May 2, 2007
Reference: Lorena Sanchez & Shirley Cuyugan O'Brien, Philippine Forum-KABALIKAT, email: pf_kabalikat @ yahoo.com
Hundreds Bid Farewell to Filipina Domestic Worker Fely Garcia
Advocates Continue Push for 2nd investigation and Fixed Assistance Policy for OFW's
New York-- Hundreds from the Filipino community flocked to join the family of Felisa "Fely" Garcia last Sunday in a public wake and community farewell to the Filipina domestic worker at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home in lower Manhattan. The ceremony included a solemn prayer service presided by Fr. Sancho Garrote, chaplain of the Jacobi Medical Center, where Garcia's body had been recently released.
The community event was also highlighted by the presence of Garcia's two sons, Gabriel and Gliff, who flew in from the Philippines to receive their mother's body and settle her affairs before bringing her home to Batangas.
Eldest son Gabriel Garcia delivered a tearful eulogy to his mother, letting the audience of mainly Filipina domestic workers and youth know who exactly Fely Garcia was.
"Mabuting siyang tao, pinalaki niya kaming lahat na mga anak niya sa mabuting paraan. May pinag-aralan, titser siya sa high school noon sa Batangas at nag trabaho din sa office of the Mayor sa amin. (She was a very good person, she reared all of us in a very good manner. She was educated, and worked as a high school teacher in Batangas as well for the our Mayor's office)," Garcia stated in his speech.
The prayer service was immediately followed by a community program with offerings of statements and poems by Shirley Cuyugan-O'Brien of Philippine Forum-KABALIKAT, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE), Anakbayan Youth Collective, Lakas Diwa Filipino Youth Alliance of New Jersey, Kinding Sindaw, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
A reading of a poem Misteryo ng Hapis (Mystery of Sorrow), written for Fely Garcia by Palanca award-winning poet and University of the Philippines professor Maria Josephine Barrios, was read in both English and Filipino.
The community wake for Fely Garcia, one of the largest public community wakes for a Filipina in New York City, was organized by the Philippine Forum, a community service organization in Queens and its domestic workers organizing project KABALIKAT. Philippine Forum-KABALIKAT continues to serve as duly-authorized community advocates pushing for Garcia's family's demands for a second investigation into their mother's death and full financial assistance from the Philippine Consulate to cover all death-related expenses. A community campaign launched by Philippine Forum-KABALIKAT won a partial repatriation fee of $4900 out of the Consulate's wallet. The advocates also raised funds and assisted in visa-processing for Gabriel and Gliff's travel to the United States.
In her native Batangas, Garcia's only daughter Geraldine Gamboa and her other son Gilbert Garcia are also preparing for their mother's homecoming. The Garcia family is being assisted by the national office of Migrante International, a Philippine migrant rights alliance, and representatives of the Gabriela Women's Party in the Philippines. Both Migrante and Gabriela are scheduled to meet Garcia's children at the airport.
The family, who was not alerted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of their mother's death until 2 weeks after her body was found, expressed their dismay over the failure on the Philippine government's part to do the right thing, not until the community organizations pressured for justice.
"Sa nangyaring ito ay mas lumalabas lamang ang mga kakulangan at problema sa gobyerno hinggil sa pag aasikaso at serbisyo sa mga kababayan natin sa abroad. May pangangailangan talaga na baguhin ang sistema tungkol sa pagtulong sa mga Pilipino na maging policy at hindi yung case to case lamang. (Because of what happened, the inadequacies and problems of the government concerning assistance and services to our compatriots abroad was exposed. There is an urgent need to change the system and make a fixed policy of assistance for Filipinos instead of on a case-to-case basis)," Gamboa stated.
Both Migrante International and Gabriela Women's Party have been pushing for a genuinely migrant-conscious legislative agenda in the Philippine Congress, despite over three decades of the Philippine Government's Labor Export Policy (LEP) launched by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in 1974 to facilitate massive outmigration of Filipino workers (OFWs).
Fr. Sancho Garrote also thanked the lead role of grassroot community organizations in pursuing justice for Garcia and all OFW's.
"We need more organizations offering genuine help to the plight of overseas Filipinos, like the Philippine Forum-KABALIKAT, especially in the absence of the genuine rights and welfare policies for our compatriots abroad," Garrote stated in his sermon last Sunday.
For more information on the Justice for Fely Campaign, call Philippine Forum-KABALIKAT at 718-565-8862, or email pf_kabalikat @ yahoo.com. ###