LAOAG CITY — From Dec. 7 to 12 this year, the Saint Augustine Church in Paoay town will be beaming in orange glow, as it signifies its call to stop violence against women (VAW) in Philippine society.
As it continues to attract devotees and visitors to this northern part of the country, the Saint Augustine Church, simply called Paoay Church by many, has been chosen as a featured landmark this year in the nationwide campaign against VAW.
The Department of Tourism (DOT), the Diocese of Laoag, the town government Paoay, and women’s advocates have together decided to make the National Cultural Treasure of Ilocandia a symbol of the national campaign against VAW, a pervasive social problem in the Philippines.
The campaign is incorporated in the government’s gender and development program.
Modesto Baloloy, Chief Tourism Operations Officer of the DOT Regional Office 1, said the iconic Paoay Church plays an integral part in the rich heritage of the Ilocanos and is now a symbol of the promotion of women’s rights.
Ilocos Norte is joining the nationwide observance of the 18-day campaign to end VAW, in partnership with the Philippine Commission on Women.
Carrying the theme, “VAW-Free Community Starts with Me,” the DOT led the kickoff ceremonies of the “Orange Your Icon” campaign on Dec. 7 in front of the Paoay Church.
Local officials, tourism stakeholders, young boys and girls, and other visitors attended the event.
“The campaign starts within us, but the advocacy should go beyond us,” said Baloloy during the program launch.
The campaign aims to strengthen the anti-VAW advocacy by spreading awareness and promoting national and local tourism sites alongside the campaign of fostering VAW-free communities.
Major landmarks or icons nationwide are colored orange — a bright, optimistic, and attention- grabbing color.
Different sectors have also expressed their commitment to embrace the advocacy of having VAW-free communities in the region.
For one, the Zonta Club of Ilocos Norte (ZCIN), composed of women leaders and innovators, is advancing the cause of fellow women through an all-year-round series of activities deploring gender-based violence.
The group’s programs include fora on human rights, trafficking of persons, and parliamentary procedures related to gender-based violence.
In partnership with various local government units and other interest organizations from the 21 towns and two cities of Ilocos Norte, the club holds free seminars to promote awareness on stopping violence against women and children.
The Magna Carta for Women is also being popularized in various community programs and school activities for the protection of women and children in the province.
Celestina Paz, a member of the ZCIN, said the group has noticed an increased number of reports reaching the Women and Children Protection Desk of the Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office.
Paz said the reports are relatively alarming but it is also a sign of bigger awareness because more women now are not afraid to fight for their rights.
In a 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey of Philippine Statistics Authority, it showed that one of four married women aged 15 to 49 have experienced spousal violence. PNA-northboundasia.com