As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Les Miserables Do You Hear The People Sing? It's a revolutionary song calling for freedom. This my "fight song" as we end the campaign on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.
The truth is I've been wanting to write the story about the 16-year-old Barbie Inocencio whose mysterious death left me feeling downtrodden. I couldn't find the strength to put the incident into words. My energy got so drained. It felt like I was punched and knocked out while fighting "in the arena". Her case reminded me that there are thousands of women in the Philippines who were victims of rape and murder.
I grieved for days. It was as if I lost a daughter or a sister or a niece. Even as I write this, my tears won't stop falling. It is just too much evil. So listening to this song gives me the needed motivation to speak up. I needed to hear the line, " This is the music of the people who will not be slaves again!"
So here's the story.
Barbie's mother reported that her 10th-grade daughter was missing on December 2, 2019, when the student didn't arrive home. She was unable to contact her.
On December 4, 2019, Barbie's body "was found her hands tied and placed on a sack in a waterway past 2 p.m". (Source)
On social media, there is a viral video of the mother screaming in pain as authorities retrieved her daughter's body near the irrigation canal. Watching the video was too much for me to bear. I was filled with frustration, pain, and outrage.
The news broke out in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism. It seems the enemy is too powerful to be defeated.
I scanned through the newsfeeds of my Facebook friends from the Philippines, most of their posts were more about the South East Asian Games that our country was hosting, personal stories, or the incoming typhoon. I felt alone as I post #JusticeforBarbie and #IStandWithHer. Barbie became an added statistic to the number of murders of girls and women in my country.
On the evening news, together with Barbie's case, a woman was raped and beheaded. Her identity is unknown without her head. I felt powerless. Who will stand with these women?
I was so devastated that I felt so exhausted, thus I posted on Facebook, " I drop my sword and cry for just a while." And weep, I did.
I want to say thank you to all who reached out to me, especially to our World Pulse sisters who sent hugs, prayers, empathy, and support. In those down moments, I realized I was not alone in this fight after all.
As I continue to #LogOnRiseUp to encourage our sisters, I read stories from all over the globe of women changemakers who continue to do their share of their fight against violence against women and girls. Their campaigns gave me hope. We can do these together, after all.
So today, no matter how late this post came to be, I share my commitment to stand with her.
To every baby, toddler, child who is a victim of cybersex and child pornography in our country, #IStandWithHer
To every girl child who is sold by her own parents or grandparents to prostitution, making her body as their source of income, #IStandWithHer
To every schoolgirl who was raped and murder on her way home from school, #IStandWithHer
To every victim of incest, #IStandWithHer.
To every girl or woman who is assaulted with sexual violence while taking shelter in an evacuation camp, #IStandWithHer.
To every wife who quietly cries due to domestic violence but cannot leave her abuser because of fear from society's judgment, #IStandWithHer.
To every youth or woman who was tricked to have better-paying jobs abroad only to end up in trafficking. #IStandWithHer.
To every woman suffering from mental health illness because the violence she suffers in her life is too much to bear alone, #IStandWithHer.
To every sister who fights with violence against women and girls, #IStandWithHer.
To end, I will leave you all with this revolutionary song, with a few tweaks on the lyrics (because why not?) :
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of brave women?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes.
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!
Will you give all you can give
So that our banner may advance?
Some will fall and some will live
Will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs
Calls us to join them in their stance!
Do you hear the women sing?
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of women
Who are climbing to the light!
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord
We will walk behind the plowshare
We will put away the sword
The chain will be broken
And women will have their reward!