Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Letter to a Major English Broadsheet re: IWD 2011

Thank you for covering the mobilizations in the recently concluded international women's day. As one who has been with civil society and on many occasions, begged for media coverage, I truly appreciate it.

However, as a feminist who try as much as I can to be open to and learn from the whole spectrum of Philippine civil society and women's groups, I am disappointed to read an article about a rally where only one group is mentioned. From what I know, there were two groups of women who marched to Mendiola, both numbering into thousands. And there was another rally where people numbered more than 4,000, heading to Congress, urging legislators to pass the much needed RH bill.

Which leads me to my second point: While I understand that this is a news article which could be a mere description of what one saw, I do hope that you would further ground the stories on the contexts which prompted these rallies.

Women did not go out just because it was the International Women's Day and wanted to show how many people we could mobilize on the streets. We went out because of more specific issues based on the realities for women in the Philippines. We went out because we wanted the Visiting Forces to be scrapped, for women migrant workers, especially domestic workers to be secured in the "private spheres" where they work, for women workers to be protected from unemployment and discrimination in the work place, we are apprehensive of the public-private partnerships, particularly of its impact on women workers --- just like what happened in some special economic zones and many more.

Please take some time to know the people who are marching on the streets and listen to their stories. It would even be great if you could interview women who came all the way from communities in the provinces rather than rely on already familiar faces and voices. After all, most of the latter are just based here in Metro Manila.  

Finally, we can only have the centenary of the international women's day once. Please give it the attention it truly deserves.

Thank you,
Nina Somera

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nonetheless, Happy Women's Day!

A hundred years after, women constitute 70% of the world's poor, own just 1% of the world's titled lands, doing more than half of the work to feed us, women and girls are still raped especially in war, killed in the name of honor, die because of their bodies, desires, dreams and truth. But as the struggle goes on, we can't afford not to rejoice in every piece of victory that restores our freedom. In the end, the sum is greater than all its parts. Happy Women's Day!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


[Note: As this blog is still technically under (re)construction after several months (actually years, if we count previous attempts) and countless times of promises to transfer as much writings here...let's begin in populating this with something positive :)]

Yesterday I had the chance to meet my co-finalists in My European Dream contest and the people behind KLM Philippines. In many ways the care-free lunch made a lot of firsts and at the same time enabling some more reflections, adding more facebook friends, and best of all, giving me the opportunity to see Europe once more.

It was the first time for me to be at Top of the Citi, a posh restaurant at the top floor of Citibank tower in Makati. From there one could see the Makati skyline, with all its shinny skyscrapers and busy roads.

It was also the first time for me to have a lunch that is beyond yummy, like my mom's Spanish sardines and the pad thai along Bangkok's sidewalks or the curry wurst along Unter Den Linden, or healthy, like Trimona's bakalaw ng bayan and fresh pako in coconut milk, or heavenly, like the crispy pata at Eng Bee Tin, where I head after my visit to Dr. Tan in Binondo. The lunch was gorgeous, so gorgeous that it took me a while to touch my plate and dig in. It was also the first time for me walk around the areas of Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas in a long time. I am not sure how much of it has changed until one enters Glorietta and Landmark.

Then I learned that some of us actually came from UP. Some of us too have been to Europe at least once. I was thrilled to know some are connected to a sister, friends, colleagues, crushes and yes, even adversaries. Indeed it is such a small world. But I also realized that I belong to the intellectual elite. While I was an excellent student in college, churned some analytical papers afterwards, been with bright and dedicated women and men, the idea hardly sank in.

Probably because UP primarily reminds me of the overstaying MA student, who is no longer concerned of coming out with a publishable book but just wants to finish what she started years ago in a fit of insecurity. Of course, intellectual is so subjective and debatable but less so, when we talk of a level of comfort in a country in a permanent crisis, as Walden Bello often describes.

Nonetheless, I was happy to be in a company of people who seem to be oriented towards the traveler rather than the tourist type. Aida, who was fortunate to be in Southern Germany before the Euro visited Neuschwanstein. Bianca cycled towards the famed gazebo in the Sound of Music. Justin spent nine months in Prague on a scholarship. And Joseph remains amazed with the thought of the layers of libraries one could discover in Madrid.

It felt good to hear from Aida her excitement over Neuschwanstein, a castle in Bavaria which eventually became the backdrop of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and its logo. I would have wanted to visit the place last June, right after a conference in Bonn, if not for my budget and time limitations. As a high-school student who flipped through the pages of a Reader’s Digest special publication that featured fabled places such as Shangri-la, Machu Piccu, Petra, Meteora and many more, it was not only the beauty of Neuschwanstein which made it so appealing but the madness of Ludwig over the arts, especially the works of Richard Wagner and story of Lohengrin and Elsa. And so with these in mind, I could not help but be appalled with an arrogant classmate, who talked endlessly about her teaching stint in Denmark and dismissed my planned itinerary as stupid non-sense, because she said, Europe is all castles. And it was unfortunate to see her in my Asian literature class every Tuesday and miss my Neuschwanstein.

It felt even better when I was handed my certificate. It is such a breeze to know that I could travel to Europe courtesy of KLM and more importantly without any strings attached. As I told Sherry, this is going to be the first time for me to travel for travel’s sake. For quite some time, I have had the opportunity to go outside the country for work and I will always be grateful as they contribute to a well-spring of experiences, ideas and even friendships. All of the trips though came with the pressure to perform.

While I welcome the latter, I have not quite overcome the trauma from my maiden voyage outside Philippines. I lost my very first passport and before that, made a string of booboos. Although the loss was not due to negligence, I still can’t forget the feeling of embarrassment and guilt the day I showed up for work. So from that time on, I made sure that any side trip would only happen after all the work is done. And so I hardly had any of it.

For instance, in the many times that I visited I Bangkok and stayed in the same university hotel, it was only on my fourth or fifth time, that I decided to cross the street and enter King Rama V’s Vimanmek Palace and later walk towards the Parliament and other old buildings in the Dusit district. And then lately, my regret for missing the real Cancun despite a kind man who was willing to accompany me to town. Worse, in my two weeks there, I only dipped in the waters just once for a couple of minutes. And so as consolation, I just walked along the beach late in the evening behind the shadow of the glitzy hotels and under the moonless sky.

But it is not just work which keeps me from going out or going far. Underlining it is the conscientiousness around questions such as why am I there and who funds me. There were indeed occasions when being there as a matter of privilege was just so striking. Consider for example, when the actual farmers and indigenous peoples could not be there because of the prohibitive travel cost and for the few who were there, could not talk so much in English and then the many Ivy-league educated folks who never knew how it is to lose a land and live under US$1 a day but dominate a discussion on forests.

And there were occasions which inevitably irritated me, particularly when I see people going around and letting others do their work. To this day, I remain proud for declining with good reasons and yes, excuses a trip where I was expected to write and accompany someone who could and ought to write but refused to write. Good thing, I managed to get rid of such assignment but too bad because it did not prevent for some good money to be burned. They hired someone else to do the work.

I still don’t know where to go in Europe and who to bring. Certainly it will depend on how much I could earn and save from now, how much I have done and finished up to the day I decide to fly. But for now, beside the occasional consultation with google maps, I can only be thankful to fate, friends, St. Jude, feng shui, the moon, the goddesses and the universe. This is going to be a maiden adventure without the usual baggage.