Friday, June 13, 2008

Congratulations Aurora Victoria Herrera David!

Aurora is a member of Babae's young women's group, Diwata and a mass member of Active Leadership to Advance the Youth (ALAY). Congratulations AV!

The corresponding video interview can be found here:

Pinay whiz gets to pick between Harvard, Stanford

The Filipino community in Daly City is proud of the achievement of 17-year-old AV Herrera who recently graduated from secondary school with top honors.

Herrera, who immigrated to US in 2005, finished as valedictorian of the Westmoor High School.

Her 4.3 grade point average became her ticket to be accepted as a freshman in Harvard and Standford universities.

But while she's contemplating on what school to choose and if it seems that her entry is a dream come true, Herrera said that life in the US isn't that easy.

"Akala ko pagpunta ko dito, maganda ang America, ganyan. Pero pagdating ko, nakita ko ring mahirap ang buhay," Herrera said, as she narrated how she fought her way to the top.

Before immigrating to the US, Herrera was a scholar at the Philippine Science High School in Quezon City.

Her mother, Bernadette, worked hard to be able to take her three children to the US and invest in their education.

Mrs. Herrera went to the US in 2000. She initially worked illegally for three years before she was given her legal papers.

"Kung hindi kami nagtatrabaho, hindi kami makakakain sa maghapon. wala kaming sasakyan. Wala kaming bahay. Nagre-rent lang kami ng isang kuwarto, pero tatlo ang anak ko. Pero nabubuhay kami ng maayos," Mrs. Herrera said.

The Herrera family said that life in the US is hard but they found support from new friends in the Filipino community.

Now, Herrera, who dreams of becoming a human rights lawyer someday, is also working as a coordinator of the Filipino Community Center.

Her mother, meanwhile, has this message to Filipinos who are also dreaming of making it big someday.

"Kung ano man ang darating na panahon, kung ano ang plano niya sa buhay, huwag niyang kalimutan ang kanyang pinanggalingan," she said. With reports from Henni Espinosa and Ging Reyes, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Monday, June 9, 2008

GAB-USA goes on our first Exposure Trip!

and you can read about all our adventures here:

A daughter's wish for her missing father on FATHER'S DAY

Dear Friends,

Please find below and attached a letter of Lorena "Aya" Santos for her father LEO VELASCO, who was abducted last year and is still missing. It is her Father's Day message and an appeal to her father's captors to surface him. We hope that you could provide space for it in your media outlets or you could send this to as many people who would care and help in the search for the desaparecidos.

Thank you so much.

Best regards,

Ruth G. Cervantes
International Liaison and Public Information Officer
Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
Telefax: + 632 4354146 / + 632 4342837

9 June 2008

To my missing father Leo,

I wish I could personally greet you a Happy Father’s Day and give you a really big hug. But how can I?

Ever since you were abducted, my only contact with you is in my dreams. Oh, how I wish I would see you and say “Happy Father’s Day, Tatay!”

Nanay and I will surely remember you as I visit her today in jail in Camp Crame. You must have heard by now (through your captors or if you have access to news) that Nanay has also been abducted and surfaced after three days (nine months after you were abducted and disappeared). You must have been so worried for her. You need not be, worried though because we are all taking care of her. Even in detention, she makes good use of her time in reading books and helping her inmates with their different problems.

How I wish that you can just be like Nanay instead of this. I would rather want to see you in jail than not see you at all. At least I would have visiting days to see you and we could eat our favorite food together. We can tell each other all the stories and laugh about them.

But because I have not found you yet, I would have to be contented in writing to you, hoping that through media, you would be able to read this and that your captors will let you read this.

Tatay, I am sorry for not being able to find you up to now. I know I have done everything I could but I also know that Mrs. Arroyo’s government should do more. After all, it is her military that has made you captive and has denied you of your rights to due process. I should have asked more people who might have known which safe house you are in, but then again, government’s agents have the obligation to surface you and bring you to trial.

Along the way of searching for you, I have encountered others who are also searching for their son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father or even both parents. I have met Deka who has been searching for her father, Philip Limjoco who was abducted in Pampanga. I have met Noel (not his real name) whose parents are both missing. I have also met Baby (not her real name), a three year old girl who keeps asking for her father who was abducted in Quezon Province. I have also gotten to know Guy whose father was abducted twenty years ago but still continue to make cards for him during his birthdays.

We understand each other how painful it is to long for missing parents. We share the same rage against your abductors and their bosses and this repressive system. We wonder how these people can make our loved ones disappear and can still sleep at night (with their own families beside them, I imagine.)

I know we are all connected because of this tragedy of enforced disappearance, a state practice that should be stopped and never repeated.

I feel we are all siblings and that they are also your sons and daughters too. We are the children of the Desaparecidos. We are also the children whose parents have fought for their principles and have served the oppressed.

People whom you met constantly reminded me of you as a great father through their wonderful stories about you: how you helped them in their sickness as a medical worker, how you make them believe that peace based on justice is possible and how you gave them advice and strength in times of adversity. Just like me, these common folk whom you have served, embraced, and lived with, is also hoping to see you very.

I say, I am proud of you, Tatay. I have always been. I thank you for showing me the realities of life and society. Thank you for showing me the importance of service. Had you not taught me these, my life would have no other meaning.

And we, the children of disappeared fathers and mothers say we miss you so much. We will never stop looking for you until we find you. We will never stop fighting until we secure justice.

I hope that I will still have the chance to see you alive soon. I pray that your captors will find some conscience to bring our family back together and Deka’s, Noel’s, Baby’s and all the families of victims of enforced disappearances in this country.

Today is Father’s Day. Just greet your captors HAPPY Father’s Day for me.

I miss you and wishing hard to see you soon.

Your loving daughter,

I am Lorena “Aya” Santos, 25 years old. Both my parents are NDFP Consultants for the Peace Process and both were abducted. My father Leo Velasco was abducted in Cagayan de Oro on February 19, 2007 and is still missing. My mother, Elizabeth Principe is currently detained at the Camp Crame Custodial Center.