Building RC in Guahan and the Philippines

Note: The Chamorro—the Indigenous people of Guam—call their home Guahan. In this article we are using that term.

Pacific Islander and Filipino/a liberation got a boost this year! In January six RCers with connections to the Philippines and Guahan went to these beautiful islands to introduce RC and to help build RC Communities.

BACKGROUND

At one time there was an RC Community in the Philippines. However, life is difficult in this colonized, impoverished nation impacted by global capitalism. The main RC leader had to leave the Philippines to work in West Asia (in Dubai), and the Community was unable to sustain itself. Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) are the mainstay of the Philippine economy. Hundreds of thousands of poor people leave their homes and families and go abroad to earn a living. In 2017, OFWs sent over $28 billion (U.S.) home to sustain their families.

OUR TEAM

There were six of us, all RC teachers and leaders, in our delegation to Guahan and the Philippines—three Philippine born and three U.S. born; four women and two men; in our teens to our fifties.

 Because two other RC leaders had moved to Guahan (one returning home), we decided that in addition to going to the Philippines, we would go to Guahan to support these leaders in building RC.

Our delegation had regular conference calls prior to the trip—at first once per month, then every two weeks, then every week. We thought about and discharged on the following questions: What are the current conditions on the Islands? How do we help build Communities that can sustain themselves? What resources do we have? Who are our contacts? How do we start?

OUR GOALS

Our goals for the trip included the following:

  • Learning about the culture and conditions on Guahan, supporting the leaders there, and conducting activities that would build RC on Guahan for the long term
  • Leading a Community-building workshop in the Philippines for both the Co-Counselors who were currently in class and those who had been active in the past
  • Translating RC literature into Tagalog (one of many languages in the Philippines)
  • Giving RC introductory talks
  • Bringing RC to people in wide-world organizations (for environmental justice, youth, women, and so on)
  • Following up on people’s contacts—their families, friends, and so on

WHAT WE DID IN GUAHAN

The following are a few highlights from our time in Guahan:

  • In Mangilao we introduced RC to twenty-one undergraduate students.
  • In Toto we shared how we had used RC in community organizing and other activism.
  • In Hagatña we attended a memorial service for a family member of one of our RC leaders and got to see how leaders are remembered and thought about in Chamorro culture.
  • We attended two presentations on Guahan’s fight for self-determination and against the militarization of the Island.

WHAT WE DID IN THE PHILIPPINES

Here is a sample of what we did in the Philippines:

  • We held a community-building workshop for experienced RCers.
  • We held several introductory lectures and workshops in various places.
  • We met one-on-one with people’s contacts.
  • In the mountainous region of Baguio we met with women who had been leading in the Indigenous and women’s movements since the 1970s.
  • In Batangas we held a gather-in, Sustaining All Life Salo-Salo, with forty participants between two and eighty years old, mostly farmers and workers. (At a salo-salo people share stories and a meal.)

There have been effective social movements on many of the Islands. People have done amazing things. Together they have ousted dictators and reined in the military. But internalized oppression has often separated people and brutally destroyed their efforts. We Filipino/a RCers who have been personally involved in social struggles need to recover so that we can assist everyone to heal and come back together. We were able to bring some of the people together from the separated movements.

 I was moved by the strength of our Filipino/a people in the face of harsh economic and social conditions. People have obviously been hurt, and they want to heal and think better about themselves and the people around them.

DOING THIS TOGETHER

This project was different from previous efforts in that we did it with a close group of us who were committed to each other and to our people. We grew closer and now have a much clearer picture of each other. (It is terrifying to me, in a good way, for people to see so much of me, including my struggles, and to know who I actually am.)

 Children growing up in Filipino culture are usually surrounded by family and other close people. However, they aren’t always seen clearly and or thought about in a personal way. Our group tried hard to be aware of and think clearly about each other. It was sweet seeing the relationships develop.

As the leader of the group, I could see that I didn’t have all the answers, and didn’t need to. The collective experiences, knowledge, and wisdom in our group were amazing. I did what Harvey Jackins said was a leader’s job: I gathered the best thinking of the people around me, and then figured out the course forward.

We had fun! We laughed a lot, as a delegation and with the people we were meeting with and teaching. We explored, we learned, we cried and shook, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I am proud of who we are and what we organized and pulled off [successfully accomplished].

FOLLOW-UP

We will continue to be available to the RC Communities in the Pacific Islands and the Philippines. We have a tentative plan to return in 2019 and will maintain our relationships in the meantime. We will also translate pieces of RC literature into Tagalog, Binisaya, and other Island languages. 

Teresa Enrico

International Liberation Reference Person for Pacific Islander and Pilipino/a-Heritage People

Seattle, Washington, USA


 

FROM THE DELEGATION

I am a Filipino-Chamorro woman. Guahan is my home; I was born and raised here. I learned RC in 2002 when I lived in New York City (USA). In 2009 I moved back home to Guahan. I have returned to the United States at least once a year to attend workshops and have discharged with Co-Counselors via phone or Internet.

It wasn’t until Teresa, Cecilia, and Ana Liza said they would come to Guahan that I realized I had never believed that anyone from RC would ever come to visit. As close as I felt to my Co-Counselors, I never expected them to come to my home, meet my family, swim in the ocean near where I grew up. Their coming was an incredible contradiction to my feelings of isolation, invisibility, and insignificance. They came to connect with us, to discharge, and to listen. And they got to see and feel Guahan’s strength and beauty, and the impact of its colonization and militarization.

Tressa Diaz

Toto, Guahan


 

I have been living on Pacific Islands for the last six years—first in Oahu, Hawaii, and now on Guahan. I grew up in California, USA, and never lived in the Pacific until six years ago. But as a Filipina I always felt connected to it.

I have been trying to be an ally to the Indigenous Pacific Islanders in my life, particularly since I moved here from the continental United States. I have used (limited) phone time and the annual Filipino/a and Pacific Islander RC workshops to work on colonization, attempted genocide, and isolation (which can feel very real on a small island). That the delegation spent time with us in our home was a big contradiction to early feelings of being on my own. It helped me remember that I have people who are eager to back [support] me, even if there are thousands of miles of ocean between us.

Jocelyn de Guia

Toto, Guahan


 

 

Being part of the delegation to the Philippines and Guahan transformed the way I show up [am present] in the world. It challenged the limitations imposed by my distresses and opened up possibilities I could not have imagined. I kept thinking, deciding, acting, discharging, and keeping people (in at least four different time zones) close and connected to me throughout the entire journey.

A major highlight was organizing the Sustaining All Life gathering and the twenty-four-hour introductory workshop in Batangas (the Philippines). I was thrilled to be back home where I grew up. My mind was in motion, trying to decide which relative to introduce to Co-Counseling.

My mom agreed to host the gathering and workshop at our family’s place, and I have cried a lot about how generous she and our extended family were toward me and the delegation. They supported us in organizing the housing, food, transportation, and other logistics for fifty people. It made things go really well. Everyone got to try RC, sing, dance, play, and connect—and we even communicated in Tagalog, my first language.

I pulled together my RC Community, contacts from wide-world organizing, and my family into one cohesive weekend extravaganza! This pushed me to consistently notice the difference between my restimulated feelings and the edge of my thinking. I figured out how to be in charge and not get completely confused by internalized oppression. Despite my chronic patterns of isolation and separation, I fought to be close and connected to Teresa, Cecilia, Tara, Avi, and Nik—people whom I love and adore. My vision of and desire for liberation were far greater than the distresses that could have paralyzed me into feeling terrified and insignificant. Would I do it again? For sure. In a heartbeat. For a lifetime.

(I translated the poem from English to Tagalog with support from Leo Lazo and Ramon Taroy. I then translated it from Tagalog to Baybayin, a pre-colonial script used by Indigenous people living in the Tagalog region of the Philippines.)

Ana Liza (AL) Caballes

Elmhurst, Queens, New York, USA


 

My grandfather interrogated Teresa about RC in a way that was not always thoughtful. His remarks seemed judgmental, but Teresa was calm and delighted. She responded to his “attacks” with a firm yet kind tone and reached for him as a human being. I have never seen anyone connect with my grandfather the way Teresa did. She did not believe his patterns. It was a sweet reminder that all human beings want connection, no matter how their material [distress] looks, and that with kindness and a fresh perspective they can be reached.

As Filipinos/as we have learned to deal with difficult things with humor and laughter. Being with Filipinos/as in a Co-Counseling setting brought me the safety to laugh hard about awful things. I do not know of any other place where I would have felt comfortable doing this. In our culture there is a lack of pretense and an understanding that it’s good to laugh. Of course the Philippines is a majority-Catholic country and we sometimes feel like we’ll go to hell for laughing about these things, but I have rarely seen this stop people, and some of us even laugh about going to hell.

I feel like I will get killed for writing this next paragraph, but I am going to be open about my struggle. As someone with owning-class pulls to seek attention, during this project I decided to talk only when I knew I had something to say that would move the conversation forward, rather than just talking to be heard. Giving up the patterns felt excruciating, and in my sessions I cried hard and let my heart break. I have never felt more alive than in taking on [fighting] these patterns that have kept me away from my people, while being surrounded by their humanity. It was the perfect contradiction [to distress].

Many of us young People of the Global Majority feel extra scared to notice the oppression of young people. We feel that we need to be hopeful and compliant around adults and function so that we can survive dangerous situations caused by racism. Noticing that I was a young person contradicted the terror.

Avi Leung

San Francisco, California, USA


 

For these three weeks RC was front and center in my life. To the usual question of “What are you doing here?” I spoke openly, confidently, and proudly about RC and the ways that I have shared it to advance social justice movements.

I am grateful for the meaningful work, for full days of activity that demanded that we think anew and maximize the opportunities before us—opportunities to offer perspectives, practices, attention, and love; to make human connections; to push past pretense; to show our struggles openly in sessions; and to have our attention out and our flexible intelligence operating at all other times. There was a concentrated, continuous flow of visible and invisible organizing, interspersed or overlapped with other enjoyable activities—nature walks and Pacific Ocean swims, buying fresh food at the palengke (open-air market), eating the lutong bahay (homestyle peasant food).

I loved interpreting from Tagalog into English, for the first time, during a five-minute session. I felt talagang malakas (so powerful) after that!

Our time on Guahan expanded what I knew to be possible between Co-Counselors; we got an intimate view into each other’s lives. And I now understand better how militarization, imperialism, and colonization impact daily Pacific Island life. For example, almost all food, including fresh produce, in Guahan is imported from the United States and is quite expensive. Also, a third of the island is occupied by the U.S. military and is inaccessible to the common people.

Cecilia Lim

Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, USA


 

 I could see the results of fifteen years of work and the power of setting big goals and continually trying things in their direction. I have taken many small steps and never been clear that what I am trying will work. But I’ve learned that if I keep applying my mind, pulling in people, and discharging, something is bound to happen. The results can take longer than I want, but sometimes things happen more quickly than I expect! Now that I’ve made progress with some big goals, things that once felt hard seem simpler. All of this has been a big contradiction to an early defeat.

Seeing that I am not the only one with big dreams for my people and the world, and the way our delegation came together and enjoyed each other, contradicted the isolation I usually work under. I have never experienced working on a team that enjoyed each other’s company so much. It never felt like “work.”

It was encouraging how quickly new people understood the value of RC and wanted to learn more and apply it. Perhaps people in poor countries more easily understand the need for a tool like RC.

I noticed that I can rely on my own and others’ minds to figure out enough to move things forward. For example, I figured out how to be both counselor and client with my father. I got to talk and cry with him about how much I love and respect him.

Nik Leung

San Francisco, California, USA


 

Before I got to the Philippines, I was determined that my siblings would decide that Co-Counseling is worth checking out. However, when I actually met up with my family, all I wanted to do was connect with them. My biggest highlight was paying attention to each of them, and to a couple of friends.

Until I was part of the delegation, I believed that my only “real” relationships were those in the “real” world, the world outside of Co-Counseling. Over this last year and a half of showing myself and my family to our delegation, I have noticed the real connections we have built with one another.

Binisaya (Cebuano or Visayan) is my mother tongue. It is an Indigenous language originally from Cebu and is the most widely spoken of all the languages from the Visayas. I had assumed that there would be little need for interpretation into Binisaya, but I ended up speaking it almost the whole time. Another highlight was noticing how laser-accurate the expressions in our different languages are.

We got to think about people who had become “enemies” with each other. Doing dangerous movement work under martial law had led people on different sides to “write each other off” [see each other as useless]. We got to think about the differences without submitting to the idea that the humans on one side were right and better than those on the other.

Tara Villalba

Bellingham, Washington, USA

(Present Time 192, July 2018)


Last modified: 2019-05-22 16:47:50+00