By Marjaleen Ramos
Eleven brave Filipino women from different walks of life, exposed the ugly truth behind the country’s busy streets that is kept under the radar and swept under the rug: women as objects of day-to-day street harassment.
In celebration of the International Women’s Day, Safe Streets PH’s FREE FROM FEAR exhibit featured 11 brave Filipinas who shared their experiences of sexual harassment in public spaces, to raise awareness on the different forms of harassment experienced by countless women.
Here are the 11 Filipino women who shared their experiences of courage and resistance.
1. Shamah Bulangis, Dumaguete
“I was 16 back then, and because of this traumatic experience, I refused to be intimate with anyone for years.
“It was then when I felt a hand go up my legs – I tried to swat his hand, but my hands were stuck and he just kept on going until he touched it (IT!). I tried to move my hips but his hand just kept on following – and I wanted to scream but I froze. Instead, I cried in silence and never spoke about it, repressed the memory. Until now.”
2. Sarah Gomez, business developer
“What makes me doubly frustrated is that there are people – friends even – who would not believe a big girl like myself would experience sexual harassment in the streets. Both instances made me feel uncomfortable and when I tried to speak up, I’ve been told to take it as a compliment. This mentality needs to stop. Now.
3. Nor-ain Mohammad, 19, Marawi
“I carry myself with strength and confidence. I make myself look fierce but this did not stop me from getting harassed… I felt like I wanted to cry. I just sat on my bed, thinking of the scene over and over again. As women, we should not tolerate these actions. We need to be strong, to stand against harassment anywhere.”
4. Mich Dulce, designer
“When someone touches you, they feel entitled to your body. He felt entitled because he was an American man and I am a Filipina woman. I reported the case and followed through with the suit but the authorities decided that this did not fall under acts of lasciviousness. This is why I believe there should be more laws protecting us Filipinas from injustices we experience on a daily basis.”
5. Maggie del Rosario
“I was halfway through my trip, when my phone died so I went to sleep, a mistake that I would always remember.. when I woke up, I felt that the guy’s hand was inside my shorts. I screamed at the guy at the top my lungs.. the guy kept apologizing but I asked for some identification, then for him to leave the bus. When I got home, I looked up the guy on Facebook, and found out that he was a pastor.
“Anyone can be an offender, we just don’t realize it.”
6. Kana, University of Santo Tomas 4th year student
“At first I thought it was my fault. Is it the way I walk? The way I dress? But no. It is the way people are in the streets. Sexual harassment in public spaces is so common that people don’t even think about the consequences of it on the part of the victim.”
7. Ginx Petterson, educational content developer
“I don’t feel safe every single day, and this frustrates me, scares me, and angers me.”
8 & 9. Cha Roque, filmmaker and Ymi Castel
This is what happens when a guy can’t take no for an answer.
“He started to be handsy and we asked him to leave our table after being rejected many times, but he persisted on staying. He got into a heated argument outside with Ymi when she confronted him and said no. This was when he threw punches at Ymi and myself. Luckily, our friends came in to help and took the guy to the precinct. “
10. Chi Vallido, NGO worker, mother
‘Women commuters brace themselves to the possibility of being catcalled, harassed or molested every time they step out of their homes. Some come out stronger. Some are traumatized into silence. Some get empowered enough to fight back. But each and every woman or girl will always carry a scar of that traumatic experience. You never forget.”
11. Amber Quiban, student
“On a daily basis, I experience harassment in public spaces because of my gender identity. Being a transgender woman, I am either ridiculed for my identity or sexualized for my perceived sexuality. I get whistled on by riders and truck drivers. Bystanders and tricycle drivers would mock me with their “gay voices.””
Let us all take this opportunity to hear from these brave women who have dared to stand up, to protest, to say no to inequality against women, and to help reclaim the cities’ streets to make them safe spaces for women.