She became known as the small but firebrand speaker during the protest actions leading to the People Power II uprising that ousted then president Joseph Estrada. Protesters from all walks of life, from the urban poor to well-dressed women from the elite, went near the stage whenever she spoke during rallies.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — On February 8, among the thousands who celebrated their birthday in the country and around the world, one person stood out in the hearts and minds of urban poor Filipinos.
“I hope God would give me a longer life so I could continue serving the Filipino people,” Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida told Bulatlat.com on Tuesday as she celebrated her birthday together with residents of Sitio San Roque, an urban poor community in Quezon City where threats of demolition still loom. Food were brought by Nanay Mameng’s colleagues.
Nanay Mameng is an icon of the urban poor struggle in the Philippines. Having been born and raised in an urban poor community, herself, she understood well what they need from the government. For more than three decades of active participation in the people’s movement, Nanay Mameng said it is her comrades and entire urban poor communities who inspire her.
Residents of San Roque in Quezon City offer a song for their beloved Nanay Mameng.(Photo by Randy Evangelista / bulatlat.com)
“They were hurt and some were jailed. But they continued to fight (for their rights),” Nanay Mameng said. When asked about her birthday wish, Nanay Mameng said, without hesitation, victory for the people’s struggle to eradicate poverty in the country.
Nanay Mameng became an activist at the age of 50, making her the oldest member of the former urban poor youth group Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalismo (Kadena or Youth for Democracy and Nationalism) during the Marcos dictatorship.
In 1983, she became a community organizer of urban poor women’s group Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (Samakana or Association of United Urban Poor Women) where she later became its chairwoman for 11 years. She became known as the small but firebrand speaker during the protest actions leading to the People Power II uprising that ousted then president Joseph Estrada. Protesters from all walks of life, from the urban poor to well-dressed women from the elite, went near the stage whenever she spoke during rallies.
“At that time, there were attempts to bribe Nanay Mameng to the tune of P1 million or around $23,000, with promises of jobs for her children and grandchildren to stop her from joining rallies but she did not accept it,” Bea Arellano, chairwoman of urban poor group Kadamay where Nanay Mameng is emeritus chair, said. In fact, Nanay Mameng continues to live in Leveriza, an urban poor community in Pasay City.
Arellano said Nanay Mameng, despite her old age, remains to be sharp in her analysis of issues. She continues to participate in protest actions and is a known critic of the nine-year rule of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who she dubbed as “Gloria Macapal-ang-mukha Arroyo.”
When President Benigno S. Aquino won during the May 2010 elections, Nanay Mameng warned that if his administration would be no different from the previous one, she would be among the very first to denounce the newly installed government.
Wanting to Reschedule Her Birthday
A simple birthday celebration for Nanay Mameng.(Photo by Randy Evangelista / bulatlat.com)
Nanay Mameng is so frustrated with the Aquino administration that she wanted to move her birthday, which fell on February 8, to another date as it also coincides with Aquino’s birthday. “But If we are talking about the fact that my birthday also coincides with that of Joma’s, (referring to International League of Peoples’ Struggle chairman Jose Maria Sison) and nationalist Claro M. Recto, I would jump with joy,” she told Bulatlat.com. The two were also born on the same day.
For the urban poor, the Aquino administration is insensitive to their conditions because his programs consist mainly of the conditional cash transfer scheme, public private partnerships, budget cuts on basic social services, railway fare hike. Urban poor groups also criticized Aquino’s decision to buy himself a “third hand” Porsche.
But no matter how much Nanay Mameng wished her mother had given birth to her earlier or later than February 8, Carlito Badion, vice chairman of Kadamay, said that there is a reason why her birthday coincides with Aquino’s. “This is to show how the two chose to serve the interest of the masses, but one, Nanay Mameng, is genuine, and the other one, Aquino, is not.”