Philippine teachers in pay rise protest inspired by the Flowers of May festival

Teachers celebrating the annual Flores de Mayo festival in the Philippines call for significant increases in salaries to compensate for rising inflation.

On May 1st, 500 teachers and educators from public and private schools and universities gathered for a Labor Day protest with a theme inspired by a popular Festival in the Philippines, called “Flores De Mayo” (Flowers of May). The Philippines celebrates Flores de Mayo, also called Flores de Maria (Flowers of Mary), which is a month-long festivity honoring the Virgin Mary every year in May. This tradition was introduced by the Spaniards and has now become a part of Filipino customs associated with youth, love, and romance. The primary activity during this celebration is the “Santacruzan” (Holy Cross), which is a parade that features immaculately dressed young women escorted by young gentlemen carrying floral arches.

Participating teachers developed their own aliases like “Reyna Poorita” (poor queen), “Reyna Haggarda” (Haggard queen), “Reyna Walang Pahinga” (No rest Queen), etc. that illustrates the underpaid, overworked, under-supported status of teachers in the Philippines.

The protest was dubbed “Protesta De Mayo” (Protest of May) because of the teachers’ demands for a salary increase, grants for adequate benefits, the implementation of educational reforms, and respect for union rights. According to Vladimir Quetua, the chairperson of the Alliance for Concerned Teachers or ACT, “The government should increase the salary of teachers and workers due to the 10-month long rise in inflation experienced until today, yet the authorities are still being quiet to their demands despite several protests.”

Quetua also added, “Our teachers can no longer endure the sub-human work conditions in our schools wherein we were forced to teach in cramped and hot classrooms, made to take on non-teaching duties, paid salaries below livable levels, and still obligated to spend on classroom needs.”

According to Cecile, a public-school teacher for 18 years who participated in the parade, “We public school teachers end up paying for classroom repairs, school materials and sometimes even the lunch of the students because the latter have no means to buy their own food.”

“I only get 5900 pesos (105 dollars) every 15th and 30th day of the month, and it is not enough to cover all our monthly expenses so many teachers like us got buried in debt.” She added.

The “Protesta De Mayo” also extended to other provinces and participating schools in support of the collective demand for salary increases.

“This year of 2023 will not be a futile effort; we will vigorously fight for the upgrading of teacher’s salaries and we will not accept if there aren’t any laws passed about salary-upgrade within the year.” Quetua concluded.

Cathlyn Ann Herrera