Co-founder of Kalakasan Migrant Women Empowerment Center, Kanagawa, Japan, Sister Margaret has also worked at women’s shelters in Kamakura, Kyoto and Yokohama, and with orphans.
Born in Bacolod City, Philippines, the tenth of seventeen children, Sister Margaret always felt the deep influence of her faith, both as a child and throughout her life. After being educated by the Benedictine Sisters from grade school through college, she received a Bachelor of Music in Piano from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila and taught music for several years at St. Scholastica’s Academy. At 27, she decided to enter the convent after working as a secretary and editor of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWT) and coming into contact with the Maryknoll Sisters for the first time. She recalls being moved by the Maryknoll efforts of working “not only for the liberation of the country but of the women, as well.”
She made her First Vows on August 15, 1992, and was assigned to Japan. After completing a language course in Tokyo, she spent her first several years in Kyoto, volunteering in after-school activities for children coming to KiboNo Le. In 1995, she relocated to Kamakura, Yokohama, the most populous region of Japan. There, she worked to empower battered women at a Catholic relief shelter and, after a period of renewal, ministered to pastoral migrants from the Philippines. She also worked for Action in Asia, an organization dedicated to exposing social injustices, particularly to foreign audiences, and developed an interfaith connection between Christianity and Buddhism at San Un Zenso with Zen practice. In 1999 she professed her final vows.
In 2002, she became one of the founding members of the Kalakasan Migrant Women Empowerment Center, which works to stabilize foreign women and their children in Japanese communities. In Tagalog, one of the native language of the Philippines, kalakasan means “strength”; as such, its activities are many and focused on empowerment. Its ministries include hosting a crisis intervention program, follow-up care for abused women, networking for improvement in the legal status of migrants and women, and administering a babysitting cooperative for single Filipina mothers, among many others. She has described her work as helping both children and adults “learn to know and love themselves as part-Filipino” in a foreign country. Furthermore, she has also been involved in anti-trafficking movements, to which organizations such as Kalakasan contribute. She continues her work in the Japan area today.