March 8 – church women gathered at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Center along Taft Avenue, Manila to celebrate International Women’s Day. It was a big gathering of women from both the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches to celebrate, remember and affirm the role and contributions of women throughout time.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Women Rising Against Economic Oppression and Ecological Plunder.” Ms. Arche Ligo, a woman theologian and professor at St. Scholastica’s College gave a Biblico-theological reflection on the theme. Ms. Ligo said that we celebrate International Women’s Day to express gratitude for the milestones we have achieved, remember and honor the sacrifices of many and to defy conditions that marginalize and impoverish life. She focused on the text of Joel 2:21-22, 27-29 which speaks about a vision where the land is full of life and the people live in abundance. The text spoke of restoration – of both land and of relationships between land and people. Repentance then calls for action that will stop environmental degradation and plunder and that will consequently affect effects of disaster – environmental, social, and economic – as we have seen with Typhoon Pablo. She ended that women must continue to work and hope for a better future.
As support for Typhoon Pablo survivors and engagement in social work, the women made a special offering to fellow women and men in Davao who were greatly affected by Typhoon Pablo and who are being denied of their right to relief services by the government.
Several women gave their stories and testimonies that provided everyone with a general picture of the situation of women today. Ms. Cristina Palabay of Karapatan gave a glimpse of the human rights violations done to women; Ms. Kakay Tolentino of Katribu shared stories of struggles of indigenous women; Ms. Connie Bragas-Regalado walked the group through the experiences of migrant women and Ms. Estrelita Bagasbas shared her personal story of fighting for her right and that of her neighbors to have decent shelter.
To celebrate and recognize the wisdom of women, a croning ritual was performed. This ritual recognized women who are 60 years and older who certainly had a life-worth of learning, experience and wisdom. As a symbol of their new “status”, they were anointed with oil and bestowed with a cloth of wisdom and compassion.
After the fellowship lunch, women went into action. They marched in the streets to Liwasang Bonifacio to be with other women from other sectors of society. Women marched to demonstrate their indignation against plunder of the Philippine environment especially through mining of large transnational corporations and legalized by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and leave not only the environment desolate but also displace indigenous peoples, diminish food sources and increase people’s vulnerability to disasters. Moreover, they marched to demonstrate the increasing poverty which most women bear the brunt.