Healing ourselves, healing Motherland

26 Feb

It’s been almost a week since the first YSAGE-CAR echo camp was successfully launched. Yet, the energy and inspirations reaped from the camp are still vividly reverberating in my heart. For sure, all the participants including my co-facilitators (who were graduates from previous camps) share the same feeling.

The Cordilleras is known as one of the regions whose culture has a very strong hold on its people’s beliefs and actions to which roots the gender biases inevitably happening in its land. But as Heber “Ongko” Layag (9th YMC) said, “We should accept that there is really something wrong in our culture and let us act to change it. It is not very easy, but if we begin making steps in changing it, it is not impossible.”

In 2007, I have graduated from a similar camp in Sagada, Mountain Province organized by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP). Undergoing such camp was the most important thing that happened in my life. This is because it molded me into who I am today—hopeful, fighter, leader and most importantly, feminist.

And because my passion in helping empower other young bloods remained embedded in my system, the first echo camp in CAR came to being. This, of course, was also because of the inspirations from other co-graduates from the other parts of the country who have productively conducted several echo camps which includes Palawan, Davao and Negros.

The camp was an important venue for young minds to discuss about gender issues, sexuality, and prostitution and its effect on us as individuals, the society we thrive in and the planet as a whole. Seeing another batch of young leaders graduating from this camp is intoxicating. All throughout the camp, I saw tears, heard plights of painful experiences, and felt knots in my stomach as I see these young bloods reflect from the past and the present. But at the same time, I felt the empowerment gradually, strongly rising from their hearts.

Francis Fernandez, who celebrated his birthday on the third day of the camp, said, “Graduating from the camp is the best gift I ever had.” Brian Paloa-ay, also one of the young men’s participants, confessed that he feels so blessed for joining the camp because he became a changed person. Mariflor Basilio also shared that the camp made her realize how important it is to learn how to feel confident about herself as a woman. For the young men participants, they said that they want to apologize to every woman and LGBTs that they have ridiculed or hurt in one way or another because of the double standard that we have in our society. Both the young women and young men participants showed how very eager they are to start taking the journey together with us.

Now that the amazing three-day echo camp has passed, most of the participants are still reflecting on what they have experienced as they continue to go on about their daily lives, including the old members.

This time, however, it’s time to keep moving forward. The camp is not only about empowering ourselves, equipping us with right understanding about the issues surrounding us in our day-to-day lives, but it is also about empowering other youths to make the change we all yearn to happen. Indeed, the journey we are taking is not an easy road but as we inculcate our learning by heart, we are already one step forward towards our goal. This is also the reason why we have to keep on empowering other people. The battlefield out there is wide and scary but as we grow in number, then we shall prevail.

I believe that investing in youth is building a strong and committed society towards materializing the change we opt to have. The youth is a very significant backbone for social change. We shall help other youth to discover their potential in bringing changes in their lives, families, and communities and our nation itself. We shall keep fighting for our cause and never walk away for this is not just about healing our selves but more importantly, about healing our Motherland.

For gender equality, we remain.

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