Iloilo rides for a human trafficking-free Philippines
MANILA, Philippines – Just as the rest of the nation was one with Iloilo City in commemorating our 117th year of independence from foreign rule, over 300 cyclists, enthusiasts, and advocates gathered at the provincial capitol grounds on Friday, June 12, to ride together and campaign against what could be considered modern day slavery: human trafficking.
Dakila-Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, in partnership with Central Cruiser Cycling Club (C4) of the Central Philippine University (CPU), organized the event, in line with Dakila's ongoing "Stop. Look. Listen." anti-human trafficking campaign and the promotion of road sharing. The event was highlighted by a bike tour that went around Iloilo's 6 prime district plazas, including La Paz, Jaro, Mandurriao, Arevalo, Molo, ending in Plaza Libertad.
"We believe that while it is important to celebrate our freedom from colonial rule, it is also important for us to realize that many Filipinos are still enslaved," said Allyn May Canja, spokesperson for Dakila-Iloilo.
The United Nation's International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are 21 million victims of human trafficking, with Asia, in particular, accounting for half due to its large population and poor labor conditions.
"Every year around 300,000 to 400,000 fall prey to human trafficking here and abroad," according to Nityalila Saulo of Dakila.
Iloilo, NCR, Tarlac, Laguna, Batangas, Samar, Cebu, Maguindanao, and Zamboanga are among the human trafficking hot spots in the country cited by ILO.
Now on its third year of organizing the Independence Day Freedom ride, Dakila has mobilized over 10,000 cyclists in Metro Manila, Iloilo, Dumaguete, and Zamboanga, raising the call for freedom warriors to promote biking as an alternative transport and at the same time creating awareness about human trafficking.
"117 years (of the proclamation of independence) but the fight against sexual exploitation and forced labor seems like a never-ending battle. It is hidden from plain sight but it happens every single day and while it may take a lot of organized effort and civic awareness to put a stop to it, we gathered here today, as we have in the past 3 years, to prove that we are not just cycling to decongest our roads but also to take part in a traffic free Philippines in all sense of the word," Nityalila added.
"Freedom ride aims for public awareness about human trafficking and the empowerment of advocates and citizens in becoming watchdogs and freedom warriors in their own communities. This Independence Day, we have cruised for a human trafficking free Philippines and paved the road to national progress," David de Leon, C4 president, said.
Ilonggos from all walks of life and different ages joined the freedom ride along with different bike groups. Among the youngest was 11-year-old Divine Grace Genine who was riding along with her parents and siblings.
"She has been riding her bike since she was 6, and we have been riding as a family together since then," said Genine's father.
The oldest biker who registered was 69-year-old amputee, Rudy Fernandez, a paralymphic athlete who has been cycling since he lost his leg from a grenade explosion.
"My bike has been my leg since [my leg] was amputated. I can freely move around because of my bike. I have never been diagnosed with any chronic illness," Fernandez said.
Chef Cidj Jalandoni, a triathlete, further emphasized the relation between biking and Dakila's advocacy. "If we think about it, biking is pretty much like our cause against trafficking. All we're aiming for is equality and respect for our rights, may that be as bikers on the road or as citizens in our everyday lives. [We are] entitled to the same rights as everyone else. "
Iloilo Freedom Ride 2015 ended with a program at the Iloilo provincial capitol grounds with Nityalila singing her composition, "Laya", as she thanked the freedom warriors of Iloilo. "Ilonggos have declared a revolution today against modern-day slavery as much as the heroic act of those who took part in the 1898 Philippine Revolution."
Iloilo hosted the 117th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence in the historic town of Sta Barbara where the Philippine flag was first raised outside Luzon, by the revolutionary government of Visayas. It later became the base of the revolutionary forces against Spanish colonizers led by General Martin Delgado. – Rappler.com
Russel Jude Mendez Patina writes for Cream dela Creme blog