A Philippine Human Rights NGO providing Psychosocial Services and Rehabilitation to Internally Displaced Persons and Survivors of Torture and Organized Violence.

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Members of civil society organizations and faith-based associations joined the commemoration of the day when the late President Marcos placed the country under martial law on September 21, 44 years ago.  Carrying pictures of  victims of human rights violations, more than 1,200 participants gathered in the historic Plaza Miranda in Manila to remind the public that an authoritarian government should never be allowed to prevail again.

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Social workers from different municipalities of North Cotabato and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) participated in a study session on documentation and rehabilitation of torture victims in Kidapawan City on September 6 to 9, 2016. The learning event also highlighted the mechanism for monitoring,  reporting, and responding to victims of grave child rights violations in areas affected by armed conflict in Mindanao.

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Around 200 survivors of torture and enforced disappearance and their relatives have started to receive some financial assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in recognition of their right to rehabilitation under the Anti Torture Act and the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act. The monetary assistance is intended for the purchase of medicines and to pay for basic medical check up of the victims. Some amount are meant to augment their resources for their livelihood projects as well.

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Balay Honors Heroines of the Martial Law Era

Balay honors women survivors of torture (third from left to right: May Rodrigquez, Hilda Narcisso, Mel Laurenaria and Minda Upalda). Women who have greatly contributed to Balay's work were likewise honored (left to right: Inda Olayer represented by her husband Jojo, Daisy Valerio; bottom: Agnes Rio)Quezon City – In commemoration of the 26th year anniversary of the declaration of martial law, Balay Rehabilitation Center, together with various civil society organizations, activists and individuals, paid tribute to women torture survivors who contributed in the struggle to establish democracy in the Philippines.

In the activity entitled, "Celebrating Life and Journey to Healing of Heroines of the Martial Law Era", Balay, showcased four testimonies of women who have been tortured during the martial law era. Their stories provided the participants with an idea of f the struggles and suffering they have experienced during the Marcos dictatorship. Their narratives also highlighted their inspiring abilities to manage, cope and build a beautiful and bright future that is full of love and hope despite the ordeal they went through. Each testimony was greeted with a ritual of affirmation and solidarity by those who participated in the event.

Young people sang songs, recited poetry, and staged a play extolling the courage of the women who stood against oppression. Family members and friends of the women who shared their stories gave heartfelt messages of appreciation and admiration. The women who participated in the testimonial therapy were: Hilda Narcisso, Minda Upalda, Mel Laurenaria and May Rodriguez.

Testimonial Therapy

Testimonial therapy is a therapeutic activity where traumatic experiences are retold and showcased publicly. With the help of a psychologist and a documentor, traumatic life events are recalled and reframed, highlighting the more positive aspects within the traumatic life experience such as the coping process, strengths exhibited despite adverse life conditions and the eventual triumph of the victim/survivor over trauma. The testimonial therapy's conscious effort to highlight the strengths over the grim and often depressing parts of the traumatic experience is believed to promote the healing of a victim/survivor. Aside from its therapeutic functions, testimonial therapy is also an avenue for advocacy. The stories showcased are a testament to the violence and brutality of the era of the Marcos dictatorship. They are reminder that justice has not fully been served as well. And, it is a testament that many people still suffer from the inhuman practice of torture long after the democratic rule has been restored in 1986. The testimony of the victim/survivor may also serve as a source of strength for other individuals who have experienced the same fate. More importantly, the testimonial therapy, just as the theme of the activity suggests, is a "celebration of life". That despite traumatic life events, life is, as the women victim/survivors have showcased, still full of hope, beauty and love.

Heroines of the Martial Law Era

After honoring women torture survivors during the martial law era, tribute was also paid to the heroines of Balay – women who have greatly contributed in Balay's work. Among the women who have been honored were Daisy Valerio, Agnes Rio and Inday Olayer (represented by her husband). Near the end of the activity, women who have fought the dictatorship and contributed in restoring democratic rule in the country were called up on the stage, given flowers, and honored for their invaluable contribution. To close the activity, the group sang "Bayan Ko" ("My Nation") to remember and thank the countless individuals, especially the women, who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the country's betterment and democracy.