By Chrissi Fabro, FINDink Contributor
“Kabataan unite! Fight for people’s rights!” echoed throughout the auditorium and halls of Balboa High School in San Francisco the weekend of October 1st. In the most exciting way to kick off Filipino American History Month, more than three hundred Filipino youth from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, California and other major cities came together for a national conference and founded a nationwide alliance of Filipino youth called Kabataan (Youth) Alliance.
Most of the attendees were either in college or high school, very young people enthusiastically ready to take history into their own hands and change our world for the better. In all of them, I saw the leaders of our tomorrow.
It made me reflect and ask myself, “What was I doing with my life while I was in high school and my early years in college?” I was not as socially or politically conscious, and I definitely was not an activist. A lot of me at their age was searching for a sense of Filipino identity, especially being the daughter of two Filipino immigrant parents whom have already very much assimilated to American life and culture.
But the youth in the conference were way beyond the search for their Filipino identity. They were youth critical of the injustices faced by our communities and worked together to come up with ways to advance the rights and welfare of our communities in the US, the Philippines, and abroad.
Know History, Know Self. No History, No Self.
Jose Rizal’s famous quote — “Those who fail to look back to where they came from will not reach where they’re going” — is one that strikes a deep reverberating chord in the hearts of many Filipino youth whom have been raised in the US and are trying to understand and know our roots. But to truly know and understand what it means to be a Filipino is to know our people’s history of resisting centuries of colonization and imperialism in the Philippines.
With the concrete conditions of being an archipelago, the people of the Philippines were naturally divided geographically. Throughout the history of the Philippines under Spanish colonization, there were revolts happening all over the country. It was in the struggle against Spain and the oppression of the people of the Philippines that forged a national sense of Filipino identity. Later on, the Filipino people would continue their resistance against the US as a colonizer, Japan as an invader, and against the United States’s new form of domination in the Philippines — imperialism.
It is important to know our roots and where we come from, but it is just as important to know the burning issues of our times. Filipinos all over the world face severe crises, from our local communities in the US to overseas in different countries and back home in the Philippines.
In the Philippines today, our people fall victim to the horrifying drug war. So far, more than 13,000 people — and counting — have already been killed. We know this is no war on drugs but a war against the poor, as vigilantes raid the homes in urban poor communities, kill unapologetically execution style. In Mindanao, martial law has been extended until the end of the year, with Duterte threatening to extend it nationwide. There have been aerial bombings in the city of Marawi, forcing thousands of Moros to evacuate to other cities. Moros beg Duterte to stop the bombings and to lift martial law. And lastly, Duterte’s all-out war against revolutionary forces also targets above-ground activists, with human rights defenders and other activists critical of the government being harassed and threatened.
While the US government is prioritizing militarization of countries including the Philippines, there are constant attacks on education, health care and other basic social services. As Filipinos living in the US, we are not exempt from these issues. We continue to face extreme hardships: the trauma of family separation, labor trafficking and exploitation, the rise of gentrification and displacement, and the constant threat of deportation.
How Youth Should Celebrate Filipino American History Month
As Filipino youth in the United States, we must understand that the very problems in the Philippines of joblessness, landlessness, and poverty are the same problems that continue to force more than 6,000 Filipinos to migrate abroad, but more importantly, they are the problems that have led to the vibrant mass movement of our people for national liberation. We must understand the struggles of our people in the motherland are directly linked to the struggles we face as Filipinos abroad, and therefore we must fight the struggle on two fronts: the United States and the Philippines.
The founding of this alliance is the most concrete expression of taking history into our own hands. By uniting Filipino youth from all over the country, we are able to wield the power of the Filipino youth to fight for positive changes that advance our people. History challenges the youth everyday to take up the struggles of our communities.
To know our our roots is to understand the legacy of our people in resisting injustice and fighting for our liberation as a people. To truly honor these histories is to continue their legacy. On this year’s Filipino American History Month, I challenge the Filipino youth to go beyond learning their histories and take collective action to concretely respond to the needs of our communities. Join Kabataan Alliance!
Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.