I wasn’t able to go to the SAMASA reunion last November 18. I was too tired to drive up to PCED where the reunion was. I asked several other friends, former SAMASA comrades, and they too, weren’t able to go. Bong Bongolan, I heard, organized the event.
Maite Defensor was also there, along with several others. I saw the photos at the FB page of Samasa and it brought memories of those days when I was one of those who shouted "Down with the US-Aquino regime!" and even decided to sacrifice my future and my life for the struggle.
I haven’t forgotten one single shred of my experience at the UP-Diliman. Fact is the philosophies I learned over there, I still hold dear even now. The very persona I am right now sprang from those early days at the University. The beliefs I hold dear today are the very same ones I resolved to one day, achieve for this country. I never wavered. I never changed. I am fatter, wiser, and with grey hairs, but I still hold the torch within me. The "Iskra" is still very much alive in me.
I may have forgotten the names and the faces of those who were with me during those days but I still remember the times when I was beaten with truncheons, had a quick bath from those strong sprays from water cannons and injured by rocks and stones thrown by the cops. I remember how I lost my My Tribe sandals from numerous occasions where I need to run from the cops. And it is still clear to me how I managed to go back to my dormitory without any sandals at all, or how my body ache with all the running and the walking from the US embassy down to UST.
The issues were uniquely similar with what the new activists of this present generation are struggling against---issues of high tuition fees, low living wages, high prices of oil and foodstuffs and the continued alienation of this country brought about by imperialism.
In those days, farmers were being victimized by landlords and workers by Big Business. Thirty years later, farmers are still victims of a brutal feudalist system and workers all the more oppressed by new ways of skirting the Labor Code.
I may have developed a big tummy and may have gained weight, but the issues that I once shouted against when I was still a lanky young student from the University of the Philippines remain.
Credit that to very strong elite who remains the most dominant force in Philippine history. Credit that to elite whose aspirations are American but live in luxury like Spaniards in a land inhabited by tanned natives with blonde hairs.
Unlike my fellow SAMASA comrades, I don't have photos or pictures of what I did back then. Fact is, some of these comrades might have forgotten how I tried to fight off the CSSP dean's plan to erase those tambayans permanently, and how we, at the College Council, managed to provide an alternative to extinction.
I remember several photos taken of me, trying to fight off a cop who was trying to choke me. I was holding an LFS flag back then, and since that flag was kinda expensive, I went back to retrieve it from the ground. When I did so, a cop saw me and tried to wrestle with me. I was choking from the thick smoke caused by pepper bombs but I did not let go. He punched me, and then hit my back with a truncheon but I never let go. That flag was expensive and our group had no money and I don't want cops to get that flag and will just make it as a trophy. Nope.
Eventually, I was put down by two cops, hauled to a waiting jeepney and brought to the nearest police station. There, along with twelve others, including our head, Amante Jimenez, we were booked. After a few hours in jail, we were released with a warning not to go back to the protesting groups. I went back.
The last time I experienced being sprayed with dirty water from a water cannon was several years back. I was with Tita Armida Siguion-Reyna and several other FPJ sympathizers onboard a flatbed. The place was Welcome Rotunda infront of Burger King. The year, 2004.
We were protesting against the electoral loss of FPJ. FPJ won that elections, but as we all know now, Gloria Arroyo went out of her way and marshaled the forces of the state to rig that election. FPJ and all the rest of the groups decided to mobilize the people and protest against Gloria’s cheating ways. Hundreds of people went out of their homes and took part in our protest action.
When Tita Armida was lambasting the Arroyo government for the apparent large-scale thievery of the people’s voice the Arroyos did against FPJ, a fireman decided to spray us with water. The force of the water did not drown our voices. We continue to shout and urged the people to remain steadfast. It only ended when they threw pepper bombs at us and someone fired shots in the air. Several of us were arrested. I thought back then that that was the end of my career as a marketing communications professional. But, God is good. I survived that and went on to live another day. Maybe God has plans for me.
I’m now forty years old and turning a year old by January. Still, the principles I vowed before my LFS comrades some twenty years back, remain in my heart. I will probably die an old man, but if my country needs me, I shall still rise from my bed and fight.
Many of those whom I thought would continue fighting for the masses eventually end up fighting for the interests of elite politicians and multinational corporations. Several years ago, I didn’t understand why. Now, I know.
I continue to hold the torch because I came from the ranks of the poor. I wasn’t an Atenean who turned activist. I was part of the masa who became an Atenean. I understand the plight of the poor because I am part of the masa. I wasn’t born with a proverbial silver spoon in my mouth, nor enjoyed the luxuries of living as a member of the middle class. My family has always been poor. But I managed to survive all these years because of one thought, and one thought alone---God will eventually use me to make certain the revolutionary victory of the masses.
Samasa for me, is not just part of my youth, no. Samasa is in me. That is the Cause, that is the promise, to always work for the Filipino masses and pursue their welfare. SAMASA is not just a spur of the moment thing, nor a coalition of forces for a selfish motive. No.
Samasa will forever be someone’s cause. As what a comrade of mine used to say, the greatest cause is the People’s Cause and the People’s Cause remains the highest and most noble, law.