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The Student in the Rally

February 19, 2010

By Gloria G. Goloy

Published in The Sunday Times Magazine, March 1, 1970

Try standing under a blistering 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. sun until two or three hours later and then walk all the way from Congress to Malacañang feeling hungry, thirsty, and tired, and you will realize that the student who takes part in demonstrations isn’t having fun playing hookey.

Physical discomfort is what he gets from being involved. The rally, whether it takes place in the morning or in the afternoon is all heat and dust and fatigue, the sum total of which reduces to negligible proportions whatever levity or fun there is for him in this “adventure” outside the school. Against that, even the prospect of escaping classroom boredom and recitation jitters is a weak alternative. Only the incorrigibly indifferent student would resort to the rally merely to evade these traditional student hazards.

Certainly, therefore, not heat, nor thirst, nor fatigue — not to mention the knowledge that his participation is lost to anonymity in the rally crowd — can deter the student from the strategy of the streets. For if at all, the ordeal he goes through one rally should be sufficient to discourage him from joining another, and another, and still another. But developments indicate that, the combination of deterrents notwithstanding, the rallyists have grown in numbers.

A most unusual phenomenon, no doubt. For youth is impatient, youth is impertinent, and the rally, however impressive, does not guarantee immediate repercussions. Each individual student who takes part in this collective activity contributes to the incredible proof that the young can stretch his patience beyond more than just one rally. A kind of hopeful patience, it must be stressed now, so unlike the apathetic patience of their elders.

The incredible is all the more to be wondered at because the student’s participation in today’s rally accrues to him benefits and gains which he does not immediately reap. The triumphs of a rally are of long-range effect spread out over the years. Very often, their significance and import can begin to assume real and tangible proportions only long after the last hurrah shall have echoed away from the contemporary scene.

So, why then does the student join the rally? The manifestoes he and his fellow rallyists brandish say so in so many words.

To protest against base killings. To call down congressmen for their excessive allowances. To argue about bases agreements. To dispute the country’s involvement in the Vietnam war. To press for speedy and efficacious measures for land reform. To agitate for a non-partisan constitutional convention. And lately, as an aftermath of the bloody demonstrations, to denounce police brutality.

Big issues all. Issues the average adult may not be conversant with but about which the young is familiar as a result of frequent discussions in school. Issues that lend themselves easily to the idealism of the young, to their restless hankering for change, to their call for action. Here and Now.

All of which boil down to one thing: love of country.

The sentiment rode the wave of feeling during that Friday rally in front of Congress. Vaguely yet vastly, it settled on that gathering of young men boldly keeping pace with one another, holding aloft angry-worded placards. One sensed it on the anxious faces of those who looked up in the direction of the building, watchful for cues to respond to. One felt it in the intensity with which each speaker launched into his harangue and the equal intensity with which he was lustily cheered and applauded.

The sentiment was most particularly felt each time the crowd sang the National Anthem, for once, meaningful and relevant as a battle cry. The last two lines rang loudest and clearest with the bravado of the Friday rallyists who vowed:

“Aming ligaya,

na pag may mang-appi,

ANG MA-MA-TAY NANG DA-HIL SA I-YO!”

Within twelve hours, four of the students in that rally were beyond the physical encumbrances of heat and hunger and thirst and fatigue. #

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