[Press Release] Iloilo Cyclists as Modern Day Heroes, Rode for a Human Trafficking Free Philippines -DAKILA

Iloilo Cyclists as Modern Day Heroes, Rode for Freedom on Independence Day
Pedal Power for a Human Trafficking Free Philippines

In line of the celebration of Independence Day, DAKILA, in partnership with Centralian Cruisers Cycling Club (C4) gathered cyclists and advocates for the Independence Day Freedom Ride in Iloilo City.

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Iloilo hosted the 117th celebration of Independence Day in the historic town of Sta. Barbara, where the Philippine Flag was first raised outside Luzon by the revolutionary government of Visayas and became the base of the revolutionary forces against Spanish colonizers led by General Martin Delgado.

The event which is a part of Dakila’s ‘Stop. Look. Listen’ campaign in support of the Anti-Trafficking efforts benchmarks the campaign against human trafficking and the promotion of road sharing by organizing a bike tour that would run around Iloilo’s six district plazas and will start at Iloilo’s Provincial Capitol Grounds.

This year, Iloilo celebrates its 117th year of freedom since the official surrender of the Spanish government in 1898. Back in the colonial rule, Iloilo had served as a home for old Spanish families and was even awarded ‘La Muy Leal Y Noble Ciuded de Iloilo’, the most loyal and noble of the cities in the Philippines.

“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. We want to celebrate our 117th year of independence by continuing the fight for the freedom of others,” Allyn May Canja, spokesperson of Dakila-Iloilo said.

According to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO), there is an estimate of 21 million victims of modern slavery to count. Asia in particular shares half of the estimates of ILO because of the number of its population, working force and its poor labor conditions. In the Philippines, hotspots for human trafficking include the NCR Region, Tarlac, Laguna, Batangas, Samar, Cebu, Maguindanao, Zamboanga and Iloilo.

“Human trafficking is a serious problem especially in our country because we offer cheap labor. A lot of times we only see women being trafficked for sexual exploitation but in fact, human trafficking can happen to both men and women and for different reasons other than sexual exploitation, such as forced labor. There are even cases of professionals such as doctors who experienced being trafficked,”Canja added.

The first Independence Day Freedom Ride in Iloilo last 2013 gathered cyclists and advocates to share a road that leads to a Philippines that is free from any form of human trafficking and to promote Iloilo as a bike-friendly city that supports alternative forms of public transportation.

“We are enthusiastic about this event because aside from raising awareness on human trafficking, we also get to promote our cause which is road sharing and to transform Iloilo City into a more bike friendly city. We will be riding our bikes for freedom from human trafficking. In a way we feel like we are using our own advocacy, to promote another advocacy”, Biking advocate Daniella Caro said.

“We cruise for a human trafficking free Philippines this Independence day,” David de Leon, President of Centralian Cruisers Cycling Club also said.

DAKILA, an art and advocacy collective, initiated the Freedom Ride in 2013 to raise the call against human trafficking and encouraged freedom warriors to come out and pedal for a human trafficking free Philippines. It mobilized around 10,000 cyclists in Metro Manila, Iloilo, Dumaguete and Zamboanga as freedom warriors.

Musician Nityalila Saulo of Dakila in her send off speech before this year’s ride said, “In 1898, it is in this very soil that the Spanish Government surrendered. It is in Iloilo that the Philippines were granted its freedom from the 333 years of Spain’s regime. It is no wonder Iloilo is a land of freedom and that Ilonggos are by nature, freedom warriors. But even if we are celebrating this historic event and wearing our best independent suits we are far from being free from modern day slavery.”

The 1956 UN supplementary convention defines slavery as “debt bondage, serfdom, forced marriage” and as times change, new forms of slavery evolve and emerge; bonded and forced labor, descent-based and child slavery, early and forced marriage and human trafficking, which is in context is the “transport or trade of people from one area to another into conditions of slavery.”

Nityalila, in her speech, further added, “Every year around 300,000 to 400,000 Filipinos fall prey to human trafficking in their own country and abroad. 117 years and we are still slaves, not from colonial rule, but from the everyday acts like sexual exploitation and forced labor; acts that deny freedom. The fight against modern slavery seems like a never-ending battle, it is hidden in plain sight, but it happens every single day and it takes a lot of organized effort to put a stop to it.

But the last years had proven that we could actually start and make a difference. Today we are all gathered here as modern day heroes bearing one thing in mind: fighting modern day slavery by using our pedal power. Today we are not just cycling our way to a traffic free Philippines; we are paving our road to national progress, together.”

A part of Dakila’s Project Freedom Campaign, the Freedom Ride aims for public awareness on human trafficking and the empowerment of advocates and citizens in becoming watchdogs and freedom warriors to their own community. It ensures that through unity and organized effort, one can make their way to one road as a nation free from the bonds of slavery.

The Iloilo Freedom Ride started at 3:00 PM from the Iloilo Provincial Capitol Grounds, toured through the six plazas representing the six districts of Iloilo, and ended at the Provincial Capitol where a short program was held to celebrate the Independence Day. Hundreds of Iloilo cyclists clad in Independence Day themed costumes, wearing face paints, and carrying Philippine flags participated.

Nityalila send off speech ended with the singing of her composition “Laya” as she paid homage to the Freedom Warriors of Iloilo, “Ilonggos took a giant leap this 117th Independence Day by answering the call to be warriors of freedom. It is because of this heroic act of Ilonggos who participated in the 1898 Philippine revolution and our own revolution today against modern-day slavery, that we can all look forward to a better Philippines in the future.”#

For more info, contact Dakila through Karen Bermejo, 0915-5410368 or Allyn May Canja, 0917-6113381

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