Kumusta? I’m Patty, one of six BILT student fellows this year, and I am excited to delve deep into my thematic area, which is wellbeing and belonging in the curriculum. I am also a student ambassador at the University of Bristol Law School, a role that allows me to share my deep interests in gender equality and health justice more widely across the university and beyond. My work has generally focused on how law and policy may enable people to live meaningful, satisfying, dignified, and healthy lives. At the moment, I am currently on an ESRC studentship (1+3) through the Southwest Doctoral Training Partnership. My research project falls under the sociolegal studies pathway and aims to examine English mental health law and its gendered effects on Filipino migrant women.
Growing up in Occidental Mindoro, a Philippine island province affected by poverty, militarisation, and armed conflict, shaped my perspectives. Even though my family and I moved to Manila for education and employment opportunities, I have found numerous reasons to return over the years. At the height of an El Nio drought in 2015, I had a chance meeting with fellow alumni from the University of the Philippines, Annette Aguila and Diana Apigo-Tayag (now Vice-Governor). Bound by our shared experiences and desire for change, we inspired each other to pool our respective skills in public health, business accounting, and law to launch an informal investigation into why our town was experiencing six to twelve-hour daily blackouts, and why this issue was not in the news. We started an online petition to raise awareness about the health and livelihood consequences of avoidable (and thus unjust) inequalities like the energy poverty that is affecting more than half a million people in our province.
With our #WantedIlaw petition (‘ilaw’ means lights) at the centre of our efforts, our research-informed organising sparked a province-wide social movement and several peaceful protests calling for urgent government action. Finally, I drafted and submitted our findings to Congress, which triggered a resolution calling for an urgent legislative inquiry on the ‘regime of blackouts.’ While the collective efforts of various groups initially led to a public-private partnership with a renewable energy start-up that piloted a groundbreaking solar microgrid project, the hard work continues because the blackouts persist to this day. Thus, my passion for community-centred research and advocacy around health and well-being encompasses professional, academic, and personal dimensions. I write about this formative experience not just to shed light on what kind of complex issues motivate me to reflect and act, but also to raise awareness of this critical human rights issue in solidarity with my community while being thousands of miles away.
As an international student, there are many barriers and overlapping challenges that we students face as we forge our new lives in Bristol. It is important to tap into collective interest in understanding and making the most of academia, where we all thrive (not just survive) in this new environment. By working with BILT this year I hope not only to provide student voice in institutional-level conversations and initiatives around wellbeing and belonging (e.g., Show, Tell, and Talk; and Bristol Skills Framework), I also hope to facilitate, nurture, and participate in various ‘brave spaces’ where we can engage in the potentially difficult yet necessary conversations to transform our experiences in academia for the better.