In this pilot episode of Kamusta Kumare, Mira introduces NAPIESV, the work that they do with the API communities in the continental US and the Asia Pacific region. Rochelle Aguilar and Emma Rubio, members of NAPIESV Philippines staff, share their thoughts and experiences on the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on women in the country.
Kumusta is, of course, "How are you?” while Kumare (pronounced koo-mah-re) is a borrowed term from the Spanish comadre literally translated as co-mother. Technically, Filipinos use kumare or its shortened form mare in addressing their children’s godmothers but more commonly as a term of endearment, more like how one would use the term “sister/sistah”.
00:04 - 01:03
Rochelle: Hello, everyone! Welcome to the first episode of Kumusta, Kumare!
Emma: This podcast is hosted by the National Organization of Asian Pacific Islander Ending Sexual Violence - Bersama-sama Philippines Team
All: Hello, everyone! My name is Mira Yusef and I'm with NAPIESV and I am the US-based staff. And I'm Rochelle, I'm from the Philippine-based staff. My name is Emma, I'm from the Philippine-based staff.
Mira: Kumusta, Kumare will focus on issues affecting women and girls in the Philippines and connecting this to the Filipina diaspora in the United States.
NAPIESV’s herstory and what it means for the API communities in the US.
01:03 - 02:50
Mira: Kumusta, Kumare is the podcast program of NAPIESV's Bersama-sama Project in the Philippines. NAPIESV or the National Asian and Pacific Islander Ending Sexual Violence is a US-based organization. Our mission is to end sexual violence in the Asian and Pacific islander or API communities and to build healthy communities through transformative justice and social change.
So we are housed under Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity, an organization formerly called Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa. Monsoon is a culturally-specific community-based organization serving the API communities in Iowa.
A quick history or herstory about NAPIESV. NAPIESV was established by five API women -- Imelda Bungcab, Emma Catague, Nina Jusuf, Sopheak Tek, and me, Mira Yusef -- in 2011 as a result of the lack of resources available for advocates serving the API victims-survivors of sexual assault or sexual violence.
Prior to the establishment of NAPIESV, there was no organization led by API individuals that focuses on sexual assault in the API communities. So we have been, since 2011, we have helped and established an enhanced sexual assault victim intervention services to various program models specifically dual domestic violence and sexual assault culturally-specific programs, and also multi-service organizations nationally and in the US territories in the Pacific. And last year, NAPIESV's Bersama-sama Project was funded.
The Bersama-sama Project - So Much Stronger Together
02:50 - 06:53
Mira: So, Bersama-sama is Indonesian - Malaysian word for together. The goal of this project is to build a movement to end sexual violence in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the continental United States, the US territories in the Pacific, and the global south, specifically South East Asia. So we are thinking that the project will basically span three locations in order for immigrant refugees, settler communities from Asia and the Pacific to connect to our home countries.
And by building this relationship, communities will be able to both reconnect with traditional cultural practices and share movement building strategies. It will allow for the movement of ideas, tactics and strategies between the API communities living the US continent, the US territories in the Pacific and SouthEast Asia, or Asia, but we're really focusing in South East Asia, and specifically Indonesia and the Philippines, and then in the Pacific, we are focusing in Guam and also Micronesia.
I think the most important thing is that we also would like to shift the paradigm where organizations, specifically international-based organizations, will come as an expert, and will tell our communities what to do globally. So, it's not just communities of color in the United States but it's also when experts from the West will come to our home countries, they are thinking that they are the experts in what to do, they think that they are the experts.
But instead, NAPIESV will not come as an expert but we would like to learn from local organizations and practitioners highlighting the indigenous knowledge and expertise instead of seeing the US or Western-based practices as better. So, we would like to learn good practices that will basically inform NAPIESV's work in the API communities back in the United States. So, it's really shifting it.
Because usually what happens in the West, even Asian Americans or Filipino Americans will come to our home countries or even Western-educated will come and then just replicate Western ways instead of using traditional and indigenous practices that are already being practiced in the different communities in our home countries. So we would like to shift that where we would go to our home countries to learn and then bring it back to the US to really inform our work.
The BSSP - PHILIPPINES TEAM: That’s us!
We began the project last year in the Philippines by reconnecting with the land and the people. Nina Jusuf who is the other NAPIESV staff and who is Indonesian is heading our work in Indonesia and then I am heading our work, I'm Filipina, heading our work in the Philippines. So both Nina and I last year visited the Philippines twice to build our networks in the Philippines.
With this, we decided to partner with Moro People's Core or MP Core, an organization based in North Cotobato to work with the Muslim community in the Philippines, and then Rochelle and Emma who are co-hosts of Kumusta, Kumare, joined our Philippines team to help us in building our knowledge about the laws about the sexual violence in the Philippines, the services offered to victim / survivors, what are the good practices in community organizing and community healing.
So our plan for this year is to complete community listening sessions about sexual violence and how it is manifested in the different communities in the Philippines, and to document this process and the outcomes via blogs, podcast, videos and photos. This is one of the ways that we will be basically sharing information on what is going on with the project.
But due to the COVID-19, we added more to our work plan.
06:54 - 09:03
Segment 2.1 Impact of COVID-19 to API Communities in the US
Mira: For this first episode, we will focus on COVID-19 and how it's been affecting women and girls in the Philippines.
Since I am based in the US, maybe I can briefly discuss how COVID-19 is affecting the API communities in the US and in Iowa since I am based in Iowa.
So, there has been anti-Asian and Asian-American racism and xenophobia, which is not a new phenomenon, it has been part of American history for a long time and we have seen it manifested against different Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in many ways over the years, but as the Corona Virus pandemic escalates, we have seen more harassment, discrimination, and even violence directed at our communities.
Also, medical workers who are from the API and specifically the Filipino community being infected due to the lack of PPE or the personal protective equipment. Immigrant and refugee communities working in meatpacking businesses in the Midwest specifically South Dakota and Iowa, so therefore there's a rise of the number of COVID-19 among the immigrant and refugee communities because we are usually the workers in those meatpacking businesses.
In addition to that, there is a lot of concern about their jobs because some of the restaurants are closing down or closed due to stay-at-home policies, and then if the meat packing business is also closing down, so therefore there really are concerns about jobs.
And there's also misinformation about COVID-19 due to the language barriers.
And then for victims and survivors of domestic violence, we have heard about ex-partners using COVID-19 as a reason to gain full custody of their children. And then also there's a concern for victims of child sexual abuse who might not feel safe at home due to the harm doer who is also home.
But on the good note, organizations serving victims-survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking, dating violence are still providing services online and really have been flexible to continue the work to ensure that victim-survivors are safe.
So, with this, kumusta kayo d'yan sa Pilipinas, how are you, what is going on in the Philippines, Kumareng Rochelle?
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte places the entire island of Luzon under community quarantine. 09:05 09:30
Despite the lockdown order, this woman from a slum area in Quezon City joins the street protest lamenting that while the rich are panic buying and hoarding on food, they also panic because they have no food. She also said that the month-long quarantine is almost over and yet they have not received even a kilogram of rice. 09:31 09:51
A day after the protest, President Duterte reminds protesters that he will not tolerate chaos and violators of the quarantine order and if necessary, the police, military, and even barangay officers can "shoot them dead." 09:51 10:12
Segment 2.2 Impact of COVID-19 lockdown to the Women-headed Households in Angeles City.
10:12 - 16:39
Rochelle: Kumusta, Kumareng Mira, Kumareng Emma.
Well, the audio clips we all just heard just pretty much sums up our current situation here in the Philippines.
We are a country where most are, by international standard, either poor or very, very poor. A simple Google search would show you just how we have the world’s largest slum where four million people live in shanties and huts. The City of Manila is so densely populated that there are over 70,000 people living there per square kilometre.
Here, 6 out of 10 patients die without ever seeing a doctor just because they can’t afford it. People here still suffer and die from preventable and treatable diseases like tuberculosis, measles, and diphtheria.
We are a country where if one complains about the dismal performance, corruption, or the scandalous behavior of our national leadership are forced to silence by being branded as either Red or Yellow, harassed, sent to jail, or even killed.
We are a country that CANNOT and MUST NOT be in a pandemic. And yet, here we are.
There is a recent analysis that the Philippines is the riskiest and most unsafe place to be in the Asian Pacific region during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic based on infection spread risk, government management, health care efficiency, and regional specific risks. For us who are living here, this is not hard to believe.
We have a government that has for a month now placed almost 60 million people in lockdown, most of whom are without any savings, who are daily income earners. If they don’t go out to work, they don’t eat, even for just a day.
Just like how the protesting San Roque woman was saying earlier, while some were panic buying, all they could do was to panic but not buy because they just couldn’t. There were promises of food and financial aid to supposedly help tide the poor families over during the lockdown but in reality, if and when they have received any food aid, these were barely enough to last for a day, two days, or three at most for most families. Millions are very hungry.
The government of course knows this and that sooner or later, if no sufficient food aid will be given to the people, they will soon begin to disobey the stay-at-home order to look for food by whatever means in order in order to survive. Knowing the punitive and militaristic character of the current administration, the consequences for those who would dare defy the lockdown order is just too scary to imagine.