By Agnes van de Beek-Pavia, Trainee SB Board Member

In observance of the International Women’s Day, Stichting Bayanihan women organized a well-celebrated event under the theme “Break the bias: Celebrate Women’s Diversity and Creativity last March 12, 2022 at Dona Daria Kenniscentrum Emancipatie in Rotterdam.  

The program started with a very inspiring piece from Pastora Cecilia Lansang which left the crowd delighted and inspired.   The song “Tagumpay Nating Lahat”  was played shortly and took the crowd into a journey of Filipino pride as the lyrics spoke about optimism and national spirit. 

Ms. Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza, founding chairperson of Stichting Bayanihan, spoke as well of encouragement and challenges as she recognizes that without gender equality today, a sustainable future, an equal future, remains out of reach. She emphasized that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.  She pointed out that Covid 19 pandemic has slowed progress toward achieving gender parity . It will now take 135.6 years to close gender gaps compared to 99.5 years in 2020. So she stressed that it is important that we continue celebrating IWD every year because through IWD we are given a greater voice to further our demands for equal rights . She too believes that this celebration is not just a call to break the bias but a significant moment to promote social awareness – recognizing the strengths and achievements of women, celebrating their diversity and creativity and understanding the challenges of building a world that is diverse and inclusive. “That is why we are celebrating Stichting Bayanihan women’s talents today, full of diversity and creativity. And we are proud of them!” Ms. Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza said.  

Stichting Bayanihan fully understands its vital role in promoting and encouraging a general understanding of gender-related challenges. This year’s celebration highlighted two equally important mini forums which elicited engaging and interesting discussions.

This year’s theme focusing on  breaking the bias paved the way to a very engaging and enlightening forum with  Atty. Marisar Ivy Cabatingan, Legal Officer and Gender Development Focal Person of the Philippine  Embassy in The Hague. Atty. Mahal enthusiastically shared her  knowledge on the subject and elaborated some practical tips on how to break the bias. She too shared her concerns that achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls remain an unfinished business of our time.  She recalled how the Filipino language contains biases as well as  it uses vocabulary with gender connotations; thus saying that an attribution on gender when we address professions is a bias.  If we think that the Filipino language is gender neutral, how come we have words such as “Filipina”, “abogada”, “doktora” , “maestra” , etc. This argument provoked some thoughtful and substantial remarks and further elicited a strong realization that language does influence the perception of things through some aspects of its structure. “You are frontliners in breaking the bias, having to constantly prove that you can do something to break the bias. Nevertheless, remain positive not combative” Atty. Mahal said. 

Ms. Maya Butalid, former councilor of the Municipality of Tilburg and team leader of  the Vluchtelingenwerk in Tilburg, also spoke passionately of the advantages of voting in local elections. She reiterated that local elections matter and that every citizen’s vote can actually make a difference. Voting, she said, aside from it being a civic duty, can have a significant impact in the way the society can function. She addressed the crowd of the importance of voting and taking part in the decision-making in her own municipality as decisions for  programs and  projects are defined at the local level. She firmly believes that we have an important role to play and its impact is critical if we want to influence the choices that affect us and others in the community. 

The exchange of thoughts among the attendees during the open-forum was proactive and the responses were very productive. Such a delight to see women of conviction, all free-spirited and strong-willed in their expression of their personal views on matters that concern women. 

With this year’s theme, the celebration featured an array of performances as the core group members of Stichting Bayanihan proudly presented their diverse and unique talents in writing, singing, dancing, photography, culinary and creative arts.  Samples of these products from published books and poetry pieces to creative paintings, crochet art and sewing work were displayed during the event. 

The audience cheered for the dance and song performances as the seniors group gracefully performed the “Tiklos” dance while the SB Nightingales charmed the audience with their own rendition of “Katakataka”  and “Pobreng Alindahaw” with Ms. Irma Galias playing the piano. It was awesome to see the crowd singing along to these familiar Filipino folk songs. Ms. Nila Tayco’s slow graceful steps also elicited applause at her performance of a modern Ifugao dance.   The crowd was also in a perfect brief moment of silence when Ms. Irma performed the piano rendition of the song “Sunflower” in solidarity with Ukraine. The song and her performance evoked emotional responses.  Truly a display of unique talents and it only left the crowd awed and inspired!

The crowd’s participation became even more active as the juniors group facilitated some group- dynamic activities. The crowd actively participated in the interactive Mentimeter activity which gave a clear presentation of the qualities of women who attended this year’s IWD celebration.  The presentation prompted positive and encouraging results which made everyone realize her own strength and unique qualities as a woman.  The results eventually gave a clear picture of the attendees who are differing from one another and have distinct characteristics and qualities. What a defining result it was!

Qualities of women who attended this year’s IWD celebration

The word-guessing game followed and caused hilarious participation from the crowd. The game facilitated amusement and a full audience participation as the team participants made humorous and amusing mimic actions. It was a fun, participatory and energizing game which kept the small teams connected and highly-spirited.

Shortly after the official parts of the programs, the crowd gathered for a light yet delightful dinner. Food really connects people together. It was a very pleasant sight simply watching everyone enjoy his/ her meal while socially connecting to old friends and new acquaintances. It was a well-celebrated event not just embracing the challenge of collectively breaking the bias, but a meaningful celebration of friendship and the recognition of the beauty of diversity and creativity of women!


Photo credits: Buenas Iris Mendoza, Evelyn Castillo-Grooteman, Genibe Molabin, Myra Colis