My name is Cecille Pauline S. Montenegro, born in Panay Island, Iloilo City grew up at Metro Manila. I am 35 years old living with my partner and two beautiful children: Anda, 12, and Jun, 10 years old. I am also the eldest of five sibling.
Recalling my early life, I would say it was never easy especially as my parents had aproblem. For my siblings and me it really was like living in hell. Yes we loved our parents but many times hated them too. I was only 14 when I took a stand against my parents. I was forced to come to the conclusion that in order to pursue my education, I had to go live with my aunt.
Life after high school became tougher, I enrolled in college and took Fine Arts, majoring in interior design for it was – and still is – my passion. But at the same time, I had to earn money so I started working in a local bar. There were times when I didn’t sleep for two days. The years rolled by and in the year 2000, I decided I couldn’t do what I was doing anymore. The job in the bar was extremely exhausting and was taking a toll me. Lack of sleep and utter exhaustion was also taking a toll on my studies. My neighbor who had a connection in the entertainment business in Japan offered me a job there with her. Grabbing the opportunity, I said yes! I was only 17 because I was under-age, my manager took care of passport by getting my a fake one that said my name was Hershey and I was 23 years old.
For the next five years, I drudged my way into different places from Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa and Toyama as an entertainer. Life couldn’t be harder than it was at that point in time. I was making a living to help support my family back in the Philippines but there were moments – which were many – my work almost drove me insane. I cried, I laughed and worked. That was my life in Japan.
Year 2006 when I married my Japanese husband who was the father of my son Jun who is 10 years old now, He also wanted to adopt my daughter Anda, so we live in Osaka Japan, since then, I thought it was a happy moment of my life but I was wrong.
About my children, Year 2003 when I come back for a vacation in Philippines, I met a guy who is working as a drummer in local band, and became my boyfriend, but relationship didn’t workout , got pregnant, Dec. 8, 2004 I gave birth with my daughter (Anda). Her father didn’t recognize her as his child so, I have to take the responsibility alone. Sept. 16, 2006, I gave birth with Jun in Hirakata, Osaka Japan. It took almost two years for my Japanese husband to show his true colors. He started beating me and I realized that if I didn’t act fast, my kids and I would surely die. I wasn’t fluent in Japanese; didn’t know how to read or write in the language but I decided to go to court anyway. I was fearful that the courts would rule in my husband’s favor especially because I did not have a stable earning. But fate was at my side. The judge granted me the custody of my sons. After two years, I mustered all my courage to leave Japan and go back to the Philippines.
For once I had great support of my partner who helped me set up my new salon business. The business was a great financial relief for my family but I had to close it down permanently due to the economic problems here in the country. In 2014, I started to paint again. I was nervous and excited at the same time for it was almost a decade that I had actually picked up a brush to paint. I kept doing it until 2015. This was the beginning of new problems and this time it was with my children. My son Jun who is JFC (Japanese Filipino child) was having issues at school. At first I thought it was just an accident or a phase. But he kept doing it. He kept getting into fights at school. So one day, I confronted him. And his response came as a complete shock to me. He started asking me about his father, his identity and why he was living in this country. This is when I started seeking for help. I was in a dire situation and didn’t know how to cope with it. I reached out to friends back in Japan, browsed the Internet for answers and even checked out the Japanese embassy. I emailed all the support group that could help me and my child. Finally, I received an email from Tokyo, Japan, recommending three agencies that could help me with my situation. These were the DAWN, (Development Action for Women ), Maligaya House and Batis Center for Women. Out of these three organizations, I got a reply from the Batis Center that actually scheduled a counseling appointment. Since then, it was April 2015 as I recall, my children became a part of the youth organization of Batis, Batis YOGHI (Youth Organization that gives hope and Inspiration). And I support them with all their activities. The Batis Center for Women is involved in various empowering activities. One of these include Batis AWARE – an Association of Women in Action for Rights and Empowerment. In August 2015, Tita Alona, the female trailblazer who was heading Batis AWARE, approached me and asked if I wanted to take part in the three day activity which was held by Prof. Joe Takeda of Kwansei Gakuin University. It was a participatory action research for Batis’ women’s group. I was excited and nervous at the same time for I merely went to Batis because of my children and didn’t have any idea about the organization. Batis AWARE (Association of Women in Action for Rights an Empowerment) is an independent peoples organization working for the cause of the Filipino migrant women who are victims/survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, illegal recruitment, abandoned by their husbands or partners with their JFC child.
After the three-day activity, I was completely taken by surprise when I was elected as the vice president of the organization. After just a month, we were again hit by a tragic news. The president of Batis AWARE had passed away due to cardiac arrest and I had to manage organizational affairs on her behalf. I started to volunteer for Batis AWARE. Eversince I came on board I have felt so empowered working with my group. I also paint and give a small percentage of my earning from selling my paintings to the organization to help fund the organization. Batis AWARE is seeking to initiate more empowerment-focused programs and activities. We are also looking for volunteers to help the women as well as the organization itself to become sustainable in order to help members attain economic justice. Batis AWARE mission is to expand its membership, to empower women, to advocate migrant women rights locally and internationally. Batis AWARE does have many challenges to overcome.
The challenges that I encountered personally as a woman stems primarily from inequality of rights of women and girls. I feel women are being objectified starting from State to the grassroots level. Women suffer due to economic injustices which are burdened by the Filipino woman and this is aggravated by lack of education and opportunities to modern economy. We are judged by our appearance and suffer due to a legal system that does little to empower the Filipino female community. I have vowed to overcome these issues by speaking up, raising awareness and will never stop not until I am heard.
I speak about my country because I love my country! it is a land full of natural resources but I would like to see a change in the system. I hope someday together the Filipino men and women can put a stop to corruption, the minings, the garbage that destroys the environment. I hope to see the education system that is free for all the students, proper healthcare for all Filipinos and fair justice system.
I am truly grateful for this opportunity to be part of World Pulse and honored to be selected to learn so much from the Advance Digital Change-making training that will help not only empower me but also empower my community. It truly is a dream come true for me and I can’t thank World Pulse enough.
As of now, I am a full time mother, book Illustrator, working from my homebased printing shop, where I print my artworks. I’m a painter and paint anywhere from canvases, bags, T-shirts, stones to shoes and even on walls
I am planning on going back to school and continue my fine arts course and perhaps shift from interior design to painting. This is what I am challenging myself. I am nervous for inwardly I think maybe I am too old for this. My renewed passion is challenging me not from an emotional point but financial as well as I have to keep looking for the cheapest school but also regain my confidence in something I love doing, and I know it’s a little funny because to sustain my dream, I made a plan for my self. “ I will sell Paintings so I can study painting, for in the near future I can teach painting and sell my paintings again” hahaha! Its funny but that’s what I am thinking about now.
I would like to share some of my paintings here, and my inspiration is WOMEN. I love painting women, girls faces and flowers, for me flower is a symbol of feminism, so beautiful, powerful, strong, yet fragile and vulnerable. I hope you like it too.