Since childhood Malaya Pinas has seen the dark side of globalization and violence in the Philippines. She walked to school barefoot after selling eggs and cigarettes in her nation’s ports and toiled in banana plantations to earn her way through college. Her dream is to see her people free from poverty and oppression and free to chart their own destiny.
Malaya speaks out as a journalist and activist in one of the most deadly countries to be a journalist in the world. Sadly, in 2009 two of her women colleagues were killed in the largest massacre of journalists in recorded history. For her, the risks she faces by speaking out are outweighed by the risks of continued silence. For this reason, last year, Malaya was invited to run for Congress in the Philippines as the only woman on the opposition platform. She decided to do it, saying that “being a leader means having a big heart for compassion and a courageous heart to battle against all forms of discrimination and oppression.” Though her party lost the election, she is considering running again and she tells us, “I left footprints of a real politics of change with every handshake and smile I gave.”
Malaya is a social worker by trade and a tireless activist in practice. After obtaining her college degree, she taught social work at the university level, focusing on social issues and women’s advocacy. She taught for many years but her political activism put her at odds with the university’s philosophy. Thus, she decided to resign and focus on social and environmental justice work. In 2006, she founded Save Our Lives, SOS!– Panay and Guimaras immediately following the worst oil spill in the Philippines’ history. SOS is an alliance of women activists, human rights groups, local legislators, scientists, lawyers, academics, and victims of the spill who came together to respond to the damage done to the area’s land and livelihoods. This coalition of victims and advocates has grown into a permanent organization committed to empowering communities, especially women and children, to demand economic and environmental justice and accountability from the government and corporations in light of several overwhelming natural and man-made disasters affecting the area in the past few years, including the oil spill and the devastation left by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda last year.
In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, with the Philippines government struggling to assist survivors of the devastation, Malaya did what came naturally to her: Along with her husband, she stepped up to organize relief efforts in her hometown.
Malaya is an exemplary example of a courageous, determined woman who puts all of her efforts into creating change and a brighter future for her community and her country.