Who are we really fighting for and why?
To my fellow students and change-makers,
The 45th anniversary of Martial Law is on us, and the question begs still: is the Filipino worth dying for?
Our country is bright, with many beautiful people. The movements that have risen from it are unlike any other the world over. The answer, resoundingly, seems to be a.) yes, and b.) now more than ever.
Law enforcement allegedly spends their evenings murdering our young. Our congressmen have spent their fair share of days trading barbs like rowdy schoolchildren. The Marcoses, election recount issues notwithstanding, seem to be well on the road towards a return to power. Our rights and institutions have been vigorously belittled. This doesn’t even count the searches near our schools and homes. All this, plus fake news? Small wonder why we’re angry, and the administration’s fearful for what’s to come.
I can’t help but feel a little disheartened, however, when I survey the socio-political landscape around me. Movement is necessary, they argue. “Have you read the news lately,” they ask. What reason is there not to stand up? Do we let the curse words, and the drugs, and the threats to our sovereignty slide? My desire to scream grows louder with each passing killing.
I read of the First Quarter Storm, of martyrs like Emmanuel Lacaba, hear of the circumstances surrounding the Plaza Miranda bombings, and shake. I count the never-ending costs of Proclamation 1081 and I wish, fervently, to be marching, making up for lost time. I look to history, and find it dangerously similar to the present. I need to be out there.
And yet, for all my rage and frustration, I can’t bring myself to believe fully that we have it in us to fight for this country. Much as I hate to say it, there’s a lot we don’t know, care to know, or remember, for one reason or another.
For all our verve on Twitter, and on the streets, for one, we tend to be quite bad with names. For every “Hitler! Diktador! Tuta!” or “Dilawan” catchphrase that seems etched into our minds, there’s a Liliosa Hilao that barely makes a dent in civic consciousness.
For every Kian Loyd Delos Santos we remember, there is a Danica May Garcia that gets lost in the newsreel. For every “Tokhang” we decry, there are “Bayanihans” and “Exodus’s” we have long chalked up to gross misfortune.
We speak on and on about the importance of activism, but do we know what we’re fighting for?
If we indeed fight for Liliosa, for the likes of Kian and Danica, for those below us who can’t afford to speak up, nor look past their first meal, nor look up from the fields they work, then all well and good. March. If it is for the marginalized we wish to speak for, such as those killed by the Kentex factory fire, or the Moro farmers who have for so long known only a world of violence and discrimination, then all is well and good. Speak.
But if we only wish to rage because others rage, or because those around us choose to rage, or because it is in vogue to rage, well, there are other ways to be cool. Revolution and protest, for all its youthful grandeur, is tragic. It is chaos, and in a better world, it wouldn’t be necessary, but this isn’t a better world.
Rage is the life of kuya Jomarito Guaynon, a Bukidnon datu from the Higaonon tribe, who has seen his village shelled by paramilitary forces, and who has watched as reporters shirked away from his community’s causes. He has no choice but to protest and to speak and ask others to speak for him.
Revolution is the life Juan Escandor, a cancer doctor from UP Manila, sacrificing a lucrative practice to serve the rural communities of Cagayan, tortured and dead at 41.
All this is the rape of Erlinda Taruc-Co, separated from her 5-year-old child, beaten “blindfolded and handcuffed to a metal bed” for being nothing more than the wife of a political detainee.
It is the acknowledgement of, per Nick Joaquin’s “Reportage on the Marcoses,” “the presence of a fascist dictatorship.” It is the failure of order, the presence of extraordinary power vested in the hands of an evil who wields it without remorse.
Are we ready for this?
For all the glory of the struggle, see, my friends, we must remember first of all that to rage — and on this day of all days — means to bear the plights of those who have gone before us. We rage because the memories of those who have gone have yet to be forgotten. We struggle because we have listened to and understood the stories of all those who cannot be here with us.
We shall march on Martial Law not just if we see it as a time of (merited) outrage, but when we see it as a time of remembrance. Use it not just to scream, but also to listen to the voices that have led us here. Remember those who gave their lives. Talk to those marching along you side by side. Speak for them too, when no one’s watching. Give them your time. Pray with them in mind. Study what they have to say. Ask how — alongside marching — you can help.
These lives after all, are what makes the Filipino worth dying and living for.