Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Filipinos in New York Celebrate a True Filipino Hero, Ka Bel

Berna Ellorin of BAYAN USA

Jonna Baldres of Anakbayan NY/NJ

Valerie Francisco of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)

Steve Raga of NY Committee for Human Rights in the Phils (NYCHRP)

Rico Foz of National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON)

May 28, 2008

Contact: Steve Raga, BAYAN-USA Northeast Coordinator, 917-392-4546,

Filipinos in New York Celebrate a True Filipino Hero, Ka Bel

Queens, New York—In a solemn gathering of 30 to 50, Filipinos from all over New York City came to salute the life and contributions of the late Congressman Crispin Beltran, known to many community members across the Philippines and the world as Ka Bel.

BAYAN-USA organizations New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Anakbayan New York/New Jersey and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) led the vigil for the night with prayer, songs and reflections. "What does Ka Bel have to do with me? Everything," stated Valerie Francisco, chair of FiRE, "His service to the people was and continues to be a sparkling example of what fighting for justice is supposed to mean."

The action held in the heart of the Filipino community in Queens, New York coincided with a national work halt called by the militant union Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1st Movement – KMU) in the Philippines in honor of Beltran on the day of his funeral. The vigils for Ka Bel -- spread throughout the US happening in Seattle, San Francisco and LA -- was a testament to Ka Bel's widespread influence, even in the US.

Born and raised in New York, Steve Raga from NYCHRP was greatly inspired by Ka Bel's life and work from the Philippines and around the world. He remembered, "When Ka Bel was released from a 16-month detention under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime, he insisted that it didn't matter if he was out of jail because there is a bigger fight to be fought." Deeply affected by the life and death of Ka Bel, Raga declared that the way we will commemorate his life is through organizing and mobilizing for the rights of the workers and the poor in the Philippines.

Bernadette Ellorin, secretary general of BAYAN-USA, stated, "Ka Bel was a true example of a kasama who dedicated his life to serving the people and living simply." At the age of 75, still strong and committed, Ka Bel served in the Philippine congress as a representative of Anakpawis since 2001. Premised by over 55 years of work with several worker organizations like the Taxi Driver Union and Kilusang Mayo Uno, Ka Bel worked hard to champion the rights of workers.

"Ka Bel's legacy lives on in the militant struggle against the fascist GMA administration, US imperialism and the landlessness in the Philippines," Jonna Baldres, secretary general of Anakbayan NY-NJ added, "It's not about the way he died, it's about the way he lived."

Vice chair of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns Rico Foz reminded the crowd about Ka Bel's international work, fighting not only for better working conditions and livable wages for Filipino workers but for workers worldwide. As the first chairman of the International League of Peoples Struggle, Ka Bel was a staunch advocate the way to establish international alliances between people's movements globally.

The somber evening closed with tears and heartfelt goodbyes but, more importantly, all of the Filipino youth, community members and leaders recommitted to the very fight for justice that Ka Bel's life represented.

The upcoming "CRICES: Got rice?" concert by BAYAN USA Northeast will also include cultural performances as tribute to Ka Bel. The concert will be held at the BarYo Restaurant in Woodside, Queens on May 31.

Mabuhay si Ka bel!
Patuloy ang laban, Ka Bel!
Sulong Anakpawis!
Mabuhay ang Sambayanang Pilipino!


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