‘Resistance is Our Right, Solidarity is Our Duty’ was the call to action printed on t-shirts, tote bags, and flyers distributed during our speaking tour across the United States about the human rights situation in the Philippines.
It meaningfully captured the political orientation guiding Filipino activists in the US: The legitimacy of practicing dissent and the accompanying obligation to support the national democratic struggle in the homeland.
This was my initial understanding of the slogan until I met both Filipino-Americans and non-Filipinos who had been working hard to raise awareness about the Lumad, the plight of landless farmers, and the destructive impact of President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal wars against the people.
It was then I realized the real significance of that one-liner and what it meant to many. The astonishing and remarkable coming together of Americans, even those who have no Filipino ancestry, to advance the cause of democracy and people empowerment in the Philippines.
Indeed, the slogan is not country-specific. Here was a group of Americans from diverse backgrounds who would later join the global condemnation of the massacre in Gaza. But they were also part of the growing number of Americans who have committed to raising the banner of people’s resistance in the Philippines.
It was inspiring to meet Americans who uphold solidarity as a full-time advocacy. Internationalists in the most positive sense who, at the same time, have also pledged to fight side by side Filipinos in overthrowing the yoke of neocolonialism and feudal oppression in the Philippines.
Part of my admiration for these dedicated activists of the Philippine cause is their resolve to learn more about the revolutionary past of Filipinos and their intention to make it relevant again. Today. In America.
Out of the hundreds, if not thousands of political struggles and other real existing movements in the world today, they chose to walk with their kasamas in the Philippines. They speak of adobo, sinigang, and most importantly, makibaka. They see the Philippines not as a tourist destination waiting to be explored but a home, their home where US-backed regimes have oppressed the people for so long.
But doing solidarity is more than just volunteering for a social event. It demands greater attention, time, and sacrifice. It is a political work that must be undertaken while battling the many evils that plague American society.
What is the place of solidarity when the political question of the day is linked to domestic affairs?
There is state-sponsored violence in the Philippines but it is no more horrific than the rising levels of violence in the US today. Think of the gun control issue, police brutality, and proliferation of race-based hate crimes. Eviction of the poor in Manila and other urban centers mirrors the intensifying gentrification in American cities. Workers are exploited, the gap between the rich and poor is widening, and the political system of both countries are tragically hostaged by elite interest.
Which political task should be prioritized?
I grappled with this question during the initial phase of the caravan but I quickly got my answer after learning about the work of activists doing solidarity work for the Philippines.
Perhaps I framed the question in the wrong way. Solidarity should not be seen as the opposite of addressing local political issues. Solidarity should be integrated into the comprehensive political work of activists. And if I may add, it should be considered as one of the core principles to strengthening the resistance of the grassroots.
Building solidarity networks, establishing new ties, and making friends on the other side of the continent enhance the depth and resilience of community organizing in the US. Solidarity is a useful antidote to parochialism and individualism since it anchors political organizing on a broader set of objectives.
Solidarity is not a matter of strengthening our ranks to support the struggle of marginalized classes in the remote parts of the world, but an enlightening political duty that ultimately contributes to our resistance against homegrown enemies of the people. It is never about extending aid to seemingly powerless victims but a life-affirming act of humanity, the collective pursuit of a progressive type of politics which also boosts the prospects of our local struggles.
Thus the vigorous campaign of Filipino activists and allies not just for Lumad rights, but also the protection of immigrant rights, the demand for adequate welfare services, mobilizing the community against skyrocketing house rent, fighting discrimination and racism, and challenging US militarism. Solidarity should never be a hindrance for us to embark on campaigns that require urgent action today.
Seen from this perspective, solidarity becomes an even more beautiful and powerful word. Our duty, our right, our commitment. Solidarity is resistance. Solidarity and resistance from both sides of the Pacific.
Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org