“Our struggle isn’t distinct from the struggles of the nation” was a line he would often say during mobilizations, “which is why the working class must always rise up in solidarity with the rest of the nation.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
CALAMBA CITY, Laguna – When you picture in your mind the image of a union president, Dandy Miguel would not be the first person you think. He was young, lean, and good-looking – he was the resident crush ng bayan in Fuji Electric, the company he worked at.
But Pang Dandy, as friends and comrades knew him by, looked his best at the forefront of struggle – side-by-side with his fellow workers and other sectors from all over Southern Tagalog.
Pang Dandy was the president of Lakas ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Fuji Electric Philippines (LNMFEP-OLALIA-KMU) and vice chairperson of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Kagatagulan (PAMANTIK-KMU). He was a model trade unionist, a labor leader par excellence, and a true servant of the people.
More than that, he was a faithful comrade, a husband, a father, and a friend.
Dandy Miguel was born in Candelaria, Quezon, the eldest of two children. Growing up, he was a quiet kid. His mother recalled that he liked to climb trees and look for spiders. He finished his elementary education in Malinta, Quezon and his high school education in Valenzuela National High School.
After graduating high school, he started looking for work around Laguna, eventually landing on Fuji Electric in barangay Canlubang, Calamba in 2005. He was regularized in the company as a process technologist after one year.
It was there where he experienced first-hand the struggles of the working class. Dandy was an active organizer in Fuji Electric, leading up to the establishment of their union in 2015. Two years later, some 400 union members unanimously elected Dandy as their president; a position he held until the very end.
As union president, Dandy fought for workers’ benefits and an increase in wages. Last 2020, he successfully managed to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement amounting to a yearly increase in wages for the next three years.
He also managed to force the company to institute health and safety measures when Fuji Electric refused to act after one worker tested positive for COVID-19 in August 2020. Enraged by the lack of proper protocol, he and his fellow workers refused to report for work – and won.
Dandy also understood that the working class struggle extended beyond the workplace. “Our struggle isn’t distinct from the struggles of the nation” was a line he would often say during mobilizations, “which is why the working class must always rise up in solidarity with the rest of the nation.”
He was very active in campaigning for the rights of all workers, even those outside his union. Outside Fuji Electric, Dandy supported the struggle of workers in PEPMACO, NutriAsia, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Monde Nissin, and other companies in the region in their fight for just wages, regularization, and benefits.
In November 2017, the 10th Regional Congress of PAMANTIK elected Dandy as its vice president; a position that he accepted whole-heartedly. He pushed the workers of Southern Tagalog to go beyond the struggles of the working class and stand with peasants, students, and other sectors.
Dandy’s activism was not without its problems, however. His wife, Aiza, at first opposed his unionism. “Back then, I thought that if you joined a union, you’d be fired,” she recalled. “We fought over it and he promised that he wouldn’t join the union. But he actually just kept it from me.”
When Aiza found out, she kicked Dandy out. “He packed his bags at 4 a.m. and left,” she said. “He came back that afternoon, crying and saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’”
Aiza would eventually warm up to the idea of Dandy being a labor leader. He would bring her to union meetings, educational discussions, and even mobilizations. She’d eventually come to support her husband in his advocacy.
On March 7, nine activists were killed in simultaneous police operations, including husband and wife Chai and Ariel Evangelista. Dandy joined the quick response team and fact finding mission that very day. He assisted the Llemita and Evangelista families in sorting out documents, and he made sure the two were given a decent burial.
He had his reservations; on some level, he was afraid he’d be next. But for Pang Dandy, fear is temporary in the face of duty. At the end of the day, Dandy Miguel was an activist – a man who always put the needs of the people before his own.
It was exactly three weeks after Bloody Sunday when Pang Dandy met his last in Asia 1, barangay Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna. Eyewitness accounts say that he was riding his motorcycle when he was stopped on the road, sometime after 7:30 pm. He was shot eight times; five first, then three more.
The last image of Pang Dandy is of him slumped over, bullet wounds on his back. One can hardly tell where the blood ended and his red shirt began. At his back were the words, Sahod, Trabaho, Karapatan, Ipaglaban (Fight for Decent Pay, Jobs and Rights) in bright yellow font; seemingly the only thing unstained by the cold-blooded murder.
Dandy Miguel is the latest victim in a series of attacks in the Southern Tagalog region. He is the third leader of PAMANTIK-KMU killed after Diosdado Fortuna in 2005 and Rey Malaborbor in 2019. But like Fortuna and Malaborbor, Dandy’s legacy will always echo through the mass movement.
Revolutionaries like Dandy Miguel die, but the revolutions they embody always live on, until workers and the oppressed become free.