Speech of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines Angat Bayi Closing Ceremony
Good morning everyone! Ambassador Bita Rasoulian of the Embassy of Austria; Mr. Ryan Webb of the Canadian Embassy; Ms. Nina Lewis of the US Embassy; of course, Dr. Nathalie; Ms. Maya; Jill; our 15 graduating fellows; other distinguished guests; nandito pal, Congresswoman Malou Acosta-Alba; ladies and gentlemen: Good morning once again to all of you and hello sa lahat ng graduates ng Angat Bayi Political Empowerment Fellowship Program Year 2! Parang ang sarap sabihin noon na Year 2 na tayo. Congratulations for finishing the course. Despite the challenges we have had to face over the past year, and on top the amount of work that you do in your communities, you still found time to put in the work to enrich yourselves through this program. Maraming salamat sa ipinakita ninyong dedikasyon at puso sa paglilingkod.
As I look at the Passion Projects you initiated in the past year, nakakabilib how you were able to make it possible. Sabi ko nga noong nag-uumpisa pa lang tayo: Walang makakapigil sa kababaihang gustong iangat ang kapwa nila babae. At kayo lahat ang patunay nito.
Allow me also to congratulate the entire team behind Angat Bayi, the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, the UP Center for Women’s Studies Foundation, and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives of the Embassy of Canada for supporting our fellows throughout the program. Parang kailan lang noong when we first launched this program noong February 2020. Halos wala pa sa radar natom ma magkakaroon ng lockdown. Akala natin hindi tayo tatamaan ng pandemya this intensely and none of us expected na ganito kagrabe yung magiging problema. Hindi naging madaling to adapt to virtual spaces like this – there have been a lot of adjustments, a lot of limitations, a lot of new things that we need to study and orient ourselves with.
Tinuloy pa din natin ‘yung programa despite these challenges. From our online kumustahan to webinars, from brainstorming projects to mentoring, lahat ginawa natin from the comfort of our homes or offices. We shifted the coursework and topics to adapt to the current crises we face: not just COVID, but dealing with VAWC and giving women access to healthcare, among many others. We learned how to make more gender inclusive legislation from experts, allowing us to create programs that are more responsive to the needs of women in our communities. In just a year, nakita natin how when women are in spaces where decisions are made, mas nagiging effective ang mga programa natin; mas natututukan ang pangangailangan ng bawat isa.
So I hope that as we graduate, we bring home the values na natutuhan niyo dito sa Angat Bayi: The courage to challenge how things are done, how to be compassionate and competent leaders, how to pull together and doing what we can, here and now, and our ability to push forward a more people-oriented, rights based, gender responsive, empowering, equitable, and sustainable development agenda.
Lalo na siguro sa local level, it is important to give people spaces where they can participate and where they can be heard—kung saan puwedeng pag-usapan ang mga isyung malapit sa puso nila, mga concerns, at kung ano pa ang sa tingin nilang dapat pagtuonan ng pansin. This will give us a better sense not only of what they need, but of the way they think and the way they feel. Ito naman mismo ang essence ng pagiging public servant and I’m sure alam na alam niyo ito kasi babad kayo sa ground – to be empowered so we can be empowering, to flourish so we can inspire others to shine, too. Bilang mga leaders, tayo iyong tinatawag para siguruhin na at every turn, we are creating spaces for women to be valued, cared for, and protected in our homes, in our workplaces, and in our communities.
And today, masaya akong makita how you have been doing this through your Passion Projects. Sa Ilocos Sur, halimbawa: through the leadership of BM Mika Singson, may local replication ng Lunas Collective – isang volunteer powered helpline para suportahan ‘yung mga survivors ng violence and domestic abuse. Sa Iloilo, for example, malapit nang magkaroon ng milk bank, dahil sa pagpupursige ni Councilor Candice Tupaz. Sa San Fernando, bumuo si VM Chary Nisce ng isang Council for Women, na siyang susuporta sa mga VAWC Help Desk at Teenage Health Centers sa lungsod. Sa Eastern Samar naman, nandiyan ang Oplan Yakap ni Mayor Vivian Pugal, na aalalay sa mga kababaihan natin through a dedicated women’s center. Sa Candon at Lingayen naman, naglunsad sila ng sarili nilang Angat Bayi Fellowship program-- this time for grassroots young women para tulad ninyo, maging mga mahusay at mabuti silang lider ng kanilang mga komunidad. Ang sabi sa akin, may mga projects pa daw na ipe-present sa atin ngayong araw: from Baguio, Leyte, at Cagayan, kasama na ang mga economic livelihood programs na dinedevelop ng mga Fellows natin sa kani-kanilang mga lugar. Ngayon pa lang, excited na ako sa potensyal ng mga programang ito.
Alam kong hindi naging madali proseso for these projects to see the light of day. Kasi diba sa mundo ng pulitika, napakaraming roadblocks, napakaraming konsiderasyon, napakalaking challenge para sa isang babae maging lider. Lalo na ngayong parating na ang eleksyon, marami siguro sa atin ang nag-iisip, natatakot, at nangangamba. Pero if there is one thing na maiuuwi natin mula sa Angat Bayi: It’s courage. In the year-long process, nakabuo tayo ng isang bagong komunidad — a sisterhood of empowered women who draw strength from one another. Kaya nga when the narrative that has has been repeated again and again presses down on us – yung narrative that that we will never be good enough, that we are weak and incompetent, unable to get the job done – hindi dapat tayo mapa-paralyze. Hindi dapat tayo madidiscourage. Titingin lang tayo sa tabi natin, sa mga ginagawa ng mga kapatid natin dito sa Angat Bayi, at mahahawa tayo sa lakas at tapang nila. We continue to hold our heads high, go where we are needed, and find spaces where our skills and knowledge can have the most impact – dahil napakaraming umaasa sa atin. We may sometimes be reluctant; we may sometimes have personal preferences. But when we are called, we respond.
Nakita naman natin ito ngayon as women are redefining what strong and competent leadership means – taking the lead in the frontlines against a crisis that is really testing the resolve of even the most advanced countries. And now, more than ever, we need leaders who unite rather than divide; who solve problems rather than induce conflict; who are outcome-oriented and operate with metrics; who forge new paths where old ones seem blocked. Leaders who roll up their sleeves and do the hard work with their people and their communities. Ito ang mismong spirit naman ng Angat Bayi diba – lahat nabibitbit, lahat umaangat, we rise and raise each other up by leaning towards the ground, by being present with our sisters, by taking the next deep breath and holding each other's hands tight as we take the next step with courage and grit and compassionate resolve.
Kaya as we close today, ang mensahe ko sa inyong mga fellows: Continue to be brave. Continue to challenge the way things are. Huwag makuntento sa status quo or the way things have always been done. Patuloy na lumikha ng mas marami pang oportunidad para sa kababaihan natin sa komunidad, so that we encourage them to conversations tulad nito. Kaya natin ito, hindi na kasing-hirap nito, dahil may anchorage na tayo diba – may community na tayo dito sa batch ninyo at sa lahat ng dumaan sa Angat Bayi. So deepen your engagements, build stronger ties with each other, para mas lumawak pa ang sakop ng natutulungan natin. Being graduates of Angat Bayi, alam kong nasa puso ninyo ang pangunahing layunin natin bilang mga lider and that is to uplift the last, the least, and the lost, among our sisters and among the rest of the country and humanity.
So mula sa aming lahat dito sa Office of the Vice President, kasama ko si Jill, kasama ko si Ham, at iyong iba pang staff na kasama natin sa graduation ngayong araw: Congratulations! We wish you all the best. We hope to see in you better times. Andito lang po iyong OVP if you need our help. Mabuhay kayong lahat!