A few weeks ago, I had a brief chat with a Filipino American (male friend) about how the Filipina Women’s Network is enhancing my perspective about how I live my life as a Filipina woman in the United States. My friend admitted to me that he was not very informed about the organization’s programs and activities. I wasn’t surprised to hear that a well-meaninged male friend of his had discouraged him from asking FWN’s support or advice — because of the perception that we were ONLY about “vaginas.”
It’s too bad that this “well-meaninged” friend, who is supposed to have a global outlook and vision of Filipino empowerment, doesn’t understand that “Vagina Monologues” and its all-Tagalog version, “Usaping Puki” are integral components of FWN’s social justice campaign. As I write this, I can clearly see that the archaic, negative misperceptions about the words “vagina” and “puki” still exist.
Filipina Women’s Network seeks to pro-actively reshape the Filipina image. It’s a good sign that when I type the word “Filipina” in a google search, out of approximately 3,530,000 answers, the first entry is from Wikipedia’s definition of Filipino people. The second entry says, “Filipina Lady Free Online Dating Asian Ladies Filipina Penpal Service.” The sixth google posting announces “Filipina Women’s Network.” I haven’t dared make a poll yet to see how many entries there are about Filipina dating, Filipina women’s rights, or Filipina women’s careers.
I guess my colleagues and I at FWN have a lot of marketing and public relations work (community outreach work is a better term) to do in bringing the Filipina woman to the next level of her career (in decision making and policy making), to reshape the Filipina image, and to end violence against women and girls.
The founders of the FWN organization were very clear that they wanted their name to be redundant: FILIPINA AND WOMEN. Whoever thinks that we’ve made a typographical error, that is, we do not use the words “Filipino Women”, now know that it really is FILIPINA WOMEN’S NETWORK.
Let’s go back to FWN’s social justice campaign, “Filipinas Against Violence,” world-wide through its support of V-Day. We had originally thought of celebrating V-Day for three years but there was such a strong demand for anti-violence resources from our community… and thus, we are honoring V-Day during our fourth year’s community production.
It is not all right for me to be perceived ONLY as a Vagina.
I am a Vagina Warrior.
Vagina Warriors understand that the words “vagina” and “puki” plus all its other names ARE words of honor.
There are many of us, Filipina women, who are emerging as early feminists. I know I am learning to understand what my rights are as a woman. I’m getting better at identifying when my rights as a human being, especially as a woman, are being trampled.
I am also getting more adept at gently correcting my male friends’ statements. For example, a Filipino male friend told me the other day that if his girlfriend and he broke up, he would find it easier to find another girlfriend and implied that his girlfriend would have a harder time. The couple are in their early 30’s. I said to my friend, “Wait a minute! I would tell your girlfriend that she would also find it easy to find another boy-friend. Who says that only men would find it easier to find love on the rebound? Be careful about what you are saying.”
I am now acutely aware when men (AND women) say disrespectful, unwarranted remarks or off-colored jokes. I realized that I had really changed my beliefs about how women need to be honored and respected when I was gagging at Jose Mari Chan’s jokes during a fundraiser in San Francisco. Although I didn’t walk out of the event, my admiration for Jose Mari Chan’s music has somehow been tainted by his sexist jokes.
Being a Vagina Warrior doesn’t mean to say that I take my femininity for granted. On the contrary.
The title of “Vagina Warrior” isn’t exclusive to women, either. There are many men who wear this badge of courage proudly.
Here are excerpts from our marketing and public relations notes for members of the Filipina Women’s Network and its V-Day steering commitee in San Francisco and New York.
FWN is a “virtual” organization that strongly relies on e-mails to make things happen. We hope you can learn from our experiences — and our successes as Vagina and Puki Warriors.
WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO WATCH THE ALL-TAGALOG VERSION, “USAPING PUKI.”
From: Marily Mondejar
Date: Mar 7, 2007 3:09 PM
Subject: Marketing and PR for V-Day Filipina 2007 (San Francisco & New York) – Filipinas Against Violence Campaign
Kumusta mga Kapukis!!!
This is a long email so please scroll down and read our plea.
Our Filipinas Against Violence Campaign is a grassroots effort which means that all of us need to do our part in getting our message out there. We have several activities to promote and market our benefit performances and we are encouraged by your support, participation and enthusiasm.
However, WE need to do more. PLEASE help in any way you can. Our goal is to fill Herbst Theatre and the Philippine Center NYC for all the shows ESPECIALLY the Tagalog shows at 7:30 pm (March 24 San Francisco) and 7pm (April 14 New York)!!!
If you can’t make it, please consider sponsoring a DV resident or advertising in the V-Diaries 2007, our anti-violence resource guide.
We need to continue to publish the V-Diaries which is funded by advertising and proceeds from our campaign. We need $10,000 to get the publication to print as we have a 20,000 print run and the magazines are distributed all year. We are saving lives – I cannot emphasize enough our urgency in your assistance.
Okay – here are our marketing activities to promote ticket sales for our benefit performances in San Francisco & New York and the publication of the V-Diaries:
1) Press Conference (March 14, 12-1pm, San Francisco) – spearheaded by Luna Salaver, SF Cast Member. An outstanding group effort of San Francisco cast members to raise awareness of the urgency in ENDING violence in the Filipino community. Perla De Jesus, a domestic violence survivor and SF cast member, has opened her salon to be our press conference venue at 7348 Mission St., Daly City, CA 94014.
Perla was stabbed six times by her ex-husband after a 22-year abusive marriage. He is now serving a 15-year prison term at Folsom prison.
In Jersey City, Teris Casco, was savagely murdered by her husband after her birthday celebration a couple of weeks ago. Teris told her husband she was leaving him. She leaves two young children. We learned that she did not reach out to seek help although co-workers knew she was in an abusive relationship. They did not know how to help.
Let’s keep our community outreach alive!
At the San Francisco press conference on March 14, we have invited Rose Zimmerman, Daly City District Attorney; Marivic Mabanag, Executive Director, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence among others as guest speakers in our Filipinas Against Violence Campaign. WE NEED YOUR HELP. If you can come and join us, bring your friends, help with lunch sponsorships, set-up and breakdown, and invite potential sponsors, DV resident sponsors, advertisers (V-Diaries) and ticket buyers….PLEASE let us know by replying to me directly at [email protected].
2) Filipinas Magazine – full page color ad in the March issue is out so please try to secure a copy of the magazine. Owen Donnahoo is on the cover! If you are coming to the Power Lunch on Friday, March 9 at the City Club
3) Postcards – we printed 5,000 postcards featuring Mara Salazar. You all received copies of the postcard so PLEASE start mailing them out to your family, friends, colleagues (don’t forget to use the postcard stamp instead of the 39 cent first class).
PLEASE carry them around with you so you can give them out wherever you go. We have found that this is the best way to personally promote our shows because it has all the info to purchase tix. Also, some of you are planning to drop them off at restaurants, malls, schools, and locations where there are Filipino Americans (YOO HOO!!!).
4) Philippine News – check out the March 7 (today!), March 14, March 21 and April 4 issues. WE have b/w quarter page ads. Genevieve Herreria, Kathleen Ben, Theresa Tantay Wilson and Rosalinda Rupel alternate in being featured on these ads.
5) San Francisco Chronicle Pinoy Pod – Leslie Guevarra, Deputy Managing Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, will be interviewing Elena Mangahas and moi tomorrow (Thu, March 8). We don’t know yet when it will be released. We will keep you posted. This Pinoy Pod interview can be downloaded and forwarded to your contacts.
Check out our previous Pinoy Pods:
Filipina Summit 2006 (8.33 mins) –
Usaping Puki 2006 (19.24 mins) –
6) Domestic Violence workshops – part of our cast/crew requirements is attendance at DV workshops to deepen our understanding of our campaign and get to the roots of DV and issues around power and control.
The training initiative will allow FWN members and V-Day cast/crew members to become trained DV advocates and peer counselors in our campaign to end domestic violence in the Filipino community. Workshops were held in New York (Feb 24; facilitated by Bincy Jacob and co-sponsored by FAHSI and CONNECT NYC) and San Francisco (March 3; facilitated by Kathy Moore and co-sponsored by APIHF Domestic Violence Institute).
San Francisco Cast Members- If you have not attended a DV workshop yet, please come to CORA’s DV event on March 17, Saturday, sponsored by the Archbishop of San Francisco and many other organizations. This is a BIG deal – with the Catholic Church involved!
In collaboration with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Phil. Consulate General, Catholic Charities CYO and API Legal Outreach, the CORA Kumares are key presenters and organizers of this educational presentation to be held at
St. Augustine Parish Hall on March 17 from 1-4 p.m.
Please RSVP by calling CORA at (650) 652-0800
New York / New Jersey Cast Members – Ludy Corrales and Rosalinda Medina Rupel (FWN members and NY 2007 cast members) have galvanized the Filipino community to action in light of the savage murder of Filipina Teris Casco, 33, in Jersey City, a couple of weeks ago.
If you have not attended a DV workshop:
7) Men Against Violence workshops – NEW this year is our outreach to the men and boys in our lives. We are co-sponsoring Men Against Violence workshops both in New York and San Francisco. Please HELP in encouraging the young and mature men in your friend and family circles to attend the workshops.
PLEASE RSVP by replying directly to me at
New York – March 17 (Saturday, 1-5pm) facilitated by Daniel Jose Older and will be held at CONNECT NYC.
San Francisco – March 22 (6:30-9:30pm, Thursday) and will be facilitated and sponsored by Antonio Ramirez, Executive Director of CECEVIM) held at 474 Valencia St. corner 16th St in, San Francisco.
8) V-Day Filipina posters – please download the poster and the advertising kit attached.
The success of this campaign is up to YOU! Let me know how you can HELP!
Sulong na…at tumulong kayo sa FWN.
Marily and Tessie
Filipina Women’s Network