VOLUME 28 NO. 7 | FEBRUARY 7 - 13, 2009

Filipinas band together, no matter the distance

Last updated 2-5-09 at 1:30 p.m.

By Caroline Li
Northwest Asian Weekly

Words are not always enough to educate and mobilize a community that is distant from the issues Filipino women face. Pinay Sa Seattle is an organization that serves as a bridge to defend and advocate for the basic rights of Filipinas globally.

On Jan. 18, local Filipinos gathered at the Filipino Community Center to reflect on their struggles and celebrate the spirit of Filipino women worldwide.

To kick start the New Year and its two-year anniversary, Pinay Sa Seattle hosted “Diwang Pinay,” a full-length multimedia cultural production that spotlights the artwork and experiences of Filipinas in the diaspora. Diwang Pinay means “spirit of the Filipina,” which “presents the historical struggle of Filipina women as well as the spirit of resistance that is part of that legacy,” said Katrina Pestano, vice-chair of Pinay Sa Seattle.

Pinay Sa Seattle was founded in 2006 on the National Philippine Women’s Day of Protest, a day to honors the historical struggle of Filipino women. In the past two years, the organization has mobilized support to stop politically motivated killings and abductions in the Philippines and to end government repression in the United States and abroad. Locally, the group runs workshops, promotes awareness and runs education campaigns.

“We were able to bridge a number of different Filipino and Fil–Am communities, from the youth to the elders. Everyone was surprised and impressed by the focus on history with a feminist perspective,” said Angela Dy, director of Youth Speaks Seattle, a partner organization.

Pinay Sa Seattle is part of a new overseas chapter of GABRIELA Network (GABnet), a women's organization based in the Philippines. The alliance of Pinay sa Seattle, babae (based in San Francisco) and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE in New York) has gotten the thumbs up to develop GABRIELA-USA, the first overseas chapter of GABnet. GABnet was founded in 1989 and serves as a multi-sectoral women’s organization, with an alliance of more than 250 organizations.

The organization was named after Gabriela Silang, who led a regional revolt against Spanish colonizers in the Philippines. Primed by anti-dictatorship struggles and the drive for significant economic and political change from the Marcos years, women from all walks of life banded together to establish GABnet in honor of Silang and to respond to the challenges for liberation.

Diwang Pinay originated in the Bay area and is hosted by each of the GABnet–USA organizations in their own cities as a tool to adapt and connect their struggles nationwide. “The exciting aspect of this particular show is being able to explore our identities as Pinays in the U.S. against the backdrop of the Philippine resistance to Spanish colonization as well as U.S. imperialism, during a time of heightened militarization and economic repression all over the globe,” said Pestano.

“It fills my heart with joy to celebrate two years of struggle and triumph with militant Filipina women consciously resisting imperialism here within the United States — the number one imperial beast,” stated Luzviminda Uzuri Carpenter, secretary general of Pinay Sa Seattle.

Dy said the show was a success. About 250 people attended. “Local communities were really able to see from the show how a strong identity formation is crucial for our young people; that knowing our history and having heroes and role models — female as well as male — within our communities is a way we can give our young people a strong foundation upon which they can then build their identities as individuals and as community members,” she said. “I feel that the elders were very surprised to know that the youth still care so much about their history and what the generations before them sacrificed to procure a better future for their families.” (end)

For more information, please visit www.gabnet.org or www.pinaysaseattle.org.

Caroline Li can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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