Pinay’s dream on RP strife tops NY speech tilt
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–A Filipina has stood out among Americans to give more meaning to a US event that was meant to remember their country’s triumphs against racial discrimination.
Anne Richie Garcia, a 29-year old English teacher from the Philippine Science High School-Cagayan Valley campus here, has won a speech competition in this year’s week-long commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. held at New York University in the US on Jan. 24.
Garcia is the first Asian to win the top prize in the 3rd Annual MLK Oratorical Contest, sponsored by NYU’s Steinhardt Graduate Student Organization, according to Ena Hilaire, NYU graduate assistant.
Garcia’s winning piece “Altruism above Poverty” focuses on human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples, student activists, peasant leaders and journalists in the Philippines.
She is currently in the US taking up a masters’ degree in educational theater, through a two-year study grant under the Ford Foundation-International Fellowships Program.
The MLK speech event is part of a week-long celebration that aims to “(establish) a tradition that will honor the dream” that King has advocated more than 40 years ago, according to the NYU website.
King Jr. won his Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964 for leading the call for action against racial discrimination in the US. In August 1963 he organised a now historic march to Washington where he delivered his now-famous speech, “I Have a Dream”.
He is honored as the man “who has never abandoned his faith in the unarmed struggle he is waging, who has suffered for his faith, who has been imprisoned on many occasions, whose home has been subject to bomb attacks, whose life and the lives of his family have been threatened, and who nevertheless has never faltered.”
At the NYU event, speeches were meant to address the theme, “Dare to D.R.E.A.M” where D.R.E.A.M. is acronym for Deconstruct, Reflect, Envision, Act, and Mobilize” or the contest’s specific theme, “The Time is Always Right to Do What Is Right.”
“I was somehow inspired by my subject in world drama last semester. It was about human rights violations in the world, which, according to my professor, is the real world drama,” she said about how she drew the motivation to write her winning speech.
But what Garcia thought made her clinch the top prize in the competition is the resolution offered by her talk.
She said: “The dream beyond my play, beyond my scholarship grant, beyond this speech, is my dream to participate in the world’s quest for social justice. Yes, to dream with commitment is more than enough to comfort a people’s grief.”
Garcia realized that delivering a speech about poverty and strife in her country, in front of an audience composed of different races was “the most difficult speech that I had to do, even more difficult than the eulogy I delivered for my father.”
“I thought, the audience would not care, and would just say, ‘girl, you seem to have ended up in the wrong place, talking about the sorry state of your country because you know what? We don’t care’,” she said.
To Garcia’s surprise, the audience–composed mostly of Americans–was visibly sympathetic, and the others were close to tears. She recounts how after her speech, one NYU official, a black American woman, came up to her, shook her hand and said, “Your speech was powerful. I could not hold back my tears”.
In one part of her speech, Garcia said: “It pains the heart to see the Philippines crawl in the darkness of poverty due to the political circus that’s been fooling her people. Government officials buy votes in broad day light, abuse of power is done in a snap, and leaders who fight for the poor are killed.”
She continued: “True, my country is a third world where parents tighten their belts as they rush to work, skip meals and wear the same glued pair of shoes for a hand to mouth existence; where kids, on slippers, walk or hike to school hungry, sit on the cold floor with a nationwide no-child-left-behind policy; where women leave their families to work as house maids, factory workers, entertainers, to send brothers and sisters nephews and nieces to school, there are lots of them going to all parts of the globe that Filipina was once defined in a dictionary as domestic helper;
“Where journalists, student activists, and union leaders serve the masses unselfishly and may get killed on-the-spot at whatever time of the day; where people desperately wish to dream of numbers that could win the lotto and finally, with the blink of an eye, wake up from their nightmare – poverty.”
As other finalists that went on stage before her, mostly black Americans, gave out specific details and statistics about human rights violations in the US, Garcia refused to be intimidated.
“I tried to establish that mental attitude that winning is not what is important; the most important thing is that a Filipina is there to voice out the sentiments of her own people. It was not about winning, but more importantly, just a chance to be heard,” she said.
Garcia said she is currently working on a play that would try to focus on the victims of extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances in the country, to be played by her students and local talents upon her return from the US.
“I gathered data from the internet and I was shocked by the sheer number. It was a different feeling writing a play just for the sake of it, compared to writing a play for the victims purposely to tell the world about their plight,” she said.