Restore Community Accountability to Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble
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September 29, 2017
Dear Community Members,
We feel that it is critical to inform the community about some disturbing actions that transpired two weeks ago involving Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble.
Pantayo is an all-women kulintang collective founded on values centred around building safe spaces - for individual and collective - critical and creative growth. However on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, five members of Pantayo—Eirene Cloma, Michelle Cruz, Joanna De los Reyes, Kat Estacio, and Katrina Estacio (“The Five”)—issued a letter of termination to group founder, Christine Balmes.
Marianne Rellin, another Pantayo member, was not informed that the group was taking this drastic action.
The Five signed the letter of termination to Christine, stating that the “majority members of Pantayo are ending our working relationship with you, effective immediately”. There was no warning, no discussion, nor valid reason given.
The Five informed Christine that they will return one instrument that she owns, but a Gandingan set—whose purchase she personally arranged and which she co-owns with two other members—is now the property of the group. They unilaterally declared that they are buying her out of her share.
Furthermore, The Five state that they will “continue using the Pantayo name in fulfilling prior obligations and projects that we have collectively agreed to. You can state prior affiliation with the group (i.e. “Christine Balmes formerly a Pantayo member”).”
Following this letter, on September 15, 2017, Christine’s access to the Pantayo email and shared Pantayo files on Google Drive—including music she worked on—were revoked. In addition, Christine received an email from The Five instructing her to:
“change document ownership to firstname.lastname@example.org on these specific folders on Google Drive:
- Pantayo Admin Files
- Babaylan Conference 2016
“delete these files from your Google Drive, as well as any other file that's Pantayo-specific:
- Wavelength 2016
- Pantayo List of Shows
- Pantayo Bookkeeping
- Pantayo Bio”
The files on Google Drive are works that Christine developed in close collaboration with other Pantayo members. In our view, by asking Christine to “change document ownership” and “delete files” from her personal Google Drive, The Five are attempting to deny Christine’s intellectual property rights and erase the foundational work that Christine has invested in Pantayo, in order to make the group what it is today: a musical ensemble that is rooted in critical thought and social justice, that uses an anti-oppressive framework to responsibly bring Filipinx Indigenous music to a diasporic, settler landscape.
Prior to the “termination”, The Five invited Christine to attend a meeting on Thursday September 14, 2017. Christine requested the agenda and that Marianne Rellin be informed of the meeting details. The Five suggested that Christine invite Kwentong Bayan Collective members, Jo SiMalaya Alcampo and Althea Balmes to attend for support. Kwentong Bayan Collective booked time off to attend the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting was unclear and after a series of online messages, there was no consensus on the date, time and location of the meeting until the last minute, when The Five changed the meeting to a day earlier, Wednesday, September 13th.
In addition, The Five hired a mediator of their choosing without informing Christine of the mediator’s identity or qualifications. Christine did not attend this rescheduled meeting on Wednesday September 13th. That same evening, two band members appeared unannounced at Christine’s home at 10pm, and handed her a letter of termination.
On Saturday, September 16th, Kwentong Bayan Collective sent a letter to The Five stating:
“We cannot support the ‘termination’ of Christine, nor can we be silent bystanders. This would make us complicit to the harm that your actions have caused to Christine, yourselves, the band’s reputation, and the larger community. [...] Our hope and intention is that you will consider a restorative justice process. We can offer to connect you with experienced mediators, if needed.” To date, The Five have neither responded, nor acknowledged the offering.
As community members, we have all tried to reach out to The Five prior to writing this letter. For the past two weeks, they have not responded to our letters, they cancelled a scheduled meeting with Marianne, and they have not taken any accountability for their actions.
We are aware that Christine Balmes has written her own response to The Five and requested they reply directly to her by October 2, 2017.
We are writing this letter because we have worked with the Pantayo collective since its inception in 2012. We have shared history and shared values. The recent actions by The Five are not what we have come to expect from them as fellow community builders and friends.
As community members who care about all parties involved, we cannot be silent bystanders. Choosing this route would only make us complicit to the harm that The Five members’ actions have caused, not only to Christine but to the spirit of Filipinx collectivism and the community-at-large.
We are initiating this restorative justice action with the hope that community accountability will be restored to Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble.
We respectfully ask "The Five" to:
1. Acknowledge that their actions have caused harm and are having negative repercussions on the community;
2. Withdraw their "letter of termination” to Christine;
3. Withdraw their instructions that any kulintang instruments that Christine purchased are now the property of the group;
4. Withdraw instructions for Christine to hand over all administrative rights to documents that she created for Pantayo over the past five years, including recordings, musical transcriptions, research, and writing;
5. Engage in a restorative justice process at a mutually agreed upon time and place with an experienced and mutually agreed upon mediator.
Here are some ways you can support:
- Sign the petition to “Restore Community Accountability to Pantayo”
- Share the petition
- Share your thoughts and recommendations to The Five by emailing email@example.com, and CC: Filipinx.CAN@gmail.com, if you wish to keep us in touch
Maraming Salamat / Many Thanks.
Signed by: Jo SiMalaya Alcampo & Althea Balmes, Kwentong Bayan Collective; Tim Manalo, Community Member; Flerida Peña, Community Member; and Marianne Rellin, Member of Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble (2012-to-Present)
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