By MARYA SALAMAT
Twenty-five years after Gabriela was established, the same issues continue to hound and unite women, Liza Maza, Gabriela Women’s party-list Representative, said at the opening of Gabriela’s 25th anniversary cultural program. “From politically motivated oppression to sexual harassment, Gabriela faced it all head-on,” she said.
The women’s group is looking forward to 25 more years, and more, especially since they have the following 25 distinguished women to look up to.
Gabriela honored 25 women who showed the mettle, creativity and bright future of the women’s alliance. These women have given their fellow women inspiration, they contributed much to Gabriela’s strengthening, said Emmi de Jesus, Gabriela’s newly elected Vice-Chair.
GABRIELA HONOREES FROM THE TOILING MASSES, “who form the bulk of Gabriela’s membership and the groups in Philippine society who get the worst of exploitation and oppression.”
1. LITA MARIANO – One of the founders of AMIHAN, a national federation of peasant women. She served as its deputy secretary general in 1986, secretary general in 1992, and now serves in its National Council.
2. ZEN SORIANO – A hard-working rights advocates of peasant women, she is an organizer, leader and president of AMIHAN, a national federation of peasant women. “I have grown old in the peasant and women’s struggle, I vow to persevere for as long as I could,” said Soriano.
3. NENITA “NITZ” GONZAGA – She has actively worked with progressive unions from the time she graduated from secretarial school, working for the longest time with the Olalias (From Ka Bert Olalia to Ka Lando Olalia) in NAFLU (National Federation of Labor Unions). She is now Vice-Chair For Women of KMU (May First Movement).
4. GERE GUERRERO – “I began my involvement in the progressive people’s movement with Gabriela,” Guerrero remarked in accepting her Distinguished Gabriela award. Strengthened by her experience in liberating herself from an oppressive marital relationship, she became a mass leader of the urban poor. A known hard-working organizer, she now leads Samakana-Gabriela.
5. CARMEN DEUNIDA – From the time Deunida, or Inay Mameng as she’s more fondly called, joined an urban poor organization in Leveriza in Manila in 1983, she has contributed hugely in strengthening Samakana, an urban poor organization of women. She later headed Samakana and steadily became known as an irrepresible, well-applauded mass leader. She is now chair emeritus of Kadamay (Association for Mutual Assistance of the Poor). “It was Gabriela who helped me understand the rights that women should be enjoying, and how these rights are being “raped” by foreign interests with the government as accomplice.”
GABRIELA HONOREES FROM THE REGIONS, “where for 25 years Gabriela has grown in membership and chapters to become the largest women’s organization in the Philippines at present.”
6. VERNI YOCOGAN-DIANO – Leader from the ranks of indigenous peoples in Cordillera, “her diligence and optimism has been well-known to Gabriela in and out of Cordillera and the country.”
7. TESS PIELAGO – Noteworthy Gabriela leader from Bicol.
8. LUCY FRANCISCO – Dynamic Gabriela leader from Panay and Guimaras.
9. RINA AMACIO – She has contributed much and led in the broadening and strengthening of Gabriela in Negros.
10. ATEL HIJOS – She joined one of Gabriela’s National Commission in the 80s. Until now, she remains fighting for Gabriela in Butuan.
11. GRACE NOVAL – Gabriela’s “Nanay Neng” in Davao, she had been trainor for Center for Women’s Resources during the 90s.She is now an active leader in women’s and peoples’ struggle in Davao.
12. LYDA CANSON – One of the founders of Gabriela in Mindanao in the 80s, she continues to contribute in women’s struggle in Davao up to now.
GABRIELA HONOREES “who contributed in the startup and growth of Gabriela programs and services. Whether they are in Gabriela or in other organization, they continue to organize and lead women.”
13. RECHILDA EXTREMADURA – Resolute advocate of justice for the so-called “comfort women” during the Japanese occupation. Despite challenges, “Ritchie has been steadfastly promoting the rights of women and peoples against imperialist aggression and against its effects on women and children. A friend, family and leader of our grandmothers, she is currently the executive director of Lila Pilipina. ”
14. NORMA DOLLAGA – She was still young when the organization she belonged to, the Student Christian Women (SCM), became a founding member of Gabriela in its first national assembly in 1984. She now leads in church programs that “aim to banner the unique role and situation of women.”
15. ROSALINDA DUQUE – “For as long as there are child workers, and there are children forced to sell their bodies or suffer from militarization, there is a need for struggle until this society becomes more nurturing,” said Teacher Duque as she accepted her award. Gabriela said she “embodies the aspirations and struggle of women for the welfare of Filipino children.”
16. RINA ANASTACIO – A “dedicated, passionate person,” as her daughter Sihaya described her, Anastacio is now with Migrante. But for years, she worked with Gabriela’s education department and with CRC (Children’s Rehabilitation Center) as Executive Director.
17. VICVIC CALVO – A longtime director for campaigns of Gabriela, she is now deputy secretary general of Gabriela Women’s Party List (GwaPa), as well as choreographer (from time to time) of Sining Lila.
18. PINING TOLENTINO – Nanay (mother) now to many in Gabriela, she has been one of the administrative staff of Gabriela since the 80s. She’s now pushing past 70 yet she’s “still as energetic, motherly and active as ever.” She told Bulatlat that Gabriela has made her dream as a teacher come true. “Even if I reached only grade 7, I was able to pursue my dream.” She actually functions more than just a teacher in Gabriela, because she also composes songs and teaches it to women in communities.