The global commemoration for working-class women is a historical and significant recognition of women fighting against violence, abuse, and patriarchy while struggling for visibility, equality, and genuine emancipation.
The celebration goes back to the early 1900s and was recognized in 1911 in the US when more than 15,000 women uphold their right to suffrage and liveable wage, making this year the 112th of International Women’s Day.
In the Philippines, the working-class sector in which women also partake is not exempt from discrimination, abuse, and foul conditions, especially in the politics of workplaces.
Like ordinary workers, Filipino women also face contractualization (irregular workers based on contracts), inadequate salaries, and delayed-to-no benefits at the height of various socio-economic crises.
This is why sideline jobs or rakets were coined as a type of freelancing job a person assumed for extra income. But for the most part, it was not entirely ‘extra’ as it was their only means of livelihood. Such as that of Nanay Nadeline Buenaventura and her garlic peeling raket.
At the age of 63, Nanay Nadeline or fondly called Linda by her fellow kumares in the neighborhood of Vitas Katuparan, Manila said that it is only through garlic peeling that most women in their community rely upon to get paid at a cost of P90 per sack. Accordingly, a single sack weighed at least 15 kilos.
“Lima kasi ang nagpapasok na nagpapabalat. Kaya halimbawa sa isang pamilya, kumukuha iyan ng dalawang sako (that is P180). Eh ang kaso, ilan pa kayong magbabalat diyan?”
Nanay Linda added that there are also garlic carriers (nagpapabalat) who would ask for rush service. Still, the peelers will get to be paid P90 to P100. Such carriers are also small dealers who bargained the supplies of garlic from the Divisoria market to their very homes. Most of the carriers too were also garlic peelers.
“Ang asawa ko bihira lang din makapagtrabaho, mas lamang ang wala. Construction lang iyon e, kapag may kontrata edi may trabaho. Kamukha nito, anim na buwan na siyang walang trabaho kaya nagtutulungan kami sa pagbabalat,” Nanay Linda shared.
Along with her husband, Nanay Linda also lived with her two grandchildren.
Nanay Linda noted how hard it was for those taking up the sidelines without permanent jobs. Even berating the government’s promise of quick employment upon graduation in the K-12 curriculum.
“Mahirap lalo na ang ganitong mga extra extra lang tapos walang permantente. Iyon ngang mas bata pa tulad ng nag-K-12 e hindi na makapagtrabaho nang permanente, iyon pa kayang may edad na?” she added.
Talking about security, Nanay Linda said that it is not only about jobs or livelihood support that their community primarily campaigned for but also about housing tenure due to looming demolition threats following land reclamations in Manila areas especially those near Baseco.
Gabriela said that the Department of Public Works and Highways and the National Housing Authority were the ones spearheading the eviction and demolition threat among buildings in Katuparan initially in Phase 1 and Buildings 1-8 which sheltered more than 500 urban poor residents.
Nanay Linda, who is also an urban poor leader under Samahan ng Maralita sa Temporary Housing said that it is utterly unjust and hence must be denounced.
‘Ang paninindigan naming maralitang kababaihan sa demolisyon ay mariin naming tinututulan ito. Katunayan, lumabas lang kami, magsidecar lang ang mga asawa namin ay kikita na. Magtatapon lang ng basura, kikita na. Kaya talagang nandiyan lang kami kasi ang mahal mahal na nga ng bilihin, tapos itatapon pa kami sa malayo,” she explained.
Other than garlic peeling or carrying, further rakets in their community include scavenging and transporting through sidecars.
From a teacher’s perspective
Alliance of Concerned Teachers – National Capital Region chairperson Ruby Bernardo likened IWWD to Teachers’ Day, where she said that more than 80% of the teachers in the country are women.
“Sa deka-dekadang pag-abanduna ng ating gubyerno sa sektor ng edukasyon. Mga guro po at kawani sa edukasyon ang pumapasan ng kanilang responsibilidad,” said Bernardo
This year, the Marcos-Duterte administration provided the total budget for the education sector at 3.6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) when the United Nations had said a country’s funding for education should be 6% of the national GDP.
“Kung kaya’y hindi maipagkakaila ng administrasyong Marcos-Duterte na dalawa sa kada tatlong klasrum ay dispalinghado ay napipilitan kaming mga guro na magkumpuni ng ating sariling mga klasrum gamit ang aming sariling pera sa bulsa,” she added.
Bernardo recalled the situation in the education sector during the COVID-19 outbreak where most of the schools had to stop operations and quickly adopt the distance-flexible learning modality through online or modular means of instruction.
“Noong pandemya, nagovertime ang mga guro ng 77 days. Sa kasalukuyan, ang aming performance-based bonus nung 2021 ay hindi pa naibibigay. Habang ipinagmamalaki na ng ating gubyerno na sila ay may pamaskong Service Recognition Incentive (SRI) sa amin na kulang-kulang naman at wala pa pong bigas,” Bernardo quipped.
According to the teachers’ alliance, the current administration must recognize that teachers and students are not exempted from soaring prices of basic commodities, the inadequacy of income, and the difficulties in public transportation.
On March 6, a nationwide strike among public-utility vehicle drivers, operators, and supporters lambasted the phasing out of traditional jeepneys through PUV Modernization Program. ACT-NCR also conducted their #TulongGuro campaign in solidarity and support for the picketing transport groups led by PISTON, Manibela, and others.
The strike further sparked controversial remarks from vice president and Department of Education secretary Sara Duterte herself who said that the protest action and the support it received especially from ACT were linked to communism waging “terror” among the general public.
Bernardo slammed Duterte’s remark and deemed it as if the education secretary became the spokesperson for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) known for accounts of vilification and red-tagging.
“Siya (Duterte) mismo ang nanreredtag sa ating mga guro ng bayan na ang tanging gusto lamang ay magmalasakit sa ating mga jeepney driver. Ang dapat iphaseout ay ang isang gobyerno na may polisiyang kontra-mamamayan,” said Bernardo.
She added that many students and teachers have family members who are PUV drivers who are about to lose their livelihood. And due to the government’s little to no support for education poses a real serious impediment to education recovery so much more in the transport strike.
“Marami sa amin nagiging nurse, property custodian, guidance councilor, minsan guardiya pa sa mga corridor. Iyan ang kalagayan namin bilang guro. Ang masaklap pa rito, 92% sa aming mga guro ay hindi tumutuntong sa living wage ang sahod. Marami pa pong utang ang gobyerno sa usapin ng benepisyo,” Bernardo added.
With regard to allowance or benefits, the Marcos Jr. administration prioritizes charter change that the lower house has deliberated on billions of pesos while there is only a measly P1,000 cash aid set aside for every poor family.
House Deputy Minority leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said that “the first amount of P2,000 aid for two months floated by the Marcos Jr. administration last February was already meager but it was slashed still to P1000 or P500 per month”
On March 7, finance secretary Benjamin Diokno confirmed that the government is set to provide P500 for 2 months to 9.3 million households to help them cope with rising inflation now at 8.6 this February.
Saan aabutin ang P500 san isang buwan […] Samantalang tatanggap ng P10,000 kada araw ang magiging mga delegado ng constitutional convention na sa loob ng wala pang isang taon ay magkakaroon ng mahigit P1 milyon pero di man lang mabigyan ng one-time big time na P10,000 ang mga Pilipinong naghihirap,” Rep. Castro added.
Dire situation among healthcare workers
Even for healthcare workers, the existing minimum wage no longer cope with the excessive increase in the prices of basic commodities, the weakening purchasing power of the peso and high tax payments being shouldered by workers, even for women workers to be particular.
“Hindi lingid sa kaalaman ng lahat na ang serbisyong pangkalusugan sa Pilipinas ay sadsad at napakahirap mapa-publiko o pribado. Sobra sobra sa pagttrabaho pero kapos ang sahod. Kaming manggagawang pangkalusugan, magttrabaho pa kami ng lampas sa oras pero hindi sapat ang ibinibigay sa serbisyong ipinagkakaloob namin sa mga pasyenteng kapus-palad na nagpupunta sa amin,” said Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center Employees Union president Cristy Donginues.
Alliance of Health Workers reported that in 2022 Department of Health data revealed 16, 951 job order employees and 9, 947 contractual health workers under the Human Resources for Health (HRH). This year, DOH will hire 26, 035 doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists and other health-related professionals under the contractual-based National Health Workforce Support program in far-flung areas while AHW emphasized that there are more than 21,038 vacant plantilla positions in the health department.
“Ang mga benepisyo nga ng gobyerno, bagamat sila ang gumawa ng patakaran, ng batas, sila rin naman ang lumalabag nito,” Donginues added.
HCWs complained about the delay of their health emergency allowance (HEA) since 2021. Even for the One COVID Allowance (OCA) and HEA which covered the period of July-December 2021 and January-June 2022.
According to DOH, there are 805,000 HCWs still waiting for their HEA already amounting to a whopping P37.8 billion.
Among the calls for the payment of their delayed benefits, the AHW opposed the new House Bill 6522 or Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control (PCDC) Bill approved in the lower house in December last year.
Accordingly, the said bill will threaten the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) workers’ job security which would directly affect the health services provided to tropical diseases patients.
DOLE vows to support workers, women’s agenda
The protest commenced at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Intramuros, Manila where various progressive groups picketed outside the department while waiting for women leaders who sought dialogue discussion with DOLE’s senior women officials.
The dialogue took for about less than an hour with DOLE vowing pro-workers and pro-women support including:
- Ratification of the International Labor Organization C-190 to eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work.
- Allowing working-class women representatives in the labor and employment plan where area-based consultations will be conducted starting this year until 2028.
- Support for activities like summits in the consolidation of women workers’ agenda
Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK) further reminded the Marcos Jr. administration to comply with the recommendations made during the ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission) last January and fulfill its commitment to the promotion of workers’ rights under ILO Conventions 87 and 98 that pertain to freedom of association and the right to organize unions.