Although none in our family is an official member of Gabriela, last Saturday, I together with my mom and my cousin, was invited to attend their 25th Anniversary. Gabriela is the first women’s organization in the country. The name Gabriela came from one of our National heroines in the 18th century. When her husband died fighting for freedom against the Spanish colonizers, Gabriela assumed the role of a general. She continued the revolt but was caught by the Spanish forces and was then beheaded in the historic plaza of Vigan in the northern part of our country. Gabriela as a women’s party was born in 1984 out of women’s dire need to make an impact to transform an unjust society during the time of Marcos’ dictatorship. Women from all walks of life coalesced to help end the social, political, and economic injustice. Today, the group is also a political party that calls for and fights for the women’s rights.
In the half-day celebration, speeches and testimonies of both men and women about women’s strengths were given importance. The auditorium was quite small and could only accommodate a small group of people but it certainly accommodated people from different age groups, educational and social backgrounds, and gender. The different facets of womanhood were clearly shown—a wife searching for her husband; a mother bereaving for a lost of a child; a daughter savoring the warmth of her parents hugs and kisses; a sister missing her sibling’s stories; a niece remembering her uncle or auntie’s wise words; and a friend wishing to spend another “videoke” or singing night with a friend. All of them lost or were separated from their loved one/s in the name of justice. I listened to the stories and struggles of women. It shouldn’t surprise me that there men and even women who could be so cruel to women and children but all the time I cannot help but wonder how can they live everyday knowing that a suffering child is their own making. There was this 5-year-old girl who was killed together with her parents in their own house by armed men just because her parents fought for the rights of the farmers. A pregnant woman who was abducted by again another group of armed men just because she was a woman’s rights advocate. These two college students, both women, who were doing their thesis in a rural place somewhere, were thought to be activists and were taken by the military in a prison cell, underwent an unthinkable and inhumane tortures and rape, and now were nowhere to be found. Blood streamed, tears dried up, bodies molested, dreams shattered because some people are not afraid to fight for equality and justice, and there are some who are guiltless and undisturbed in perpetuating injustice.
The small talk also confirmed my belief that it does not mean that when a woman is a president she is automatically pro-women; it is the consciousness that makes a person pro-women. Our president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo does not in anyway support any move to make women’s rights part of her political agenda. If she is truly serious in uplifting the lives of the Filipinos, she should start uplifting the lives of women because everything else is under a woman’s care.
Yes, most of the people in the auditorium lost or missed a loved one but the moment that happened, a bigger family, a larger group of siblings, or another circle of friends is ready to welcome them.
(NB: Attached are some of the photos I took yesterday. I only used my phone since I left my camera, my bad.)