Tempered by Hard and Challenging Times
““I know that our struggle will be far ahead , reaching the destination of our journey may not be in our lifetime but having more women of her kind is enough for me to say that we can have a generation in the future who will enjoy the fruits of our sacrifices”.
The evening cold rains of June blew outside with Michael Jackson memorable songs softly echoed in everyone’s heart inside the cozy coffee shop . I waited for this woman I’ve long to share her story to the world. As she entered the place smiling, wearing red blouse with dangling red earrings, memories of the past twenty five years danced quickly in my mind, The first time I saw her was beauty not of a typical brown Filipina but of a mixture of Filipina-Lebanese origin. She was in her mid-twenties then and her activism in the women’s struggle was just about to take off.
I offered her something to drink as she seated with me at the table and started sharing her preparation for the regional visit of Gabriela Congresswoman Liza Maza, the representative of the country’s progressives and largest women’s organization in Congress. Tita Lucy’s presence added radiance to the friendly ambiance of the place as we unveiled her songs and lamentations of being a woman activist after the fall of the Marcos Dictatorship in1986.
Lucy Francisco, fondly called “Tita Lucy” is as passionate and powerful as her resounding voice on air and on stage during demonstrations and rallies trumpeting women issues and concerns. Coming from a lower middle class family , she acquired a bachelors degree in commerce as a working student.
Iloilo City her place of residence, is the capital city of Iloilo Province and is one of the highly urbanized cities in the country. Iloilo City is the region’s financial hub but, 70% of its population is living in poverty situation. The National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) a government agency confirms that the region has the largest families living below poverty line in the country in 2006.
“The agony of not having food to eat every meal, the scarcity of livelihood opportunities, the ordeal of expensive medical care, and the sexual violence they experienced is a continuous nightmare among women made me an activist” , stressed Tita Lucy. Her eye sparkling with smile as she told me she never realized at the very start how it takes to be a woman activist. She just simply put her best foot forward going to the communities endowed with soothing voice and a powerful presence of hope among women and their families denied of living decent lives in Iloilo City.
From early morning and beyond sundown, Tita Lucy is fully occupied of meeting people from all walks of life. She gives counseling to women and even couples and goes to court to accompany women victims of sexual violence. She organizes medical missions and dental missions inviting different medical practitioners in the city and solicits medicines to provide health care services to women and children, among others.
Currently, she’s the Regional Coordinator of Gabriela Women’s Reproductive Health Program. “I deeply want our services on education, health assistance and advocacy empowers every woman and child in the communities. They have been deprived by the government of the services they needed long time ago and it is our earnest desire that we can provide them even just a single drop of medicine and words of empowerment ”, she explained with a gentle voice.
“I know these are not enough, because our organization doesn’t have sufficient funds. This is the primary responsibility of the government thus, we are really fighting hard for good governance through launching rallies, lobby work and dialogues. Some people misunderstood us but I think this is a normal fact of life when our society is divided by haves and haves not. The only hope we can give to ourselves and to the future generation is our will to struggle, our will to fight for justice and freedom from the bondage of poverty. No other force can defeat us as long as we Filipinos are united and resolute in our fight in achieving such dreams”, saying with a strong conviction in her voice,
Tita Lucy could have a better and comfortable life if she chooses life outside the women’s struggle. Taking a deep breath, she told me confidently “It’s not easy to be an activist, it’s full of sacrifices and difficulties, but this is the life I choose and I’m happy to share my life with the poor women and children. Making them smile and laugh in times of desperation and hopelessness, letting them feel that there are still people who care for them when government refuses , is an inspiration for me.”
Tita Lucy is dearly loved by the women in the communities and her fellow woman activist. “ She’s always available and spares time for us whenever we need her no matter how busy she is. Her strength is my strength that keeps me going in these tumultuous times of our life”, a member of Gabriela said.
Turning 53 this September with no family of her own, I can still see the endless energy of an unshakeable woman amid the rushing times of political upheavals and the economic crisis of the country. She has a case filed by the military at the Commission of Human Rights on Child Abuse accusing her for the presence of children during rallies. Her activism is continuously challenged not only by political repression but most of all challenged by the country’s alarming all time high financial deficit reaching P111.8 billion and plunging economic trend leading to outright recession.
She loves swimming and her strokes reveal her inherent strength as a woman activist tempered by hard and challenging times. She dared to struggle for women rights transcending her compassion, selflessness and bravery to serve the Filipino woman and children uncompromisingly.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.