Strength In Unity: Reflecting on the 3rd BAYAN-USA Chapter Congress and the 1st GABRIELA-USA General Assembly (Part 1)

Hello world,

So if you’re a frequent reader of our blog you may say to yourself “gosh, they put up a whole lot of statements from other folks, but I never get to read what they think or feel?!?!” In an effort to change it up a bit, I wanted to reflect on an amazing event that I was lucky enough to be apart of. Let’s see how well this goes…

In case you didn’t know, two weekends ago in Los Angeles, BAYAN-USA had their 3rd Congress, bringing together 14 progressive Filipino organizations from across the United States. Also, GABRIELA-USA had their 1st General Assembly, formally becoming a chapter of GABRIELA-Philippines. You can read more in our earlier posts:

BAYAN USA Limbers Up for a Great Leap Forward

Founding Assembly of Gabriela USA, First Overseas Chapter of Gabriela Philippines, Marks Milestone in the Progressive Women’s Alliance 25 year History

Leading up to the Congress, there was much preparation. Emails, meetings, forms, assessments, etc. And we were just participants! (Big ups to the Southern California Region for hosting us out-of-towners) We had to make sure our members had transportation, housing, signed up for registration, and paid their fees all beforehand. Since the Congress fell on the tail end of our spring break, it was perfect timing to get as many of our folks to SoCal as possible. To have visual representation of our work on a national (even international) scale would have a lasting impact on our members, maybe even reinvigorating their revolutionary spirit!

LFS Reps, Lyle and Carlo

LFS' Reps, Lyle and Carlo (Photo: Brandon Lee)

Our Educational Development Officer, Carlo Montemayor, and I were elected as the official delegates to represent LFS at the Congress. This carried much responsibility, since we represented the 30+ members of our organization. Carlo and I tried to prepare as best we could. We talked to past delegates, stayed informed about the latest news coming from the Host Committee, learned about “Robert’s Rules”, and had conversations online and on the phone about amendments, resolutions, and our attire/ dress code for Congress (We had to come correct!)

Friday morning, myself, Brandon, Carlo, Jessica, and Toni set out from San Diego (we stayed at my sister’s house the night before) for Los Angeles. In the spirit of Congress, we caravaned with Eugene, Lesile, and Kevin from Anakbayan- San Diego. Unfortunately, due to worst-than-expected traffic and misdirection, we Filipino-timed it and got to Congress about a quarter till 3 p.m. We got there just in time for the opening prayer and the official introduction of the delegates.

BAYAN-USA Congress, Friday Afternoon (Photo: Lyle Prijoles)

BAYAN-USA Congress, Friday Afternoon (Photo: Lyle Prijoles)

We had the great fortune of having two main speakers for Congress, even though they weren’t even in the country. Dr. Carol Araullo, Chair of BAYAN-Philippines and Vice-Chair of Internal Affairs for the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), spoke the first day (via video from the Philippines) about the situation going on in the Homeland. Day Two, Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson of ILPS, spoke (via recorded mp3) about the international situation. He also joined us via skype from the Netherlands and had a Q&A session with the Congress participants. Carol and JOMA helped us understand our role and responsibility in the ‘Belly of the Beast’, as well as the internationalist spirit to help carry us for the weekend.

Dr. Carol Araullo

Dr. Carol Araullo (Photo: Jonna Baldres)

Prof. Jose Maria Sison

Prof. Jose Maria Sison (Photo: Jonna Baldres)

We also had solidarity statements from various organizations and supportive individuals. One in particular came from BAYAN-Canada, which was delivered through video by their National Chair, Dr. Chandu Claver. When I traveled to the Philippines with LFS’ Baliksambayanan Program in 2007, we attended the one-year death anniversary of his wife, Alice Claver. She was killed by masked men who shot at her, Chandu, and their child in 2006 (you can read more here). He sought political asylum for himself and his children after the attempt on his life, believing it was because of his political beliefs. He could have laid low and stayed out of sight forever, but he has continued with the work. It’s inspirational to hear the words of someone who has had to personally sacrifice for the movement, but is continuing the fight for National Democracy in the Philippines. We may be separated by miles of oceans, mountains, and other types of terrain, but not in the belief of a truly free Philippines.

Dr. Chandu Claver

Dr. Chandu Claver (Photo: Jonna Baldres)

Throughout Congress, we took care of much needed business. Reports from the National Executive Committee, regional reports, amendments to the by-laws, resolutions, the election of a new National EC, and our General Plan of Action for the next three years. These were not always smooth. Whether it was technical difficulties or disagreements amongst the group, our patience and unity was tested. No matter how well you plan, things can always go off course. But each challenge, we struggled through it as a group and at the end of it, came to a higher unity with each other. It was a good lesson for the mass organizers present to see that our alliance is not perfect, but it is up to us to make sure we keep getting better. To make sure we practice assessments and criticism/ self-criticism and challenge our liberalisms even if our opinion may not be the popular one. There will always be disagreements, but in the midst of them, we must remember the higher goals we are trying to achieve together. For myself, there is no group I’d rather trust and struggle with than my kasamas who were in that room.

Unity at the end of Struggle (Photo: Bev Tang)

Unity at the end of Struggle (Photo: Bev Tang)

So I realized that I had more to say about the weekend than I orginally thought. So I will split this entry into two. Look out for part two, there will be a special gift at the end of it. Thanks for reading this far!

Serve the People (STP),

Lyle Prijoles

Chairperson 2008-09, League of Filipino Students- SFSU Chapter

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