From which hole did this idiot crawl? said Mike Jackson (former IRRI scientist who’s now back in UK) in his Facebook the other day. Curious me checked out the link attached. It’s an article about US congressman Todd Akin, who was quoted saying:  “If it’s a legitimate rape, the  female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

 

This was reported to be the Missouri rep’s attempt to explain his opposition to abortion, even in rape cases. The politician has apologized after an onslaught of feedback, but still. With social networks ready to pound on the slightest hint of idiocy, we are all well-warned of letting our ignorance slip into public.

Legitimate rape. The phrase bothered me. I remember listening to friend Giz, who’s studying Law; she  said, among the cases they discuss, the most sensitive of all is Rape–so sensitive that the whole classroom’s atmosphere is heavy with silence. Why, not really would it be awkward to prove that one has been raped, but it must also be challenging to face the rapists in a courtroom and tell every detail of the story from hell.

In the case of Given Grace, the UPLB student who was raped, murdered and dumped near IRRI last year, Given won’t be around to recount the details of the crime; it will be her mother and father who are to brave the pieces of evidence and witnesses’ accounts. It will be the loving parents, who brought up the innocent, sweet child, who are going to hear again and again how the suspected men trespassed her body, ruined her womanhood (if not childhood), and dishonored her.

Call for War

Rape has to be every woman’s most feared experience.
I found myself crying for Given when she was murdered. Few months after this, another news of rape shocked the UPLB community–this time, the victim was younger. She was a highschool sampaguita vendor. Elbi crimes rattled me more when the crimes were capped by a third one, a senseless robbery-murder of a UPLB Agriculture student. I confided my worries to a former prof, US-based Sonny San Juan, who that time visited a friend in LB (unfortunately, work didn’t allow me to meet up with him). I emailed him how depressing things are in elbi, but he said, a collective action that condemns such violence would be a better act (and would make me feel better) than grieving in solitude.

An opportunity for collective condemnation rose when college friends Rene and Weng invited me and other friends last June to mount some activities to raise funds for Given’s family (incidentally, as Rene has noticed, Given’s mother was Weng’s teacher, and Weng was one of my mentors in the college paper; Given was one of my students during my last semester in the University).

Makati Gig: Sept 1

Initially, Rene simply wanted a pass-the-hat kind of charity thing to collect money from us (to help support the family’s legal fees), but during our first meeting at the Conspiracy Bar (how apt, right?), we eventually conspired to wage a full-blown war against Rape and other violence against women. There was Kate, who will manage media coverage; Connet, who volunteered to help in organizing the bazaar and produce PSA/docu video we could perhaps use in the programs; there was a lawyer who shed some light in Given’s case; and there were others who pledged to help.

Weng and Grace Cutab (former UP Student Regent) initially planned the benefit gig, which later on, progressed with help from others (Jek, Daks, and so many others I haven’t met). We were amazed how everybody worked fast: finding a free venue, reservations, invitation to rock bands and performers, logistics, etc.

Cool news for the Gig team, Mr Caio Cadiz said that Ebe (Sugarfree) is willing to perform in Elbi to support this advocacy.

Elbi September Justice Fair: Sept 23-24

Organizing UPLB activities–bazaar, Fun Ride (bike), and birthday gig–was turned over to organizations and groups based in LB: Gabriela Youth, UPLB Perspective, Institute of Computer Science (ICS Director and his wife Ms Thennie are friends of Given’s family), Young Software Engineers Society; also, there’s Kei Tan (Department of Humanities) and Gatty Leceta (IRRI’s graphic artist, who’s the leader/spokesperson of the biking group, Padyak Elbi. Later on, the group Students of Destiny agreed to coordinate the UPLB events.

After the meeting last week in UPLB, the LB team agreed that a Fun Ride will take place in UPLB on Sept. 23, Sunday (Gatty to take care of the bikers, tshirts, refreshment, and bike route–with help from others for registration, etc.) while the birthday bash for Given will be on Sept. 24 (Monday, so that more students will be present). Both days, 23 and 24, the team will put up a bazaar at the Baker Hall. Proceeds of the events will be given to the families of the victims.

It would be wonderful to have hundreds of UPLB alumni come over on any of these dates and make a sort of Feb Fair on September. After all, the Feb Fair was initially conceptualized as a form of protest.

Run for Given

My partner, Mike, has a friend working at the UP Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment (OASH), and since the two of us volunteered to coordinate the Fun Run, we scheduled a meeting with OASH, together with UP Diliman Gender Office, and another with Gabriela.

In the concept paper submitted to them, we explained that we wanted to take the fight outside UPLB, to involve more people to join in our advocacy or vow against violence that women experience everyday.

UPDGO and OASH agreed to help in publicity and registration. Most of our materials were patterned after the Fun Run materials they generously shared with us. They’re also willing to keep the event materials in their office. On top of these, they worked on the permits for the run (the UP oval, which is rented per hour, was given to us for free–thanks also to Grace, who sought the support of the UP President himself).

UP Mountaineer Dada, who’s been organizing fun runs, was also there in the meeting to report that he will assign about 50 marshals from their org to guide the runners, who will be given color-coded straws once they complete the loop/s (Instead of kilometers, we decided to replace 3k, 5k, and 10k, with 1 Loop, 2 Loops, and 4 Loops (around the oval). Runners will be given singlets and bibs, and will be asked to bring their own water bottles/canisters to avoid the ugly trash that ruin some fun runs. For refreshment, we are yet to contact Pocari, but Janet will be helping us contact Manila Water for sponsorship.

Janet and her team suggested that we use the AS (Palma Hall) steps as stage, and we decided that the booths (sponsors, registration, water station) will be set up at the AS parking lot (gratitude to Janet who will ask permit for the use of the AS steps).

Although not present in the meeting, Weng (marketing) asked the local government of Rizal (Given’s home) to provide the sound system. As for the program, Rene is yet to get the confirmation of a beauty queen (some Ms World hotshot to host the event). We’ll also invite UP President Pascual and Given’s family to speak in the short program before the run.

The meeting with Gabriela at UP Technohub was cool, too. Their first question was how they can help us. Grace, Mike, and I let Rene speak, and he said, the Task Force Given Grace wants depth in the activities being organized. The Run, Bazaar, and Gig are not just simple fund-raising activities for the families of victims–these activities, should make a statement. Rage against violence against women.

Since this is exactly what Gabriela is all about, they pledged their support. They started suggesting personalities that they can invite for the Run (Angel Locsin) and the Makati Gig (Monique Wilson, who can perhaps perform parts of Vagina Monologues). Of course, we got excited, because initially, we just wanted to put “Gabriela” as one of our partners in the posters, and that’s all. But since they take these things seriously, they also thought of placing exhibits during our events and even conducting a seminar for the Task Force Given.

During the meeting, Gabriela shared some shocking statistics that I don’t quite remember so I looked up in the Internet and found the numbers–example: a child is raped every 2 hours (reported in Bulatlat.com, March 2012).

This alone is enough to wage war against perpetrators of this sickening crime.

More has to be done in polishing the activities, but these are what we have so far. We’re getting there.

Special thanks to Jay Gavarra who created our poster and helped in web design.

To those who are helping the Task Force and those planning to support, Given’s parents are most grateful. Let me post here part of the message from his father:

It is exactly 9mts and 15 days since Given went home with the Lord. We thought that that would be enough for us to completely get over. But the truth is that, we are still crying inside, her memories keep on coming back. The longing is getting stronger and we can only close our eyes and think she is close to us but closer to her creator. Especially now that her 20th birthday is just around.

We thank God, our ever faithful Father who is always there to comfort and encourage us. His words are so alive, powerful that we really cling on to and find solace.Our quest for justice is still on. The judicial system is working though it seems slower than we thought. Come August 8 is the Pre-trial, we hope that after this one the trial proper will begin. Please continue to pray for us. Our lawyers are telling us that it will be more difficult in our part because details of the crime will be discussed…
Nawa hindi po kayo mapagod at magsawa na umagapay sa amin.Salamat at mapagpalang araw po sa inyo!
For more information, visit http://lakwatcha.com/runforgiven/

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Zarah
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Zarah

Hey Ai. This is nice. Give me posters for our department. I can ask our profs to post on their doors. 🙂

Ai
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Ai

Cool! Thanks, Zara! Sige, we’re in the process of estimating the number of marketing materials to be printed. Will contact you as soon as they’re ready. Would be great to see you again! 🙂

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