First published in Pinoy Weekly.
Three Stars and a ‘K’
Youth activists in the US of A: militant and proud of heritage. Photo courtesy of Anakbayan USA
Red flags with yellow print of three stars and a “K” — the Baybayin letter “K”, that is (for“kabataan” or youth).
Seeing videos of eleven of these with the name of each chapter at the bottom of each flag (and one with that of League of Filipino Students-San Francisco State University) waving in unison to the tune of Tambisan’s“Dakilang Pakikibaka” (Great Struggle) at Anakbayan USA’s second National General Assembly gives me so much hope for the motherland’s future.
One might think these ‘kids’ gathering now in Seattle, Washington, USA would be your typical Fil-Am cousin, nephew, niece or grandkid whom you find entertaining when trying to talk in Filipino with a twang while having their family vacation in the Philippines.
But then, you hear them chanting “Lumalakas, lumalawak, lumalaban, Anakbayan!”,“Imperyalismo, Ibagsak! Burukratakapitalismo, Ibagsak! Pyudalismo, Ibagsak!”, “Makibaka, huwag matakot!”, “Mag-aral, maglingkod, mangahas na makibaka, LFS!” and “Kabataang Makabayan, Lumalaban! Kabataang Lumalaban, Makabayan!” — in crisp, straight, without accent, Filipino way.
I bet you’re thinking, “Do these kids even know what these words mean?” Big words, right?
More than 200 Filipino youth and students are gathering this weekend of January 16-18 for the conference entitled “Kabataan, Magkaisa! Strengthen the Unity of Filipino Youth to Build a Brighter Future”. They will be tackling socially relevant issues such as Philippine sovereignty, the state of education, im/migrants and workers’ rights, women and LGBTQ rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, relief and rehabilitation for disaster-stricken areas in the Philippines and what it means to be in solidarity with other ethnic groups and nationalities, including our African-American and Central American sisters, brothers, friends and comrades. So it would be safe to say that yes, they do know what they are chanting about when even as youth and students, they are already confronting these kinds of issues, big as they are.
Two years from now, I will be crossing over the United Nations’ stipulated age limit (35 years old). But as early as now, I am already comforted by the fact that there are younger people out there who are already thinking beyond themselves and who are also taking up the fight for Philippine national liberation and democracy – despite being miles and miles away from the motherland, and more so, despite being right in the belly of the imperialist beast.
Photo courtesy of Anakbayan USA
They may still be young and in high school, in college, out of school or working their asses off in offices, restaurants, institutions or not-for-profit organizations aside from organizing within their mass organizations. But seeing the membership of Anakbayan USA grow from 5 chapters (when I was still a part of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey a decade ago) to 11 chapters in key cities throughout the United States, and with the perspective of rebuilding Sandiwa, the national alliance of Filipino youth and students in the US, makes the future really promising — not just for them, but for the communities that they serve as well.
Some may consider them progressive, leftist or call them “activists”, and that may not suit well for the elders, but wouldn’t you at least be proud of your kids that they are doing something socially relevant with their lives instead of getting wasted or spending all their time in front of computers or video games (not to say that it’s bad to engage in these activities every once in a while)? That they are trying to learn more about their roots and history as a people and that they are trying to change the world for the better with as little or much experience as they have?
Some parents may be against these young peoples’ activism, but having experienced this within my own family during my first few years of being an ‘activist’, I personally totally feel you. We truly do. And we are not actually asking for your concern for your children to waver. The love for our children and the feeling of getting worried for them will always be there.
But equally, or more than this, let us support them and be proud of them. That at a young age, they are already thinking about the future – both theirs and ours — and that they are realizing the power of collective action and are nurturing their sense of community. If there is also one thing that I have learned in my youth as a member of Anakbayan, it is that the youth cannot accomplish anything on their own without linking arms with other sectors of society, especially the workers, the peasants and the most marginalized, oppressed and exploited members of the society who comprise the majority.
The fact is, no matter what we tell them to do or what we want them to pursue, they will create their own path, and, cliché it may be, their own experiences will still be their best teacher. And wouldn’t the youth’s experience be more empowering and less burdened if we are all in this together and we extend our support to them in these endeavors of protecting our communities, our rights and our future? We are, after all, also a receiving end of their arduous efforts.
If I were to have my own children, I would want them to be a part of Anakbayan USA’s 50th, or maybe even 100th, chapter. Or to push it even further, when time comes that we can all come back home to the motherland, be part of Anakbayan Philippines’ what, 1,000th chapter? That is, if it hasn’t even reached that number of chapters yet as of this writing! 🙂
So, for all of you, young people, who are now in Seattle, be bold and daring and show us, older people, that you are responsible enough to build a new world! There are tens of thousands of us out here who got your back! And thank you for being the young people that you all are. 🙂
17 January 2016