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REAL-LIFE "SISTER STELLA L" JOINS FILIPINO-AMERICANS IN NYC FOR THE REAL-LIFE SONA
New York, NY-- Nearly a day after watching Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's deliverance of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila, Filipinos in New York, unconvinced by Arroyo's speech, gathered for a in-door forum to discuss "the REAL State of the Nation Address" (SONA) at the BAYANIHAN Filipino Community Center followed by an outdoor march along Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, Queens. Amongst the special guest speakers at the forum was none other than the real-life inspiration for the 1984 Filipino film "Sister Stella L" featuring actress Vilma Santos-- Mother Mary John Mananzan.
Aside from serving as the Chairperson for the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Mananzan has the distinguished title of Chairperson Emeritus of GABRIELA Philippines, the largest federation of women's organizations in the country working for fundamental economic and social reforms.
While in New York, Mananzan was happy to be joined by fellow members of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), one of only a handful of Filipino women's organizations in the US that are also members of GABRIELA-USA.
THE REAL S.O.N.A.
At the forefront of the topics discussed was the case of Melissa Roxas, an US citizen abducted and tortured in the Philippines last May, and its implications of the overall human rights situation in the country. A presentation on the Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign was delivered.
"If you say the Philippines is a country full of poverty, hunger, joblessness, and landlessness, then you already know more about the real state of the Philippines than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," stated Bernadette Ellorin, Chair of BAYAN USA.
Also discussed were the concrete dangers to the Arroyo government's proposed changes to provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, more popularly referred to as Charter Change, or Cha-Cha, delivered by Rico Foz, Executive Vice President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns or NAFCON.
The final presentation came from Mananzan, who spoke candidly of the actual social and political climate in the Philippines under Arroyo, with emphasis on gross cases of the Arroyo administration's corruption. She spoke of the billions of dollars being pocketed by a few rich, powerful families in the Philippines that could literally resolve the poverty epidemic in the country.
"I've never cursed in my life. Gloria is the first president to make me curse on stage," Mananzan quipped.
"And to think she is a woman! We should expel her from the womankind."
After a Q & A session with Mananzan, participants walked outside for a march with banners and signs reading "Justice for Melissa Roxas" and "No to Con-Ass/No to Cha-Cha" around the Filipino business district along Roosevelt Avenue.
Not too far away, a street theater play with "DeceptiCON-ASS" and "Filipinus Prime", a creative take on the popular Transformers movies, was taking place at nearby Krystal's Cafe.
After a scene in which Filipino Prime successfully beats DeceptiCON-ASS with the help of the marchers chanting "Cha-Cha ni Gloria, Ibasura!" (Junk Gloria's Cha-Cha!) and "Justice for Melissa Roxas!", representatives from the Filipino community, including FiRE, GABRIELA USA, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Anakbayan NY/NJ, SANDIWA National Filipino-American Youth Alliance, League of Filipino Students, NAFCON, and BAYAN USA, each spoke about why the Arroyo version of SONA is full of dishonesty and what the real situation in the Philippines is.
Ending the rally was a call to go to Washington DC for the upcoming meeting between President Barack Obama and Arroyo this Thursday. Several from the contingent agreed to travel to Washington DC to join in the activities scheduled there, including a prayer vigil in front of the White House.
It is expected that Arroyo making the trip to Washington DC with intentions to win Obama's support for Cha-Cha, as well as request for more economic aid for the Philippine government and military, including the long-term stationing of US troops throughout the Philippines and the re-establishment of permanent US military bases in the country.
Community members called on Obama to be remember his words spoken in his inaugural speech-- particularly about "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit, and the silencing of dissent..."-- by raising the issue of Melissa Roxas, the gross human rights track record of the Arroyo government, and the culpability of the Philippine military, with Arroyo herself. ###