Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Democratic Activism

The event on "Online Memory Bank" project by the AFT and PSLINK proved to be very inspiring especially for a former teacher like me. It started with a short film on student activism in Iran, South Africa, Burma and China. I was awakened by the convictions of the young speakers on why they dedicated themselves into student activism. The next speaker talked "democratic classrooms". I believed I was applying those principles when I was a teacher way back in the late 90's. But what inspired me most was the sharing of a student leader who is now holding a key post in a political party. He said he was inspired by a poem written by another fellow student and his mentor for 30 years was his grade school teacher who was present in this gathering. What a very inspiring relationship between teacher and student!

Another inspiring moment in this activity was when an indigenous leader talked about how IPs view nature as very nurturing similar to what our modern day hospitals, markets among other services which cater to the needs of the people. He said his activism emerged from that love of nature which bless them with all the bounties of life. And he was wondering how come leaders believe that they have the right to appropriate those blessings for themselves.

The wisdom imparted by another speaker affirmed my convictions about education. That genuine education is life-giving. The world is our classroom and all experiences emanating from life should be discussed from different points of view so that learning and insights can be maximized to serve as guideposts for a better world. He view life and learning as "tensions between honesty and hope" and that democratization can be a spectrum of resistance, of participation and democratic ways of doing things. The project on "Online Memory Bank" aim to capture all those experiences and insights in a democracy by using internet technology. What a bounty!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Feminist Counseling & CSA

I was a resource person for CSA regarding setting up a women and children crisis center somewhere in Pampanga. The venue was wonderful! A three storey Japanese inspired building, with 15 minimalist bedrooms; nude women paintings by no less than Araceli Dans were hanged on the wall. The training hall was accented by billboard of old films such as "Gone with the Wind", "Bus Stop", among others. Oh, I really loved that place! In the morning, we had our shibashi exercises and in the evening, some STRT moves. All this comfortable ambience contributed to a very lighthearted discussion of a very sensitive and heavy topics like CSA and VAW.

The crisis center is on its initial phase of setting up; thus, we were requested to share our experiences on the said topics. This center will be funded by the city government and there were already two full staff, a working Board and a battery of volunteers from the police, health and other agencies. At the end of the training, they were able to come up with a "score card" on how to measure the effectiveness and implementation of this intervention.

The whole three-day session was truly a soulful discussion. With my topic, I started the session with a short documentary film titled, "Daughter". Afterwhich I asked them how did they feel. A mother cried a lot especially with the scene when the younger daughter was also being abused by the father. Another mother was almost in tears because she could not understand how a mother cannot believe about the abuse when the eldest daughter disclosed about it. A very inspiring discussion ensued afterwards.

Also, a case of child physical abuse was presented. The social worker and the police woman was in a dilemma whether to withdraw the case or not. The child's perpetrator was also her mother. The latter showed no remorse on what she did to her child. I personally opined that the damage and consequences inflicted by the mother to her child must be meted out with commensurate punishment. Perhaps, a better rehabilitation program for perpetrators should also be installed.

A child sexual abuse case was also shared by a medical doctor. She was also wondering how come a mother can possibly side with the perpetrator. The mother even let another daughter be the one examined for a medico-legal examination. It resulted in a double case of sexual abuse when the younger daughter was also found positive of genital trauma. Now, the mother was in shambles. So, I discussed how come mothers could not readily support their daughters and the crucial alliance with the mothers (to believe in their daughters) will proved to be the first step with the daughters' healing.

Furthermore, a topic on the "history of women's oppression" and "gender and socialization" which was given earlier by an advocate against VAWC also proved to be crucial in the acceptance of why a feminist approach to counseling must be taken. This, I believed, demonstrated that counselors who desire to effectively address problem such as VAWC must also be willing to embrace feminist counseling. Because only FC can make a counselor understand the depth and breadth of why VAWC happens and will in the end give her all the patience she needs in journeying with the women and children towards a more humane and gender-equal society for all...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Injustice to the LGBT by the COMELEC's 'Three Kings of Lies'

It is only November and yet the 'three kings of lies' from the COMELEC (read as Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph) are saying that LADLAD is "immoral" and "a threat to the future of Filipino youths" (with quoted Bible (Romans 1:26) and Koran (Surah 29) verses); thus, they should not be accredited as a political party.

The quoted religious verses in their decision to bar LADLAD from party list system has provided an excuse to deprive LGBT people of their rights. Their interpretation only reinforce the already existing homophobic beliefs that LGBT people are 'sinful' and 'sick'. These same homophobic beliefs continue to deny us access to our most basic needs such as health services, employment, access to education, housing, among others. Thus, the negative impact of that COMELEC decision will surely touch every aspect of our lives. Those homophobic beliefs wrongly backed in religious verses and penned down by the 'three kings of lies' only expose the true reasons why up to now LADLAD is being denied of the right to political representation.

Those 'three kings of lies' surely had done a grave injustice to the LGBT peoples and communities. They are using their authority to bar a marginalize group from participating in a democratic space. Where is now the government commitment to "equality for all" and respect for all people "regardless of sex" as stated in Art 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"Everyone is entitled to all the rights set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such"?

How come those 'three kings of lies' used religious texts to cover up for their hatred of the LGBTs? The truth is they are hiding behind their cloak of authority and religious verses to spread homophobia which had long been damaging to society and to the LGBT communities. The "three kings of lies" should have optedto interpret the holy teachings to promote the idea of non-discrimination. But what they penned down was their macho and homophobic interpretation and they chose to discriminate LGBT people. Hence, they are guilty of committing grave injustice towards LGBT people.

They used the quoted verses in the Bible and Koran to justify injustice to LGBT. LGBTs are also humans and humans were created by the same God. Furthermore, those verses quoted by the 'three kings of lies' contradict our own belief that all are equal in the eyes of God. And how come they overlook a bible verse from the same Old Testament which pertains to the equality of all sexes, such as Galatians 3:28 that: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male or female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

Moreover, though we understand that at this crucial time, when 2010 elections is just around the corner, some politicians maybe reluctant to step in the issue. Some people, including some religious groups and even some LGBTs maybe reluctant to challenge religion because it is a powerful area to challenge.

But the UP Diliman Gender Office (UPDGO) is committed to challenging injustice in whatever form we see it. We are a unit responsible for ensuring gender equality among genders and promotion of human rights. If we believe that "women's rights are human rights"; it goes the same with LGBT rights.

The UP DGO found it unacceptable to discriminate LADLAD or not to accredit it as a party list just because of quoted Bible and Koran verses which were quoted out of context. In this regard, we are also calling on all progressive religious groups to challenge and and possibly change the harmful effects of those homophobic beliefs quoted in religious verses. Progressive religious groups must also challenge the 'three kings of lies' wrong use of the sacred texts. We hope that they will also be there to intervene and promote the idea that "everybody is equal in the eyes of God" and "all human beings are equal in dignity and rights."

Somehow, those same homophobic beliefs may proved to be self-defeating to any nation that discriminate 10% of its population. LGBT people are productive members of society. We are workers, farmers, teachers, guidance counselors, writers, activists, athletes, among others. Indeed, we are shapers of the future of this nation. A country which denies 10% of its population will not also grow to its fullest potentials. The least of our hope is for the government to respect our rights...


Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Elderly wisdom'

This was the second time I witnessed a familiar scene. One of the participants asked if he could lecture on a topic because the session was becoming 'boring' and 'futile'. So, the elderly speaker let him lecture. This already seasoned writer talked about the basic elements of scriptwriting, from short story to teleplay, stageplay and screenplay. I appreciated that very much because I'm just a beginner in this field. But one of the organizers lamented this uncalled for intervention. According to her, the elderly speaker already prepared an activity for the day's workshop. But tracing back the whole session from morning till the afternoon, the organizers did not give any hint as to what activity will occur for the day. It was also not clear from the elderly speaker if he is still interested to conduct an activity. All he was saying was that we could talk with him in his house to critique or polish our stories. So, that says it all. No activity or workshop will occur.

The first time I witnessed this scene was when I attended a counseling workshop. As I noted in my earlier post, the speaker also hinted that she did not prepare anything for the afternoon workshop and in the morning workshop we were inundated with 'pre-school' schools. I would like to see this as failure of the organizers to provide some alternative activities if the speaker failed to deliver. Of course, the experiences of the speakers may be tremendously rich and important but if these wisdom remain with them and cannot be conveyed in a systematic and digestible fashion, who would benefit?

Perhaps, a mentoring program would best fit elderly speakers/teachers. They need not go out of their homes and expend considerable energies in sharing their wisdom. Students must be the ones to go and visit them in their most convenient time and place, one at a time. If not, training or sharing of learnings would only lead to similar cases of frustrations and dissappoinments. Hope I will not encounter the same scenes again...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Youth is Wealth"

This was according to Pablo S. Gomez. Last saturday, i attended a workshop on comics scriptwriting. We were given each a sample scriptwriting in comics. I got hold of a series on "Mga anghel na walang langit" (angels with no heaven) and it was more than 200 pages. Whew! The session started with the life story of the writer himself. He is now 80 years old but he does not look his age, as if he is just turning 60. He already produced about 80 novels and hundreds of short stories. For him, a writer can be madel; thus, this training. Though very quite uninspiring, he said that he writes whenever he needs money. Now, his script commands a whopping P400k per script. He was once a millionaire. That was during the times when FPJ bought his script at P35k and all of those scripts were instant hit when made into movies. But for one to become a prolific comics writer, s/he be a "tsismoso/a"(gossiper); for every word counts in a comics script. One has the ear/s and the eye/s to absorb everything around him/her. As to writing titles of script, it depends on the given context. At present, titles tend to be one-liner. But for him, titles should be so interesting that readers would want to read the story/script. Every word should be interesting so that readers will turn from one page to the next. Now, he lamented the addiction of youths and children in the internet. Thus, the decline of comics reading caused his publications to collapse and now he is left with nothing. He is building from scratch again (but with the help of Susan R.). All of us enjoyed his lecture. I was personally expecting a frail and slow walking man but on the contrary, he was full of life and humor! So, I am very eager to attend the next saturday session on comics scriptwriting. Till then...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Concerns about TGs and SH

Our unit conducted a gender orientation at CMC. I lectured on "sexuality and sexual identities". The room was replete with laughter especially from the men's group. Later on, I learned that most of the women audience were single and they smirked off when I uttered the Tagalog equivalent of our genitalia. But after the lecture, questions revolved around the transgendered people in the campus. The audience has this fear that the image of their campus is that of 'haven for LGBT' and sexual harassment cases.

One of the questions was the staff knew of TGs who frequent the ladies room, will they allow them? I told them to conduct a dialogue with a gay and TG group because as far as I know, the groups demand a separate comfort room for TGs and gays. But I am personally worried because we encountered a case of out gay who attended one of our trainings and yet after two months, he was convicted of child sexual abuse.

Another question was a certain TG who does not want to be addressed as "mister". I told them the change from "mister" to "miss" as a referent would require a legal process. So, it is better to drop off all the referents. A related question was how to approach such demand from TGs. I answered, just simply ask them how they want to be addressed.

It was very interesting that when a lecture on sexual harassment ensued, a letter was handed to me asking " if it is SH case when a certain male co-worker uttered directly to her 'I dreamt about you last night' while simultaneously wearing a malicious smile". I consulted our speaker on SH, she said the "smile" factor has bearing on SH and I encouraged the letterwriter to go to the office and elaborate more about the other factors and context of the SH she cited in her letter.


I was so eager to attend a workshop on "family counseling" because of the family problems concerning my counselees. For instance, what to do with a family with bipolar members, or how to engage in mother-daughter dialogue to patch up "generational gaps" in the family, or to reduce instances of violence in the homes (emotional abuse), or how an "alternative" (lesbian couples with children) family be counseled in cases of sexual abuse of their children by a "religious" person. Those were just several problems I encountered that challenged me to know more about family counseling.

But to my dismay, the workshop began and ended with 'pre-school' songs. I do not mean to disparage the competence of the speaker but most of us were working with elementary, high school and college students and as I noted above we encountered very difficult problems concerning families at present. One of the most articulated was the 'cyberspace addiction'. The session could have been salvaged from deterioration but nobody from the organizers intervened. (Perhaps, neither one of us had the courage to voice out because the speaker was one of the board members.)

Though I salvaged a little from her input like that of the different births a person need to undergo (physical, psychological, mental, spiritual). Though I hated it when the speaker recounted that one of her counselees 'killed' (induced abortion) her fetus. Such a conservative stance! She also gave us a hand-out about different types of "dysfunctional" families (e.g. detached, disengaged) but she never elaborated on the dynamics of those families.

I heard from one of my co-participants that perhaps the speaker, being old, was rattled by the barrage of questions from the participants so she "forgot" all about her lecture; though, that maybe one of the reasons. I surmised that the speaker is in her 'religious' mode that she only wants us to feel "love, smile, heaven and God" that she forgot that there are realities that must be addressed head on before one can actually feel love, smile, heaven and God. I myself hope that someday I will age gracefully, still grounded as well as feeling peaceful and heavenly.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brgy. Bagong Silangan

Another site our group visited to do CISD was Brgy. Bagong Silangan. The plan was to conduct puppetry, action songs and games, reading aloud, drawing activity, among others. But when we got there, there were about 500 children of all ages (we were expecting only a hundred, ages 9-12). So, we changed plan. The session started with a prayer led by a nun. She introduced two action songs. It was folllowed by reading aloud about a story of an ant which saved a lot for rainy days against a lazy grasshopper which had nothing to lean on in times of crisis. The latter survived because of the ant's help. Children went up of the stage because they cannot see the images of the ant and grasshopper. So, instead of having another reading aloud, we engaged the children in action songs.

I was so excited that I did not even noticed that my actions was that of another song (hehehe). Though I saw children even at the farthest end of the circle dancing and circling around as they moved to the beat of "Bugsay, Bugsay" (Row, Row) and "Nagagalak na Makilala" (Nice to Know You). While we were singing, ten children were gathered at the back to practice puppetry. So, when they were called upon onstage, the children's crowd went chaotic. As a whole, it was a success. The story was about a boy who lost his brother in the flood.

Gift of Holiness

We (the staff) had a gender orientation among more than a hundred history students of a certain professor. I was attracted to his description of what we are doing. The professor said that "GST is a holy activity". He elaborated that he had imbibed lots of knowledge and practices that served only to 'oppress' women. So, now he is in the practice of washing his brain from all of those influences. Indeed, that was a very apt description of the activity. I was also illumined because there were lots of questions regarding homosexuality and religion. My lecture started with "trivia" questions as to who were the homosexuals in the Old and New Testament and when did same-sex marriage began. By asking trivia, I intended to tickle the imagination of my listeners of 'personas' in the Bible who was labelled as homosexuals. Questions the students asked after were: "when will same-sex marriage become a normalcy", "if lecturing on the 'normalcy' of third-gendered persons will stifle the debate on the issue", or "differentiate between gender and sexuality", among others.

Initially, I answered the difference between gender and sexuality. I said that the latter is a bigger concept and the former approximates our Tagalog concept of pagkatao. About same-sex marriage becoming a 'normalcy'; I noted it began in 14th century, but till now we have no law legalizing such practice. And what is "normal" actually depends on our notion of 'normal'. Though this term has been appropriated by different disciplines/authorities such as psychologists, psychiatrists.

After the lecture, I had to search for answers about the different world religions' stance on homosexuality. I found out that Pope Benedict XVI regarded it as "intrinsic moral evil". Buddhist monks regard all sex as prohibited; this was balanced by the ruling warrior's class of acceptance of sex. Hinduism is not supportive of H. It was regarded as source of sterility. Though we know that the Hindu's Kamasutra depict of sexual pleasures. Taoism and Confucianism are also neutral about sex. It even supports female sexual freedom because it believes that yin energies are limitless. Whew...what a gift!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fulfilling Experience

I volunteered as counselor at the Ultra Evacuation Center last week. I was with twenty four fieldwork students of the College. We were assigned to look after the 549 children ages 5-12. Unfortunately, there was no electricity. We were supposed to show a short documentary film about typhoon/ disaster. So, the students ended up as impromptu performers/actors depicting a story of a family whose main income is logging. A news breakthrough about an impending typhoon. The family was caught unprepared and they were seen climbing up their house and shouting for help. At this point, the children were shouting at the top of their voices as if they were really experiencing the same event at that moment. I thought role play is really a powerful tool in "debriefing" the children. The play ended up with the family at the evacuation center receiving relief goods and psychosocial help. I was at one corner attending to a sleepy five year old boy among other children sitting on the bench. The next day, the site received donations of toys from UNICEF. So we put the children in different tents with one box each of toys. They were so happy playing, as if there was no trace of trauma whatever. Boys in our camp were seen playing with plastic cookwares, dolls, etc. Children tend to group themselves based on the toys of interest. After a two hour play, everything seemed in chaos but deep in my heart I knew it was a very fulfilling experience because I was enervated by the enthusiasm and vitality of the children.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

4-hour SRHR

While typhoon Pepeng was hitting Luzon, we were pre-testing our module on SRHR among returned migrant women. It was a condensed form of a three-day training. We started with introducing ourselves with body gesture that depicts our 'best' attribute. Most of the women were known to be cheerful. Next exercise was touching the most liked and least liked body part/s. The most liked part/s were varied (eyes, hands, feet, among others) because of the functions it provide. But the least liked was commonly the 'bilbil' or 'puson' or the belly. Most of the women see it as 'disgusting' because they wanted to become 'sexy'. From there, the discussions led to the concept and standards of beauty and what makes a woman fit and beautiful. Two women were past their menopausal stage, the rest were in their forties. They learned to accept themselves or their bodies for what it is because they have given birth to several children. The most exciting part of the session was the "Choose Your Spot". Two statements were discussed: it is the woman's obligation to have sex with her husband and motherhood is tantamount to being a 'ganap na babae' or 'womanhood'.

The elderly women were certain that they did not initiate sex with their husbands while the women in their forties uses subtle 'come-ons' to intiate sex with their husbands. Another revelation was the common issue of 'sexual dalliances' among OFWs abroad. They become sexually 'liberated' to ease loneliness while working abroad. But nobody admitted they have done it personally. They cited numerous experiences: one was a co-worker who sideline as 'prostituted' woman because her family always asked for money; another was a 'promdi' co-worker who had a string of boyfriends but she was known in their place as 'demure', among others. Other issues cited were dynamics between in-laws and the spouse left behind, raising children, use of money remitted and infidelity. We ended the session with 'wishes' of women for themselves given that they have sacrificed some things for their families. Most of them wanted to finish their studies and live happily with their families. Suggestions to improve the training was to include statements like sexual activities when one is married, and how to cope with loneliness while working abroad.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Shedding Light on Anonymity

I was enlightened about this concept of 'anonymity' yesterday where I shared a videoclip titled 'box this'. This was my take off point to discuss power/s derived from anonymity. I explained that assuming a posture of anonymity, one can possibly resist stereotypes by not donning those stereotypes. Anonymity can also serve as a space for exploring one's individuality, for instance when a male would not identify as gay in a bathhouse simply because that is not his gender/sexual identity; he just wanted to explore the sexual pleasures by that body. Also, while in that space or state, one can engage in visioning one's 'ideal society'. I was not able to emphasize that one assumes anonymity in those cases, not out of fear, but for the sake of positive goals such as pleasure aand visioning an ideal society.

During the open forum, I appreciated it very much when a professor commented that 'balancing identity and anonymity" might be an ideal state. He elaborated that the government is on a 'default identity' because it always account for each and every citizen's identity; in so doing or as a consequence, it curtails 'anonymity'. Another thing I realized was about 'anonymity' of youths when they are online. A psychology professor said that these youths might be forming their 'future' selves in this state of anonymity online. When I asked about 'why a suicide bomber traded his/her identity for anonymity to the point of annihilating oneself, a philosophy professor opined that this is some sort of 'perversion'. I don't know what he means by that but I believed he alluded to something like 'fanaticism'. I intend to read about this matter because I want to debunk that belief of "being anonymous is not being authentic"...

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I was reflecting on the past GSTs we had with student organizations. Part of this is an orientation on sexuality. Everytime I asked them to raise their hands if they are in a relationship or if they already disclose their sexual identities, i only saw two to four hands raised. I was searching for possible answers...Then, I heard somebody blurted out that "at present, we young people do not label our relationships..." Perhaps, that was one of the answers. So, I asked my older friends. They said the '70s generation (flower power) was similarly like that. They also do not want to label their identities and relationships.

What possibly do they derive in doing so? I, for one, never divulged about my identity and relationships so I have this inkling we are on the same boat. First, divulging or being visible can put one in a stereotypical role or identity. The disadvantage of which is that stereotypes are often molded by media. So, it is not one's creation. Another disadvantage is one can be stigmatized or be put down by anybody who is not respectful of human rights. "To be or not to be", as Shakespeare puts it. For me, the bottomline is individuality. One can truly explore oneself and be everything in every moment without being dictated upon. I believe this is more in accordance with the Tao principle, "Tao is a thing taht is both invisible and intangible...subtle and obscure, there is essence in it (Tao Te Ching, chap 21)" or "when you organize, you must of necessity use names and order; but given that, you must know where to leave off naming and
structuring (chap 32)."

I remembered very well when I called a "gay-looking" student, "Miss", he was angry at with and corrected my signifier. It dawned on me that markers such as clothes and looks could be deceiving because they are markers from the outside of someone who was looking in. Beings are not identifiable fully from what they wear, what they do, what they feel. They must be understood from the knowledge of the dynamics of all of those and from the person/s admittance of her/his wholeness. Dimensions of a human being cannot be well defined and may show off inconsistently depending on the context in which they are examined. Thus, unless they admitted to who they are, we do not have the right to 'out' or 'name' them.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I was listening to the way two deans were discussing on how to present the state of their discipline. They will collect from the past ten years of academic works from journals, dissertations, books, among others from four or five leading organizations or institutions on the field. One of them said, "there must be some sort of tradition that emerged such as Marxist, structuralist, etc." The other contended that the emerging trend now was more of interdisciplinary: a discipline informing other disciplines. Their discussions diverged a little bit to the local state of the discipline. One of them was very proud to announce that in his area the approach nowadays was to focus on an object and from that object map out the different aspects of life: culture, technology, livelihood, etc. He identified that "sago" (similar to tapioka) can feed the whole area and yet it was not tapped or accepted by the community. The other remarked that this is the point where culture work can come in. I replied "that was the same approach we did with our day care curriculum". From an object like a frog, the whole curriculum was designed: frog as an animal for biology; frog meat for food or nutrition, frog sound for music, etc. I hesitated to add that perhaps, there might be some sort of 'taste saturation' among the locals when they have been eating that stuff since the time they were born and grew up in the place.

Another debate was over what approach or perspective to take in making a better discipline: is it 'objectifying the object' or 'subjectifying the subject'. I was lost at this point because I was thinking of how a suicide bomber, having lived as both an object and subject of her/his culture, can come to that point in his/her life when he/she will 'sacrifice' his own life or be reduced to a point of nothingness or annihilation of the self. How can they eliminate the very subject/object which they have created throughout her/his one's life...That for me was a very interesting subject. But I did not bring it up because I knew the two deans were at the plane of 'materialism' and I'm lingering at the spiritual realm of life...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Revisiting Drama Workshop

We were ten participants, just enough for a small group therapy session. It was a very interesting group because it was multi-generational (from 17 to 63 years old; with 40s, 30s and 50s age representative) , across social classes (urban poor and middle class; educated and uneducated) and representing different cases of VAW (battering, sexual harassment). Some were also survivors-counselors. It started with introduction of oneself by citing one's most significant attribute. Then, we were grouped in dyads. A would introduce B and vice-versa. Another session which was very powerful was the sensory release exercises. They sat like "doll rags" and experienced relaxing exercises. Afterwhich, they were instructed to create their own mug. One must feel, smell and taste what's in their mug (the objective of which is to be able to become confident of creating one's life). In the afternoon, we drew our "24-hour" routine, based on our own interpretation. It was funny because one of the participants mentioned that her own mother verbally abused her at certain time of a day, almost everyday. The youngest, surprisingly, was the earliest worm among others. She wakes up at 4am so that she can reach her work at 7am. Then, we again plot our "lakbay-buhay" (life journey) by using Rudolf Steiner's seven year cycle. My own personal plot revealed that I did not remember my earliest memories of abuse because the 7-14 experience were littered with happy moments. But the teen age years and adulthood became sad because of the remembrance of abuse. Now, I'm on my way to spiritual quest...Life, I believe is marred with those "grief" to enable us to learn certain needed virtues...

Lastly, I personally learned that women underwent different challenges in life and came out as if unscathed but resolved to be more courageous and determined. I admired all of the participants because each of them came out with courageous stories of how they were able to overcome challenges in life. One was an uneducated woman who married young and now longs for a life-long learning experience and she found it in a women's group. Another was a former prostituted woman and now she vowed never to do that again. She turned to prostitution in the hope for easy money. Now, she learned that life is more precious when one is with people she loves, particularly her own children. Another one has reached a top position in the finance world (vp), and she realized that it was not that fulfilling! What fulfills her now is her relationship with God. Another one said that she also had had experiences of intellectual successes abroad but her own family tragedies forced her to reflect and change direction towards spiritual path. A younger woman dsclosed for the first time that she was sexually harassed by her own brother. Another maturing woman related her unrelentless quest for financial support from her husband. She persistently monitored the paper trail of her request and waited for the Secretary of Dep Ed so he can sign it personally. What a trailblazing act! The youngest participant also revealed the tragedy of her childhood years when she was kidnapped by her own father and witnessed him battering her own mother. Now, she initially blurted out that she does not want to get married.
I, for one, realized that being complete is being at peace with oneself...All of us were hoping this kind of session will continue, if not with the same group, maybe for different sets of women.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Touched by Cory

When Fr. Arevalo was saying his eulogy for Cory, I was touched by certain lines he uttered. First, he was narrating about how Cory described an abyss, she likened it to an open and eternal arms of the Lord. Second, he said that Cory did a "roses and crosses" painting and wrote a haiku at the back of it. Cory thought that her "sufferings" ended when Ninoy was incarcerated for seven years and seven months. But till she contracted a colon cancer, she realized that there is no such thing as "quota of sufferings". The last words that touched me was when he mentioned that Cory was a "self-gift". It means Cory was a blessing for the Filipino people. When I heard Cory uttered in her own words, "Ikinararangal kong maging Filipino", I truly felt she is a blessing for the Filipinos. I am touched to the bones, soul and spirit because I never heard such sincerity from a leader. She truly deserved her title of being a great Filipino. Hope our people will also lived up to her desire of what a great Filipino each of us can become. With her courage, selflessness and faith she has shown to all of us, I knew deep in her heart she can always utter, "you are what I am" and if we desire so, we can all become like her for the glory of ourselves, our people and our nation...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Updates and Questions on Human Trafficking

I was privileged to attend a Network on this kind of advocacy. I learned a lot about new forms of human trafficking and felt the vibrancy of child advocacy work again. Earlier, I only knew about sexual trafficking, but now they were talking about organ trading, surrogacy and even stem cell extraction! It was shocking at first to hear people from urban poor communities selling their kidneys at p70,00 per piece. Worse, women are selling their wombs in installment payment totalling P700,000plus. There was no mention of the amount of what it costs for stem cell extraction; perhaps, it was even higher...So, how can this be arrested? There was a sharing among police attaches from European nations. They were urging the communities to report to them evidences and encouraging them to support witnesses and victims of trafficking to pursue their case/s. But the problem is the same communities are in need of the 'lure of money' in exchange for their very organs. How can we encourage them to defy their own needs and hand themselves to the police as the very persons who condone such practice? I don't know...Then, the Secretary of a government agency blame it on 'dysfunctionality' of the families because they were the ones who encourage their own members to look for money and for jobs, accepting those jobs even when though there is high possibility that they will be exploited. Perhaps, the Secretary should give the people a comprehensive picture of the problem and not zeroing in the family as the 'root' of the problem...The very presence of the Network prove that it is a multi-factorial problem and need a more comprehensive viewing and not mere fundamentalizing of the phenomenon. (I believe she just wanted the people to veer away from blaming the government because the bigger factor is in fact poverty.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Emotions and the Case of 'K'

Human nature really amazed me like yesterday...I had a counselee (K) whose very strong emotion (anger) affected me slightly. I was looking intently at the way she gritted her teeth, threw invectives to every person she knew was 'conniving' to push her 'down'. That was her appraisal of her situation (in psychological parlance, 'paranoia'). But I refused to label her because that was feminist counseling is all about: contextualizing the situation of women and perhaps addressing this through more liberating actions. Her anger is consuming her: she was angry with her family because she was thrown out of the house and in incarcerated because she stabbed their househelp with scissors. She admitted that incident but with no remorse. So, she fend for herself through tutoring and sometimes through theft. Later, through my persistent intervention, the mother gave in and helped K with the payment of rent, washing of clothes and giving of food. But for a week ssince yesterday, the mother refused to wash K's clothes and give food because she refused to be coerced by her into submission (according to the mother, K was very ungrateful and violent towards her).

The worst incident also happened two days before yesterday. K 'manhandled' a young lawyer. According to the latter, when he was aboout to broach to another compadre the case of K, the latter grabbed him by the upper arm and squeezed it to the point it hurt. So, he was sugesting to me that K should be 'committed' to a mental institution because she cannot be good at human relations and posed danger to anybody. He was willing to do the letter of endorsement and talk with the mother of K.

This afternoon I will confer with K's mother and I also would like to inform her that K was holding a big chunk of wood that she hit every now and then to the point that all of my co-workers were very worried what was happening in the counseling room. I was able to lessen K's anger by noting why she had to harm the people who could help her. K ended up pleading to me to talk with the lawyer that the incident was 'merely a gesture of endearment'...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Good and Bad Day

I was shocked when I heard the news that my 'nanay-nanayan' passed away early this morning. When we were in college, she used to cook our meals (me and best friend). She is actually a mother to me. I was in a dilemma whether to attend to her demise or continue with my lecture among students. The door give way to the latter. And I treasured every moment conversing with the students about gender issues in and out of campus. There was a question on whether it is a man's duty to give up her seat for a woman. I told him it depends on the mindset of the woman. There are women who still love gallantry but there are some who opt not to entertain that because it means one is accepting the societal thinking taht 'women are by nature weak'. Another question was about the image of UP as 'dumping ground' of 'badings' (gays). I told him what it is in 'bading' that makes them 'less of a man'. The problem with that is the 'stigma' attached to the term. But when one is a gay that has actualized himself into something that he really wants, we care no less of the 'label'. Another remark was about the 'stereotyping' of women-driven movies and how it fared less in the ticket booths. I answered 'yes', men are more valorized when they have more 'women' (mistresses) compared to women. That is 'double-standard'. Actually, I did not elaborate on the 'softie' movies vs. 'violent' movie stuff which characterize female vs. male stuff. I want them first to feel the issue as individuals.

In the end, I realized that this day is both a good and bad day: good that I stayed on because I learned the different issues boggling students' minds; but, in my heart, I really wanted to cry and embrace the family of my bestfriend because our 'mother's demise. Now, I know what it means to welcome life- al-jalal, al-jamal...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Accrediting Student Orgs Thru GSTs

Our unit is tasked to accredit students' organizations by giving them a three-hour gender sensitivity. We opened the session by a game called "group yourselves according to". So, I let them group themselves based on their age, colleges, religion, regional location and type of family (with two parents or single parent). It was a revelation that most of the students, at that time, come from Luzon area (only two from Mindanao). All of them are Roman Catholics. Only one from the College of Law, some are from Education, Home Economics, Tourism, etc. I asked them what are the "images" (stereotypes) of their college. It was familiar to hear that HE has the 'motherly' image. But with a male student enrolled in HE, I should have asked how he felt. I delved more on the three students with single moms. One of them said, "matiisin ang kababaihan" or women are persevering so they can perform very well as effective moms. From there, I discussed how women have been marginalized citing statistics on violence, work, empowerment.

One question from a fraternity man united the males in the group. He said, "akala ko gender equality ang topic, bakit ang babae lang ang pinakikitang agrabiyado" (I thought this is about gender equality, why is that only women were portrayed as disadvantaged). So, I encouraged him to mention a men's concern which made them at a disadvantaged position. He said women employing domestic househelp (OFWs) only shows women are 'oppressing' other women; not that men oppresses women (to that effect). So I told them that women's disadvantaged position evolved historically. During the olden days, when women live in a communal structure, every child is taken cared of by the whole community, not by individual women. When industrialization sets in, men were displaced from their families and become workers. So, women stayed at home and did housework. Now that women are in demand abroad as DHs, so the men take on the job as 'househusbands'. And I commend these men who chose or perform such role/s. This is the same solution that most wives advocate: for their husbands to share in the housework.

I don't know if I had convinced them of the necessity of advocating for gender equality, but the fact that they freely shared their feelings about their mothers and their views about gender inequality and lastly asking my name, perhaps that would tell a lot about the effectiveness of making them feel what it means to be women in this society...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

'It was a personal matter', according to VC

I was so frustrated that after 19 years of advocating against violence against women (VAW), a high ranking university woman official still view it as 'personal matter' and she cannot do something about it. This was actually the sixth time I referred case/s of wife-battering to her office. Her response was the same. "It was a personal matter and her office cannot do anything about it". Does she know that wife-battering is already a crime? How come she cannot do something about it when in fact six of her men employees are battering their wives? She can employ meta-legal actions to curb those incidents of wife abuse. She can request sessions on RA 9262 and VAW Orientation. She can even talk personally with her men workers on how to treat their wives fairly. That is if she believes in women's rights.

Though the university has more women workers and officials at present, it does not amount to gender-fair treatment of women. Maybe because some women officials themselves do not see that "women outside of the university are worth fighting for". So, physical females as leaders do not amount to progressive environment for women in the communities. They too are short-sighted. They are made limited by their work. Their vision of a gender-fair community is dictated upon by their work. They do not truly envision a society that is violence-free for all women and children.

Perhaps, because the law says that one has to file a court case to be able to have justice, some of them think that because their office is not a legal office, they can easily turn their back/s from the abused women saying "they are not the proper authorities" to mete out justice. How can a woman official turn her back to another woman in need of her help? How can inaction lead to attainment of justice?

I don't know...perhaps, the educational system must also hone golden heart/s among its officials that they can give time to people, especially to women and children, so that in their 'high' station, they can help people attain justice in the here and now...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Advocating RR and LGBTQIC Among Aeta women

I had a three-day training lately with 30 Aeta women of Zambales. Some of them were not indigenous-looking anymore because there had been intermarriages (some with Bicolanos). (And these 'new' generation looked like 'latinas'!) My session began with me drawing two naked women on the board. Then, there was a remark that the breasts were not of equal size. To the delight and laughter of everybody, one woman named Indon Pusarit (mother of Pusarit) raised her blouse and curiously looked at her breasts if they were really unequal. Yes, the woman was totally uninhibited with her body. Then, I asked them to name the part that they liked most and that which ached most. Another indigenous woman pointed to her vagina as the part she liked most and so the group laughed even louder...But the part which ached most for most of them was their "puson" (near the vaginal area) because of UTI. So, I found out that it was due to 'unsafe' intercourse with their husbands. Another interesting revelation was they have a sambal term for 'clitoris' (the most pleasurable part of our body), they call it "tenden". Another important idea was they have 'divorce'. They can separate from their husbands if they want to even if there is no 'grave' reason (e.g. battering, non-supportive, etc). The only condition is to return the dowry that their husbands paid to their parents which ranged from P50,000 to P100,00 (installment). Aeta women's sexuality proved to be exciting. Though most of them marry early and had more number of children at an early age. Lastly, a gay teenager (who is one of our facilitators and a product of intermarriage) showed me pictures of their Youth Camp. There I saw her "barkadas" of IP gay teenagers. She said she was 'out' to them but not to a bigger group. Last year, they held 'Miss Gay' activity with a twist by depicting issues in the community. But four years ago, their leader boldly said that there are no gays among their tribes. Truly, continuous advocacy really made a difference!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Physical Therapy (PT)

The physical therapist told me that my posture (head tilted to the right and forward) caused the sharp pain at my left scapula. I realized this was the same posture I had every time I listened to a counselee. His diagnosis was not encouraging. He told me to watch my posture and see to it that my head is straightly aligned (not leaning to the left or right). During younger days, one's youthful strength can compensate for "mis-alignment"; but when one is not getting any younger, the muscles tend to solidify every time it is mis-align.

So, he applied the "trigger point therapy" and taught me a set of six-step isometric (contraction) exercises. Trigger point therapy started by checking the alignment of my scapula. He told me to push against the wall while he was grasping my scapula one at a time. He turned it left and right. My scapula proved to be a little inflexible and the muscles surrounding it are hard or tensed. So, I laid down on one side then he put pressure around the scapula, detecting which point/s are tensed or tender. The mid-point of the left scapula proved to be the most painful. He pressed it then released or relaxed the point. This is to allow the blood to fill up that painful portion. He explained and demonstrated through his fist that my muscles are tensed so it can only move a little unlike relaxed muscles which can move very flexibly.

Isometric therapy begins with the head. I will move my head downward with my hands on pressing it until I feel the tensions in my back neck muscles (10 seconds each count for 10 counts). Then, relax by getting to the head straight position. Second exercise is to press my hands on my forehead, with my hands putting pressure on forehead and the latter resisting my hand pressure (1o seconds each count for 10 counts). Then, back to relax position. Third exercise is to press my right hand against my right head (opposing pressure) (10 seconds each count for 10 counts). Back to relax position. Fourth exercise is similar to the third; on the left side. Fifth exercise is to place my hands on the back side of head putting pressure on my head while the latter resists it. Then, back to relax position. The last exercise is to place left side of my body against the wall with my left hand pushing my head to turn towards the right, looking down and feeling the tensions at my back neck muscles (10 seconds each count, 10 counts). Back to relax position. Do the same exercise on the right side of the body (10 seconds each count for 10 counts).

Those set of exercises actually released the tensions I had at the left scapula. Hope I can do it regularly. The therapist reminded me that the upper portion of the body affects the lower portion of the body and vice-versa. This is in reference to my complaint of numbness on my right foot. He hoped that those isometric exercises will ease my right foot numbness if I will religiously conduct those exercises. Though he noted that numbness usually means there's some nerves affected. He also reminded me to stand up and walk after 30 minutes of sitting which I have to be reminded of because a counseling session usually lasts for an hour or two. I realized that the body is somehow affected no matter how I relax it or debrief my self after a day's work.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Imagine Philippines Movement: 'Pearl in a Parol'

The launch started with a documentary film of Dewitt Jones titled "Celebrating What's Right in the World". I was affirming every picture caught in his film especially that of a dandelion sparkling and dancing with lights. I thought "yes, it really depends upon one's perception of how the world would like!" Thus, despite the heavy rains, the launch was attended by more than a hundred people (including Sr. Mary John, Jun Lozada, Nicki Perlas, Sixto Rojas and others) who would like to see a better Philippines in the future, way beyond the 2010 elections. As SAIDI is known for, the Appreciative Inquiry approach was used in the workshop to envision a better Philippines. Two guide questions were answered: one's stories that make one "proud to be Pinoy!" and one's vision of an ideal Philippines.

During our group discussion, I caught the answer (or a sort of it) to a question which has been bogging me yesterday, this comes in the metaphor we arrived at of what we would like our country to be in the future. The metaphor was a pearl inside a parol (star) or vice-versa. A pearl is always produced through constant and intense irritations and the parol produced multi-colored lights especially during Christmas. For me, those 'irritations' that produced the pearl can be likened to the chaos that beset our country. Eventually, these chaos would strengthen us and produce the best in the Filipino people. The sparkle of lights which comes from the inside of any 'parol', on the other hand, show that our country must always appreciate what it is our culture or the 'inward-looking development' so that the beauty of each localities will contribute in the enhancement of what we call holistic and multi-colored development.

I hope that wonderful workshop can be replicated in the different work areas or places each of us can be found. In my case, I would love to hear my former high school classmates talk about or share their stories of being proud Pinoy in the different countries they are in right now as well as in the fields they are working at present. Hope we can craft our hopes and dreams for a better Philippines through the website we have created. I'll tell you about it later...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sexualities and Sexual Identities

In the morning, we had 35 participants for this GST training. I was assigned to discuss about sexualities and sexual identities. The group was mixed in terms of age and genders. One was openly gay. Two other young males asked about "the danger of identifying young gays as gays" because they are still 'in transition'. My curt reply was "even children are socially competent to identify themselves as 'baklitas' (that was the term they used when interviewed in a TV series)". I noted what is more dangerous is to belittle them as "gays" when they do not yet identify themselves as such.

My lecture started with a series of pictures showing different 'masculinities' and 'feminities'. I intentionally picked 'metrosexuals' (who politically do not identify themselves as 'gays). Yet the common response of the audience was that they are gays. Then I proceeded with the different perspectives on sexuality: as a an attraction, energy, continuum/spectrum and as power struggle. I was able to add the different types of masculinities and bisexualities, for instance. In this, I got a lot of insights from Hernandez' study of male sex workers. He pointed out the usefulness of the framework of 'pagkatao' and concepts such as 'labas' (outside), and 'loob (inside). For him, male sex workers were active sexual agents who are still caught in ambivalence: while serving sexually male clients, they are still forming their own family (with wife and children) which for them is the 'natural' sexuality of men. From his framework, I believe that the notion of 'lalim' (depth) must also be added because this is where the struggle of the mind and body takes place (producing ambivalence). It is where the core of one's humanity is being produced (part of which is one's sexuality). I was also able to cite historical gender resistances (UP Masaya, Lesbond, etc.) in and out of the country.

What made me laughed was the comment: "if we allow LGBTs to come out, would it result to a more chaotic world?". Definitely, answer/s to this requires a lot of contextualization: historical, biological/evolutionary. Off hand, I thought of saying, "species like the seahorse exemplifies a 'reversed' world because the male of the species reproduce". If that is so, would that result in a chaotic world among the animal kingdom?

I don't know how to arrive at a more satisfying answer to the question. Evidently, that question was framed with fears and under the pretext that we are living in a 'natural' order of things. Would being a member of the 'lesser sexualities' result in confusion? But our developmental pathways as gendered human beings also undergo the same process of gender 'dysphoria' or chaos especially when we transition from one stage to the next: from childhood to adulthood, or from being reproductive to menopausal. So, from an individual point of view, we have been in chaos all our lives because chaos result to changes, for better or for worse. Change is the only constant thing in this world. And by changing our norms (e.g. polarization of gender), it will definitely spells 'chaos' and chaos which will also lead to a better world because it intends to address our changing needs and aspirations which we hope will bring about that society/ies we dreamed of...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dance Movement Therapy (DMT): 'My Body Can't Lie'

I participated in one and half day training on DMT with Sharon Chaiklin as our resource person. But I was not able to finish the half day because I suffered from "bad cough". This was not new to me because the first time I had a DMT session, I also suffered from "fever". I guessed my whole body was telling me that DMT opened up a lot of body issues that I was not prepared yet to address. The first time was about incest and this time, it was about the 'bad break up' I had with a former lover. When Sharon requested us to find a place where we wanted to surface memories of a painful experience, I chose a place by the window. I also did not expect that the pain was lodged at the back shoulder blades. I was trying to breathe in to those parts but to no avail. It just aggravated my condition. I did'nt share that to the big group because it would take a lot explanation. I realized I was not yet ready for that 'secret' information (just like the dilemma of the kid in the movie "The Reader") to be divulged.

At the beginning of the workshop, somebody touched my back (in the "Blind Walk" activity) and it felt so warm. I believe it probably indicates the warmth of that woman. Another one led me to a 'flying' dance towards the porch and I put my head on her shoulders. Perhaps, it differs when one was being led by somebody whom one trusts so much (e.g. a friend) compared to just an acquaintance. We also had a 'mirroring' exercise. This time my partner was a stress management consultant. She was really sincere in my mirroring my movements, even with the bent of my head and my emotions seen through my eyes. I was a little bit hesitant of those movements so I was trying to engage her in a conversation. But at the back of my mind, truly movement speaks very powerfully. In my case, I cannot yet face that power inherent with my body. When such power can be communicated to others, it will truly create a genuine dialogue, and that what makes DMT a very complicated and powerful tool for healing. I have yet to explore it myself...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reworking Peer Facilitation

Actually, we have been doing this since the time I was employed here in the University. We gathered at least five members of the USC (representing different genders: lesbian, gay, TG, straight women) and oriented them on women and gender issues. At night, these USC group accompanied us to orient 'dormers' around the university on the said issues. What attracted these youths to join us in our campaign I believe is our analytical frame (feminism). This frame allowed them a broader understanding of the gendered relations they were experiencing (having 'outed' themselves at this 'early' stage in their lives) in campus. Though personally, I believe that these issues are too late for their schooling careers, it must have started in pre-school.

But what constraints us from continuing with this laudable activity? First, it was tasking for both the facilitators and the participants. It can only be done after 6pm when most of the dormers are at their dorm taking rest or studying. Second, the peer facilitators term last only for a year. We recruit members of the peer gender educators mostly from the fourth year class. Concomitant to the second, the unit itself did not design any continuing education program for the peer educators. It was just a one-shot orientation on the issues. This same orientation they will echo to the 'dormers'.

Reworking on the concept of peer facilitation may address our concerns. We can possibly post (manually or virtually) advertisements for those who want to become peer educators on gender issues so that we can recruit from all levels and colleges. Also, we can design a continuing or ladderized educational program for the peer facilitators. Of course, we will strengthen our analysis on the gendered process and relations between and among students and how these are recreated in campus setting using feminist lens. What we can't change is the time (after 6pm) the sessions are conducted. Or we can devise a more interactive session/s with them to lighten an enliven the activit/ies. Hope we can take off again using this approach this first semester...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Refreshing Freshie Orientation

Last week, a co-worker and I was part the University-wide Freshie Orientation. It was truly a refreshing experience for me! Laughter filled the auditorium as the two hosts (a woman and a gay student) mimicked stereotypes of students from different colleges (e.g. a College of Science student would even identify the stone thrown at him by his girlfriend as "igneous" rock with some mineral content and a CHK student would do some acrobatic rounds before giving the ballpen to another student). They also did some segue ways before introducing our unit such as saying "is there a female version of the Oblation". So, I gave some trivia before elaborating about our unit such as the female Oble resides at UP College of Medicine. She is also naked; only one breast showing because she wears a sablay. The male Oble used to be totally naked but a former president placed a leaf on his organ for moral purposes. The whole auditorium was also filled with laughter when I noted that there are already twenty more genders and we only knew seven of them. In their age now, they must have known only two but later in their college years, they would be expressing other gender preferences. Another exciting part of the Orientation was the UP Street Dance. They taught several dance steps such as "jump (2x), shrug (2x), roll (2x), beat (2x)". The next day, the UP Pep Squad taught the students several UP chants like the "UP Fight', "Hey", "Hey, Hey" and the most difficult was the 'pagbabaybay ng UP'. But the one I loved most was the rendition of the UP Singing Ambassador of Leo Valdez's 'Magsimula Ka'. Oh! I could not ask for more. I hope those activities somehow inspired them to be the best persons they could be.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Feminist 'Blues'

Our training specialist and I had a brainstorming regarding GST conducted among workers in the university. I posed a lot of questions which up to now I don't have the answers. One was this effect of GST. We trained a group of workers from the College of Law and another batch from the Campus Maintenance Office. To our surprise, one of the participants in one batch committed a statutory rape and another participant from another batch committed a double rape. Both were incarcerated. Based on my hindsights, I would like to believe that training on women and gender issues are not enough to prevent committments of such crimes. Those men (one of them was openly gay)committed rape because of the various factors (personal and societal), a mere one-shot training would have no impact at all to deter them from committing those crimes.

Another mind boggling paradox with regard to training was that remark from a fellow counselor that 'there's no such thing as feminist counseling'. She is a middle-aged woman who has been doing counseling twenty years or more. She already got her doctorate in counseling. But here she is with that cutting remark. I was a bit terrified because she is already an institution in counseling. But this dissappointment can also be traced from another incident. I also knew of a counselor who claimed to be a feminist. But when her book on counseling was written, there was no mention of feminist counseling. I thought, " who would want to be labelled?" To arrest this dilution of the historic word 'feminist, I believeit needs more than destigmatization: it must be something like historicization or contextualization (high fallutin words that also need to be explained in popular terms.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Empowering and Disempowering Women

I was shocked at this morning's open conflict between my women co-workers. Really, I could not react the way I used to react whenever men are in conflict with other men. This is because I cannot explain how another woman disempowers another woman. Disempowerment between and among women may arise from positions of power (e.g. boss-empoloyee) or from the style of communication (e.g. one is more assertive than another), or from resources (e.g. rich-poor women),or from other sources that cannot be easily seen or measured. Whether in big or small women's organizations, conflicts such as what I witnessed this morning, arise. From my own point of view, a confrontational approach really does not work for women. I tried that many times before, even in intimate relationships, and it often led to disengagement. Thus, creating barriers or divide between and among women.

For the purpose of immediately addressing these conflicts, perhaps, we can always try other methods such as mediation, organizational development or cultivation of values such as peace and harmonious relationships among leaders and members of an organization. When I say mediation, it means having a third party who can patch up differences between and among 'parties in conflict'. A mediator must be unbiased, a person that is respected by both parties. Another method would be an OD workshop on conflict resolution. The groups or persons in conflict must be able to face each other in an environment that would tackle their issues at work. And perhaps instilling values on harmonious or peaceful relationships must be cultivated even on day one at work. These are just some proposals which must be tested. Perhaps, in the long run, we may know which will work for an all-women's organization.

These conflicts in women's organizations actually inspire me to search for meanings why women whether in big or small organizations often end up in intense conflicts and almost often lead to disengagement. For me, it is a big challenge if we can find some the factors that led to the intensity of the conflict: what predispose the women to engage in such rage? what triggers women to openly attack another woman? These are some of my questions. Perhaps, some answers to these questions will strategically address on what will create a truly nurturing women's movement/s for women...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

'Crucify Me'

That was my friend's plea when she underwent her first chemotherapy. I cannot imagine how painful it was for her. She is a medical doctor and nobody from his parents' line suffered from cancer. It was her who broke that line. She was diagnosed positive of 'ashimoto lymphoma' last year (October). She always had this annual general check-up when her oncologist noticed that she has an enlarged lymphnode near the throat area. She advised her to go for further examination but she missed that because of work. It was December and the nodes grew larger. So, she was immediately taken to the OR for biopsy. Her oncologist was also her former student in medicine. She was able to identify only a cancer cell taken from her throat biopsy. So, the family had to be sure of that final diagnosis. They sent the biopsy to the University of Maryland in the US. The experts from UM were able to identify 6 strands. The same treament was recommended: RSHOCK (?). Each letter stands for a chemical. And it is worth P80,000 per letter per cycle. So, the family offered to take her abroad to undergo that treatment. She opted to stay in the Philippines. Now, she was able to survive the first cycle of chemotherapy. She suffered from hair loss. According to her, the black hairs which fall first, then the 'white'or gray hair follows. Three times she almost lost her life during that ordeal. First, when it was only a suspicion that she has lymphoma, she almost choke to death with a bit of chicken that blocked her throat. It was fortunate that a nurse was with her. Another incident of near death was when they were having a medical treatment, the doctor cannot find her trachea. She already turned blue for several minutes and her friends were already praying for her life. Luckily, the doctor was able to find her trachea. Third incident was when she has to undergo a citi-scan from neck to stomach. The medical staff was about to introduce a dye, which nobody knows if she will have adverse reactions to it. The staff cannot find her veins four times so they can introduce the dye. Another stroke of luck came when the senior doctor came in the operating room and stopped the 'dyeing' process. So, the medical treatment was held without the use of the dye. Next week, the opening on her throat would be closed so that she can be prepared to undergo the next cycle of chemo. I just can't take it when we have to be interrupted from our conversations because she has to cough and remove the secretions coming from her throat. She even admitted having incontinence because of the whole process. I can only pray at this time for God to give her more courage to face this painful challenge in her life. I believe she is the most courageous woman I have ever met in my whole life. Allah will take care of her...

Monday, April 6, 2009

First High School Class Reunion

At first I was not sure why do we need to reunite after 26 years. But after that three-day reunion, I felt I was drinking an overflowing cup of joy, so filled to the brim that I cannot contain my joy and it let everybody drink from it! On the first day, we had an informal gathering in the morning: setting up the site for the reunion (formal) at 5pm. I made some banderitas (which I learned from a Japanese paper cutting class) till wee hours of the morning. The decorations committee arrived iniatially. We hang the banderitas around the site to create a "fiesta effect". We came in by batch. Some came with their families. A table was set up for lunch (pot luck). The afternoon was so delightful because of the videoke. Jill started singing "We've only just begun". I also interviewed her in front our gigantic tarpaulin (because she could not make it in the evening, she is bound for Indonesia the next day). The tarpaulin were full of high school memories. At the topmost left was our speech choir picture. I was wearing a red bandana and a red-dotted sleeveless dress. I remembered we were performing as "Filipinos working abroad" (I was supposed to be a DH?). At the other side was our class picture (45 classmates). I was sitting on the second row and was hugging my bestfriend Julie. The LCD projector was set up by Jojo. He initially featured highlights from our past meetings. We had our first preparatory meeting at La Mesa Grill (MOA). Then, a second one at Max's and another one at Tsoko Nut. Those meetings were full of fun, laughter and of course we were able to decide on major things such as funding or cost-sharing, tasking and 'who will locate who'. We were able to locate 40 of our classmates. But two of there were not able to sign because one was on-board and the other was just "too busy" (?).

The evening proper started with introduction of one self and their family members. Only two were not able to make it: Edlegs and Ferdie T. I shed some tears because I cannot understand why is it that they valued more their jobs than this once-in-a lifetime gathering. There were revelations during the introductions. Some were delightful and some were saddening: one of my classmates suffered from "lupus" but she was able to recover; our class adviser suffered from a debilitating stroke. Next was the AVP. Funny because it featured my "crush" and I dancing. Some were asking if i had a crush on him (hehehe). The whole presentation were littered with "ohs" and laughters. The background music "high school life" and "this is me" perfectly fit the atmosphere. We also huddled in groups while eating our suffer. The program proper ended with recognition of our teachers and distribution of our memorabilia.

The second part of our reunion proved to be more exciting. We went to a road trip from Tarlac to Pangasinan all the way to Olongapo City. Roy J. invited us to his wonderful house and welcomed us with a sumptuos lunch. Wow! the walls of his house featured flowing fountains and the third floor was where the antique paintings hang. We took a group photo at the terrace. From there, we proceeded to Monasterio de Tarlac. A big statue of the Risen Christ stood at the entrance of the site. My grandnephew Noknok (4-year) was with us and he referred to Christ as "bro" (from famous TV series). So, I took pictures of him, together with "bro". We attended the Holy Mass. Most of us were tearful when we got out of the Church (it was like attending a Cursillo).

Along the road, we shared stories and lots of laughters inside each car. Two of our classmates suffered from hoarse voice because of the 'unlimited' jokes (hehehe) of Roland and everybody. We were also greeted with thunder and lighting and heavy rains while proceeding to Pangasinan. Surprisingly, on our next turn, there was not even a single mark of raindrop. So, the children and I shared a pleasurable evening playing with patintero and sharing jokes while sitting on the stone mandala. Surprisingly, I was amazed at the intelligence of how they delivered their jokes (hehehe) because they even beat us with our canned jokes (hehehe).

Also, ten of us had a meeting till wee hours of the morning. Fortunately, we arrived at crucial decisions such as changing our domain name (based on to be-conducted site poll) and creation of 4 committees (membership, finance, audit and special events). Revelations about "crushes",struggles about work and life were also shared.

Luckily, the next morning, sunrise greeted us. My "apo" and I fed the fishes on the pond. Most of us walked along the beach. You should have seen how Romeo and Paz hugged each other like Vi and Bot. Rory, Ting and Osy continued chatting while walking along the beach. We ate eggs, longganisa de Vigan, chicken and ripe mangoes for breakfast. Then, we went to another long trip to Olongapo to meet Rory's father. Earlier, Inan brought the group to his "salt farm". Only one group brought Rory to her father's site. The other three vehicles proceeded to a certain restaurant in Subic. We ate roasted chicken, pork chop and ice cream. Wow! the view was terrific! It was overlooking the Subic Bay dockyard. There was, at that time, people who were flying/sea gliding hooked on a big balloon. Some were enjoying banana boat ride. So, what we did was to maximize this background and took some photos where we were like jumping or flying. It was truly a very wonderful trip! (Because we were overjoyed, we forgot to buy some 'pasalubongs' for our families back home, so we ended up searching for fruits and other kakanins at SM centerpoint (hehehe)).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Basic Pottery

Pottery is similar to molding one's life. You take a piece of it one at a time, feel it, smell it, and throw away anything that is harsh and unmanageable. Next is to put it all together, create a one big mold out of the separated pieces. Feel it up and down trying to create a circular shape in the process. Then, carefully use your thumb to push a hole inside the circle. To widen that hole, one has to use the other hand as support from the outside while the thumb is pushing from the inside. Cracks usually happen. To smooothen that, use a little water and gently rub those parts.

I made a medium sized mug that day. I also a created a cover for it. The design was inspired by my name in Alibata and the infinity symbol. Later, we will have a session on glazing clay pot/s.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A glimpse at how ICT training empowers women

It was disheartening that three of our women participants could not make it to the training because they lack the money or transportation allowance (though we keep re-assuring them that they can re-imburse it after the day's training). I believe this is just a reflection of how hard the times is. No one wants to lend them money for fare. Perhaps, we can reconsider giving them an allowance a day before the training (though that may seem so tasking from the organizers), I think empowering women is finding practical ways of addressing their concerns, no matter how big or small it is. I believe in the principle of supporting them 'all the way' (even out of one's pocket). This principle entails patience and sustainability. Patience in finding ways of addressing the multi-faceted concerns of women, easing the obstacles that blocked women's learning and being there to support them perhaps in a more sustained way.

In this training, I have witnessed these values at work. First, we (the facilitators) translated the lessons (computer language may sound too technical) in the simplest language understandable to the women. Second, we patiently instructed the women on the nitty-gritty of operating the software (even if we have to initially operate the computer on a "pindot" or one finger system of typing).
Thirdly, even if we have to shell out money from our own pockets just to be able to provide the women some food.

But the joy of it all comes when the women themselves are confident in navigating the cyberspace by themselves. I think this is just a glimpse of how this ICT training empower grassroots women (both young and maturing).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kinari dance

Sounds like "canary" dance. But it is actually a bird's dance. We attended a session facilitated by three Indian women named Shiva, Shatan (?) and Mina. They are from Kerala, India. they taught us this dance. Actually, it is more complicated than I thought. Initially, they taught the various finger movements, 28 in total but we only used two: partaka and hamsasya. We greeted each other and introduced our surroundings using those two finger movements. Partaka is just spreading the four fingers straight: small up to the index finger and clipping the thumb finger. The Hamsasya is touching of the thumb and the index finger (creating a circle) and the rest of the fingers pointing upwards. Then, we were taught the foot steps. The left foot in initially turning to the left and then the right foot stomped at the ankle of the right, as if introducing her next step which is to go in front of the left foot. In the end, we have to coordinate the finger and foot steps. Another fast beat was introduced, this time it seemed like we were doing the famous Aiza Seguerra dance when she was a child, moving the chin forward and backward while the foot put on heel forward and then stomped at the sides. Oh! we were perspiring doing these seemingly simple yet very confusing (?) dance steps. This dance was taught in recognition of Manora, a celestial maiden from Indian folklore. She was one of the stars that dropped on earth (a la Stardust) and they were bathing in a lake when suddenly people (men) sighted at them. They hurriedly fly, unfortunately, Manora was trapped because somebody hid her wings. That man became her husband...sad story (hehehe)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Night with ANIDO

We participated in a women's group activity where the UP ANIDO was our resource persons for the Indigenous Music and Dance station. "Anido" refers to gathering of people in the Cordillera communities around the fire where various stories are being shared mostly by the elders to the younger generation. The UP ANIDO is composed of young students from the Cordillera who are studying in Diliman. These young men (Oswold, Kim & Eddie) and women (Patricia, Estelle, Riza and Audrey) taught us the basic steps of Cordillera dance. It actually mimicked the movement/s of birds. So, one step was spreading the arms with the two thumbs up and moving the thumbs up and down; while the right foot stepped forward and the left foot brushed backwards. Another step was leaning toward the center, with left arm lower than the right and dragging the left foot towards the center. Most of our co-participants were foreign students.

Late in the evening, we had a sumptuous dinner at the Likha Diwa. Kim rendered the song "Ganduyan" (old name of Sagada). I learned from them that other municipalities were renamed by the colonizers based on what they heard, not the actual or real name of the place. Other old songs were rendered. I was in love with the melody but I cannot yet comprehend the meanings of those songs. When they asked me if I am also from the Cordillera, I replied, "wanna be a Cordilleran (hehehe)".

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dance Till You Heal

We had a half-day dance therapy session with Denjie Bareira last Sunday. I never thought it could affect me deeply. Perhaps, I was not prepared to encounter the issue that I've been avoiding: child sexual abuse. It created that heavy cerebral pain that I know was brought about by the opening or perhaps dismantling of my guard. As far as I can remember, since my father's death in 1997, I never had a good cry. So, this time, the dance pre-activity enabled me to get in touched with my innermost feelings. I was still shy or ashamed to burst out in tears. I rushed to the comfort room and poured my heart out. I knew deep in my soul, the child sexual abuse must be addressed and I myself must participate actively in it. I need that move for my own healing purposes.

The room was not spacious enough to be able to create bigger movements. So, I let myself moved within my arms' radius. I was amazed that one of the participants, we calle her "dancing reverend" moved very ruggedly. I can't do that! (the hiphop dance) Another interesting move was the 8-shaped belly dancing. How I wish I can those moves every now and then. Of course, it's always up to me to give the material time for me to savor the pleasure of dancing (but at present I'd rather do the 'inner' dance)...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Women Positive Sites at UP Diliman

In my twenty years of stay in this university I haven't been aware that there are women-positive sites till I saw this UP DGO brochure. Guess what? we have 17 women-positive sites at UP Diliman campus. Very interesting for me was that statue of a naked woman washing her hair at the UP checkpoint. Little did I know that it means washing away all prejudices and other biased perspectives because one will be entering a democratic and freedom loving university, one may not be able to experience that space if one is having a biased perspective. Another interesting historical site was that wall sculpture at the left side (right before the checkpoint). It depicts of two naked bodies, a man and woman, and the symbols of learning (books etc.) bordering their sides. This means that both men and women are equally capable of higher learning. One can also take a look at the recent scuplture at the Women's Studies Center named "dakila" (wisdom or great teacher). Perhaps, this is a quizzical image of a woman (fully dressed up and with an image of a sun emanating from its head) compared to the nude women sculptures at the entrance of the Faculty Center. Interesting contrasts. But one needs a women-sensitive mind to be able to decipher what makes one a work of art... For more women-positive sites, you can tour around UP and take a notebook and a pen and guess the other 14 sites I failed to mention here.