Thursday, July 23, 2009

Going Home (to the heart) for Melissa Roxas

Something happens to you when you are born outside of your parents' mother country. You are born with a longing to go home to a place you've never been. You go about your business, being all American and knowing nothing else, ignoring all that talk about how it was when they grew up "back home" how things were, who your ancestors were, but inside you, they've planted that seed, and it's growing. You pretend you don't want to know like a good teenager, but you want to know. You want to be a part of it. And if you somehow find your way to writing stories and poems and making films and art, that hunger grows. And you want to go back home. You want to see it for yourself. And it is not enough to visit. You start to write about it. Draw it. Make music about it. And then that is not enough to just visit your family, your lolo, lola, titas and titos all your pinsan, you want to know more. You go historical. You find the stories of the earth. You sit with all the kapitbahay. You speak your bad Tagalog. And stories come out of you, poetry, things you never imagined you housed inside of you and there you are -- an American, digging up a past only your soul comprehends. Not your MTV self. Not your Boomerang kid self. Certainly not your wild American Self. If you're lucky that spark hits you and somehow the art you make does something more than sit pretty on the page. It moves you to act.

I sit in solidarity with you Melissa Roxas. Speak up, speak your truth without fear. For you represent us all. All of us who long to go home, to find our true Selves and in doing so discover that in fact, despite the fact we were not born on that island or if we were, we have not lived on that island for a lifetime, we have a devotion to it, a commitment to it. Make it clear, we have a right to come home, to serve our people with our words and to do it without savage acts of torture, or corruption or imprisonment.

With much love, sincere respect and absolute solidarity,


Wednesday, July 22, 2009



Comfort Women Dying for Justice: Japan Still No Apology

Contact: Valerie Francisco, Chair – Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, 925-726-5768 ,

The 44th Session of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has convened at the United Nations in New York and FiRE demands that Japan address the issue of wartime comfort women.

Progressive Filipino women’s organization, FiRE-NYC (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment), demands justice for the surviving comfort women as Japan’s government presents its 6th periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to the 44th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women at the United Nations this week. During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army abducted and repeatedly raped a reported 100,000-250,000 young girls and women in Japanese occupied colonies and territories including China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Since Maria Rosa Luna Henson, the first Filipina comfort woman to publicly came forward in 1992, more of the remaining comfort women in the Philippines broke their 50 years of silence since WWII. With the handfuls of grandmothers coming forward with their stories, LILA-PILIPINA was formally launched and founded by comfort women survivors and members of the Task Force on Filipino Comfort Women in 1994, and remains one of the largest Philippines-based organizations working toward this cause. To this day, hundreds of surviving comfort women in the Philippines demand the apology and acknowledgement for the atrocities they experienced at the hands of the Japanese government, and seek adequate compensation for themselves and their families to live the little time they have left with dignity.

FiRE-NYC condemns the Japanese government for its careless disregard toward the surviving comfort women, their war crimes, and the international community. The United States, Netherlands, Canada and the European Union have already passed resolutions insisting that the Japanese government address the demands of the surviving comfort women. Cities within Japan have also passed resolutions locally urging their national government to acknowledge the comfort women issue. Yet, all these resolutions remain overlooked, and the Japanese government continues to blatantly deny the systematic rape of comfort women all over Asia, executed by its Imperial Army during the Second World War.
Because about a third of the 174 surviving Filipina comfort women have already died, the urgency in the Filipino community has increased. After the passing of HR 121, Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party demanded that the Government of Japan “FORMALLY AKNOWLEDGE, APOLOGIZE AND ACCEPT ITS RESPONSIBILITY OVER THE SEXUAL SLAVERY” and “PROVIDE COMPENSATION TO THE VICTIMS.” House Bill 1136, “An Act Providing for the Inclusion in the History Books of Elementary, Secondary and Collegiate Curricula the Lives and Heroism of Filipino Comfort Women during the Japanese Occupation and Appropriating Funds Therefore,” has also been filed through the GABRIELA women’s party list, in the hopes that the remaining grandmothers can inch closer toward dignity and justice.

FiRE-NYC, as an overseas chapter of GABRIELA National Alliance of Women, remains in solidarity with the surviving comfort women as they struggle for the justice and acknowledgement they deserve. The challenges faced by the remaining comfort women is part of the ongoing fight for justice and women’s rights resurfacing in current matters of military sexual violence, a battle rooted in the systematic abuse and exploitation of women at the hands of the military worldwide. We entreat the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to urge the Japanese government to immediately address their war crimes against women by responding to the demands of all surviving comfort women.

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) invites you to stand in solidarity with GABRIELA and Lila Pilipina for a public action which seeks justice for the comfort women, and demands that the Government of the Philippines must not overlook the wartime atrocities suffered by the surviving Comfort Women. As Filipinas who defend the rights and welfare of women all over the world, we must understand that the fight for justice coincides with the Japanese government taking accountability for its actions. Join FiRE at the United Nations where representative of Japan’s government will be reporting during the CEDAW session, and demand the issues of Japan’s wartime comfort women be addressed. Anyone who wants to defend the victims of military sexual violence and wars of aggression must pressure Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime to evict all US troops out of the Philippines, and refuse the creation of another generation of comfort women!
New York – FiRE (Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment)

Thursday, July 23 — 430pm
1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
[47th between 2nd & 3rd Ave.]
Directions: 4/5/6/7/S trains to Grand Central Station or E/F trains to 51st St.
Enter Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 2nd Ave between E 46th & E 47th, walk to 1st Ave.
Look for the bright orange FiRE flags!
Contact: Hanalei Ramos – 201.790.0995