Day 15 of 16-day IDEVAW Campaign…

Profile of a SAMAKA (Samahan ng Kababaihan) Nanay: Bernadette Herrera
By: Dianne Chui, Babae-SF 

Bernadette Herrera arrived in the United States 10 years ago. She has 3 children, the eldest currently serving in the US Navy and the younger two are active students at Stanford University. She works at the Filipino Community Center as a Worker’s Rights Program Coordinator where she educates and supports disenfranchised workers and advocates for their welfare. She has also worked to develop a new organization known as Samahan ng Kababaihan (SAMAKA), a safe space for older Filipina mothers and working women to gather and learn about their rights and build community through activism and social activities.

Her story begins in the Philippines, her homeland, a country of her ancestors who have struggled and endured through the third world history of struggle and strife.  As a young student leader, she protested against rising tuition fees and led countless demonstrations. She expressed the voice for peasants who lost the land they farmed that grew the nation’s crops. She fought for teachers who didn’t have enough money to eat. To further serve her community, she ran for office through a grassroots campaign and became the main breadwinner of her family.

As the main provider, she knew her income wasn’t enough. Alone and without hesitation, she immigrated to the United States. She knew what she had to do. Undocumented for three years, she worked from eight in the morning to six in the evening cleaning houses, then on to another relentless seven to seven a.m. schedule caring for patients in a hospice. Despite being an educated professional, this labor was her only alternative. Successfully, with her earnings she petitioned her kids and raised them as a single mother.

Bernadette’s life tells the story of hundreds of thousands of other migrants – the story of hard work, integrity, and the fighting spirit for a just, fulfilling existence. Unwavering in her convictions, she has succeeded in giving her kids the life she has always dreamed of. She has become a positive role model, community activist, and endearing mother for others to emulate.

Woman’s Work (excerpt / work in progress)
Inspired by a Pinay Stories interview with Bernadette Herrera
By: Jocelyn Deona de Leon, Babae-SF 

It is woman’s work to worry
About better.

Because you, government
Do not provide.

You must have forgotten
Where we come from
Whilst we have not.

Where we come from
is barangay
is family
is home
is strength
in struggle
equals resilience

Is every reason why you should think twice
Before disfranchising the people whose
backs you have walked upon.

The reality is
though you have forgotten
who we are,

We have not.

We are
Asia
Africa
Latin America
the faces of bodies of spirits oppressed
by imperialist wars of conquest and economic plunder.

And despite what you believe,
these spirits of bodies of faces impoverished
are   still     here.

We are the women of people
who still rise

and birth,
to raise,
and carry,
to uplift, and
fight (the good fight)

as a reminder
that you are accountable.

And though you may forget
as often you have through all
these centuries

We will continue to remember
that a women’s worth does not
equate to her remittances

nor the

unwanted permittances
your military men take
upon us.

We are peacemakers
nation builders
freedom fighters
healers
and organizers

who will not settle for less-
It is a woman’s work.

We will not worry if it will get better.

It must.

And we will be here
(as we always have)

When it does.

Babae-GABRIELA USA is a grassroots and volunteer-based organization of Filipina women in San Francisco dedicated to supporting and empowering Pinays through critical education, leadership development, and community building. We are committed to taking up local and global struggles, immediate and long-term concerns of our communities, especially those directly impacting Filipino women.  As part of the Philippine women’s movement for self-determination, we are committed to working towards a future of real sisterhood and international solidarity, true gender equality and opportunity for all women, and genuine sovereignty and democracy in our homeland. Babae is a member organization of GABRIELA USA, an alliance of progressive women’s organizations in the United States, and an international chapter of GABRIELA Philippines.