by Julian Jaravata, ’13
Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago and be a part of the fourth congress of BAYAN-USA, as well as the founding congresses of Anakbayan-USA (AB-USA) and the United States chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS-US). BAYAN-USA, AB-USA, and ILPS-US all comprise of of progressive organizations throughout the United States fighting for genuine social change and the rights and welfare of peoples all over the world. BAYAN-USA and Anakbayan-USA specifically fight against the conditions that have historically oppressed the people of the Philippines and to bring about the national liberation of the country. Gabriela-USA, an alliance of progressive women’s groups also fighting for national liberation in the Philippines, met for its second congress too although I did not have a chance to attend because it occurred simultaneously with AB-USA’s. These congresses marked extremely important landmarks for the advancement of peoples’ movements all over the world. We came to establish our general programs of action for the next three years, determine the leadership for the alliances, and overall reach a higher level of unity as many people dedicated to a greater movement.
Chicago was chosen as the site for our congress in response to the G8 and NATO summits occurring in the city and, although the G8 summit was moved to Camp David, our contingent still met to demonstrate against NATO and to continue building a solid foundation for more organizing in the area. This feat itself was impressive because no local member organizations of any of the groups or alliances existed in the area yet we were able to mobilize around 300 people to the congresses and over 500 people to march in the NATO protests.
I attended these congresses as a representative of Anakbayan Silicon Valley (ABSV), a comprehensive youth organization based in the Santa Clara County of Northern California that serves its local communities while also contributing to the movement for national democracy in the Philippines. I arrived a few days early along with a team of volunteers from throughout the US to help prepare for the upcoming events. Despite being sleep deprived and tired from travelling, we committed ourselves to the tasks at hand while also getting to know and build with each other. Although I had yet to experience the actual congresses, these first moments of preparation signified that we were about to be a part of a historic event. Our initial coming together highlighted an already well-developed intimacy that had come from being part of the same movement. Although many of us had just met for the first time, we recognized the collective work we all take part in and, for me, our initial preparations exemplified the movement’s discipline and comradeship.
The actual events of the weekend started off quickly with the meeting of Anakbayan-USA and Gabriela-USA. The weekend marked my first time attending the national congresses of the different alliances and I was curious to finally experience what we had been preparing for since last summer. Anakbayan-USA’s congress was particularly important to me because it represented the founding of a country-wide organization representing the youth and student sector—the sector that I myself belong to. Chapters of Anakbayan exist throughout the states and were originally established in the Philippines to comprehensively organize the youth and students of the country. This founding would further consolidate the different efforts of US Anakbayan chapters as well as the League of Filipino Students of San Francisco State University. I would like to think that much of my growing up has come due to being a part of the Philippines national democratic movement and Anakbayan has been instrumental in facilitating this growth. I developed politically and ideologically which gave me a better language to voice my concerns about social justice and also learned how to better myself working on the ground and reaching out to people about why we do our work and why it is important. The founding of Anakbayan-USA seemed to coincide with my own maturation and I could concretely feel how our collective efforts as youth and students were contributing to our growth as a whole. During our founding congress, we approved our general program of action, which included participating in the Domestic Workers Rights campaign as well as developing our own nationally coordinated campaign against US intervention in the Philippines. This general program of action would serve to reinforce the specific work that each AB-USA organization takes part in and ensure that we are deliberate and united in our work as a whole. The congress continued with the election of the officers who would take the lead of AB-USA as fellow youth and students who saw themselves within the struggles of the people of the Philippines. In fact, it was quite moving to see the newly elected Chair of AB-USA, Yves Nibungco, begin to shed tears as he spoke about the suffering of those in the Philippines and those forced to leave the country and how devoted he was to ensuring that we fight for a society that respects and values its people. To conclude the founding of AB-USA, we sang revolutionary songs from the Philippines together, commemorating the advancements we had made in establishing the first national overseas chapter of Anakbayan. That same afternoon we continued on with the fourth BAYAN-USA congress and made similar achievements in uniting on our general thrust for the next three years.
I was also particularly inspired by the events of the ILPS founding that followed the next day. It is easy to get caught up in the work that we do as a single organization and not see it within the greater context of the global movement against oppression. For that reason, it was refreshing to hear from others who were historically dedicated to similar struggles around the country and the world. Recently, the Occupy movement seems to have brought a lot more attention to this global struggle, but it was extremely important for me to have been able to witness the sentiment of international solidarity firsthand. We were able to hear from people like Carlos Montes, whose struggle embodied the need to stand up against state-sponsored fascism, and Fred Hampton Jr., who emphasized the necessity of banding together and fighting against the greater forces that oppress us. From hearing what they had to say as well as our other allies, I realized the scope of the movement that we were a part of and that our contributions were not and could not be acting in isolation. We were part of a greater struggle that was emphasized through the creation of the ILPS-US chapter. We would soon demonstrate our collective strength during the NATO protests.
The opportunity to participate in the NATO protests with our fellow members and allies demonstrated the higher unity that we were able to achieve through the congresses we had just participated in. Like I had mentioned earlier, we did not have an established local group to spearhead the coordination of the gatherings and our participation in the march. However, in spite of this, we were still able to establish a strong presence among those that were protesting. We marched over five hundred strong and shared how continued US military presence in the Philippines has led to the abuse of both the country’s land and people as well other statements about the abuses of US imperialism all throughout the world. Our participation in the march was important not only because we were marching against NATO, but also because it highlighted the strength of our collective action. We represented our members from across the nation and were able to gather together to solidly express our unity in spite of many of us only having met each other two days prior. We were united by our commitment to a new society that does not exploit its people and, in this commitment, we forged a community tied together by collective struggle and the urgency of recognizing the dignity of ourselves and those we were fighting for.
The events of this weekend represent a greater step forward that I took alongside my fellow kasamas, or comrades, towards the national liberation of our people and peoples worldwide. I was able to meet many others who were dedicated to the same struggle that our group, ABSV, works towards as well as others dedicated to their respective struggles against imperialism. I was impressed because, despite difficulties such as enduring 90-degree weather in a single room of 200 people, everyone recognized the importance of being together to achieve the goals of the congresses and the NATO action. The fact that people had come from so many different areas highlights the narrative of Filipino diaspora and forced migration that many of our families and ourselves are a part of. Many people are forced to leave the Philippines, often without their families, in order to pursue supposedly better lives and opportunities in the United States. Although this situation has come to define the experience of many Filipinos in the United States, it was powerful to see that across the country people were working towards creating a better society in the Philippines and in their local communities. Although they had been victimized by an unjust system, they actively worked to fight that which oppressed them.
I have thought a lot about what it for means for me to personally work towards transforming a system that is entrenched in the oppression of so many people. However, I am also aware that I am not alone in this work and I owe a great deal to the movement, which has, through working to transform such systems, has also led to my own transformation. From this weekend’s events, I will carry with me a stronger sense of commitment to the movement I am a part of as well as a greater consciousness of those working alongside me as fellow kasamas and allies struggling and working towards change. The congresses reiterated the necessity of the work that we do and have allowed me to revisit how our local efforts as Anakbayan Silicon Valley fit within a greater struggle. I have many lessons to take back that came not only from the statements and speeches we heard, but also from the act of working and building together towards the creation of a new society that our people deserve.
END US IMPERALISM!
LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY!
MAKIBAKA HUWAG MATAKOT!
Julian Jaravata is a junior majoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. He is a member of the Pilipino American Student Union, Stanford Asian American Activist Committee, and Anakbayan Silicon Valley. Through his involvement, he has learned about the revolutionary history of the Filipino people as well as the power of collective struggle. He hopes that his service and activism can contribute to the greater movement of national liberation in the Philippines. For more information about Anakbayan Silicon Valley or any of the other organizations mentioned feel free to contact Julian at firstname.lastname@example.org.