“We are one with you.”
By GINO ESTELLA and DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Youth students in Manila and Quezon City gave a rousing welcome and salute to the indigenous peoples and Moros who arrived in Manila Oct. 12 and 13.
Marching to Mendiola on Oct. 13, the national minorities – who have been long marginalized, attacked and pushed away from their ancestral lands – were greeted by handshakes, raised fists and placards, and cheered on by a drum band, all organized by youths and students activists led by Kabataan Partylist, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students and Gabriela Youth.
The southern contingent, composed of delegates from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog, marched from Vito Cruz avenue, and were welcomed by students and faculty from the University of the Philippines-Manila, De La Salle University, St. Scholastica’s College and Araullo High School.
The northern contingent, with delegates from Cordillera, Cagayan Valley, Northern and Central Luzon, were welcomed along España Avenue, Manila by students from the University of Sto. Tomas and Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
The two contingents merged at Morayta avenue for a torch parade. Approaching Mendiola bridge, the marchers were greeted by a fiery four-piece drum band and students from San Sebastian College-Recoletos de Manila and San Beda College.
The students carried signs, which said: “Kasama ninyo kami (We are one with you), while some echoed the national minorities’ call to struggle for the right to self-determination, genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization,just and lasting peace.
UP hosts Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya
The Lakbayan delegates proceeded to UP Diliman in Quezon City, where they were welcomed by the UP community which has been abuzz for days, preparing for their accommodations.
“The Iskolars ng Bayan are in high spirits as we welcome visitors from outside the university as well as from other sectors,” Diliman University Student Council (USC) Councilor Ben Te told Bulatlat. “This has long been prepared by the students, and the UP community.”
The first Lakbayanis arrived Oct. 12 from Cagayan Valley, Northern and Central Luzon. The UP community faced problems in accommodating thousands in the muddy and unfinished camp. As a remedy, covered courts around the campus were opened for lodging.
“The students and faculty were helpful in the preparations,” Te said. “The communities have for so long been supportive, preparing for the rest of the activities of the Lakbayan.”
Around 80 architecture students helped in the construction, along with their professors. Engineering students helped in the drainage and sanitation of the campsite.
On Oct. 11 in UP Los Baños, the Lakbayan southern contingent arrived, but were denied accommodation in the campus gym, as the UP LB administration said there were activities scheduled in the venue. The administration insisted on the Lakbayani to encamp on a field on the far side of the campus.
USC Chairperson Merwin Alinea appealed in vain, through a letter to the administration, that the Lakbayanis be allowed to stay in the venue originally approved by the administration.
“Unfortunately, there were no tents, comfort rooms, platforms, or any covered area in the approved site,” said Alinea in a Facebook post in Filipino. “It is saddening that even in UP Los Baños, a university of the nation, this is what our brothers and sisters were given to stay for the night.”
The arrival of the Lakbayan in Los Baños coincided with “Loyalty Day” celebrations, the day-long alumni homecoming. The Lakbayanis joined the Loyalty Day parade, upon insistence of the student body.
In Diliman, they face the same hardship, with the camp deep in mud and the occasional rains. The tents inside the camp have been divided per regional contingent. It will be open for many activities for the rest of October.
The students just came from their Alternative Classroom Learning Experience (Acle) themed on the Lakbayan. Te said Acle highlighted that the students’ struggles are not separated from those of the masses that they should serve: “The main concept here is that land is life. Land is an inheritance and culture. Land is a spring of life, and students need to appreciate that.”
With photos by Gino Estella, Kathy Yamzon