Mindanawons rise to One Billion Rising

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 February) – Thousands of women and men in at least three key cities in Mindanao danced Thursday for the One Billion Rising (OBR), a global movement to end violence against women and children (VAWC).

Led by Gabriela, the OBR in Davao City was participated by around 2,000 people from the academe, government, civil society, church, media and the youth.

In Iligan City, the Mindanao Commission on Women (MCW), the Mother for Peace Circles, the Suarez Women Leaders and other civil society groups joined hands for the edition of the OBR in their locality.

In Cagayan de Oro City, around 150 residents also turned out at Magsaysay Park to join OBR, which was founded by Eve Ensler, a playwright and author of “The Vagina Monologues.”

The participants danced to the tune of “Isang Bilyong Babae ang Babangon,” which was composed by The New Voice Company of Monique Wilson, a former theatre actress and singer and the campaign’s regional coordinator for the Philippines.

Marilou Licawan, a Matigsalog tribe member from Malabog, Paquibato district in Davao City, said she danced to express her feelings and “represent the struggles of all the women of her tribe.”

Licawan, a scholar at the Assumption College Davao (ACD), cited that some soldiers would pursue the women in their village for a relationship and left them later on when assigned to another area.

Some employees of the Davao City government also joined the global dancing event, practicing the dance steps days before the big event.

“My officemate and I have been practicing for three nights. While dancing, I felt happy and relieved because the lyrics of the song encourage me to rise,” an employee who gave her name as Kimberly said.

She said she was a battered girlfriend three years ago. She had sought the help of an official in the city council to sue her abusive ex-partner.

“I have been actively supporting the cause of women who are victims of violence. Joining a protest-dance like this is just one way of uniting with the rest of the victims worldwide,” she said.

Kimberly noted that self-defense acts were incorporated in the dance steps, making the dance more significant as it teaches women to defend themselves from attacks.

“We are trying to break the culture of silence and apathy when it comes to VAWC through dance. The dance steps include “fight, resist and defend.” It is not just any dance, but one with a political statement,” said Mary Ann Sapar, Gabriela-Southern Mindanao spokesperson.

Gays and men who came to support OBR in Davao City identified themselves as “V-men” or men against VAWC.

Athena (not his real name), a 28-year old HIV patient, told MindaNews that dancing for the OBR gives him a feeling of “vindication,” noting he was a rape victim at 10 years old.

Now a volunteer of the Alagad Mindanao, a non-government organization that supports HIV/AIDS victims, he said seeing many people sharing a similar cause strengthens his resolve to share his experiences to other victims of violence.

In Iligan City, Anita Sescon, an MCW member, said there are “one billion mothers, daughters and sisters who are vulnerable and are actually experiencing all forms of violence.”

“Together with sensitive men, we are rising up and declaring that we have enough and violence must come to end,” she said.

Sescon noted that “like other women groups in the world, we also call on both men and women to join calls to end the culture of violence against women.”

Participants in Iligan expressed their protest through singing, dancing and poem recitals at the Suarez gymnasium from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday.

Love begets respect

Earlier in the day, the city’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) conducted a family development session to hundreds of women on the issue of VAWC.

One of the speakers, Girlie Gencono, DSWD 4P city link coordinator, talked about the value of love among husbands and wives.

“Love is valuable in all relationships. No man and woman could attempt to physically and psychologically harm each other and their children if their relation is founded on love,” she explained.

She urged them to profess their love daily to their partners for their relationship to bloom even more. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/Violeta M. Gloria and Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)