By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
The news about kidnapping charges against progressive youth group Anakbayan is outrageous. For two decades of its existence, it is only under this regime that a group critical of the government has been accused of kidnapping its own members.
It is unfortunate that one’s decision to take that road less traveled would lead to the filing of these absurd charges. It is also unfortunate that taking that path would be deemed as something that is so unacceptable for parents that they would rather confine their children to the comfort of their homes.
I took the road less traveled, but my parents paved that road for me.
When I was about eight or nine years old, I remember that my mother, then a factory worker in an electronics company, would bring me and my siblings to their union meetings. They went on strike due to union-busting (which at that time, I did not understand yet). My mother brought me, along my younger sister to the picketline. In some days, she would tag along my brother, then still a baby. I remember eating meals with the other women factory workers who lost their job because the management did not absorb the workers in the old factory in Tanyag, Bicutan. It was there that I first heard the chant, “Makibaka! Huwag matakot!”
My father who worked in non-government organizations also sent us to summer camps. There, we met children of activist parents and discussed children’s rights and national issues affecting our families. I remember one summer camp in Lupao, Nueva Ecija where we took a bath in a makeshift toilet. It made me want to cry; for me it was like pushing the boundaries. But it was there that I learned that the farmers are the poorest in society. Worse, they get killed, just like what happened in the Lupao massacre under the administration of former President Cory Aquino. Then I realized that my complaint about the makeshift toilet was so trivial compared to the sufferings of farmers.
Fast forward. After graduating from high school, my father introduced me to the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP). He took me to their office in Sampaloc, Manila in the summer of 1999. I became a member of the national secretariat, helping out in the preparations for student press conventions and other workshops for student journalists. I also attended educational discussions and protest actions that helped me better understand the societal ills.
I understood that no matter how difficult the situation then, like the makeshift toilet and the few hours of sleep due to conventions, educational discussions as well as integration in picketlines, our parents had the best intentions. The military might call this ‘brainwashing’ but I call it teaching some of life’s most valuable lessons.
These experiences have taught me how to be critical, to ask questions and to stand up for what is right. Looking back, I realized that I never opted to work in a corporation. I find contentment in working for the marginalized sectors that’s why I’ve decided to be with Bulatlat. Meeting, hearing and telling the stories of the downtrodden have cemented my commitment to a people-led journalism.