Thursday, April 14, 2011

The "reprise" to Ideology is Gone

When ideology is all we have 

By Ma. Rosa Cer M. dela Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:05:00 11/24/2010

(This is in reply to my batch mate Felise Solano’s Youngblood column last Sept. 30, entitled “Ideology is gone”. Felise and I graduated last April, with a degree in BA Broadcast Communication from UP Diliman. I think I know the “Mare” to whom she addressed her letter.)


I just read Felise’s letter to you, and it made me sad.

Several months back we were talking about our batch and the career paths ahead of each of us. The two of us had our plans then, and they did not include going mainstream. For ours is a vocation, a devotion to the masses.

Apparently people see us differently. Even my own parents, who have come to accept my choice, keep asking, “Is this what you want to do with your life?” (I answer back with a resolute “Yes!”)

Felise is no different from my parents. Except perhaps that her conditions are a little extreme: she works in the heart of an ideological state apparatus.

I realize how easy it is to vilify the Left. We have heard all the horror stories, the horrendous and inhumane acts so-called communists have inflicted on the people, and even among themselves. We were all privy to that (or so we thought) when we entered UP. It isn’t as if the Left could dispute them. These are facts, written in history books and by anyone who cared to write about the “radical thought” which emerged in the 1970s, when many of the youth opted to go underground and take up arms. It is also true that “purges” occurred later, with comrade turning against comrade.

Yes, they happened, and if we were to study the history of the Left more closely, they were the first to admit these. Apparently, however, the errors of the Left have been used by opportunists and the military for black propaganda.

Looking back, I was of the same mind-set as Felise when I entered UP. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the activists. I ignored invitations of mass organizations, choosing to go home and study rather than join the noisy crowd of protesters. But before I knew it, I was one of them. Just like you, Mads.

Even though we belong to the same batch, we weren’t very close to each other. What bound us eventually were the causes we were fighting for. For me, such principles bind tighter than any other common interest.

Yes, we both became activists, you and I, but not because of anger, as Felise thought. Anger would have been too easy to forget. Rather, you can say that what we felt was rage—rage against a crumbling system and a self-serving government, rage against the inequality and injustice inherent in the present social structure. It is a rage fueled by compassion for our fellowmen who deserve better as well as our desire to make things right.

That kind of rage doesn’t go away when you sleep. It eats at you and gnaws at you, until you realize that you have to do something about it.

This is the same rage which drove many among the youth to take up arms, then and now. To say that mere anger and agitation drove the likes of Eman Lacaba to take up arms against the government is an insult. I think it takes a lot more than anger for a young man to leave the comforts of home and live a life of uncertainty and danger.

Many say we have been brainwashed. I wish we were, and I wish that everything we saw was a lie. As a student journalist, I was forced to face harsh realities, things that were shown differently in the media and some that never made it to the headlines. There were no “smokescreens.” Everything was very real, and I will never forget many of them.

I remember how my heart broke for the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, for the workers of Kowloon, for the nameless faces of the disappeared. How I cried when I saw the lines of people trying to buy NFA rice when the rice crisis broke in 2008.

Why are Filipinos poor? Why do millions of families survive on less than P50 a day? Why do prices and taxes go up, but wage remains suppressed? These questions plague me. And then I found an ideology which explained what others could not.

I think back to all those jokes about taking up arms. None of them sounds funny now. After having spent four years in UP, I know what activists mean when they say, “Serve the People.”

In my stint as a student journalist, I have gone to many places and interviewed different people. They all tell the same tales. The much vilified New People’s Army is a hero in the countryside, and the military is feared and hated by many.

I wonder if Felise has forgotten Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, two UP students who were abducted by military elements. I wonder if she realizes that she was guilty of red-tagging you, Mads, by mixing up the legal and the armed Left as if they were one and the same.

I wonder if she remembers the killings of innocent civilians by military men who later blamed communist rebels for those crimes. As a writer in the Philippine Collegian, I had a chance to interview internal refugees, those who fled their communities in the countryside because of “hamleting,” a strategy where government troops are deployed in an area supposedly to clear it of insurgents but actually terrorize civilians and force them to admit that they are rebels in order that they would become civilian agents of the government.

Isn’t it ironic that the army, an agency sworn to protect and defend the helpless, are in fact their oppressors? Isn’t it ironic that people fear those who are paid to be their protectors?

But maybe not. After all, the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have sworn loyalty to the ruling regime, and there has never been in the history of the Philippines a government of the people.

But I digress. If Felise truly understood us, she would have realized that being an activist is never easy. It is easier to let things be, to reason that things will change by themselves if you leave them alone. It is easier to pretend that we know nothing and just go malling and watch the movies to forget hard realities.

But we trudge on, knowing that despite the difficulties, a better future lies ahead not only for us and for our families, but for the rest of the masses.

The path we have chosen is difficult. So consider this letter as a reaffirmation of what binds us, Mads. In times of utter frustration, of demoralization, our principles remain. There is nothing wrong with going against the system. There is something wrong—in fact, everything is wrong—with the system, and that is why we go against it. For as long as injustices remain, so will our rage. And so will the rage of the people.

The military will try to silence us with their guns, but they cannot silence the suffering people. What did Tracy Chapman say in her song? “Poor people are gonna rise up and take what’s theirs.”

And so we will, Mads. So we will. Even if it takes a revolution.

Ma. Rosa Cer M. dela Cruz, 20, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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