As the corpse of a long dead dictator was put to rest in the Libingan ng mga Bayani last November 18, 2016, the fires of outcry and defiance burned bright all around the country. People from all walks of life, near and far, took their stands and made their voices heard. And while in the end the dictator lay underneath hallowed ground, the day served as a reminder that the scars of the past still remain, and that time has not made the Filipinos soft.
The sparks that ousted a regime of terror and tyranny back in 1986 live on to this day and age, passed down onto the next generation—that of millennials—so that they may continue to stand up for what they believe in and take action against injustice and corruption.
A good number of the people who took to rallying were composed of the youth, with students from various schools taking lead by standing for what they believed was right. Charlie Del Rosario, De La Salle University’s 71st College of Engineering Batch President, was one of the people present at the rallies. In an interview with The LaSallian, she looked back on what happened during those first few days when the news of Marcos’ burial had
“The day of the Marcos Burial was the same day as the Freshman Election Miting De Avance, wherein I was a candidate,” says Charlie (I, IE). “In solidarity, both parties decided to cancel [it] to show a unified stand versus the shock burial. We stood at the center of the amphitheater calling students from DLSU to stand up for what we, as a university and as Filipinos, believe in.”
71st Eng Legislative Assembly Representative, Cheska Simeon, was present at the rally as well. “What drove me to act on how I felt was the motive of the people that really wanted to fight and express their discontent with the decisions of the current administration,” explains Cheska (I, MEM-MR).
The reasons these members of the youth decided to rally draw from similar ideals. “I may not have been alive back then to rally behind those oppressed by the Martial Law, but I am alive now and I won’t let what my countrymen, friends, and even parents fought for go to waste,” Charlie says.
Cheska, too, adds, “[The things] we are fighting for should never be forgotten.”
*Maria, who participated in the recent anti-Marcos rallies and a score of other activist events, is another example of someone who sees activism as the strongest way for people to voice out their problems that go unaddressed. She points out that protest actions all have a common goal, “[It’s] to make the public’s discontent visible, and to pressure the government or whatever offending body to right whatever wrongs have been perpetrated.”
Changing profile pictures on Facebook or writing pieces on issues can raise awareness, but nothing pressures a government into action more than physical presence. “Constant momentum-building through rallies is vital in order to amass support and spur immediate action. Strike while the iron is hot,” says Maria.
In the face of oppression
While the reign of Marcos is over and it is no longer commonplace for activists to be arrested or harmed upon sight, rallying still carries certain risks for participants. This is especially true when an administration has tendencies to resort to extrajudicial methods of achieving its goals.
Speaking from experience, *Maria wants activists to always be prepared when going to a rally. Never go alone, bring only what you need, bring rain gear and first aid supplies, and a means to contact people in case of emergencies. It would even help to be connected to a lawyer in case of arrest in a badly organized rally.
Charlie explained the reasons why she chose to rally despite knowing the dangers she may face, by citing her own mother as her inspiration to do so. “My mom was a student in the University of the Philippines Diliman during the time of Martial Law and she fought so fervently and passionately for our country. She attended rallies, got teargassed, was threatened, yet none of these were able to dull her fervor. It is never going to be easy to fight for what you believe in, but it is definitely worth it.”
For the youth activists of this generation, activism represents resilience and desire for change. “It’s when people act towards bringing political and social change,” says Cheska.
Charlie adds, “For me, activism means taking a stand even when no one is on your side.”
Fortunately, the current generation has shown that it is concerned enough with what happens in the country to make its presence felt. There are only a few pieces of advice *Maria wants to give activists to better support their cause.
Rallies should simply act as a way for the people to be heard. It opens up an opportunity for nonviolent confrontation. “At rallies, the thing to avoid at all costs is provoking or inciting violence,” advises Maria.
The rallies of the future
Apart from all the practical advice these activists have to offer, the message they most want to get across is for the youth to never stop fighting the good fight. For Cheska, she believes that the youth must remain active in standing up for what they believe in, for them to raise awareness concerning the current issues of the country.
Charlie ends on a final note, “The youth of today is the future of tomorrow. An active youth will lead to a brighter future for our country wherein the future leaders would have lived and learned from the present mistakes and successes of our country.”
Although these are just a handful of stories amongst the hundreds of youths that decided to rally, in the midst of oppression and injustice, there was unity. How the youth carried the torch through such a dark time and kept its light burning bright bodes well for the future of the country, especially given the role young people are expected to play.
*Name changed for anonymity.