Social Workers in Western Visayas have a rich heritage. It will be recalled that among the 7 pioneers that formed the first association of social workers in the Philippines, three came from Western Visayas, namely: Josefa Jara Martinez, (mother of former first lady Ming Ramos), Carmen Montinola-Luz (mother of former Makati Business Club executive Bill Luz), and Felicidad A. De Silva from Capiz. The first PASWI President is an Ilongga, in the person of Josefa Jara Martinez. Martinez will always be remembered as the first and foremost among Filipino social work pioneer. The social worker-senator who authored the RA 4373, Dr. Maria Kalaw-Katigbak, traced her roots back to Iloilo City. Her mother, a renown feminist/suffragist and writer, organized the Asociacion Feminista Ilongga, one of the first feminist associations in the Philippines.
Since then Ilonggo social workers have been in the national board of the Philippine Association of Social Workers (PASWI), National Association for Social Work Education, Inc. (NASWEI), Association of Local Social Welfare and Development Officers of the Philippine, Inc. (ALSWDOPI), Association of Medical Social Workers in the Philippines (AMSWP) and other national social work organizations.
In 1998, we made another breakthrough when we held the first Regional Assembly at Punta Villa, Iloilo City. With the ratification of the PASWI constitutional amendment for the biennial convention, the 1999 regional assembly has strengthened this initiative. Delegates in the regional assembly in 2000 at Sta. Fe Resort Bacolod City had reaffirmed the existence of the Regional Coordinating Board to govern PASWI- Western Visayas.
Since then, PASWI regional quarterly updates were conducted and regional conventions were held in between the biennial national assemblies. The practice had been accepted by PASWI National. In 2003 regional convention at the Residence Hotel, Iloilo a dialogue with PASWI National board was conducted where it was also learned about the plan to have a federation of different social worker’s organizations.
During that dialogue the following agreements were reached as gleaned from excerpts of the meeting, as follows: “Region VI is the first to organize and it is good to propose to the national to: 1) organize a regional body; 2) that there will be a regional board composed of chapter presidents, board of PASWI, representatives of NASWEI, representatives of Provincial, City, and Municipal Social Welfare Development Officers. (Representatives from health organization, NGO’s and one to be elected to be large that could lead us in our Regional Convention. Then it should be legislated in national.”
Our initiatives also led to the institutionalization of the Social Work Week in Western Visayas by virtue of resolutions/ordinances of respective Sangguniang Panlalawigan/Panglunsod. These were strengthened further when the PASWI National had chosen the theme Building Regional Strength: The Social Work Advantage for the 2005 Regional Clusters Convention.
In choosing that theme, PASWI National revealed its commitment to “uphold the importance of strengthening the local base, the regional chapters in serving the vision of the organization. By holding this regional convention, the National Board re-affirms its basic tenet that for the Organization to mature and prosper it has to strengthen its base (local chapters). For this to transpire, it has to enhance the internal capabilities of chapter organization and the regional cluster organization.”
However, in 2007, PASWI National decided to do away with the regional chapter/aggrupation because of their perception that it weakened local chapter’s initiatives. Thereafter, the regional coordinating board was formally dissolved.But periodically it functioned to coordinate the annual celebration of the Social Work Week. Later, it was realized that the decision was more adversarial than beneficial as it curtailed regional initiatives.
With the visit of an Ilongga PASWI national board who once served both as president of local chapter and national body to strengthen the local chapters in Visayas, the idea to activate the regional body was discussed. A consultation was conducted during the World Social Work Day celebration on Mach 19 which led to the proposal to organize the Social Workers Organizations Regional Network (SWORN).
SWORN will keep the rich heritage and tradition alive by strengthening the social work organizations/ groups in Western Visayas. It will serve as coordinating body of all social work organizations affiliated with recognized national bodies, as well as other independent ones. SWORN will also act as support system to the regular activities of various organizations, and advocacy network to support the cause of Ilonggo social workers when needed. The network will spearhead the celebration of Social Work Week in Region VI. Moreover, it will be responsible for research-documentation and publication of the history, heritage and future development of social work endeavors in Western Visayas.
SWORN will be governed by a Regional Council of Leaders to be composed by representatives from PASWI, NASWEI, ALSWDOPI, AMSWP, respective NGOs, and members to be elected at large. The council will elect the Regional Coordinator and other officers, if deemed necessary.
Concept paper for the revival of the regional network of social workers in Western Visayas presented and subsequently approved during the second consultation-meeting on April 23, 2013 at the Department of Social Work, Central Philippine University. SWORN Ad Hoc Committee was organized in preparation for the formal launching on June 19, 2013 to culminate the 9th Social Work Week celebration in Western Visayas.