By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star
This morning I’ll join an intergenerational gathering of activists at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm of 1970.
(The FQS, as it has been popularly referred to by both elderly and younger activists, encapsulates the watershed events in the first three months of 1970 – political upheavals in the streets, in schools, in communities nationwide – that spurred the rapid expansion and qualitative development of the militant youth-student activism of the pre-martial law era. Those events are graphically depicted in Jose F. Lacaba’s classic journalistic reportage collated in the book Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage.)
The FQS has left an indelible mark in our people’s struggle for national freedom and sovereignty, democracy, human rights, and justice. It continues to impact on the nation’s political life.
Appropriate for this internationally observed day of hearts (although it holds true for whatever occasion), the theme of the gathering is: Pag-ibig sa Bayan.
Translated into English, the theme can be either Love of Country or Love for the People.
The first signifies patriotism, which definitively infused the enthusiastic and courageous actions of the FQS activists. Nonetheless, I prefer the second version. It most fittingly captures the overarching FQS spirit: love and concern for the majority of the people who have long endured oppression and exploitation by a tiny ruling minority backed by foreign interests and power. That spirit pervaded the 14 years of struggle against the US-supported Marcos dictatorship that culminated in February 1986.
The same spirit infuses the continuing struggle for fundamental social, economic and political change – of what the national-democratic activists define as the “basic problems of the Filipino people” that all post-dictatorship administrations have either evaded or failed to address and resolve.
(The top issues then were the oil price hikes imposed by the foreign-controlled oil industry and, for that matter, foreign domination of the entire national economy; the presence of US military bases, the American war in Vietnam, workers’ low wages and bad working conditions, landlessness and unrest among the peasantry, graft and corruption, police brutality and fascism.)
My guess is that, were it not tied in to the popular celebration of Valentine’s Day, the theme could easily have been the more militantly nuanced “Paglingkuran ang Sambayanan! (Serve the People!).” That was the battle cry of the FQS activists, likewise of today’s progressive youth-student activists who pride themselves as the former’s political progenies.
The “Serve the people!” battle cry sprang from a deep feeling of love for and solidarity with the masses of workers and urban poor in the towns and cities, the poor peasants and farm workers in the countryside, and the forsaken indigenous peoples in the hinterlands.
The development of that kind of love was the consequence of the youth-student activists’ positively responding to the calls: “integrate with the masses,” “undertake social investigation” into their living conditions. Applying political theories and organizational principles learned in “DGs” (study-discussion groups where they felt they were learning more than in the formal classroom), the activists went through the eye-opening and life-changing experience of living among the people and actually finding out and trying to help solve their problems, big and small.
It was through that combination of theory and practice that the FQS activists and those who followed their footsteps steeped and steeled themselves in the revolutionary struggle for change. Along the way, hundreds made awesome sacrifices: undergoing hunger, sickness and pain; getting arrested, tortured and jailed for years; worse, being abducted and “disappeared” and making the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Lives were put on the line, and many did die in battle.
Thus, the names of many activists of the struggle against the martial-law dictatorship have been inscribed, as martyrs or heroes, on the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. Many more await public recognition.
Their common denominator: each one had a heart for the Filipino people.
Last Tuesday I was invited to speak at the De la Salle University in Manila on the topic, “Noon at Ngayon: Aktibismong Hinamig ng Panahon.” I traced the birth and development of the militant youth-student activism in our time to the Propaganda Movement of the 1800s (led by Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar and Graciano Lopez Jaena) and the 1896 Katipunan Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio. I pointed out the following:
• The Propaganda Movement fought for equal political status for Filipinos (then derisively called indios) under the Spanish colonial rule, whereas the Katipunan upped the ante by rising up in arms to achieve independence from foreign rule, with the recovery of the agricultural lands confiscated by the friars as a dominant cry.
• The Katipunan revolution was characterized as the “old democratic” type. It was truncated by the intervention of the United States as a rising imperialist power which replaced Spain as colonial ruler. The national-democratic movement, begun in the mid-1960s, is deemed as the continuation of the unfinished Katipunan revolution and designated as the “new-democratic” type. It identifies US imperialism as the No. 1 enemy of the Filipino people.
Indubitably Rizal, del Pilar, Jaena, and Bonifacio were all patriots. They all had hearts for the people.
The historical circumstances have changed, but as a people basically we find ourselves confronting the same social, economic and political conditions. Anyone who has contributed to the struggle for the same patriotic and democratic objectives deserves to be acknowledged as possessing a heart for the people.
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Published in The Philippine Star
February 14, 2015