MANILA — Liza Soberano could not help but shed tears as she delivered a speech Tuesday during a webinar organized by the youth arm of the women’s rights group Gabriela.
Soberano was one of the speakers in Gabriela Youth’s “Tinig ni Nene: Reclaiming Our Voice on the International Day of the Girl Child,” which tackled a range of issues affecting young women and children.
Soberano, 22, was introduced as a “Young Woman Influencer” of the organization. Her topic: “The young woman’s contribution to raising awareness and creating a safe environment for young women amid the pandemic.”
Soberano joined from her home in the United States, where she is caring for her grandmother.
In her speech, she mentioned her earlier involvement in a campaign against the online sexual exploitation of children, partnering with Sen. Risa Hontiveros; as well as her recent move to file a criminal case against an individual who made a rape remark targeting her.
Admittedly once evasive of political or social topics — fearing she might stir “conflict” — Soberano said she has since learned that her speaking up on issues of injustice, given her wide reach, can help create positive change.
Soberano turned emotional when she recalled that a number of her fans messaged her, telling her of their own experiences of sexual abuse, after she took to court the rape comment against her.
Soberano at one point had to excuse herself to compose herself, as she shared knowing “a lot of women in my life” who have experienced similarly.
She said she hopes that by speaking up about issues besetting women, she will encourage others to do the same, just as her idols — among them Angel Locsin — have spurred her to action.
Watch Soberano’s speech below (see the 57:20 mark). A transcript of the speech follows.
“My experience with this is during the pandemic, a lot of tragedies and hardships were happening not only to women and children, but a lot of of people in general. Not just in the Philippines, but in the whole world.
“There was one day [when] I came across a tweet by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, talking about the increased in online sexual exploitation of children during the pandemic because of the access to internet, and the lack of awareness that this is an issue that has been going on in the Philippines for the longest time.
“I know that I haven’t been the most vocal about my opinions and about the advocacies that I feel very strong for, because I was always afraid that I would be dividing my supporters. I was afraid of creating conflict.
“Ang paniniwala ko po dati na pag artista ka, dapat umiiwas ka sa lahat ng issues. Dapat we just keep talking about our craft, and the next movie we’re making and everything. Kasi, I was afraid that people would judge me. They would say, what do I know, I’m just a girl, I’m just an actress.
“But then I realized, especially, most recently when there was someone who made a sexual abuse comment towards me… I realized the impact of me standing up for myself, especially after I filed a criminal case against somebody who made a rape joke against me.
“A lot of my supporters — actually I think there were five — messaged me and were saying, ‘Thank you.’ Honestly, I cried when they sent me those messages, because I didn’t realize how many women were struggling to stand up for themselves.
“Sorry, I get kind of emotional… Because I’ve had the experience — not firsthand experience. I’m actually privileged and blessed to have… I’m getting so emotional. Sorry.
“I know a lot of women in my life who had struggled with this. And I find it so unfair that we women have to go out every day with fear of being catcalled, of dressing a certain way and getting called out for the way we’re dressed.
“I fear that my nieces and future children won’t be able to go out into a safe environment. That’s why I find it so important to start spreading awareness to the future generations, as early as now, so that we can create a better future for everyone.
“The norm of society has conditioned women and children to stay quiet when dealing with hardships and struggles, because nobody is going to do anything anyway. Yet why do they also expect us women, and children, to remain resilient through these struggles?
“Change cannot be just the responsibility of the people who need it most. They need the support of everyone, especially those of the highest power, if we are to see true change.
“As a woman, as a Filipino artist, I think that women and influencers alike should start speaking up. They can contribute not only awareness about these issues, but also encouragement and confidence to our fellow women and children — that they need to learn to stand up for themselves.
“I know it’s easier said than done and not all of us have the luxury or the confidence or power or support system to do so. But based on my own experience, when I saw more and more of my friends starting to speak up about issues that mattered to them — like Ate Angel Locsin, or even my idols Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson — it empowers me and it gives me the courage to start speaking up about these issues, too. Because they matter, and we need to start seeing change in the world.”