Archive for the ‘Commentaries’ Category


A Bucket for the Fire

February 19, 2010

By Monina A. Mercado

First published in her column, It’s a Long Story,  in Graphic, March 4, 1970, p. 18

When a conventful of nuns in Makati, listening over the radio to the progress of the January 30 street battle, concluded that their enclave would probably be besieged next, they reportedly filled buckets of water to put out whatever fires are set in their house and exclusive school. That done, they then barricaded themselves in fearful prayer inside the chapel.

Their experience, told by the nuns themselves in all naivete to their students, has leaped over the convent walls, to be told and retold in varying degrees of amusement — but how very typical of prissy old maids — and yet also of saddened realization. What have these nuns to fear — they of supposedly great faith — unless they harbor some knowledge of a part in the provocation of this unrest? (For it seems that this detonation of protest in the streets has begun to flush out into the light those every time a demonstration is announced in the papers.)

There is little escape nowadays from the social talk that often begins thusly, O rebolusyon na ba? The poor little old man who weeds my garden asks the question each time. The air conditioning maintenance man could not resist the query. My favorite glamour girl asks the same question in between stirring the mahjong pichas. And the children ask when the television set is turned on demonstrations if they are burning Malacañang again — it so looked that way when the bonfires flared last January 30.

In these times, we react with what we are and what we have. Passports are ready for those who have the wherewithal — “For the sake of the children,” they always say. Those who do not have to stay have left or are definitely leaving. Some Jews who are in business are reportedly selling out and evacuating Forbes Park homes for Brooklyn and the Bronx. A group of European nuns is in the process of relinquishing the administration and management of their girls’ school to make their departure date in the early summer.

A move to the province is contemplated by those who have roots far from Manila or Central Luzon. There is suddenly some solace in a bucolic town one tolerates on a visit, but never as a home.

Last summer, we spent two weeks in a tiny town in Misamis Oriental where all the big paths that are called streets end in the sea, where colts and mares graze on the plaza green, where meals are malunggay plucked from the bush and fish scooped up from the sea down the street, where nighttime illumination comes from gas lamps and sometimes the moon — and suddenly those 14 days, which seemed a drag then, now mean a probable future, a feasible alternative.

Yes, we meet friends in the grocery stores, buying more than the week’s supply of canned necessities. “I do this each time a demonstration is scheduled,” admitted an old school friend. “I feel silly, selfish, mad even, but if something happens I will never forgive myself.”

There are some families who have stockpiled medicine and some who keep extra supply of water. There are even families with a blueprint for evacuation — a designated place where to gather, a signified place of refuge, some means of communication should telephone wires be cut and streets barricaded.

What grim landscapes and fearful imagination paints, what even more grim humor the uneasy mind conjures. “Swim now,” said someone in a Sunday swimming party. “Who knows there may even be no water to drink tomorrow.”

Meanwhile the pockets of reasonable reaction, being undramatic, could slip by unnoticed and unappreciated. Some schools have suspended classes for teach-ins, some sort of one-two-three primer on issues of the day — “So that,” one professor said grimly, “if our students are clobbered on the head or hit by stray bullets, they’ll know why and what for.”

Other groups have taken up the teach-in — there are now teach-ins for parents, for neighborhood associations, even counter-teach-ins, I hear, for Central Luzon peasants to be conducted by college boys from Catholic schools. And then there are talkins — over the phone, across the fence, at dinner parties, in buses and beauty parlors. We are suddenly un-shy and voluble, the words and phrases springing at last with discovered meanings — “alternative for existing leadership,” “textbook for anarchy,” “the pressure of the silent majority,” “non-violence as a ploy for public sympathy,” “the Maoist line in Philippine context” and so on. We are reading, asking, watching. We are plucking the stranger’s sleeve to ask for his word, touching the young one’s hand to understand his pulse and hesitating here to restrain him.

Worrying and hoping, praising and criticizing, running away or staying put, we are at last involved. We are thinking and caring. And this could be, after all, our bucket of water to match whatever fires.#


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.#


Subversion from Left and Right

February 19, 2010

To Topple the Government

By Ernesto M. Macatuno

First published in The Sunday Times Magazine, March 1, 1970, p. 18-19

Hours after the bloody January 30 demonstration, President Marcos was reported to ponder in his study in Malacañang the explosive situation in the schools and streets. One would presume that in assessing the situation, the President could have asked: “Who are our enemies?”

For it was quite obvious that whoever fomented the violence that turned the demonstration into a riot, was no friend of the President and the government. whatever the group, as it could only be presumed to be the working of not one, not a few but quite a number of inciting persons, the students into violence and later into frontal clash with the police and military, highlighted by an actual assault on Malacañang itself, was, call it by any name, a pure act subversion.

Viewing thus the damage wrought on Malacañang after it had been cleared of the student demonstrators, the President, had he said this to be an act of the enemy of the state, had ample reason to say so. So that President Marcos, going on TV the day after the January 30 demo, told the people that the demo was “a revolt by local Maoist communists whose immediate objective was the takeover or destruction of Malacañang.”

So there it was: The Maoists, as usual, caused it all.

But did they? Or were they alone?

Had this been the case, the problem of the government could have been greatly simplified. The cause or root of the problem—the so-called Maoists— having been pinpointed, it was but a matter of small recourse to have them isolated.

Tension mounts

But, as days went by and tension mounted, the government found out that the cause of the violence that attended the January demos was not, could not be, the sole handiwork of the homegrown Maoist communists.

As it was, everybody wanted to get into the act, so to speak. Not only the homegrown Maoists, but also other sectors, other groups used, exploited, rode on the wave of student unrest so that their aims which are noble and otherwise, could be heard and listened to and acted on by Malacañang.

On one side was a demand from the government that it take measures for a non-partisan (which eventually had to include a non-sectarian) Constitutional Convention. This product of exasperation over the excessive politicking in the government, by itself, could not have caused the conflagration that were the demos. But such a demand, using the student demonstrations as forum, had, taken at such a time when other groups, for reasons of their own, were also exploiting these student demonstrations, added fuel to the fire that almost gobbled up Malacañang.

On another side were the Americans and their vested interests in the country that have to be protected from the onslaughts of Philippine nationalism. By adding fuel to the student unrest with its resultant tension, anxiety and probable anarchy, these interests could weaken the position of the government and, among other things, parley concessions from it. Although this has not been officially confirmed and probably will never be officially confirmed by the government, such American participation in the student demos was alluded to by President Marcos himself when he said that, aside from the usual scapegoats — the Maoists— there also were “noncommunist” groups exploiting this explosive situation.

The student groups were quick to follow the President’s statement on this “non-communist threat” to the government. They even went further. As one student leader, Fernando T. Barican, president of the UP Student Council, said in effect, “the Americans want to use the student unrest to topple down Marcos and institute a military junta government similar to the juntas in Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, Latin American and elsewhere.”

Military role

With the exposure of the Rightist involvement in the demos, the role of the military in the country became of great concern. Whatever it would do in this period was more worrisome than the threat from the Left.

The military was unhesitating on where its loyalty lay. The sentiment of the military was voiced out by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Manual Yan who said, “We are sworn to uphold the constitution. We shall resist every move to subvert the government — whether that move would come from the Right or the Left.”

As far as the military is concerned, Gen. Yan said, “it is immaterial where the threat of subversion comes from—whether from Left or Right— the military will check it.”

Having been assured that he could count on this strong counterrevolutionary force to defend the government, President Marcos declared that things since the January 30 demo “had gone back to normal.” But again, rumors floated that the military itself is not that solid, that it is permeated with officers of dubious loyalty because of their reported attachment to foreign groups like the CIA. Again, it was Gen. Yan who, although professing no knowledge of this, made assurances that “any officer found to be working for any Rightist subversive group shall be severely dealt with.”

On the other front, reports continue to mount that the military arm of the Left has been gathering forces, and that the Huks in Tarlac and Pampanga were ready to go down to Manila and agitate the student demonstrators to commit widespread violence.

“The military is taking a close look at the Huk activities,” Gen Yan said. “The subversive elements have been identified…” but will not be publicly known for reasons of security.

Assuring further the populace that all is under control and that the rumors on subversion probably result from merely a bad case of jitters, Gen. Yan said: “Rest assured that (as of this writing) the government is prepared to cope with these sorts of crises and national emergencies like the student unrest and Red infiltration, all cropping up at the same time…”

So be it. #


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,


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


On the Februrary 18 Public Meeting

February 19, 2010

New Awakening Rises Higher

The February 18 Plaza Miranda public meeting, now widely called a people’s congress, has proven that the new awakening of the Filipino people against U.S. imperialism, feudalism and fascism is rising higher and can no longer be brought down by the reactionaries without being inflicted with more powerful blows.

Mass participation was even larger and even more vigorous than the February 12 public meeting. Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the plaza and filled the streets radiating from it. The public meeting was definitely larger than any held by the reactionaries of whatever party or organization.

The people who came were in outrage and shouted their determination to smash U.S. imperialism and the local exploiting classes – all on whose behalf the Marcos fascist puppet regime is resorting to the use of murder both openly and secretly. All throughout the public meeting, the speakers and mass participants vigorously demanded the overthrow of U.S. imperialism, feudalism and fascism.

A dramatic presentation re-enacted the U.S. conquest of the Philippines, the local mimicry of decadent imperialist culture and the brutality of the puppet politicians. It gave focus to the heroic resistance made by the students against the reactionary troops and police in what is now known as the Battle of Mendiola.

Many people also came with numerous placards denouncing Japanese imperialism and Soviet social imperialism as partners of U.S. imperialism. The local revisionist renegades wanting to sneak into the mass action shuddered at the comprehensive scope of the protest. Previously, they had gloated over the fact that the fascist puppet chieftain Marcos had been singling out the “Maoists” as his enemy and making assurances that he would cooperate with the revisionist counter-revolutionaries.

From Plaza Miranda, a wave of people marched in the direction of Malacañang Palace. Completely outwitted, practically all the fascist brutes – from the city police to the crack troops of the reactionaries – deployed themselves in the vicinity of the fascist puppet chieftain’s fortification. Brilliantly the people marched wave upon wave towards the U.S. embassy to express their just indignation against U.S. imperialism, the No. 1 enemy of the Filipino people and master of the Marcos fascist puppet regime.

For the first time, the outer and inner gates of the U.S. embassy were broken by demonstrators charging with sticks, stones and home-made bombs. Consequently, the demonstrators were able to make their way into the embassy grounds and buildings to smash whatever they could as a forceful expression of the people’s protest against the transgression of their sovereignty and territorial integrity by U.S. imperialism.

The fascist puppets converged on Roxas Blvd. to defend their master. All major services of the reactionary armed forces and the metropolitan police came with all their available forces. Immediately, a fretful U.S. military officer in civilian clothes took command over the puppet troops and police.

But once more they were outwitted when the mass of demonstrators broke up into several groups and attacked such alien establishments as Caltex, Esso, Philamlife and other imperialist enterprise. They carefully avoided doing harm to petty bourgeois and middle bourgeois establishments, with the exception of a gossip center owned by a paid hack of the Marcos fascist puppet regime who has been virulently attacking the national democratic movement. Nevertheless, there were plainclothesmen and hooligans directed by the fascist puppet chieftain Marcos and his notorious co-puppet Villegas to indiscriminately attack private vehicles and small establishments in a futile attempt to smear the high prestige of the demonstrators.

All through the night as the fascist brutes arrested and beat up people at random, the number of those resisting them swelled. The resistance of the people of Manila spread as far as the student quarters of Sampaloc, with that portion of Claro M. Recto Avenue bounded by Legarda St. and Quezon Blvd. as the focus. The patriotic struggle against the fascist brutes continued until the wee hours of the following day. People threw every possible disposable object at them from windows and roof tops.

The Puppets Apologize to Their Imperialist Master

The Marcos fascist puppet regime, through an old running dog of U.S. imperialism, has obsequiously prepared an abject note of apology even before the U.S. ambassador and CIA agent Byroade presented his note of protest scolding the local puppets for their “dereliction of duty”. At the bidding of their imperialist master, all the local reactionaries deplored the patriotic mass action as “riotous vandalism”. The truly deplorable puppetry of these reactionaries became obvious when the people recalled that the U.S. government had not even cared to make a reply to three diplomatic letters of the Philippine reactionary government concerning the murder of Filipinos by U.S. personnel on three separate occasions.

Insinuating themselves in a meeting of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, the counter-revolutionary revisionists masterminded by the black Lava gang raised the question of whether to condemn or not the patriotic attack against the U.S. embassy. The kind of question raised by these scoundrels exposed once more their utterly reactionary character. It also came to light that a small pack of these counter-revolutionary pretenders had joined the Plaza Miranda public meeting only to try vainly to discourage the people from marching to the U.S. embassy.

With all vehemence that they could command, the enemies of the national democratic movement condemned the revolutionary violence employed by the demonstrators as something veering from the submissive peace that they wished. The reactionaries completely obscured the counter-revolutionary violence unleashed by them against the people. The cruder propagandists among them complained most about the militant assault on the U.S. embassy. The more clever among them attempted to discredit the main current of the public meeting and subsequent demonstration by complaining about the peripheral actions of those plainclothesmen and hooligans ordered by both Marcos and Villegas to attack private vehicles and small establishments.

The big hullabaloo raised by the reactionaries about the well-placed blows against U.S. imperialism dealt by the demonstrators was actually meant to obscure the fact that scores of patriotic demonstrators were brutally treated by the reactionary troops and police in the vicinity of the U.S. embassy and Malacañang Palace. No greater harm could be made by these fascist brutes only because the demonstrators had learned how to resist and outwit them.

The broad masses of the people, including positive elements in the metropolitan newspapers, whole-heartedly welcomed the patriotic attack against the U.S. embassy. In answer to the reactionary comments that it was uncalled for, they angrily retorted that the demonstrations had cost U.S. imperialism only a few dollars worth of glass and furniture. Even if the U.S. embassy had been leveled to the ground, the amount of destruction is nothing compared to a day’s profit or bloodsucking by U.S. monopolies on the oppressed and exploited Filipino people.

For the last seven decades, U.S. imperialism has continued to enjoy the fruits of conquest which entailed the murder of at least 250,000 Filipinos in the Filipino-American War. Until now, U.S. military base personnel continue to murder Filipinos and go scot-free with the full protection of their government.

More powerful blows against U.S. imperialism and its local puppet die-hards are bound to come. The symbolic attacks against the U.S. embassy are but appropriate part of general preparations for more sanguinary struggles to resist and oust U.S. imperialism. Even as the puppet reactionaries threaten to unleash campaigns of suppression, the Filipino people are bracing themselves for a more sustained and more determined revolutionary struggle.

Fascist Puppet Chieftain Marcos Widens Field of Combat

Refusing to learn the lesson that more counter-revolutionary violence begets more revolutionary violence, the fascist puppet chieftain Marcos called to Camp Aguinaldo provincial governors and city mayors and instructed them to organize “strike forces” against the people. Little does he seem to realize that he can no longer intimidate the people who are becoming increasingly angry at him for intensifying their exploitation at the bidding of U.S. imperialism and the local ruling classes.

Many, if not most, of the students now fighting him in the streets of Manila will themselves go very soon to their respective home provinces to explain the issue of imperialism, feudalism and fascism and express them in the most concrete terms that they will learn from the masses themselves. As of now, people in the provinces have already started to manifest their indignation against Marcos as the chief political representative of the entire rotten system. As armed force is being prepared against them by the local tyrants, they should consider as a good opportunity for exposing in a sharper way the tyranny being suffered by the people and for proving the necessity of people’s war in the countryside. As the field of combat widens, the Marcos fascist puppet regime and its imperialist masters as in Vietnam will find their financial and manpower resources more depleted.

The Marcos fascist puppet regime cannot always fool the people. It cannot indefinitely shoulder the expenses for “loyalty” rallies and for a bigger military machine. It will do so only by aggravating the inflation that has already beset the nation and by exposing further the malevolence of his puppetry to U.S. imperialism. U.S. imperialism itself is now disastrously over-extended all over the world and is suffering grave political and economic crises. In the long run, the foolish effort of the Marcos fascist puppet regime to save itself with more vicious means will only result in its more rapid downfall.

At the moment, the counter-revolutionary dual tactics being employed by the Marcos fascist puppet regime only reveal the desperate situation into which it has plunged itself. At one turn, it tries to sound ferocious in boasting about 50,000 fascist brutes and yet even at this early stage militant demonstrators have already shown greater number and unprecedented militance. At another turn, it tries to sound sweet and cajoling and yet it is ruthlessly exposed as hypocritical by the objective course of events and by the powerful analysis made by the Communist Party of the Philippines, now employing Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought as the theoretical weapon.

The Marcos fascist puppet regime wishes to silence the revolutionary mass movement by murdering its leaders and activists. But it can no longer do so without attacking the people and committing serious political errors. The Communist Party of the Philippines is now deeply embedded among the broad masses of the people.

Ang Bayan


The Students and the Masses: A Historic Juncture

February 19, 2010

By Renato Constantino

First published in his column, Viewpoint, in Graphic, March 18, 1970, p. 8-10

A single event or a series of interrelated events can constitute either a historic turning point or merely a wasted opportunity depending on the leadership of the forces directly involved. The level of consciousness and the quality of leadership during such crucial moments can be decisive in pushing history in the right direction or in allowing events to pass unutilized. This leadership can seize the opportunity provided by certain events to define, to accentuate, and to accelerate the processes at work in society or it can allow the situation to recede from the agenda of action into the memories of individual participants. As a memorable personal experience, involvement in an event does little to transform the event into a historic milestone. It is the collective and unified handling of a situation that not only tests the adequacy of leadership but also insures that collective action will result in a historic leap from the past to the future.

A New Chapter

The student action of January and February marks the beginning of a new chapter in our history of struggle for national independence and national democracy. It is a new chapter and a turning point precisely because the progressive student movement demonstrated a high quality of leadership which confronted the events, displayed a creative appreciation and utilization of these events, and manifested a consciousness correctly based on objective conditions.

The events of January were the result of qualitative accretions of events and actions which resulted in a qualitative change both in the consciousness of the people involved as well as in the objective factors which gave birth to this consciousness. The students emerged as a force despite their transitory nature as a group precisely because they were products of material reality as well as agents for the changing of that reality due to their ability to accelerate and ripen the situation through informed practice.

The advanced position of the progressive student leadership was proved when the more dynamic sectors of the studentry elected to join them, leaving behind the reformist pressure groups that had attempted to preempt the student movement. The dynamism of this leadership arises basically from its valid and relevant analysis and its concrete appreciation of the historic objective factors that have made Philippine society what it is today. Consequently, after the brutal slate actions on January 26 and 30 they were able to transform the demonstration of protest into a strong movement that dramatized the nature of the system, polarized the issues, and galvanized many more of the student population into active involvement in the pursuit of change.

A New Maturity

For  this reason we may say that the students have ushered in the beginning of a new chapter in our history. Its importance warrants a serious inquiry into its nature and its prospects. We must start by asking: What qualitative changes in thinking, action and forms of struggle mark this new historical stage?

One such qualitative change is a new maturity. The dimensions of this maturity are evident in the fact that the conglomeration of student groups did not allow their inter-organizational differences to rule out united action. This time they did not succumb to the divisive tactics obviously employed by their enemies. On the contrary, they were able to transcend their differences, for the moment at least, and recognize the broad goals which they held in common. This impressive unity, this willingness to underplay differences in the pursuit of what is in essence a common commitment has been an important source of strength.

Another qualitative change that is easily noted is the activists’ changed attitude toward our educational system. Previous generations regarded traditional education as a boon that must be sought at all costs. Education means Americanization. Mastery of the English language was the parents’ principal desire for their children. The young considered the attainment of this education as a badge of honor, as their entry card into the elite groups.

Realization of Miseducation

Today, many of the young have become acutely aware of their miseducation. Hard reality has taught them the falsity of much of what they have learned. They are no longer the victims of propaganda and miseducation; they are the products of the pressure of objective reality and events which cannot permanently be screened from them by the devices of subtle deception. Many students have realized that there is a lot to unlearn in order to really learn; they are tired of an irrelevant teaching that divorces them from society and real life. The rallies that have occurred demonstrate their realization that wisdom certainly does not reside in those charged with justifying the status quo.

Whereas in the past the school was considered as an entity esolsentially apart from the state, pursuing its noble mission of dispensing so-called “objective” truths, the students now see the education system as an agency of the state and therefore as part of the apparatus of control and deception. They also see clearly that the private school is, in addition a lucrative business like any other. Mention must be made of the salutary effect of the seemingly short-range and self-oriented demands of various student reform movements last year in focusing the attention of students on the commercial aspect of education.

The students’ acuteness of perception which they owe to their practical exposure to reality and to the theoretical awareness of some advanced youth leaders has placed the educational system in correct perspective.

Student activism, therefore, is not the salutary result of the educational system, but its very antithesis. It is a sign of the failure of a colonial device to hold for long an actively thinking sector that is a witness to the reality being camouflaged by this apparatus of colonial control. The events of January and February established the students no longer as the passive victims of the educational system but as the agents for the education of their avowed educators and the articulators of the needs and aspirations of the masses.

Their disenchantment has guided many of them to study for themselves, for their critical attitude toward traditional education has impelled them to seek alternatives. Their active minds have led them to a counter-education that is relevant to life and society.

The exclusive use of Pilipino during the rallies is an indication of their revolt against the foreign medium of instruction — a medium which is an integral part of the status quo. They use the language of the masses because they see in the masses the basis of a counter-culture, the basis of a new, meaningful life.

The students’ attempts to study what they cannot learn in their classrooms have given them a critical awareness of the ills of society. They see that the basic causes of these ills are imperialism and feudalism. In the past, these concepts were clear only to the most aware. Many still pinned their hopes on changes of leadership, election of the other party, moral exhortations against graft and corruption, etc. The educational work of the most advanced leaders was difficult, but objective conditions helped decisively. Intensifying social contradictions were making the students move, many still acting confusedly and perhaps without direction, but certainly against a situation which was becoming impossible to their idealistic young minds. Then came January 26 and January 30. The students came face to face with reality. The theories they had learned found confirmation in an experience that they can never forget.

Apparatus of Coercion

THE police brutality and state action of January unmasked the state and the appratus of coercion and repression. The battle of Mendiola Bridge exposed the myth that the state is an impartial arbiter of class conflicts, the dispenser of justice for all, and the protector of people’s rights. The indecent haste with which the military assured protection to the frightened aristocracy of wealth in their suburban enclaves further confirmed to the young the partisan nature of the state.

The students realized by actual physical involvement the repression that the peasants and the workers had suffered. They felt in a few intense moments the brutality that the masses have been suffering all their lives. The treatment of the student captives in the jails and the military camps exposed them further to the hostile attitude of the defenders of the law. With the deaths of their comrades and the disappearance of others, the students realized that if this could be done to them in the city, worse brutalities had been inflicted and would continue to be inflicted on the peasants and the workers.

Unmasking Marcos

The unmasking of the state and its military arm was accompanied by a similar unmasking of President Marcos who epitomizes a colonial leadership desperately maneuvering to preserve the status quo. His withhunting tactics, his attempts to play off one student group against another by appealing for the support of each against the others, his reactionary cabinet appointments and, finally, his advocacy of the formation of provincial strike forces and his “secret instructions” to the army have confirmed the students’ accusation of fascist puppetry. From heroic leader, an image he has tried to project, he became a beleaguered president afraid of the millions of voters who were supposed to have made political history by giving him a second mandate. From a government ostensibly democratic, the Marcos Administration emerged as an anti-popular institution of deception and repression.

But, beyond a recognition of the real nature of the Marcos leadership, there is a more fundamental awareness that many students have arrived at. It is an awareness of the impossibility of attaining an honest and popular leadership under a colonial system, as well as a conviction that no basic change can be effected within the present system. Even the reformist student activists who are asking for limited, specific changes will, if they are honest, soon come to realize that their demands even if met fully will not change anything. It is not unlikely that many of the will sooner or later grasp the truths that are now the source of revolutionary student strength.

These insights into the nature of the state and the true role of the Marcos Administration are certainly not new to the more advanced student leaders. What constitutes a qualitative change is the acceptance of these insights, if only in their generality, by the progressive protest movement as a whole. This acceptance has in turn strengthened the students’ adherence to the three basic demands against imperialism, feudalism and fascism. That the leadership regards these demands as cornerstones in the building of a new society is evident in their refusal to be swept along in the wake of an avalanche of specific projects, proposals and demands of traditionalist student groups. They correctly regard such stop-gap reforms as inconsequential and diversionary, if not altogether impractical and meaningless. In contrast, to the peripheral demands of the reformists, the basic demands of the progressive students show maturity. The 13 demands presented to Marcos by the Movement for a Democratic Philippines exhibit a skillful blending of the general and the particular, the long-term and the short-term goals without falling into the trap of reformism and thus losing the movement’s revolutionary character.

Unity with the Masses

The advanced level of consciousness that enabled the student left to abstract from the myriad ills of our society the fundamental sources of all our problems is the same consciousness that has recognized that the basic restructuring of society that is their goal will require from them and their allies many years of hard work. They have therefore adopted the concept of the protracted struggle and in so doing have given a true reflection of their dedication.

The new level of maturity, the united action, the sharper insights into education, the state, and colonial politicians, the firm commitment to fight imperialism, feudalism and fascism — all these are impressive gains. But, the most significant, the most deeply revolutionary development of the events of January and February is the awareness among the students of the need for unity with the working class and the peasants. Where before reformists thought in terms of alliances with traditionally powerful groups, now the students realize who the real agents of change are. Moreover, this alliance is not based on the elitist idea of uplifting the masses as a matter of Christian charity but on a recognition that they are the leading class and that student strength will amount to nothing in the end if it does not become part of the strength of the masses.

The enthusiasm which greeted the worker and peasant speakers during the Congress at Plaza Miranda shows the friendly solidarity between the students and the masses. This student action has undoubtedly raised the morale of the peasants and the workers for they  now realize that there are sectors of the population who are fighting with them. Those who articulate the mass goals are not hypocritical windbags like those in Congress, but idealistic youth who have now contributed martyrs to their cause. This desire for unity with the masses should be viewed in the perspective of the unity of theory and practice which will guarantee the success of the struggle for national democracy.

Two Dangers

That  victory will come is not in question. Whether it will come sooner or later will depend to some extent on the qualities of leadership displayed by the progressive forces. The success of student action has suddenly thrust upon the student leaders a grave responsibility. Events have happened so fast, the movements itself has grown so large that there now exists a two-fold danger: objectively, that the swiftness of developments may find the leaders unprepared to cope with the situation, and subjectively, that instant success may infect them with a dangerous euphoria. This can develop into arrogance and an exaggerated sense of power. More seriously, euphoria can lead to an over-estimation both of the gains made and of the resources immediately available to the movement. The leadership must not be beguiled by the big crowds, by the respect and even the fear accorded the movement, by the public attention and the publicity.

Above all, the students must never forget that the decision to institute revolutionary change ultimately rests on the people.

The leadership of the student activists must be equal to its swiftly expanded responsibilities. For this, a rapid rise in theoretical level is required. Something in the nature of an intensive study program must be launched so that theory will be equal to the practical demands of the situation. The student leaders must learn to study even in the midst of action. After each development, they must pause to analyze the import and direction of their acts lest the swiftness of events prod them to untheorized action or to blind reaction. A high degree of theoretical mastery is required to gauge accurately the ebb and flow of social movement. Appropriate actions must be devised to take advantage of a developing situation just as appropriate steps must be taken to minimize the effects of a temporary recession.

Learning and Teaching

Concretely, the students are confronted with serious tasks of great magnitude. Their present role is to expose, to explain, to teach incessantly and untiringly and therefore also to study just as incessantly and untiringly, ever aware of their own deficiencies. Initial successes must not breed in them attitudes of complacency. A revolutionary teacher once described the problem in these words:

Complacency is the enemy of study. We cannot really learn anything until we rid ourselves of complacency. Our attitude toward ourselves should be “to be insatiable in learning” and toward others “to be tireless in teaching.”

The object of this learning and teaching process is to involve more students and later, wider sectors of the population in the revolutionary movement for change. The creativity, patience and dedication of the young people will find its most stringent test in the less dramatic but more arduous task of politicalization.

Subsidiary Tasks

Four subsidiary tasks are demanded by this primary duty to politicalize. First, there is the duty of the new educators to deepen their own grasp of our reality. Second, there is the need to be more creative in devising fresh types of protest action and new educative situations so that the learning process is sustained in a dynamic way. Internally, within each participating progressive organization, there is the task of developing a larger corps of leaders: self-disciplined, dedicated, and of high theoretical competence. And lastly, for all revolutionary youth, there is the duty to intensify their unity with the peasants and the workers.

These are heavy burdens to shoulder, especially because they must be borne, not for a month or two, not only during the exciting hours of demonstrations, pickets and People’s Congresses but for many years of protracted struggle, day after day without fanfare and publicity, individually or collectively, even under conditions of harassment and persecution. If our young people are equal to the task, and I trust they will be, our nation will be rich in heroes. Their dedication to the cause of the exploited and the dispossessed will hasten the coming of that day when our people will at last attain freedom and live in justice and dignity in a country that will be their own and under a social structure that is the result of their collective choice.#


Paradoxes, Alarm, and Scandal

February 19, 2010

By Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil

First published in her column, Consensus of One, in The Sunday Times Magazine, March 22, 1970, p. 11.

We take demonstrations at once too seriously and not seriously enough. More than a month after the January riots which set every one on his head, that is the first paradox of the political scene.

At the first hint of a march, teach-in or picket line, Manila becomes a ghost town inhabited by blanched-faced wretches quaking in their shoes. All public life is suspended, schools and offices closed and the Manilan, once so garrulous and peripatetic, barricades himself behind a fortress of hastily-nailed plywood, armed guards and hoarded canned goods. This exaggerated fright makes a ludicrous contrast to the stolid and carefree sophistication of Tokyo, Calcutta, New York or Paris where the demonstrations are larger, fiercer and several years older. But the Manilan is nothing if not adaptable and perhaps in a few more weeks he will learn to live with student unrest and decide that despite all, life cannot just grind to a complete halt but must go on and on.

At the same time, and despite this overreaction of panic and hurt price, we are not taking demonstrations seriously enough. We refuse to see that they represent an irreversible trend towards radical reform (not to say revolution) and that they are not just a fad or youthful exuberance or a particularly nasty type of juvenile delinquency but a strong and perhaps irresistible public will to change. Many still hope to turn the tide with smiles and subsidies and perhaps a few plane tickets to the Osaka Expo, or with free clinics and bundles of old clothes distributed among the squatters, or a new set of government officials to answer complaints faster. But the handwriting on the wall is there, even if we won’t read it.

True, attendance in Congress and most other government offices has risen to a spectacular and unprecedented ideal and there are suddenly very few parties (mostly held “underground”), the society page has turned overnight into a prissy, highbrow bluestocking, and there will be thousands of housing units to go up in Tondo. But one misses a really dramatic turning over of a new leaf: for instance, a realistic living wage, confiscation of idle lands to support land reform a tax law that will make the Establishment a little less established, the prosecution of the really big grafters and warlords.

The second paradox about the quality of Filipino life these days is that public reaction to demonstrations is much more acute than it has ever been to the evils that provoked the demos in the first place. a few broken glass windows, some amateurish gasoline bombs fashioned out of whiskey bottles and a score of placards in ribald Tagalog seem to have caused much more anguished soul-searching than the millions of deprived farmers, workers and children. Why? The wrongs which the demonstrations are protesting have been with us for a long time, perhaps not writ so large as now, but it was not till a handful of student leaders (abetted or not, if you like, by mobsters and rioters) threw a few stones and taunts that people up there began to see them.

Poverty, social injustice, graft, legal inequality, the intolerable conditions under which millions of our people have lived for decades and centuries—did not appear out of the blue in January 1970. They have in fact been the mainstays of our life for as long as anyone can remember, yet our behavior would lead a stranger to believe that they did not exist till now. They did, of course, but we were determined to ignore them and have continued to ignore them if it had been possible to do so without rousing so much alarm and scandal.

A third paradox is that the very things some of our new revolutionaries want is what the rebels elsewhere would like to discard. The abuses of capitalism and freewheeling democracy are equaled only by those of existing socialist systems. The Soviet Union and the People’s China have succeeded in changing the subhuman conditions of their masses in a few years (50 in the first case and 20 in the second) and in making themselves into world powers, but they are quite as guilty as the capitalist, liberal-democratic world in committing excesses of imperialism (overseas and international dominance and exploitation) and fascism (thought control, force and police power). Indeed Moscow’s neo-capitalism and ruthless repression of young writers has turned many student activists away from Marxism-Leninism.

This leads one to believe that the change we need in the Philippines is not merely away from the sins of one established order to the sins of another established order, but towards an entirely different new system, evolved on home grounds, according to our own lights, a new kind of ism that will be partly this and partly that, completely eclectic but completely suitable to our own nature and to our own needs.

The saddest paradox, however, is that President Marcos is getting what has been coming to all of us during the last four hundred years. The sins of Spanish colonialism, with its mixture of innocence and callousness, American “manifest destiny,” with its cynical benevolence, domestic tyranny, all the sores and cankers of our tortuous history are now being visited on his head. We should be able to see the bitter inevitability of what is happening, but no less than us, President Marcos should see it too.#