July 21, 2012
July 21, 2012

A few weeks ago I found myself chatting with one of our University’s student leaders. That night, I asked her about her recently concluded internship at a leading multinational company.

Grabe, napaka-kapitalista nila!” she shared with a laugh. She recalled the time she swore that she would never work for a multinational company. That accursed, beloved, absolutely necessary thing we call money eventually compelled her to sell out.

I found her sentiments striking a familiar chord in me. Her sentiments were quaint, and something I have difficulty finding in La Salle. Many Lasallians defend work in a multinational firm by saying that it gives you a global experience, and that it serves as a starting point for learning best practices and improving Philippine business and governance. Fair points all.

But seldom would you find a Lasallian who staunchly affirms, “You know, working for a firm that exploits cheap, undervalued Philippine labor, and prioritizes expats over skilled locals for top management is not going to cut it for me.”

Activist much?

Our student leader’s ideals might not be popular in our University. Such ideals mentioned above remind us of Joma Sison, Pantayong Pananaw, and the CPP of the Seventies: a time when student leaders raged against the First Couple and the IMF, a time when Lasallites stormed Malacañang.

The student activist movement has since been adamantly Leftist, and like many sheltered Lasallians, I have no clue what it’s all about these days. RH Bill?

Truth be told, I had dismissed the student movement as a thing of the past. I used to associate it with the Left; but then, the world’s prominent Communist governments have either collapsed or become de facto capitalist.

And given that globalization, through the Internet, has streamlined itself into the urbane consciousness of Lasallians, what use now is a student movement that cries out against ‘imperialism’ and ‘colonial mentality’? Sounds like FILKOMU to me. Or was that KASPIL1? CITIGOV?

Outside La Salle, it still seems to be a huge deal.

The student Left continues to thrive in public universities, particularly those with ‘U’ and ‘P’ in their acronyms. These universities, apparently, continue to supply unwitting activists-slash-anarchists as fresh blood, literally, for more serious underground movements that could be classified as dangerously insurgent.

It all begins by exposing them to urban mobilizations at Mendiola and Tondo, community immersions in Tarlac, and, sometimes, ‘cultural activities’. In time, these students are sent to the provinces to ‘collect’ from rural households, and spark the proletariat to ‘action’ by sabotaging infrastructural development projects funded by LGUs, foreign aid grants, and, occasionally, CDFs. Their activities dangle their lives on a thread; in fact, the danger reaches a point when students suspected of association with the movement are slain by armed groups, as in the unfortunate incident of recent student killing at UP Los Baños.

Okay, so maybe that sort of struggle is extreme for the student leader I spoke with. But she knows that it’s happening out there—students actually risking their lives for their beliefs.

She’s just dismayed that Lasallians have nary a hint on these developments, that while student peers in different universities are being indoctrinated into the NPA, again under risk of death, Lasallians are being indoctrinated in… well, tamer things. Not to suggest that Lasallians join the NPA. That’s treason.

Nevertheless, Lasallians seem to lack something that they are genuinely fighting for, something that they are willing to risk their lives for. Activism is a separate concern that may have sound, but no resonance. In La Salle, it doesn’t breathe.

This could have jaded our student leader’s idealism. Her fight, her long and protracted struggle, the strong ideals she’s held on to since high school, fizzled during her stay in this safe, hallowed institution.

Not that it’s a bad thing, that this institution is safe and hallowed. The only risk with safe and hallowed is sterility: that is, becoming too insular that we’re no longer in touch with the outside world. Why should we seek something to fight for, something beyond ourselves?

We need not worry though as we have safe jobs after graduation, because multinational companies separate DLSU resumés from the rest. We’ll eventually find work in a Makati office or a Taguig tower, or move to Singapore or Hong Kong for better multinational opportunities.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong in that, really. I mean, that’s something we want to fight for: opportunities for ourselves, and our own development. Isn’t that a more reasonable activism? Isn’t that something Lasallians would be willing to risk for, in any case? We are Lasallian achievers, right? We wouldn’t have to die now, would we?

Perhaps. Activism doesn’t mean being salvaged as in Marcos times, nor does it mean being a Left extremist. But at the very least, it means to unshackle students who have become so concerned with themselves and their small circles that they cease to look around them and see a world.

This painful world is a world where their peers have to cut classes to protest against tuition fees and budget cuts on education, where the hungry eat rice and salt, where streets are not safe, where economic growth does not reflect economic wellbeing, where the dead haunt the living for justice, and where that world is this world, and this world actually needs them.

That need may be satisfied by a revolution, and that revolution will have to come from them. That revolution, at least, is what we should be fighting for. That revolution, I hope, is inevitable. Especially from Lasallians.

I hope I’m not yet jaded.