By Marivir R. Montebon
Now, she has a bodega of eggs. She will never know that her story would change me as a person.
I remember Giging Canonigo, among the last women fighters I encountered before I left Cebu in 2007. She is now a successful egg entrepreneur in the remote village of Pangdan, Naga. In tears, she told me how difficult life was when her husband suddenly died and left her and her four children with nothing. At that time, she was 22. There was no food to put on the table and she had four mouths to feed.
“We were so poor. I could not even afford a decent coffin for him. His coffin almost broke because it was made of very light material. I had to hold it tight during the funeral,” she told me. I was crying with her in that interview in 2006.
Giging is one of the successful micro-entrepreneurs assisted with small capital by the giant Ramon Aboitiz Foundation in my home place in Cebu. She earnestly used a small capital of Php3000 ($66) to build her egg trading business. Now, she has a bodega of eggs. She will never know that her story would change me as a person.
I went home that day telling myself that I had no right to complain about the difficulties in life. I must deal with it with bravery. Giging and all the ordinary village women who decided to change their lives went through the worst of things, and they emerged victorious. It is called attitude and faith. And always, I am grateful for the opportunity given to me to meet these women and writing about them in a book titled Beyond the Seed Money, published by RAFI in 2007. The journey to equality continues.
There are thousands of women all over the world who are doing good for the betterment of their families and societies. The world is not getting any better, and more and more women are coming out with their concern and action.
I remember with honor Berta Caceres, an environment activist in Honduras who was felled by the bullets of two assassins on March 3 this year. I have never seen her or spoken to her. But her struggle with the Lenca tribe to protect their Gualcarque River in Initbuca is so close to home.
In the Philippines, indigenous peoples in Mindanao continue to be murdered and displaced in lieu of projects for economic progress, but that is actually greed and modern day barbarism. I share the grief of Berta’s feisty mother and her children. Berta’s body may have been quelled, but her bravery has translated into waves of action against the world’s largest dam developer, the Sinohydro, to listen to their voices and not exclude them in the word “development”.
In the equally chaotic society of America, I will continue to be inspired by the clarity of Jolene Levid, the confident assertion of Olivia Canlas, the critical-mindedness of Leani Auxilio, the stunning leadership of Ayah Manalastas, and a thousand sisters more. With these young leaders, there is hope. I am grateful for the women’s persistence in leading in the creation of a just, no-nonsense world.