaligtasan sa karahasan, kapayapaan!

Akbayan-Youth • Amnesty International • APL-Women • Asian Circle 1325 • Bagong Kamalayan • BATIS • Batis-AWARE • Buklod – Olongapo • CATW-AP • Center for Migrants’ Advocacy • Center for Overseas Workers • Development Action for Women Network (DAWN) • Focus on the Global South • Free Burma Coalition • Freedom from Debt Coalition • Initiatives for International Dialogue • KAISA-KA • LRC-KSK/FOE-Phils. • Movement for the Advancement of Student Power • Medical Action Group (MAG) • Partido ng Manggagawa • PKKK • Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) • PREDA • SARILAYA • SCAP • Transform Asia • TWMAE • UP Sigma Alpha Nu – Manila & Los Banos • WEDPRO • WomanHealth • Women’s Legal Bureau • Welga ng Kababaihan • Women’s Crisis Center • Youth and Students for the Advancement of Gender Equality (YSAGE) • World March of Women – Pilipinas


G20: A Threat to Peoples’ Economic and Political Rights!

The G20 and its global economic agenda are an affront and a threat to people’s rights and welfare.

The detention and deportation of Filipino activists from Seoul and the harassment and intimidation of a number of other activists at the hands of Korean immigration authorities are manifestations of the undemocratic and anti-people nature of the G20 and further exposed the illegitimacy of this group of self-proclaimed caretakers of the global economy.

The protests and mobilizations in Korea of tens of thousands of people in clear defiance of the Korean governments security measures, is an indication of a clear disconnect between the agenda of the governments of the G20 countries and the interests and aspirations of their people.

The G20 Summit in Korea was supposed to address the issue of the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the wake of the global economic crisis. The G20’s prescriptions for economic recovery and development, however, anchored on the perpetuation of a flawed corporate driven, export-oriented development model would further exacerbate poverty and inequality and undermine social cohesion across the world. The whole point of the Peoples Conference in Korea, and the reason why the deported Filipino activists came to Korea, is to articulate the peoples’ opposition and resistance to the G20 and to collectively discuss and put forward alternatives to the failed model of development that the G20 is so desperately trying to preserve.

We say NO to the G20 and the policies that continue to threaten jobs and peoples livelihoods, and erode workers’ rights and welfare;

We say NO to the G20 and policies that cause the expulsion and repatriation of migrants in the name of restrictive and Draconian migration policies and rules;

We say NO to the G20 and the policies that use women as safety nets in crisis, and is blind to the differential decision-making powers in the household and economy in general;

We speak out against the free trade agenda and the push of the G20 governments for more ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreements disguised as economic partnerships but are really instruments of economic domination and control by the rich over the poor within and across countries and regions;

We speak out against the development agenda of the G20 which threatens peoples’ right to food, destroys the environment, and perpetuates unequal access and control over natural resources in support of the profit-driven motives of corporations;

We say NO to the G20. It does not represent the interests of the peoples of the world and it cannot speak on our behalf.

We call on the peoples of the world to come together against the G20 and to intensify the struggle for a better and more just and peaceful world.

Action for Economic Reforms (AER)
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Aniban mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
Focus on the Global South
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Jubilee South – APMDD
Kilusang Mangingisda
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
Migrants Forum for Asia (MFA)
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)
Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS)
World March of Women – Pilipinas