I pass by Roxas Avenue walking my way to the Jeepney terminal when I happened to look at the converging people on the sidewalk. They are holding placards, streamers, waving the red flag, marching while chanting anti-government slogans. I wonder why they are doing it. I am quietly annoyed because they are blocking the traffic and the movement of the vehicles is so slow that it seems to mimic the velocity of my walking. I am really wondering why they are doing it.
I am in my college years and activism is not yet within my reach. Though I heard a lot of it: demonstrations, rallies, strikes… I am very grateful for it not that I sympathize with them but because there will be a suspension of classes. As usual, I am addicted to my favorite subject called “Vacant 101” and the holidays and weekends, it’s my life!
However, such questions of the existence of those peoples faded away like the faces of people or fistfights I usually forget. I continued with my life, going to and from school, although I’m not really a good student when it comes to scholastic performance, I am well active in my extra-curricular activities. Together with my gangs, we are indulged in some habitual gimmicks that whenever there are no classes you can find us in the billiard halls or in some bar talking to brews or just sitting in the school corridors having our ritual of “girl watching”. In short, there is no political in my consciousness as I prefer to live the life of a normal teenager.
My silence towards anything critical is in the accordance with the norms of a typical student, not until when the issue of a tuition fee increase enters my ears, the first glimpse involves a little penny to waste in my escapades but when paid by the whole student populace, it quite involves a big amount of money. However, student reaction was heard only in some chit-chat and talks within the ranks of what we call “radical” minded individuals. Even I was disgruntled that when I realized that such annual increases in our matriculation could surely to bigger payment by our parents for our education, but who cares! I’m not the one who is paying anyway.
Such belief continued as I go on with my college life. Until such time when a student enters our room while we are having our class and he asked the permission of our professor to allot him just 15 minutes of the class. He was allowed to do so. I admire his courage to face us which is for sure a stranger for him and talks to us directly in the eye talking about student’s plights and the whole Filipino people. He explained to us the issues of the tuition fee increase, abbreviated as TFI, campus repressions, and the curtailment of our democratic rights. Such a short yet precise and truthful statement of this undaunted student gets my full attention. Although I noticed the disinterested mood of most of my classmates I endure the pain of 15 minutes listening to his speech. I am in my full attention of his discussion that I barely noticed his exit. The professor’s voice awakens me in my deep thought.
I never realized the torment that the studentry is experiencing. Yes, the anniversary of the Martial Declaration is near. I know a little about it, and I only read it through books, yet the thorough details of the stormy years of that era are now a new thing for me. I never know that such barbaric years have even occurred in our country, while such brave men like this man that enters our room endure the pain of life and death, fighting for freedom amidst the repression and political prosecution perpetrated by the State.
Many students and youth bravely fought the dictatorship in many forms of struggle. as the government illegalized all progressive and democratic student’s and people organizations critical of Marcos governance, thousands of youth went underground and join the people’s army pursuing the higher form of struggle.
I am quietly at a loss that my existence was abnormal when I realized that such events that happened three decades ago exist until now. The only difference is that there is no direct military rule, but the political repression, injustices, and corruption in our government are truly rampant and no longer hidden in the eyes of the ordinary masses still occurs.
Yes, masses, the term I heard from this man, I have known as Mike; a political student activist in our school. The masses are the majority of the Filipinos, that is oppressed denied their basic human right to live in decency, and the further subjugation of their plight by inhuman policies propagated and implemented by profit-hungry government officials. Which he adds, are comprador bourgeoisie (rich businessman turned politicians) and landlords run for the post not for the service they usually bubble, but to protect the interest of their class and to amass huge money from the pockets of the 90% impoverished Filipinos.
Instead of giving social services, the government is spending billions in military and foreign debt that is why no wonder, subsidies in education are always in some coins. That is the reason why we have to pay much more than we have to, the profit-oriented capitalist educators. I am confused why such situations prevail in our country. Yet my questions can no longer be satisfied because he already left the room.
Unlike other things and events that pass through my five senses, the presence of an activist in my life was never been forgotten. It is just until now that I realized that living is not only for myself alone, but involves other people. My interest in more information is complemented by the presence of the students marching in the street as I am going out of the school premises. Together with them a number of the urban poor, peasant, church leaders, workers, and other sectors joining hands amidst the presence of truncheons and water hose. A scene that truly enrages me.
For God’s sake! They are only shouting for their rights, yet they are met with policemen and soldiers that are in their full battle gears creating an atmosphere of a war zone against such unarmed helpless civilians. I sneak into the demonstrators, curious what it is all about. And there, amidst the presence of unfriendly uniformed men, the speakers firmly holding their microphones condemning the government for the abandonment of its responsibility towards the majority of the people, continuous subservience to the dictate of foreign monopoly capitalists nations. Puppetry is unacceptable to my ears.
Damn a government that does not have a political will to solve its own problems, which it calls for foreign military intervention to annihilate a handful of bandits that is their own making. I feel so stupid when I myself was not part of this crowd. It seems that I don’t know anything that is happening right below my nose, or maybe I just don’t want to know.
After the program, I also follow suit in the dispersing crowd. Until one hand waves at me, and I met him, Mike the activist. I wondered how he still remembers me; I even forget what he looks like. He asked me, why I was here and replied with my mere curiosity. He invited me to join him in their staff house and eventually know other activists which he calls comrades. I don’t know why he invites me, a stranger like him and though hesitant at first, I agreed and follow him.
We went into the place where the shanties are like tombs placed in rows, and the noise of people talking about everything from lotto to basketball, and the drunkard who weeps in a nearby store. He tells me, this is the real Filipino situation. Then I nod, not understanding what he meant and then we reached a nearby shanty where he invited me inside.
There a met a couple of people, mostly students from different schools staying in a small house full of posters, books, and paints. He introduced me to them and he said they are his comrades. At last, I said, I finally met you people.
We talked about everything while having a snack of a barbecue. They explained to me why they are here, instead of staying in their comfortable homes they enduring the hardships of the place, the sardines-like situations in mass actions in every issue of the day. I also met some of the full-time organizers that were driven out of home because their parents do not understand what they are fighting for, or just refused to admit that their children are already willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of that written in the wall “Serve the People”.
Such sacrifices are necessary Mike said, it is a stage where we have to go through that series of choosing where we stand, and to remold oneself into a true proletarian revolutionary, one must change into a completely new person armed with such devotion to pursue the principles and practices of the national and democratic aspirations of the people. Change for the better is not like a picnic, or a party Trisha said.
It is a process of a bloody and painful path to cross if one wants to have a glimpse of a democratic and free people. And the more important is the movement should never be detached from the masses, for they are the true makers of history. One must arouse, organize, and mobilize the broadest numbers of people to forward the interest of the majority against the dictatorship of the few. I am in my full attention, for Trisha anyway is a beautiful student activist I can barely remove my eyes.
Then there comes the invitation to join their organization, the cause which travels a long and arduous road. Seconds click and I was welcomed with a strong and firm handshake from my new comrades. That is it, the time I can never forget when I was given lengthy educational discussions, sharing, and brushes hand in hand with the peasants, workers, and urban poor that I sooner understand Mike’s words that this is the real Philippine situation. while talking fearlessly, determined in front of the class talking about what Mike had done before I became an activist, I am very optimistic that when our ranks will never be detached from the real people of the real Philippine situation, such dreams of a fruitful and new horizon of tomorrow will surely be fulfilled.
Anyway, I change my outlook now, no longer is the week-ends or holidays concerns me, but the service to the people is my life!
Written during college days
September 20, 2002