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Reference: Valerie Francisco, Vice Chair, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com
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Filipino-American Women Travel to the Philippines to Participate in Typhoon Relief Missions and GABRIELA’s 25th Anniversary Activities
GABRIELA USA Raised $8,000 and Helped Distribute 2,000 Bags of Food

 

Quezon City, PHIILIPPINES– After successful grassroots fund raising in the US for Ondoy victims, Filipino-American women from GABRIELA USA, an overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines with member organizations across the United States, arrived in the Philippines in mid-October to participate in relief missions in devastated areas of Dagupan City, Pangasinan, and Tatalon, Quezon City. In a caravan of volunteers from the Gabriela Women’s Partylist, including Congresswoman Liza Maza, they were able to deliver over 2,000 bags of food to the lines of hundreds of typhoon victims in 4 different barangays. In Dagupan City, Typhoon Pepeng displaced over 155,071 people and submerged over 60% of the residences.

“Although the water has subsided, you could see the effects of Typhoon Pepeng in the people. Hundreds of people waiting in line in 100 degree heat for bare essentials to survive: a kilogram of rice, three sardine cans, and two packs of noodles. These conditions were not only the cause of a typhoon, but an administration that is incompetent in responding to the people’s basic needs of food, shelter, and proper health care,” said Raquel Redondiez, chair of GABRIELA USA, who participated in giving out relief goods.

Continuing the legacy of 25 years of  service and advocacy for women and children’s concerns,  GABRIELA’s  response to the needs of typhoon victims was swift and painstaking.  As they provided food and assistance to affected communities, they also encouraged women to hold the government accountable for their lack of preparedness and response.

“Seeing the work of  GABRIELA to provide relief and rehabilitation directly to affected communities has given me hope that we can rebuild this nation. And we are not going to only be here after a typhoon hit, but organizations like GABRIELA are in communities day in and day out working to build a more sustainable society,” added Raquel Redondiez.

Natural disasters like this often have a more devastating effect in the Philippines because of a number of factors, including deforestation and poor public infrastructure resulting from government neglect and corruption. Many of the communities that GABRIELA USA has worked closely with-Tatalon, Bagong Silangan and Commonwealth in Quezon City- were devastated. Families were forced to climb up to their roofs for safety and rescue, not unlike the experience of Katrina victims in the U.S. a few years ago. In Bagong Silangan, four houses, with whole families still inside, were swept away by the raging waters of the river.

 

Following the relief missions,  GABRIELA USA members also participated in the 10th national congress of the national women’s alliance, that recently started to establish chapters in countries where overseas Filipino women live. The plenary of the congress shed light on the reasons why the natural disasters aren’t plain consequences of Mother Nature but a product of climate change, and multi-national and local corporate aggression on the land and resources of the Philippines and the lack of initiative from the Philippine government to undertake serious disaster preparedness.

The GABRIELA Congress was followed by a women’s march to Malacanang on the morning of October 28, to protest the criminal negligence of the Arroyo administration which has lead to over 900 deaths, many of whom where women and young children, who could have survived given adequate government preparedness and support. The women also demanded accountability for the 800 million pesos for calamity preparedness that was instead spent by Arroyo to fund her many extravagant travels abroad.

That afternoon, GABRIELA USA members also attended the 25-year anniversary event that honored many long-time women organizers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and celebrity personalities like Angel Locsin and Bebeth Ortiz, and Evalyn Ursua, the lawyer of “Nicole”, who have helped advance women’s causes.

“We are convinced that the only way to change the conditions of the Filipino people is to organize and ensure women’s participation in shaping the society,” stated Valerie Francisco, vice chair of GABRIELA USA, “The history and current work of GABRIELA is the best example of this empowerment and GABRIELA USA is honored to be part of this history of resistance.”