Diwang Pinay

Sunday, March 6, 2011 – 2pm matinee and 7pm
and March 13, 2011 – 2pm matinee and 7pm

DIWANG PINAY: Kasaysayan sa Likod ng Babaeng Manggagawa
The Story Behind the Woman Worker

Hunter College-Lang Recital Hall
Hunter College-Lang Recital Hall
695 Park Ave.
New York, NY.10065

Buy your tickets now!!!

Since February 2010, a group of Filipino women across generations, both age and migration, have gathered weekly to create an original staged play about migration, family and resilience. Diwang Pinay follows the story of Maria, a domestic worker in the NYC area who left the Philippines to support her family by migrating only to face challenges in a new city and figure out a way to survive. See the world through her eyes as a migrant and mother.

The process of creating this original work has bestowed a multigenerational group of Filipinas, immigrant and American-born, a unique experience to write, produce and direct stories about the lives of Filipino domestic workers living and working in New York City. This production is a collaboration between Kabalikat Domestic Worker Support Network, a program of the Philippine Forum and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-Gabriela USA.

View the trailer, HERE!


For a very long time, I’ve been collaborating and working with Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network and FiRE on producing a play about the experiences and lives of the resilient and inspiring domestic workers in our community here in NYC. FiRE and Kabalikat women have not only put together a compelling play, they have also proven that academic research and cultural work via theater arts are totally viable avenues for community-building and capacity-building of women’s leadership and organizing.


This process has brought ostensibly different sets of Filipinos, women, immigrants, children of immigrants from seemingly separate walks of life, professions, backgrounds and interests and brought them together to engage meaningfully in discussion about our community’s histories of migration and resistance. And although, many of our experiences together brought us to tears it also brought us closer to one another.

Instead of polarizing us from one another, our experiences of trauma in migration and living and surviving in the US, whether it was our own or our mothers’ or our grandmothers’, gave us a platform to see how many of these systems of displacement (forced migration, racism, sexism, homophobia, imperialism, capitalism) are ordered by capitalism’s brokenness. We were careful not to privilege one struggle over anothers’. We made sure that although we experienced these oppressions differently, everyone had a seat around the table and that she was heard. We often brought food to that table and embraced one another before we left, if not only to remind ourselves that we weren’t alone.

Responsibly and respectfully, the FilAm women in this process owned the privileges they came with and further, always negotiated the space they took up, the roles and tasks they took up and figured out a good way to let their internal (class) contradictions live in the same room as the domestic workers, whose external contradictions were so obviously about class.

At the times when my Type A would kick in and I made some quick-style decisions, both FiRE and Kabalikat women were quick to stop me and get me to engage in a more collective discussion about anything and everything. It was safe enough for them to kick me and for me to be kicked.

I think I’m most grateful about the relationships that were built across and within organizations. Women were able to share their stories, to be understood more deeply and listen to others’ stories, to understand more deeply.

For our organizations, our objectives when we set out to do this play were simple, to build stronger ties between organizations and to heighten awareness about the migrant woman’s struggle. Check and check.


Because the reality is that I am a doctoral student and that I have a dissertation to write, the process of Diwang Pinay was a critical time and opportuntiy to really immerse with Filipino domestic workers. The women and their lives, are the subject of my intellectual work but, more importantly, my political work. But the academic that I am, I think that creating this play really allowed me to think through some of my dissertation analysis.

I remember, I told Candice, the director of Diwang Pinay, that Diwang Pinay was to Kabalikat as dissertation was to me. I think of the process of data gathering and analysis to be parallel to each other. In the beginning quarter of this year long process, we engaged in journaling, mapping, sculpting and talk story to build a well of stories about anything and everything–open-ended interviewing, if I may.

Then in the second quarter, we met monthly to talk more deeply about themes that came up over and again–open coding.

In the third quarter, we sat down together, all of us to start writing the important scenes we wanted to show the world, the messages that domestic workers wanted to convey about their lives and work–closed coding. In this third quarter, we relied lots on the indigenous knowledge of domestic workers about working in a new city, charting out migration patterns and more. We depended on FiRE women’s abilities to transcribe and technological dexterity to record and document the stories. This closed coding–the process of exacting the themes that were most relevant and interesting to domestic workers–also became the markers for me about the themes that could and, might very well be, the chapters to my dissertation: transitions to working as a domestic, computer technology’s significance to migrant motherhood; a “chosen” diasporic family, the need for me to go to the Philippines to interview families left behind.

Lastly, in these last few months, rehearsing the scenes, lines and images we wanted to portray felt like repetition that is bound up in trying to internalize and understand the argument in a disseration.

And although I don’t have hundreds of pages to give to my dissertation committee, I feel like that the generative elements of this production is about the logic in which we went about figuring out how to do this but also in the relationships it built–meaning that the intellectual work that I’m about to produce isn’t some removed theorization. It is based on, came from and collaborated with the very community it is about.

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