Kwentong Covid/Kwentong Trabaho: E-book on work experiences during Covid-19 pandemic launched

An electronic book or e-book containing stories of Filipinos’ work-related experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic was launched this afternoon via Facebook and Zoom.

The e-book titled Kwentong Covid/Kwentong Trabaho is a project of workplace safety NGO Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development or IOHSAD, and gathered stories of workers, teachers, health professionals, jeepney drivers and other sectors about work during the pandemic.

It was able to gather 67 contributions consisting of essays, testimonies, short stories, poems and other forms, was edited by Teo S. Marasigan, columnist of progressive newspaper and website Pinoy Weekly, and designed by Dino Brucelas, graphic designer and instructor at the De La Salle College of St. Benilde.

“We feel that there is a need for workers and other working sectors to document their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic and for the general public to read these experiences. We have so much to learn from the plight of the country’s workers and working sectors, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD executive director.

The contributions present not only personal stories of suffering and strength, but working people’s collective experiences and challenges – layoff, anxiety, lack of cash aid and social protection, poor working conditions, labor rights abuses brought about by the government’s inept Covid-19 response and problems in the country’s economy.

De Leon said that the idea of an e-book emerged from IOHSAD’s conversations with workers about their situation during the pandemic. “Through these stories, we better understood the situation of workers. We were able to formulate workers’ demands and calls. We were able to craft plans for collective action for workers’ health, livelihood and rights.”

“We realized that we cannot simply keep these stories in our laptop files, or make these part of social media posts which will be buried into oblivion by other posts. These stories need to be released to the public in a way that they can be retained and returned to, in a way that readers can savor every word and message,” De Leon stated. 

The e-book’s editor, meanwhile, highlighted the need for the e-book despite workplace and other stories being available on social media.

“Here, we have stories coming from ordinary Filipinos, including those who are not always on social media. These stories are not regularly provided to us by the algorithm of our social media accounts and by the powers-that-be. Here, we can focus and reflect on, and feel, narratives and analyses pertaining to a topic that’s very important to the majority of Filipinos,” he said.

The launch featured readings by some of the authors of their contributions to the collection. The following read their contributions:

>> Angela Pamaos, a college instructor from Parañaque and member of the Lapis Art Community, who wrote about her heart-breaking experiences in teaching.

>> David Michael San Juan, a professor at the De La Salle University (DLSU)-Manila and president of the Pambansang Samahan sa Linggwistika at Literaturang Filipino or PSLLF, who wrote about his experiences as a progressive educator.

>> Paul Joshua Morante, a poet and a resident of Laguna who works for a Business Process Outsourcing company, who wrote about his an experience of working from home.

>> Paul John or “PJ” Dizon, an agricultural worker from Compostela Valley and a full-time organizer of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, who wrote about his organizing efforts amidst the pandemic.

>> Arth Jay Murillo, a writer and a spoken word artist from General Santos City who wrote about his experience of losing, and then finding, a job during the pandemic.

>> Mariz S. Autor, a graduate of the Philippine Normal University and a masters student at the DLSU, who wrote a short story about a migrant who went home to the Philippines with a mysterious disease.

>> Al Joseph Lumen, a writer based in Germany, who wrote about that country’s appreciation of health workers from the Philippines.

>> Kamz Deligente, deputy director of trade union rights NGO Center for Trade Union and Human Rights or CTUHR, who gathered the testimony of a union leader about the pandemic’s effects on both unionized and contractual workers.

>> Dr. Leonard Javier, a doctor and an activist who is a member of the Community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed) and Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), who wrote about his experiences of attending to poor patients.

The e-book will feature illustrations by visual artists Melvin Pollero and Beverly Wico Sy and photos from progressive multi-media group Mayday Multimedia.

IOHSAD expressed its gratitude to all the workers and working people who sent their stories for the e-book project. For their contribution to the launch, it also thanked visual artists Ericson Caguete and Karen Mae Bengco and the NSTP class of University of the Philippines-Manila Political Science Block handled by Prof. JM Lanuza.

The e-book will be available for download on May 31 at IOHSAD’s Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Iohsad.Philippines.

Watch the e-book online launch via Facebook here.

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