Friday, January 4, 2013

21 Guns: On Placards and Strained Voices

Guest blog post by Dazen Dawn P. Lariza*

Article first published on Central Echo, October 2012 edition.

Under the striking heat of the burning sun they stand clothed in sweat-drenched fabric and glistening faces that speak of courage and anger. With fists held high, they fight oppression, not with grenades and bombs and nuclear weapons but with their right to be loud, their right to be heard, their right to be free etched in placards and streamers that cry “CHANGE” and “JUSTICE.”

Activism has become the reason for enlightenment in many dark periods in our history such as Martial Law. As the government resulted to all sorts of actions in order to suppress their freedom, a new revolution was created through groups of Filipinos, especially students, who fought for their rights. The death of thousands created a ripple of events that brought forth a peaceful war of words and prayers which ended the dictator’s reign, hence, the reason why student activism still prevails in our present society.

Some may wonder why students choose to become activists and do things that may be considered “acts of rebellion.” Well, you’d have to think like an activist and learn to sympathize with what they fight for in order to understand what they do. Oikos Ecological Movement and League of Filipino Students (LFS) member Jan Pachoco didn’t understand the reason why student activists resulted to such actions until he got to know them and the reason behind their actions and eventually decided to join in the crowd.

Actually at first, when I see activists on the streets I wonder why they do such things and why they question and blame the government for all the crises faced by our society. But when I got to know them, my mind was opened to the sad realities they see,” he said.

The life of being a student activist is not an easy road. People misjudge you; your time has to be divided, and you have to keep secrets from people close to you if they turn against you and your beliefs. Student activists have far greater issues than picking an outfit for College Night of leveling up your character on League of Legends.

According to Jan, being a student activist has its demands. One of which is sacrificing time to study the different issues which confront the present generation. “We cannot make a concrete analysis and solution to the problems if we do not know the issue,” he said, adding that such a sacrifice is not a big deal because “if we were truly committed to the principles we would not hesitate to sacrifice a little for the good of every Filipino.”

Aside from that comes the pressure of some parents on their children to stop involving themselves in student activism. Jan said it is the greatest issue most of his colleagues have to face. They have to make their parents and families understand that such actions are note merely for their own good but also for the family. With this, Jan quoted a line from Renato Constantino saying, “If parents of today do not march with the youth, they will be left behind and will deserve only the censure of history. If the youth fail to enlist the active participation of other sectors of society, their movement will suffer from a fatal distortion.”

Other than those stated above, student activists have to face the watchful eyes of their own Universities’ administrations especially on those coming from the LFS who oppose tuition fee increases and the likes. Various administrations such as those in the University of the Philippines take extra effort in trying to get rid of them.

In a statement posted on in December 7, 2010 by then UP Aterisk member Dino Pineda, he had said “We thought we were dying. We thought student activism had gone down the slope, and had become irreconcilably ‘uncool’ for the generation.” Dino stated actions which their administration did to silence them and their efforts in fighting against this. He ended his statement with this line, “More and more, we are seeing how this Administration is trying to kill us. Yes, we are dying. But we are not dying without a fight.”

Contrary to what others believe in, their efforts in fighting for social change are not useless. From rallies, State of the Youth Addresses, writing in print to spray painting stencils of a hangman tied to a yellow noose and more, these student activists may not always get what they want but their voices and opinions do get heard a lot. Through thousands of students marching against budget cuts on Education, a raise on budget happened. According to Jan, the Anti-No Permit, No Exam Policy bill is already being recognized by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the latest protest against the Cybercrime Law has been issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). So who’s to say that their screams of rage go to waste?

Yes. They are often a common sight. You find them in clusters on streets, government centers, and business firms screaming out their rebellion, fighting for what they believe is right in an unjust society. Whether they be frowned upon by society or be understood by those who sympathize with what they feel, they wouldn’t really care, because activism is not meant to be understood by people who remain ignorant to what they believe in. Activism is meant for those who feel the need to be heard by a society that remains deaf to those who cry for freedom and equality. Activism is for those who believe that freedom is not an option.

Freedom is a gift. Fight for it.


*Dazen Dawn is  News Editor of Central Echo. She is 2nd year BS Psychology student of Central Philippine University, Iloilo City, Philippines.

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