My mom reminded me not to be an activist when I passed the UPCAT.
I was finally going to be an Iska (Iskolar ng Bayan). Of course I said yes like an obedient daughter. What did I know? But well, I immediately got involved in activities that brought me to the path of a true blue “tibak.”
Or shall I say, true red.
I joined rallies, went room to room discussing pressing issues that befell the country, and talked to one organization after the other explaining our cause. I’d stay up late for meetings and wake up early for other organizational tasks. I’d speak in front of large crowds (with or without a microphone or megaphone). I’d deliver impromptu speeches in classrooms, lobbies, and parking lots.
But it was not these activities that made it difficult to be a tibak. It was the fact that people always had their eyes on you. “Tibak ka ‘di ba?” (Are you an activist).
You always had to be cautious of your actions. Bawal ang pasaway. I guess it’s because people have the wrong perception. Activists criticize the wrong deeds of authorities. We do not ask them to be perfect; we want to hold them accountable. In my four years in college, I juggled my life both as a student and a student leader. To be honest, the latter was way more difficult. But it also felt better because I believed I had a greater purpose.
Activism opened my eyes to the struggles of people from all walks of life—from students and middle-class professionals to workers and farmers. I talked to ordinary workers about unfair labor practices in their company. Farmers shared about how they till the land and work from dawn until dusk, but still end up buried in debt.
I joined immersions and saw with my own eyes the ridiculous situation our people are helplessly put in. Some families have piles of dirty clothes they can’t wash just because they do not have money to buy laundry soap.
The sad part: these people are not in this situation because they are lazy. They may work as hard as CEOs and business executives but it all amounts to nothing because the very structure of opportunities has collapsed.
Do you think politicians, surrounded by assistants and consultants in air conditioned offices, work harder than farmers who work their butts off from the wee hours of the morning until night? Do our parents work less hard that’s why we eat in fast food chains while children of plunderers travel the world in their private jets?
I don’t think so.
But why do politicos end up with hundreds of thousands or millions in their bank accounts (apparently even more, according to affidavits from the PDAF scam)? Why do farmers ride carabaos they don’t even own while government officials pollute the air in Metro Manila with sports cars?
The glaring inequality is sometimes just too hard to fathom. But while I can only weep in sympathy during a day or two of immersion, most of our poor countrymen have to endure the wounds and scars of inequality. It has become part of their life.
Taking a Stand
Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do about it. We can take a stand.
Our national history is filled with accounts of struggle. It took a revolution to free us from three waves of colonization. It took a peaceful mass demonstration of the people’s power to free us from a dictator. This is what history teaches us. We do not get the things we deserve by sitting down and waiting for things to happen. We must take action.
The Struggle Continues
Now as a member of the work force, I have a better understanding of what some laborers were going through when they were sharing their sentiments about work.
My struggle still continues. But this time, it’s in a different perspective and context: wage, security of tenure, benefits, worker’s rights. Yet somehow, it is still the same — fighting for the things we deserve.
I first worked as a program researcher. My very first segment producer instructed me to find a story element at around 2-3AM. It was difficult but this is what he told me: “Make it happen.” This is what I am doing now, together with other members of the work force. We are willing to stand our ground to claim what is rightfully ours.
It’s tough. It’s David against Goliath. And there is no certainty we will win. We are also aware of the repercussions. But I know when everything feels like an uphill struggle, the view from the top will be worth it.
No, it is not about being pasaway, disliking our bosses, or being ungrateful to our company. As other members of the group said, we love our jobs. In spite of the dangers and challenges of our occupation, we have rendered years of service and hard work. It is about going against the injustice in the system.
At the end of the day, you cannot correct what you are unwilling to confront. As long as there is unity in our struggle, we will win.
[Entry 21, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author
Edma Remillano is the Manager for Advocacies for SubSelfie.com. She is also a News Writer for State of the Nation with Jessica Soho. More importantly, she is the owner of Edma’s Homemade Cupcakes. Life is what we make of it, or so she says. Journalism 2010, UP Diliman. Read more of her articles here.