“Imperialismo, Ibagsak!” (Imperialism, it will fall!)
“GMA mismo, Ibagsak!” (the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Presidency, it will fall!)
“Sigaw ng Bayan, Kalayaan!” (The Cry of the People is Freedom!)
These chants and Bayan Ko (“my homeland“), the alternative to the National Anthem of the Philippines, began the second congressional meeting of BAYAN USA (“the homeland” USA). The collective organization has grown exponentially since its founding in 2005 as political tensions in the Philippines continue to be pulled by corruption, graft, and ruthless military aggression. With a history rich in revolution, activists in the Philippines are once again sounding the cry for a change to the rampant poverty and political repression of their pursuit for a better way. Thousands of Filipinos and Filipino Americans with a conscious concern for the homeland have united to rally under the BAYAN USA flag in direct support to the struggle of their kasamas and kinabuhayans (partners and fellow Filipinos). The struggle for true National Democracy in the Philippines has become globally organized.
I traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area as a Midwest representative to the meeting of BAYAN USA’s congress. I was concerned about the worsening internal strife of the Philippines. I traveled there last summer, and when I returned, the frustration and cynicism of many of my friends and family about the problems of the Philippines intensified my hunger for solutions and answers.
Some conference participants talked about the economic pressures behind immigration. “In the Philippines there are teachers that have left their country to become domestic care workers in countries abroad for better pay, lawyers that have left their homes to work as security guards,” said BAYAN USA member, Oswald Katipunan. “These people have worked hard to get their education but the lack of national opportunity forces them to continue their struggle abroad just to support their families. This is the effect that we see worldwide in the waves of migration today. This is the push and pull of the single superpower and the oppressed of the world. Imperialism exists and BAYAN USA confronts it head on.”
BAYAN USA Gathers for its Second National Congress
Prior to the congressional meeting, BAYAN USA hosted a delegation of 30 of its representatives to the San Francisco Consulate General of the Philippines, Hon. Maria Rowena Mendoza Sanchez. The Consulate General was questioned and pressured to respond to over 800 documented political killings (PDF) and countless human rights violations that have shaken Filipino democracy to its core. Each representative of BAYAN USA gave personal testimonies on their perspective and experience of the crisis to Sanchez.
Daya Mortel, Chair of the Anakbayan (Youth of the land) Honolulu Chapter of BAYAN USA, told Sanchez that many of her friends had been killed by the country’s military and government. “Just this past summer, we were on an [exposure] trip (Sandiwa link) to the Philippines,” she began. “We were on our way to [the island of] Samar before we heard that our friend and contact had been shot and killed by the military. He had done nothing wrong. He simply held a voice for a better life for his country and his people. What are you going to do about this?”