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The Best Since Pugad Lawin

February 19, 2010

By Gemma Cruz Araneta

Published in her column, Skin Deep, in the Graphic, March 11, 1970, p. 16

A climactic moment came unexpectedly during the second mammoth demonstration on the night of 18 February at Plaza Miranda. A labour leader started his speech with an exposé. Another labour group was allegedly given two million pesos by the CIA. Immediately, a sizeable sector of the crowd reacted noisily. There was a commotion which threatened to get out of hand as no one could tell whether they were crying for blood or were simply offended by allusions. The leaders on the platform pleaded for sobriety and, speaking in the vernacular, they reminded their companions that the struggle is far from being over and that we should all first study the issues before contemplating drastic action.

“Mag-aral muna tayo!” cried the leaders and twice the National Anthem had to be played to restrain the crowd and cool tempers. The leaders also warned against provocateurs, falling into their vicious traps and destroying the beautiful and peaceful union already formed. The pleas did not fall on deaf ears because even if the group left Plaza Miranda, no unnecessary violence ensued.

Verily, the student demonstrations are the best things that have happened since the cry of Pugad Lawin. Emulating the examples of the heroes of our Revolution, the students have shaken the nation out of its lethargy by informing the masses about the causes of economic dependence and the perpetuation of a corrupt and undemocratic social structure. The students are undoubtedly well-informed as they can see through the superficial, the symptoms and analyze the real causes of our problems, Soon, when the oppressed farmers, the exploited laborers and factory workers, the deluded masses see the advantage to nationalize strategic industries, make workers members of corporations and tenants owners of the land they till, then we can be assured of a future with social justice where the fruits of labor are distributed equitably.

Call it Congress of the People or Parliament of the Streets, the attempt to conduct nationwide “teach-ins” among peoples from all walks of life is historically and socially significant.

The Vigilantes who are safeguarding democratic processes in lawmaking bodies and government corporations have really forced our elders to be more conscious of public good rather than self-interest.

Frankly, to say that the students are demonstrating because they lack love (First Lady, Daily Mirror, 17 February) is to over-simplify matters.

The student leaders at Plaza Miranda never for a moment sounded like love-starved delinquents hungry for parental affection and attention. But there is another way of looking at it. Perhaps parents do not love their children enough. If they did, then they themselves would have demonstrated in their youth, formed parliaments of the streets and vigilantes groups. Had they not allowed themselves to be deluded by imperialist propaganda like Taft’s “Philippines for the Filipinos” or McKinley’s visions; had they remained idealistic like their grandfathers who fought the Revolution, then their children would not have to demonstrate today. The social cancer would not have festered and Rizal, as one writer so aptly put it, would have long been obsolete.

Some people have the most shocking attitude about what is going on. Those who have fled in panic are ludicrous and those who speak with contempt, calling demonstrators, rioteers (remember the word insurrectos, tulisanes, rebels?) are disgusting. Others have become nervous wrecks because of what everything has done to the stock market and the thought of losing their worldly possessions and privileges must have shattered them. Fear has made people resort to hurried charity projects thinking that alms are an adequate substitute for social justice. The callously apathetic — like that Blue Lady at a recent gathering — would rather not think about it and leave everything to the military. In another era, she probably would have said, “let them eat cake.”

When all is said and done — or in the unfortunate event that not enough was done, the student revolution will always be considered a blessing and a significant step toward enlightening the nation.#

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