Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

A 20-year old student activist in 1970 is now 60 years old. The First Quarter Stormers are now senior citizens. What makes them special? They belong to a generation that defied a dictator. They were young revolutionaries who wanted to change the world. Many of them went underground after the declaration of martial law. The country’s post-war modern heroes are participants of the First Quarter Storm.

The FQS was the spark that ignited the national democratic revolution in the 1970s. It triggered a political upheaval which was similar to the revolutionary impact of China’s May Fourth Movement in 1919.

The FQS militants are the country’s original internationalists. They are contemporaries of the Red Guards of Paris in 1968 and the anti-imperialist guerillas of Vietnam. They supported the national liberation struggle of Third World nations.

Together with the activists of 1960s, the FQS generation provided a blueprint on how to launch a revolution. They were the first rallyists who marched to Malacanang through the Mendiola gate. They integrated with urban poor and peasant communities to prove that the noble cause of changing the old society is possible if it is undertaken together with the masses. Hundreds of FQS students went back to the provinces to establish and expand the base of the communist movement.

By identifying the major ills of society (imperialism feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism) and the radical solution to these problems (people’s war), FQS activists raised the level of political consciousness of Filipinos. After FQS, it is already ridiculous to demand fundamental change by participating in cute political actions like fun run, charity drive, fashion protest, and planting trees.

How did activists survive the difficult martial law years? Their participation in the FQS converted them into instant revolutionaries who trust the fighting capabilities of the organized masses. The FQS produced outstanding young activists who were not afraid to risk or sacrifice their lives in order to challenge the brutal leadership of Marcos. Without the FQS, Marcos and the reactionary forces could have easily crushed the opposition.

After the downfall of Marcos, FQS activists faced a dilemma. Some of them preferred to maximize the so-called democratic space provided by the Aquino regime. Others rejected this mentality as reformist and counter-revolutionary. Many became disillusioned and kept out of the divisive debates. They joined the private sector to become academics, entrepreneurs, business executives, journalists, OFWs, and consultants.

Those who remained loyal to the politics of FQS became leaders and living legends of the legal left in the 1990s. They inspired a new breed of activists who were searching for an appropriate radical mode of politics. It was the mass movement of the FQS era which was more appealing, exciting, and revolutionary than the NGO politics of the post-Edsa milieu. It is the spirit of FQS, not Edsa, which inspired and guided the activists when they called for the ouster of Estrada in 1999 and 2000. The three representatives of Bayan Muna partylist in 2001 were FQS veterans.

2010 is a symbolic year for FQS activists. This marks the period when FQS activists, those brave young idealists of 1970, are already considered as officially old. FQS veterans are a special breed of senior citizens of the republic. They are old dissenters who are espousing a new kind of politics. They are old warriors who refused to give up the good fight. They might still have an oversupply of idealism and revolutionary optimism but they already have old and tired (and literally, tortured) bodies. In a political sense, they are “youth without youth.”

In 1970, activists probably discussed Mao, Marcos, Beatles, sex, pimples, and the New People’s Army in rallies and DGs. In 2010, FQS veterans are probably discussing Mao, Arroyo, Beatles, sex (batteries not included), high blood, diabetes, arthritis, and the New People’s Army in rallies, reunions, and cyber forum.

In 1970, young activists shocked the elders when they voluntarily embraced the natdem revolution (with a socialist perspective). In 2010, the strong resolve of FQS activists to reaffirm the politics of revolution continues to bewilder everybody. In 1970 they should be pursuing a career in government or establishing their own business but they were more interested in the mass movement. In 2010 they should be thinking about their retirement or the welfare of their families but they continue to struggle as non-conformist militants.

It is impossible for FQS activists to retire. According to a human rights lawyer, wala namang retirement pay sa kilusan. The least the movement can do is to honor the lives of its outstanding militants. There is no retirement paradise, and no Golden Acres that await FQS veterans. They are more concerned with the Five Golden Rays and the building of a revolutionary future.

Behold the senior citizen activists! Patriarchs and matriarchs of their families; leaders and pioneers of progressive politics in the Philippines.

For impressively and consistently defying unjust authorities, for standing up against a ruthless dictator, for being loyal to the revolutionary cause, for fighting the oppressors, and for serving the people in the past four decades, the FQS senior citizen activists deserve our highest praise. We are fortunate to having been born in the same era when the brilliant and fighting FQS veterans are still alive to show how young revolutionaries can grow old without losing their idealism.

Mabuhay ang mga Lolo at Lola Tibak!

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The committed generations

4 Responses to “Senior citizen activists”

  1. Mabuhay Kayong Lahat! Mabuhay Kayong Lahat!
    Mabuhay Kayong Lahat!

    Ka Rusty

  2. […] Senior citizen activists grand old man […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Octogenarians and soldiers

  3. […] 1: The Committed Generations Part 2: Senior Citizen activists Part 3: […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Lost generation

  4. hooray to my father who’s an FQS! 🙂 a true-blooded Iskolar ng Bayan who would march up the AS steps and gather students to rally against Marcos’s regime.

    edz mendoza

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