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A Women’s Anthology of Songs, Poems, and Stories

Editor’s Note

It has been fifteen years since the publication of the first volume of KALI, Voice of Cordillera Women. The first anthology echoed the Cordillera women’s recollection of the early struggles and their tributes to the victories of the pioneers of the Cordillera people’s movement, such as the participation of women against the Chico Dam and Cellophil Resources projects, and the ensuing burning issues of the early 2000s. The corruption and tyranny of the regimes that manifested as development aggression and militarization in the region were denounced by women writers, visual artists and musicians and they found their voice in Kali.

Much has transpired in the women’s movement in the Cordillera through those years from which we draw valuable lessons and insights. This trove of experiences and challenges has been translated into individual writers’ reflections and leaps; and collective dedication of communities and women’s organizations to the continuing pursuit of the aspiration of the women’s movement. Because development aggression still rears its ugly head and tyranny has fiercer fangs that preys on women, defense is much bolder now.

Women organizers in the indigenous people’s movement, women who work as staff in development programs, women who are mothers and income earners in communities, students who carry out cultural work in schools, have crafted their literary pieces, songs, stories, visual images as mirrors of their daily lives and involvement in the struggle for a better, humane society. Their aspirations are for a Cordillera and a country that practice and enjoy the fruits of self-determination in aspects of politics, economy and culture. In this period under a regime that spites human rights and reeks of misogyny and disregards the value of life, how is rage expressed by women who are not only the life source but also nurturers of generations? In this period of utmost deprivation and wanton disregard for right to life and security, how is resistance expressed by women who dare not remain on the sidelines but also take crucial tasks in the front lines? Women draw strength and courage from the heroism and selflessness of foremothers and ancestors who were not superwomen, but were able to combat fear, limitations and real enemies. The power to create, to transform, to reflect and act, to leave and break from the shackles of tradition and social limitations is a weapon that women in the Cordillera are learning to protect and utilize. The beauty is in the realization that they are validated by their fellow women in these perilous times, and supported by men who have deep understanding and appreciation of the women’s struggle. It is time once again to share the voice of Cordillera women to wider communities of readers. The poems, songs, personal essays and illustrations in this anthology are testimonies that we shall prevail, we shall not be daunted to express our fears and aspiration until true change has come to our Motherland.

Reclaim the Genuine Tradition of International Women’s Day

March 8 of every year, International women’s day is celebrated by women all over the world. The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day during the promulgation of International Women’s Year in 1975. By 1977, the United Nations General Assembly called on its member states to declare March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. For the UN and member states, this day marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

March 8, women’s day, however was originally international working women’s day. Before UN countries began adopting this as women’s day in 1975, it was already being celebrated for decades by socialist movements and states in some parts of the globe. And it started as a political undertaking by women against the despotic rule of the Tsar of Russia in the early 1900’s and the struggle of working-class women for better pay and working conditions.

In 1910, over a hundred women from 17 countries united and proposed a women’s day at the second conference of working women in Copenhagen in Denmark. Clara Zetkin of the German Social Democratic Party proposed the idea of an International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) to underscore the particular oppression being suffered by women, especially women of the toiling masses and emphasised the distinct struggle of women in society. For the delegates in the conference, it meant promoting not just women’s right to vote, but labor legislations for working women, social services for mothers and children, equal treatment of single mothers, provisions of child care facilities, distribution of free meals and free educational facilities in schools and also working women’s international solidarity.

Resulting from this conference, on March 19, 1911, the first celebrations of International Women’s Day were held in Austria, Denmark and Germany where more than a million women and men attended mass mobilizations calling for women’s rights to work and training, to vote, to hold public office and for an end to discrimination against women. Small towns and village halls were reported to be jam-packed. Male workers were asked to vacate their places to give way to women. For a change, men stayed home to take care of their children while their wives attended women initiated activities and meetings. It was said to be the first expression of militancy by working women. A large mobilization of 30,000 was stopped by the police forces where they attempted to confiscate the banners on women’s demands, but the activists stood their ground.

A few days after these events, on March 25, 145 women workers were killed mostly young, non-english speaking migrants when a shirtwaist factory in New York City burned down. There were suspicions that it was deliberate for the factory’s exit-points were not in place or properly constructed and many believed that the company just wanted to collect its fire-insurance policy. The company also had a notorious background of being anti-worker. This incident resulted to massive protests by women workers which brought about legislations for better working conditions in factories, a big victory for working women.

Celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 however only took place in 1914, considered as the fourth celebration of International Women’s day that was a massive mass action against the imperialist war which erupted a few months later.

In 1917, it was even more significant because the day marked the outset of the Russian revolution, where working women played a lead role in the uprising.

Today, almost all nations are celebrating International Women’s Day. Regrettably, many celebrations of March 8 – international women’s day has not been the same. There are those which have already disregarded its original political and militant character. In fact, even companies had come to use this event for advertising and promoting their products, thus commercializing the celebration which completely contravenes its essence. Government-states on the other hand come up with annual celebrations vaguely extoling women’s achievements without actually looking into the real conditions of majority of the women who remain poor and marginalized. Many now disregard and have actually stripped off the real essence behind celebrating IWWD.

In celebrating March 8 this year, we remember our sisters during the first celebrations of IWWD a century ago who took on the tasks of putting forward the real issues that women struggle for. Women are not just fighting for gender parity. Equality between the sexes stays meaningless if women remain impoverished, exploited, oppressed and deprived of their well-being together with the men of their class.

What significance is there for gender equality if the majority of women and men both suffer from social injustice, of not being able to sufficiently nourish their families because of lack of employment opportunities or stable jobs; of being forced to leave their families to work overseas only to be abused and maltreated; of receiving sub-standard wages while corporations profit from their labour; of being unable to seek basic social services such as health and education because of government’s misprioritization and corruption in the bureaucracy; of not having any decent homes or clothing to protect them while a few live lavishly at the expense of the poor; of continually being deprived of their lands and resources because of corporate plunder and greed? If women will be equal to men under these conditions, then what have they achieved? Nothing at all substantial.

Certainly, women must still fight for gender equality and work against the discrimination of women because these are rightful concerns that women currently still face. It is also the very reason why there is a distinct movement being advanced by women. But let it be said that the quest for equality is not synonymous to fighting men, for men are not the problem per se. Instead, it is a battle against the structures in society that perpetuate the oppression of women that has its origins in our colonial past and is being perpetuated by the status quo. The struggle being waged is then directed at those who maintain the system of domination not only by men over women but more importantly the ruling class that exploits majority of the toiling masses. It is to their benefit that they maintain this arrangement because it obscures our perception from the fundamental issues in society.

In this situation, how then must women’s struggles be waged? Women of the oppressed classes must work hand in hand with men of their class for a truly just, free and democratic society and to guarantee that their fundamental needs are met and within it work for gender equality and an end to the discrimination of women. It is only then when we can genuinely say that women’s subordinate status in society would have been substantially addressed.

1. International Women’s Day. Women Watch. https://womenwatch.unwomen.org/international-womens-day-history
2. The Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day, Cintia Frencia/Daniel Gaido, JACOBIN ; https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/03/international-womens-day-clara-zetkin-working-class-socialist
3. International Women’s Day, Socialist Worker.org. March 8 2013 https://socialistworker.org/2013/03/08/international-womens-day
4. March 25,1911: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City, HISTORY, 2009 http///www.history.com/this-day-in-history/triangle-shirtwaist-fire-in-new-york-city

Ti Parabur a Manangguddua: Komiks Basar iti Kapadasan ti Umili ti Kordilyera iti Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)


Daytos a komiks ket naglaon kadagiti istorya ken kapadasan dagiti nainsigudan a babbaie iti rehiyon Cordillera maipanggep iti Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), wenno popular iti termino a 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), a kangrunaan nga ipagpagna ti Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Nagrugi ti badyet na daytoy iti P4 milyon idi 2007 para iti 6,000 a benepisyaryo.

Daytoy ti kangrunaan a programa nga ipanpannakil ti dua a nagsaruno nga administrasyon (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ken Benigno Aquino III), a mangrisut kanu ti kinakurapay dagiti umili a Pilipino. Ti kangrunaan a pokus ti 4Ps ket para iti edukasyon ken salun-at dagiti pamilya a napili.

Ti 4Ps ket inadaptar ti Pilipinas babaen iti duron ti World Bank (WB) ken Asian Development Bank (ADB) a kangrunaan a naggapuan ti pondo. Immuna a naipadas daytoy a programa idiay Latin American ken Africa sakbay nga inadaptar dagiti gobyerno iti Asia, mairaman ti Pilipinas. Sigun iti panagadal iti kapadasan ti Latin America ken Africa, maysa daytoy a dole-out; programa a nangiyaw-awan kadagiti pudno a pangkasapulan ti umili a nabayag nga inlablaban da kas iti pudno a reporma iti daga ken agrikultura, natalged a pagtrabahoan, ken naan-anay a sweldo.

Daytoy a komiks ket nakabasar kadagiti istorya manipud kadagiti workshops ken focused grouped discussion kadagiti babbai idiay Kalinga, Apayao, Montanyosa, Abra ken Baguio manipud idi 2012. Ti inisyal a report, “The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) in the Cordillera from the Perspective of Indigenous Women” ket naipresentar idi naisayangkat ti Cordillera Development Conference idi Nobyembre 2013. Ti Proceedings ti komperensya ket naiparuar. Napabaknang ti inisyal a report babaen iti nagtultuloy a dokumentasyon kadagiti kapadasan dagiti benepisyaryo ken saan a benepisyaryo iti 4Ps.

Weaving Indigenous Women’s Empowerment as Human Rights Defenders


It’s not completely a new initiative. What makes this journey unique, however, is the utilization of positive aspects of customary institutions and values as avenues to promote indigenous women’s rights. It was a painstaking journey of human rights awareness and capacity building of indigenous women in 26 communities of Sagada and Bontoc, Mountain Province in the Cordillera region and in the municipalities of Alabel and Malapatan in Saranggani Province in Mindanao, from the last quarter of 2010 to 2013. It was an empowering experience for the participants who face human rights issues and violence against women due to conditions of militarization, development aggression, and poor delivery of social services. Development aggression in the form of corporate mining and energy projects is an issue of economic violence among indigenous women participants deprived of their access and control to land and natural resources. That empowering journey pushed them to speak and practice human rights as a collective, broke their silence about their own experience of sexual and domestic violence and mustered their confidence to access facilities and services that reduce their vulnerability to violence.

Their human rights awareness was not theirs alone. The indigenous women participants shared that awareness to their communities who became their support to access certain services and entitlements. The awareness was translated into having the skills to communicate human rights to fellow women within their organizations and communities, and to structures of leadership and decision-making.

There is now a deeper appreciation of having written documentation of their own experiences from the usual practice of oral tradition. The stories of the participants that they themselves have written are proof of how liberating the journey was. Their stories show were changes have occurred– in the mind-sets, attitudes or behavior, and in practice. These changes are difficult to measure. However, these powerful stories make the transformation more concrete.

This report also clarifies the role of customary institutions in protecting women from violence, and how women are respected traditionally. With the decline of power of indigenous socio-political institutions brought about by the dynamism in the wider society that indigenous peoples are very much integrated into, the protection or values that used to be accorded to women has eroded. It is vital to accord value on efforts made by organizations of indigenous women and communities in strengthening and promoting positive aspects of indigenous systems that provide protection for women against violence and danger.

Where there is a growing conflict between human rights and business, a larger gap between human rights holders and duty-bearers is created. Nothing would sustain the empowerment of women but their continued interest and collective actions to be liberated as productive members of their communities and the wider society.

Indigenous Women: Defending land and resources against Chevron’s geothermal project

Executive Summary

The study is aimed at strengthening the affirmative actions of local indigenous women leaders and their organizations. This is done through a framework where the local indigenous women leaders are involved in the entire process of the research. It is a process where the researcher is working “with” the community rather than working “for” the community. It is a process which empowers both the participants and the researcher. It is a research process that has a bias in favor of the poor, oppressed, and struggling women.

The study presents the important role of indigenous women in Western Uma in the municipality of Lubuagan in Kalinga Province. The Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) saw the importance of documenting actions of women of Western Uma as a concrete process of indigenous women’s empowerment. This is also in the context that leadership of women in community struggles is not adequately acknowledged and projected in current documents.

The study reveals how indigenous women led community resistance against a geothermal project since the 1970s. The project is now being pushed by Chevron. It uncovers the Uma women’s tireless efforts to urge their village mates and tribe mates on the adverse effects and impacts of the corporate geothermal project particularly on their access and control of their ancestral territory, livelihood, environment, human rights and cultural integrity. The community mobilization on 18 May 2012 where women were in the front line as negotiators is an acclaimed event in Uma’s history of struggle, stopping Chevron in its insistence to conduct its temperature testing. Since then, Chevron never showed up in the village. This does not however say that Chevron abandoned its project. Indigenous women were involved in the formulation of community petitions and urged concerned government agencies especially to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to take responsible action.

“The people, water, land, forest and the trees are connected. Where will we live? Where will we find refuge from heat? Where will we get our food if you are grabbing our home?” These words of Beatrice Belen, a woman leader in Western Uma captures the Uma tribe’s view of land as life.

Testimonies of indigenous women and community leaders in the village reveal the corrupt, divisive and manipulative practices of Chevron in order to obtain consent of indigenous communities. Accounts of women and community leaders divulge of ill manners of the NCIP, acting more as a broker for Chevron than protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

The indigenous women of Western Uma continue to hurdle the still prevailing feudal-patriarchal culture along with the challenge of not being publicly acknowledged as active agents in community struggles and development.

The study shows the strong connection of indigenous women to land and life, putting themselves in active defense mode when land and life is threatened. The study confirms that it is honor for indigenous women and dignity for the tribe to defend land, life, and resources. The active participation of women in the Uma tribe’s struggles, then and now, is enabling community leaders and members to agree that indeed struggles and community development will not be complete when women who are more or less half of the population are left out, not acknowledged of their productive and leadership contributions and are denied of opportunities to be empowered.

The study findings will be used by Innabuyog Uma, the local indigenous women and the indigenous women’s movement in the Cordillera led by Innabuyog, in strengthening the work for women’s rights advocacy. In particular, the study findings serve as evidence in advocating, lobbying and networking that would galvanize indigenous women’s voices and actions in asserting access and control over their ancestral land and resources.