Ka Mabait went on Exposure Trip with the League of Filipino Students – San Francisco State University during 2005 visiting various sectors of the Philippines organized by BAYAN and LFS. Ka Mabait is currently working with Bayan-USA.
His dedication to the National Democratic Struggle is one example that many students can follow. The below writing is a reflection of his growth during his first time to the Philippines.
June 28th 2005
I already begin to the feel the heat the moment I exit the plane. Princess makes a comment about the humidity which sounds somewhere between a lament and a sigh of relief. After dealing with all of the usual logistics of travel… currency exchange, customs, who’s riding where, etc. We leave Aquino Int’l Airport in a jeepney w/ members of Rachel’s family.
Immediately after the jeepney exits the loading area of the airport two youth jump onto the back of the vehicle. They stare
blankly with a glazed over look in their eyes. Their eyes pass over each one of us indescriminantly. That look… the end result of frustration… hopelessness. They are babbling… pleading in Tagalog. We all shake our heads and offer apologies.
we have nothing for you.
I can feel that they know we’re lying to them.
We’re balikbayan… we have plently of money
I think to myself. Another quarter mile and they’ve given up. They jump backwards off the jeepney in front of oncoming traffic. Miraculously they’re not hit by any of the vehicles speeding behind us.
Sergio says. I ask Riss what they were saying exactly. She tells me that they say something to the effect of “We know that you’re balikbayan and we appreciate all of your hard work in the States. Could you please share with us what you’ve earned?” I sigh deeply…
We arrive at the barrio where we’re staying
Certain structures of the homes and shanties remind me of the steps leading down to the garage of my Lola’s house. I think about her garden in the backyard
After setting down our things we’re called to lunch. A feast if set for us. tocino, BBQed pork, sinigang, and isda. I decide to wrestle with my feelings of personal relevance to veganism at a later time. Riss and Jo are having a conversation with one of the cousins. Once again I’m reminded of the fact that I’m an American. I get this bitter taste at the back of my throat and reflect upon the conversations (or were they shouting matches?) with my mother asking her why my siblings and I cannot speak or understand Tagalog or Ilongo.
Folks in the house ask what my “Nationality” is assuming that I’m not Filipino. I feel as if I’m interrupting the flow of things by interjecting English into the conversation.
I’m a FOP. Fresh off the Plane.
We walk outside to the family’s sari-sari store and drink Coke from straws out of plastic bags. Some of the people in the neighborhood begin to stare at me. Eyes bulging, jaw dropped, head sideways. “Maybe it’s all just in my mind.” I’m thinking to myself. Maybe it’s the heat? No problem. I expected things like this to happen. I expected to feel like this.
this day is too much to handle right now
July 8th 2005
“Shall your death be meaningful? To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather.”
A member of LFS from Samar and two members of LFS from Tarlac have accompanied us on our exposure trip to Hacienda Luisita. Last night they spoke with us about their experiences as organizers well as their thoughts on being involved in the movement. One of their statements as translated from Tagalog stuck out in my mind.
“We are willing to give our lives to the movement, because the masses are worth dying for. We will die knowing that our lives were full of meaning unlike those like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who will die for nothing, because they have offered nothing to the people except misery and suffering”
I’ve often heard many student organizers in the U.S. (including myself) talk about their willingness to sacrifice everything for the benefit of the people, however, never had I heard someone make such a statement with such genuine conviction
After just arriving at the picket line of Hacienda Luisita, some of the workers offer us food. Once again I get that bitter taste in the back of my throat. I feel almost completely overcome by my first-world guilt…
”These people already are struggling, yet they are still hospitable enough to accommodate well-fed Americans”
I am directed towards a wall that bears the pictures of the martyrs of the Hacienda Luisita Strike. Many of the individuals were killed during the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. Some were politicians and church leaders who were assassinated after expressing open support for the strike. Holding back the tears is like trying to dam the ocean…
Remember why you’re here
Over the next few days were are shown various barangays within the Hacienda. Everywhere we travel to the people of the barangays are genuinely appreciative of our desire to learn about their daily struggle for basic rights as human beings.
We are greeted by nothing but smiles.
We till the fields with the farmers. We help harvest crops. We are treated to humble yet, amazingly delicious meals of rice, fish, and vegetables. At nights all of us sing songs of love and revolution. There is nothing but a single guitar and our voices, yet they resonate with passion and bold conviction. Some of the songs they sing are specifically about their struggle at Hacienda Luisita. Some of the songs are the same favorites from the Rosas ng Digma that I sing back in the States.
I feel overcome with emotion as I suddenly realize how I am connected to all of them. Here as the farmers and workers face seemingly insurmountable odds they smile, joke, and sing. I cannot believe that they have such resilience, but then again I remind myself that this is our history. Struggle.
Hanggang sa tagumpay
Sana Sa Tuwina Kita
july 17th, 2005
I Just finished a sharing with members of Anakbayan-Mountain Province. Romy invites them over to meet me without letting me know beforehand. Being in the Philippines is all about surprises. Six members show up after I wake up from my nap. Four ladies and two dudes. All of them are obviously no older than 21 years old. They are incredibly shy at first and despite Romy’s suggestion that they ask me questions they‘re unable to vocalize anything. They also seem to be keeping a safe distance from me.
As the silence becomes more uncomfortable I decide to begin speaking about some of my experiences as a Fil-Am. I compare and contrast the situations of Filipinos living in the United States with those living in the Philippines. After I run out of things to say I hope that they might have a few follow up questions, as they did seem genuinely interested in hearing what I had to say.
Romy makes a suggestion that we have a bit of some cultural sharing. He picks up the guitar and immediately all of the Anakbayan members begin to sing with confidence. Not only do they know all of the words to the Salidummays, but they sing everything in beautifully blended harmonies. Shocked but not surprised by their talent and skill.
I’m nearly moved to tears. (Folks in the Philippines tend to elicit that kind of response from me.)
When they hand over the guitar to me I feel a bit nervous knowing that I have to follow up such a dazzling performance. I begin to play my rendition of Sana from the Rosas ng Digma album. Almost immediately they begin to warm up to me. One of the Anakbayan members actually gets up out of her seat and sits right down next to me.
They ask for another song. I play Rosas ng Digma. They ask for another. And another. I’m flattered beyond belief. Soon they begin to ask questions
How is it that you can’t speak Tagalog, yet you can sing so well in the language?
What do Filipino Americans think about us?
Are you single?
Would you like to learn some of our songs?
For a moment I step back and realize the significance of this situation. A Filipino American… sitting with the youth in a small provincial town in the Philippines. Our lack of fluency in each other’s language… the differences in culture… yet we are able to create a connecting through artistic expression. Thank goodness for music. Sometimes it seems that if not for my skills as a musician I would feel as if I had no other way to connect to the folks in the Philippines. We talk for a few more minutes and then they all leave so that they can get to sleep. School tomorrow. Even though my body is still sick, my spirits have been lifted.