Greetings from the BAYAN office!

Greetings from the BAYAN office! I’m basically stationed here for today to rest while the others are out doing room-to-room presentations at UP Diliman about LFS in order to recruit students for SONA on Monday and also propagate about the current education budget crisis. Mosquitos have been feasting on my legs and arms nonstop since I’ve been here, causing my left foot to swell up from an infection. I’ve been walking around on it nonetheless, eager to partake in all of the program’s activities, only to find out that it’s stalling the healing process. So, I’ve been advised to just rest and save my feet for SONA. 🙂

Everyone in the BAYAN office is busy building the dope effigy for the SONA action on Monday. I wish I could help, but my foot basically looks like a blown up latex glove right now, so I’ll just recap our first integration.

Our first integration was with the workers and urban poor communities in Muntinlupa. On our first day in Muntinlupa, we had a really wonderful sharing with workers from ADVAN Shoes, who shared with us their inspiring five year struggle to be officially recognized as a union. The workers originally began organizing due to several sexual harassment incidents by the employer, and that struggle was actually the catalyst for fighting for other basic workers’ rights at ADVAN such as fair wages, health benefits, and collective bargaining rights. The workers waged several strikes with the company over the course of five long years before becoming officially recognized as a union, which is truly inspiring that even in their lowest points, they still struggled to fight. The workers even highlighted that if it weren’t for the support of the larger community, the victory would not have been possible and that the workers’ struggle is not isolated to within just the factory, but is connected to a larger struggle for national democracy.

We then met and spoke with various urban poor communities who were facing threats of demolition of their homes. The government plans to sell the land to private corporations and companies, displacing communities and families who have lived there for decades. One barangay in Muntinlupa faces demolition in an effort to create a new highway, whereas another community who resides near the lake might lose their homes to the government’s new plan for eco-tourism. The lakeshore community has lived there for years, and when they first moved there, were able to swim in and fish in the lake. Now, because of government deregulation of corporate waste dumping in the lake, it is polluted so much to the point that when children play or bathe in the lake, they receive terrible skin diseases or die immediately from all the toxins.

When hearing these stories, it’s quite clear that the Philippine government would much rather prioritize foreign corporations, tourism, and basically PROFITS over its own people. It’s easy to become disheartened and pessimistic after witnessing all of these harsh realities firsthand in the Philippines, but amidst all this, there is a vibrant and militant movement that is fighting for genuine freedom, where a new reality is possible and can be lived. I am incredibly humbled and honored to be learning from some of the sharpest, most creative, and energetic youth organizers out there. I am excited to bring back this energy and fire back to the bay, and all that we’ve learned to strengthen our work back home.

Okay, and it just started POURING out of nowhere. Lightning and thunder even. Before there’s a brownout, lemme just stop here. Ingat!

With love and in struggle,

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