MANILA - Filipinos in the entertainment industry and a senator on Saturday added their voices to the growing number of women who are making a stand, as Asia celebrated Asian Women's Day on Saturday.
The online event commemorating the day tackled issues affecting women such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of coal as a source of energy, and debt.
“Today, we chose the theme ‘No to COVID, No to Coal, No to Debts and Women Fight for System Change’ precisely not to just to highlight these specific issues because they have a massive impact on our lives, but also to signify the multiple crises that these issues represent,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).
Messages of solidarity from actresses Bibeth Orteza and Angel Aquino, and Sen. Risa Hontiveros were shown during the online rally organized by the APMDD.
“Babae ako. I say no to COVID. It is used to institutionalize militarization. The way it’s now used by men to keep women at home to subject them to further abuse physically and sexually. I say no to coal especially as its effect on the environment is something that we have to pay for generations and generations to come. But I say yes to the further empowerment of women, not only in my country, but all throughout Asia and the world over,” Orteza said in her recorded message.
As of August 7, the Philippines has reported a total of 122,754 cases of COVID-19, including 66,852 recoveries and 2,168 deaths. The Philippines has one of the longest lockdowns in the world and is now the Southeast Asian country with the most number of coronavirus infections.
Metro Manila and nearby provinces Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan were placed back under modified enhanced community quarantine from August 4 to 18 to curb the spread of the virus and heed the call of medical frontliners for a timeout as many have fallen sick and were overworked amid the surge in cases, while many hospitals were reaching full capacity.
Among those who died include Orteza’s brother, Dr. Ephraim Neal Orteza, medical director and pediatrician of Ospital ng Parañaque. Dr. Orteza passed away on April 8 at the Asian Hospital in Muntinlupa.
Aquino and Hontiveros, meanwhile, had recorded messages chanting the rally’s theme slogan, while singer and theater actress Bituin Escalante performed a recorded musical number.
This is the second annual Asian Women’s Day celebration, which was launched by the APMDD. It is distinct from the long-running commemoration of International Women's Day on March 8 of every year.
Nacpil said women deserve more than just one special day a year to highlight issues affecting them, and their struggles and strengths.
“This year, we are celebrating the Asian Women’s Day in unprecedented circumstances. We are being hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is the economic crisis that the pandemic has ushered in that has made life even more miserable and challenging or the majority of people in the world and many of them are in Asia,” said Nacpil.
But even before the pandemic, Nacpil said, people are already struggling against poverty and the many challenges in securing good quality of life for families and children while facing the effects of climate change.
“We want to highlight the urgent need for addressing climate change and one very important step towards that is to end coal and fossil fuel energy,” said Nacpil.
The group also highlighted the worsening economic crisis and called for a “total and unconditional cancellation of debts, not just the unsustainable debts but also the problem of illegitimate debt.”
Nacpil appealed to women all over the world to join hands for greater solidarity.
"We're also here to celebrate each other and to call on other women so that in greater global solidarity, solidarity in our region, in Asia, across Asian women, we will definitely succeed in fighting for system change," said Nacpil.