Diwang Pinay: Stories of Filipina Labor Trafficking Survivors Retold

by Kobakila News

NEW YORK, NY – More than 200 people came to see Diwang Pinay (Spirit of the Filipina), Labanan ang Pang-aapi sa Ating mga Makabagong Bayani (Resist the Enslavement of Our Modern Heroes), the original theatre production by Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-GABRIELA USA – selling out all three performances at the WOW Café Theatre from May 17-19, 2013.  Audience members came from all over New York and New Jersey, and from as far away as Washington, DC and Northern and Southern California.

Diwang Pinay depicted scenes based on the true accounts of four women who have survived labor trafficking.  The production featured the stories of the women of the Florida 15 (F15), a case involving Filipino workers recruited by a Philippine based employment agency to work in a Florida hotel.  “Seeing this production really made our stories alive.  My feelings and emotions of being detained really came to me as I witnessed the production,” said Annabelle Sibayan of the F15.

Diwang Pinay was a stirring production that evoked both comedic and tearful moments, portraying the deceitful Philippine based recruiter as part scheming game show host and part cathartic karaoke singer.  Audiences were moved by scenes representing how the women of the F15 survived separation from their families, experienced exploitative labor conditions, and endured detainment as a result of their employer’s failure to renew work visas.

Following each performance, a talk back session invited audience members to ask members of the F15 and the cast questions about the production.  Audience members discussed how watching the performance was an eye-opening experience about the issue of labor trafficking, which is an issue that is largely unknown.  All four women of the F15 participated in the various talk back sessions, encouraging others who may be victims of labor trafficking to come forward and resist oppressive work conditions.

“We are really thankful to organizations like FiRE-GABRIELA USA and NAFCON [National Alliance for Filipino Concerns] for campaigning for us.  To all the other trafficking victims out there, I hope they hear our stories so they can come out of the dark and seek justice like we did,” said Cecil Delgado of the F15.

Audience members inquired about what steps they could take to combat labor trafficking.  Jackelyn Mariano, Deputy Secretary-General of Bayan USA, responded, “In October of this year, the United Nations is holding a High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.  These discussions do not focus on systemic issues that cause forced migration and irresponsive government administrations that fail to protect migrant workers.  To counter this action, we will be holding our own dialogue about this issue.  Having more supporters who are labor trafficking survivors and others who represent impacted communities will definitely be powerful and central to this action.”

This Diwang Pinay production coincides with the May 1st launch of GABRIELA USA’s Campaign to Support Filipino Migrant Workers.  Through the Labor Export Policy of the Philippines, 4,500 Filipinos are leaving the Philippines daily—70% of whom are women—to seek employment opportunities abroad.  Overseas Filipino workers or OFWs are vulnerable to exploitation and many become victims of labor trafficking, forced to take 3-D jobs that are difficult, dirty, and dangerous.  The campaign hopes to uphold and defend workers’ rights for Filipina women, as well as shed light on the destructive impacts of the Labor Export Policy that keeps Filipino migrant workers apart from their families.

Diwang Pinay is a direct response to make visible the stories and resilience of migrant workers who, despite government neglect, have and will always come together to protect the rights and welfare of Filipinos abroad.  There will be an additional performance on Thursday, June 13, 2013 at the Ida K. Lang Recital Hall at CUNY Hunter College at 7:30 pm.  Tickets are $15.  More information on the upcoming performance can be found at http://diwangpinaynyc.wordpress.com.  Diwang Pinay has been generously supported by a grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City.

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