“I could never imagine what you are going through, but I want you to know that you can use my voice and my reputation, no matter how humble it is. I am with you.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – President Duterte’s appointment of artist Aiza Seguerra as chairperson of the National Youth Commission was lauded by progressive groups, more so by indigenous peoples, whom he has been supporting in the past years.
Just days before the Malacañang announcement of the appointment, Seguerra was at a gathering, where he sang and expressed support for the struggles of indigenous peoples. The forum, “Land, rights and justice,” was held on Aug. 8, in time for the World Indigenous Peoples Day in Mendiola, Manila. The forum also tackled the Indigenous Peoples Agenda submitted to Duterte, also that day.
“I may not know everything, at ni minsan di ko kayang ma-imagine ang pinagdadaanan n’yo, pero gusto kong malaman n’yo, pwede nyong gamitin ang boses ko, ang reputasyon ko, gaano man kaliit ito. Kasama n’yo po ako (I could never imagine what you are going through, but I want you to know that you can use my voice and my reputation, no matter how humble it is. I am with you),” Seguerra said before he sang at the forum.
Some 300 people were at the forum, a mix of indigenous peoples — Dumagat, Ayta, Mangyan, Igorot, Tumandok and Lumád – and students and faculty, mostly of the College of the Holy Spirit where the forum was held. Victims of military harassment in indigenous communities were among those who attended.
The 32-year-old Seguerra, a transman, came to the forum with his wife, Liza Diño. The Filipino public had widely followed Seguerra’s showbiz career, starting from his being a child actor in a noon time show, blooming into an awarded acting and singing career, up to his coming out as a lesbian, and later making a gender choice as a transman. He and Diño eventually got married abroad.
What the public knows little of is how Seguerra had quietly supported campaigns for women and children in the past decade, singing and lending his presence in gatherings. In recent years, the couple supported the Stop Lumád killings campaign, and gave assistance to Lumád evacuees, victims and schools.
Seguerra said many people, specially in Manila, could not care less about the plight of indigenous peoples in the hinterlands. But it should not be like that, he said.
“Pero hinde. Kagaya din natin, me mga pamilya sila na inaalagaan, me mga anak na gustong makapasok sa iskwelahan na safe. Kagaya din natin, me ipinaglalaban silang karapatan at kung sila lang ang makikipaglaban, mahihirapan po sila, (Like us, they have families that they take care of and children who want to go to school safely. Like us, they are also fighting for their rights, and it is hard if they do it on their own), Seguerra said.
His wife, actress Diño, was appointed by the President to head the Film Development Center of the Philippines. The two artists have a three-year term.
Singing about hope
Seguerra first sang “Sana,” an Original Pilipino Music (OPM) song reminiscent of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He followed up with his hit “Pagdating ng panahon,” a love song, which he, at first, joked had nothing to do with the plight of indigenous communities.
“Pero meron din…because it’s about hope, hope sa bawat araw na ibinigay sa atin. Merong mga araw na mas mahirap kesa kahapon, pero sana, huwag kayong mawalan ng pag-asa. Hanggat kaya n’yong makipaglaban, laban lang (It’s about hope for each day given to us. Some days are tougher than others, but I hope that you don’t lose hope. As long as you still can, just keep on fighting),” he said.
The audience, whether indigenous peoples or not, cheered to Seguerra’s singing and presence, and took group pictures with the artist-couple after the forum ended.
“It’s a good development that showbiz personalities like Aiza have also become aware of the plight of indigenous peoples, and given support,” Jill Cariño, vice chairperson for external affairs of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and convenor of the Philippine Task Force Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP), told Bulatlat.
Edmar Celestino, an Ayta from Porac, Pampanga, and leader of the Central Luzon Ayta Association (Claa) also praised the artist. “Aiza is really an idol of indigenous peoples…his songs are so meaningful,” he said.