A woman’s work is never done, but when you work hard, you get to party harder. Ask the folks at SAKA, a collective of artists and activists fighting for land rights in the Philippines.
Last March 6, just two days away from International Women’s Day, SAKA hosted a gig at Catch272 in Kamuning, Quezon City. Entitled Babae, Babawi: A Tribute to the Women Whose Struggle Will Seize Back our Land, the event was in honor of all hard working women. And we mean all of them–from artists, teachers, mothers, lawmakers, scientists, community leaders, and the hardest working women of all: the women of the countryside, the women farm workers and peasants who till the land to grow our food.
Manila street culture is not so divorced from the realities of the countryside. Whatever happens in farms and mountains affect the lives of people in Manila, and vice versa. It’s all one huge street, be it paved or dirt-packed. And on that muggy Friday evening, a mixed and vibrant crowd braved the weekend traffic to show solidarity and support for some of our most vulnerable homies.
Outside the venue, pretty cool and ‘woke’ merch were being sold. Tote bags and shirts designed by women illustrators including Hulyen (of comic series Ugh) and Emiliana Kampilan (of Dead Balagtas fame) bearing slogans of Land Rights Justice and Stop Killing Farmers were selling like hotcakes. There were stickers, zines, pin buttons, and primers on the land situation as well.
Upstairs, Minnehaha Calleja of Good Hand Tattoo was inking people with agrarian-themed flash tattoo designs for as low as 1,000 pesos, all proceeds of which would go straight to the anti-feudal struggle.
To open the program, SAKA’s Co-convenor Donna Miranda gave a solidarity message to highlight the name of the event. Babae, babawi raises the need for women to fight back against all forms of oppression and to take back what is theirs by right.
In between the music performances, women representatives from various sectors–peasants and farm workers, artists, and urban poor–spoke about their experiences, the challenges and abuse they continuously struggle against. These speeches, as well as the straight fire line up of musical performers for the night, prove without a shadow of doubt that women have something important to say.
Some of the best female-fronted musical acts in the city took the stage that night. Alyana Cabral (of Teenage Granny, The Buildings, and Ourselves the Elves) opened the night with sweet folk music. Blues outfit The General Strike took the stage next, followed by Identikit’s shoegaze-pop tunes. The Shocking Details fired up the place with their righteous rrriotgirl anger, and Sleep Kitchen’s powerhouse performance struck right through the bone. BP Valenzuela was a refreshing drink of water with her electropop melodies, and Megumi Acorda (of The Strange Creatures) capped the night with some dreamy shoegaze.
Before the night was over, SAKA distributed white flowers and candles to the audience and asked everyone in the bar to step outside. It was almost midnight, and in a dark street corner of Kamuning, the crowd lit their candles and offered the flowers. It was a small ritual to commemorate the lives of almost 300 peasants who have been unjustly killed since 2016, for the crime of fighting for what was theirs by right. 34 of them were women. A moment of silence was held for the fallen, and the night went on–with music, laughter, and hope.
Photos by Bjan Bernabe and Ding Llaver