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The first of May is the day where the Philippines celebrates Labor Day. This day commemorates the hardworking men and women in our country. Most workers usually use this holiday to start rallies and demonstrations where they would air their grievances and clamor for reform.

This holiday was first celebrated on May 1, 1903, when more than a hundred thousand workers were organized by the first labor union called Union Obrero Democratia de Filipinas (UODF) to march from Plaza Moriones in Tondo to Malacanang and demand the then American-led government for fairer working conditions.

Labor Day through the Years

The UODF was founded in February 2, 1902 by Isabelo delos Reyes and Herminigildo Cruz. Their union fought for the rights of the labor force during the American occupation. Delos Reyes was arrested on August 1902 for sedition, rebellion, and “conspiracy to raise the price of labor” and was succeeded by Dominador Gomez. Under Gomez’s rule, the UODF led the aforementioned march where he was also arrested under the same grounds as Delos Reyes was charged with.

On April 8, 1908, the Philippine Assembly passed a bill that officially recognized that the first of May as Labor Day, and declared it as a national holiday. On May 1, 1913, the other founder of UODF, Herminigildo Cruz, organized the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas. This congress lobbied for fair working conditions for the labor sector which included 8-hour working days, abolition of child labor, equal labor standards for women, and liability of the employers to their employees.

Since then, Labor Day is often synonymous with demonstrations and rallies organized by the labor sector. Recently in 2012, more than 40 labor federations formed a coalition called NAGKAISA which pressed the Philippine government for an increase in the minimum wage, to end labor contractualization, and for the regulation of fuel prices in the market.

Helping Workers through Rural Impact Sourcing

In rural areas, the plight of the laborers has been a long-drawn battle of attrition. Add to the fact that companies have been integrating more and more advanced technologies to their processes which stacks the odds against the laborers even more. That said, the government has made steps in addressing this issue – the ICT Office has conducted e-learning programs and projects like the Rural Impact Sourcing program.

The Rural Impact Sourcing program (RIS) strives to stimulate positive economic and social impacts in rural areas by training a supply of potentially skilled workers who can provide quality IT-BPO service on one hand, and help create an environment that is suitable for potential investors and companies in these areas.

Aside from a potential career in IT-BPO, the training from the RIS program also opens the avenue for online freelancing as an alternative mode of livelihood. Recently, the ICT Office, in partnership with Freelancer.com, held RIS workshops in Lanao Del Norte in order to teach and train individuals with the necessary skills for online freelancing. According to DOST-ICTO Deputy Executive Director Mon Ibrahim,

“Most of our well-known companies in the Information Technology Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry are hesitant to locate in Mindanao… The government, however, realizes the potential of impact sourcing or online jobs to provide alternative means of employment in these areas.”

The ICT Office’s RIS program is just one of the ICT Office’s contribution to the Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016, which aim for inclusive growth and approximately 1.3 million IT-BPM jobs by 2016.

Labor Day is both a celebration and a commemoration dedicated for all the workers and their fight for equal and stable working conditions as well as various job opportunities that can potentially become careers. Through efforts like the ICT Office’s RIS program, every hardworking individual, regardless where they are situated, is able to get a job and provide for their respective families.