Like all other organizations which have been working towards their goals for more than two decades now, Babaylan the Philippine Women’s Network in Europe, met in May 2017 in Chur, Switzerland, to assess itself, discuss future actions and strategies to address recent issues affecting Philippine women in Europe. Representatives of eight of the 10 member countries came and renewed their commitment to continue the work began in Barcelona in 1992. 25 years of steadfast resolve to address women concerns in Europe is something to be proud of. This achievement called for a grand celebration. It was also a welcome opportunity to take account of developments which needed to be dealt with, which would guide the network in developing its future strategies.

On October 19-22, 2017, Babaylan celebrated her 25th year anniversary by holding a conference and consultation night, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

With over 60 attendees from 8 out of its 10 member countries, network members and officers from platform organizations in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland touched bases with each other under the theme of BUILDING WOMEN’S CAPACITY IN RESPONSE TO GLOBAL CHALLENGES.

The first day welcomed the participants with a WELLNESS, BEAUTY AND HEALTH interlude at the Stay Okay hostel where the participants were billeted, by Marina Issler of Switzerland who treated and polished their nails, while Wilma Zinsli, also of Switzerland spoiled the women with her soothing face and body massage.

Before the program officially started on Friday, the 20th of October, Mary Lou Hardillo-Werning, former babaylan Chairperson, assisted by Weni Gamboa officiated a cleansing ritual. They passed on oil to each and every participant while wishing them all the best for the 3-day celebration/conference. The participants thereafter wished each other the same.

Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza, founding chairperson and social cultural worker of Stichting Bayanihan, Centrum voor Filippijnse Vrouwen in Nederland (Bayanihan Foundation, Philippine Women Center in the Netherlands), the host organization, welcomed the delegates and guests at Dona Daria.

The conference preparatory committee: L-R: Debbie Valencia, Diana Oosterbeek, Mary Lou Hardillo-Werning, Adora M. Fischer, Weni Gamboa and Rita Amaqui. Not in the picture are Myra Colis and Judy Jover.

Debbie Valencia-Carlos, the first elected Babaylan chairperson introduced the members of the preparation committee. Ms. Patricia Ooms, director of Dona Daria, where the conference/celebration was held, greeted everybody and congratulated the network for its achievement. Ambassador Jaime Victor B. Ledda, Philippine Ambassador to The Netherlands gave his inspirational speech.

After the break, Dr. iur. Eva Andonie of FIZ (Frauen Information Zentrum) in Zürich gave an input on Trafficking of Women in the 21st Century. With her in the panel was Lenny Bugayong, linguist, writer and founding member of NOI-PI, a youth organization based in Switzerland, who talked about the Secondos: Between Two Worlds.

Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, head of the Association of Major Religious Superiors and former St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) president sent her talk on Women in the Catholic church, through video.

Workshops on Gender-based Violence by Dr. Eva Andonie, Intergenerational Dialogue, facilitated by Lenny Bugayong and Michelle Käser, both from Zürich, Entrepreneurial Initiatives, facilitated by Debbie Valencia and Myra Colis, and Situation of Au-pairs, headed by Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza, with the input of Second Secretary and Consul Theresa Alders, were held in the afternoon.

Group workshop on understanding the situation of au pairs facilitated by Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza with input from Second Secretary and Consul Theresa Alders of the Philippine Embassy in The Hague.

Group workshop on intergenerational dialogue facilitated by youth leaders Lenny Bugayong and Michelle Lariza and input from Bayanihan Board members Veronica Balbuence, Cora van Campenhout Alarcon and Rose Slotema.

Group workshop on entrepreneurial initiatives facilitated by Bayanihan Secretary Myra Colis-Zymelka and Debbie Valencia of DIWATA in Greece.

Group workshop on sex- and gender-based violence (SGBV) facilitated by Dr. Ewa Andoine.










Philippine Ambassador to Germany, Ambassador Melita Sta. Maria Thomeczek congratulated Babaylan through a video message. Other best wishes videos of women and men from all walks of life who believe in Babaylan’s goals were shown in between.

After the workshop summaries, Dr. Nadina Christopoulou, social anthropologist and coordinator of Melissa, Migrant Women’s Network in Greece, delivered her input on Understanding Refugee Situation, through video.

Saturday, the 21st of October was dedicated to a creative summarizing of the themes discussed in the workshops the day before. In-charge was Babaylan’s artistic resource person, Weni Gamboa. To prepare the participants for the task ahead, Weni Gamboa assited by Adora Fischer facilitated a warm-up workshop on creative drama improvisations and writing. The groups then presented their short dramatizations, jingle advertisements and fairy tale analysis, which they prepared in their own groups.

A short consultation regarding organizational matters concerning the network was conducted in the evening. The participants, through a closing ritual conceived and headed by Weni Gamboa, wrote their wishes for Babaylan and its members.

The celebratory part began later on with songs and dances. Sr. Cecilia Lansang’s empowering and uniting words closed the celebration/conference on Sunday morning.

It was a hectic 3-day affair most especially for our host organization. But Bayanihan’s steadfast and indefatigable members and sympathizers headed by Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza and Myra Colis, showed that they are very much capable of handling events such as this. From the preparatory committee members and all the participants from the different countries in Europe who spent time and resources to attend this event, we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts! Mabuhay po ang Bayanihan!

Group picture of participants from the Netherlands with Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands H.E. Jaime Victor Ledda.