Three snapshots of Dinky Juliano Soliman
Corazon Juliano Soliman, aka Dinky, was a sister and a comrade like no other. The following anecdotes show how and why.
The first is from the early ’70s when Bong Malonzo and I met a young and slender Corazon Juliano at the office of Denis Murphy on UN Avenue. This was Dinky the community organizer who, along with Tessie Banaynal of Lanao and later Cebu, blazed trails for young women in the very macho world of community organizers training. The high casualty rate of trainees in community organizing (CO) was a cause for boasting—matira ang matibay—for only the crème de la crème among trainees survived. And survive Dinky and Tessie did, survive and flourish.
I mention community organizing for this was the template that produced an early generation of activists in the furnace of Tondo. The La Tondeña strike, after all was the first effective act of open defiance against martial rule. Tondo also produced the urban poor icons of ZOTO—Trinidad Herrera, Fred Repuno, David Balondo.
The hard-earned lessons of community organizing informed the later decades of Dinky’s life—from CO and NGO work to her crossover to government service: one, her being so grounded; two, talking the talk and walking the walk with the poor of the earth; three, taking defeat stoically, using it as a lever for future action; four, coalescing disparate forces of the mighty and the marginalized in order to move forward. Dinky left a legacy in the CO world as founder of CODE and CO-Multiversity.
The second anecdote goes back decades ago when Dinky was on official travel to Canada along with Karina David, Ging Deles, and Remmy Rikken. According to Karina, Dinky was headed for her morning bath unaware that the shower was state-of-the-art. Water would sprinkle from on top but water also spurted from all sides, and since it was built for tall Caucasians, the water literally blasted the petite Dinky’s head. Flustered, she got over the initial shock and came to breakfast grinning, with a soggy head. We were howling with laughter when Karina shared this anecdote with Pilipina. Through accidents, adversity, and good times, Dinky glowed like the sunflower that she was.
For my final anecdote, I turn to Dinky in government as DSWD secretary, specifically to the 4Ps program—Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program—which succeeded under Dinky’s shepherding. There were many detractors—that 4Ps was a grand doleout, etc. But for someone who affirmed self-awareness, self-reliance, and self-empowerment for the poor, the 4Ps could never be a doleout. Surveys and studies attest to this, but I have my own story.
In a Zamboanga City barangay, a woman suffered 16 years of her husband’s drinking and abusive behavior in silence. He would throw her Avon cosmetics onto the streets, sabotaging all her efforts at fund-raising. As a bus conductor, his drinking meant there was never enough money for the family of four children who pleaded with their mother, please leave him. But she did not because she loved him. Instead she persevered, becoming a 4Ps leader hosting parenting sessions at home. Wonder of wonders, her husband overheard the discussions, eventually stopped his drinking, and became a new person—the caring husband and father she truly deserved.
Though later I met Dinky infrequently, I knew that she would always stay true to her roots of class and gender—a hallmark of Pilipina. Sisterhood had to be a touchstone of social change and class solidarity was always a constant. Class and gender needed to inform and infuse each other. Dinky hardly talked about this because she lived it.
Feeding the body also meant feeding, and freeing, the soul. Empowered women, transformed men, joyous families—this, for her, was the meaning of 4Ps. Not just for the privileged and/or lucky few but for every woman.
Salamat, Dinky, at paalam, hermana y compañera.
Jurgette Honculada is former chair of Pilipina.
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