Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Thirty days ago, the Asian Domestic Workers’ Day was celebrated through a solidarity march by the domestic workers’ groups, trade unions, migrant organizations, women’s groups, civil society, and advocates all over Asia.

Called May Day 2010, it was a call for the recognition and respect of rights, value, contributions, and status of domestic workers as workers and equal members of society

It was the 124th anniversary of that day when 300,000 workers first walked out of their jobs demanding an eight-hour workday.

Glocal -- global yet local – was that historic walk.

Two Sundays ago, we with the Running Priest himself, Fr. Robert Reyes, did something like the fight for the eight-hour standard work.

But with a difference.

Yes, it was the second leg of our Lakbay Dangal, a move (or is it a movement?) to train our domestic helpers as tour guides that began last March 14.

While we were here in the Philippines, Haensel Textiles' Global SalesManager Sonia Zerrudo took over, or took care of it.

According to ever-active activist Soosot, Fr. Robert's term of endearment since Martial Law days: “Every Sunday since March 14, we have been giving orientation and training to those who have responded to the article by Carina Roncesvalles that came out in the Hongkong News.”

Last May 22, all 30 or 35 of them were present, ironically, except for The Dynamic Duo -- Liza Paje and her -- who both attended to personal matters separately!
From Chater Garden at 9 a.m., we traced or re-traced the trail where Dr. Jose Rizal had his clinics -- from Duddel Street to D’AguilarStreet – but had to end up at the Osman Ramju Sadick Islamic Centre.

There, in an all-white building at Oi Kwan Road in Wanchai, we had a halal lunch upon the invitation of Wael Ibrahim, Fr. Robert's Muslim friend, at its Islamic Centre Canteen where Madeenah Molina from Pasig City served us Chinese cuisine, too!

After a very informal and informative forum that could pass as Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Islam (But Were Afraid to Ask), a Woody Allen-ish Muslim – Wael, an Egyptian ex-club singer married to a Pinay -- gave us such summer readings as Prof. K.S. Ramakrishna Rao's Mohammed: The Prophet of Islam, Hafiz Ibn Al-Quayyim's A Handbook of Islamic Prayers, Admed Deedat's Who Moved The Stone? and Resurrection or Resuscitation?, Dr. Naji Ibrahim Arfaj's Have You Discovered its Real Beauty? and Just One Message.

What seized our consciousness, so to speak, were the books written by unknown authors: a certain “German Diplomat” who wrote Islam's Answerto the Racial Problem as well as Islam and Muslims or the Issue #1 of theDiscover Islam Series published by The Centre that also offers introductory literature via audiotapes and compact discs.

We just remembered those Filipino-looking youth we met, wearing rebellious hiphop getups, with blingbling and all, as if they are posses of MC Yan of the now defunct LMF --the first rap/rock group signed by a major record label Warner Music in Hongkong.

The Examiner's Anna Liza Torralba-Espiritu whispered: “They're Indonesians!

Asian Migrant Centre's Maribel Prudente informed us that according to the Hongkong immigration as of June 2009, there were 129,612 domestic helpers from Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Ate Maribel was also with us during the first part of Lakbay Dangal and she is part of what Soosot would call core group in her report: “They have become really dedicated volunteers and are extremely committed to learning about Jose Rizal, his significance, his life,and that, against the backdrop of 1800-1900 Hongkong. Most of them
have already given tours on their own.”
Soosot believes that it is not enough that they point out Jose Rizal markers: “They should also inform their guests on why or who streets were named for. Chater, Duddell, D'Aguilar, Shelly, Lan Kwai Fong, Hongkong historical figures, mode of transportation in those days,imagining how Jos e Rizal maneauvered his way around the area. In essence, life in Hongkong when Jose Rizal was here. We also touch a little bit on Sun Yat Sen. During our review day last April 25, we decided to have a day of games whereby we can "test" their knowledge and understanding of Jose Rizal and the History of Hongkong around the time when Jose Rizal lived here.”

At the St. Clare's Convent School along Bonham Road, around 3 p.m., we, together with Fr. Robert's lecture-demo on Buddhism, delivered a paper entitled Was Rizal Selfish or Selfless? highlighted by our community singing of Willie Cruz's Doon Lang: “Kung natapos ang aking pag-aaral / Disin sana'y mayroon na akong dangal...”

Before we parted ways, Victoria Reyes Munar recited her acrostic poem that summarizes her journal entry as Lakbay Patnubay: “That's what Lakbay Dangal promises us – fulfillment and contentment – we shared with our guests who thirst for more knowledge despite all the situations we have in our present work. Great!!!”
Indeed, May Day 2010 is at the threshold of the global labour landscape.

Well, when the 2011 International Labour Conference adopts the ILO Convention on Domestic Work – it will put a legal face to all the domestic workers around the world.
This new international treaty will formally define domestic work as work, and will make all the fundamental labour rights and decent work principles equally applicable to Helen Baldemor, Jessielyn Beluan, Gemma Calingasan, Agnes Chung, Ely de Castro, Sherly Edralin, Cecilia Eduarte, Janeth Floro, Rosalie Gayo, Mirasol Jadia, Naneth Leonador,
Rowena Lubrico, Maricel Lukban, Jocelyn Mallorca, Maritess Mapa, Arlene Marallog, Marivic Mateo, Ma. Socorro Mendez, Lucy Onsal, Emma Orilla, Solita Paderagao, Angela Sacayle, Roela Talingdan, Genely Villaloba, Vennit Villamin, Michelle Zape, and other Filipino domestic helpers, who, although around 128,630 as of last year, were regarded as invisible.

For more than a century, domestic work was not considered as a form of employment but some sort of slavery.

Lakbay Dangal, as envisioned by Fr. Robert, is there to regain that lost dignity.
And Inday Son cannot help but agree in her poetry: “Gat Jose Rizal ang modelo ng Lakbay Dangal na grupo.

Sana mamulat ang sangkatauhan

Na ipamalas sa kapuwa ang kabutihan

Bilang mabuting mamamayan

Upang maging halimbawa ng mga kabataan.”

Before we came back to Manila, we tried to draw energy from Joey deLeon's favorite halo-halo at Ramaliel Soabas' Mang Ambo Restaurant, with Jun Carlos, Jonathan Inocencio, and Sally Ng who all looked forward to our return in July.

Dusk saw us got treated to congee-and-noodle dinner by cancer warriors – Melina Lagarbe, Arleen Belen, Rose Pineda, Thelma Gelecame, Zenaida Dyogi, and their therapist Lota Reyes, among others – who were re-elected as the officers of another Fr. Robert baby named BUHAY KA!,or Buo, Bukas, Laging Handang Umalalay sa Kapuwa.
The following morning, the founder of Porta Coeli Center for Continuing Education – Sr. Mary Anne Sevilla and her angels – were waiting for us to welcome brand-new day when heard the news that it is a status symbol to have a Filipino domestic helper in China!



A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.


Avoiding something does not always mean that you hate it. It could
also mean that you want it, but you just know that it is not right.

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