Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

The Philippines receives international attention every time a freak storm hits the islands. It becomes more interesting to the global audience if floods, volcanic eruptions and super quakes destroy the communities of islanders. It’s pitied for being the most disaster-prone country in the world. But it also ‘trends’ because of its youtube-famous dancing prisoners, boxing champs, Imelda Marcos shoes, and legislators who want to ban planking protests. It seems the Philippines becomes visible in the news radar only if strange things happen in the 7,107 islands.

But the country’s image shouldn’t be reduced to the world of exotic and magic.

Indeed, ‘really existing’ poverty in the country is obscene. If a gated community is built near an urban poor sprawl, the public debate will focus on the actual and imagined excesses of the poor instead of redirecting the righteous indignation of the twittering classes (previously known as chattering classes) to the vulgar display of social inequality. It seems easier to inflame the tsunami rage of the TV-crazed mob by highlighting the criminal activities of the masa than, for example, to build opposition to the irresponsible and elitist decision of the government to lower the indicators of poverty. Solve poverty by redefining it, clever!

But then again, the Philippines should be more than about disasters and Smokey Mountain. It may be famous for its white sand beaches and giant crocodiles but even in these islands of contradictions people live. The islanders, the ‘orphans of the Pacific’, know how to cook adobo and sinigang; but more than their love for merrymaking and baby making, they know how to fight. They produced super maids and super nannies but they also gave us superheroes and super revolutionaries.

The Philippines is guilty of bringing Marcos to this world (and maybe even Hitler if rumors are true) but it’s the same country where Rizal was born. It’s the land of Bonifacio and Jacinto who launched Asia’s first anti-colonial revolution in the late 19th century. Before Sun Yat Sen and Gandhi, there was the anti-Spanish Katipuneros and their bolos. It’s the country which exposed the imperialism of the great US of A when its people resisted the American occupation in the early 1900s. Out of the ruins of the second world war (beautiful old Manila was the second most devastated city in the world next to Warsaw), the Philippine Republic – Asia’s first after the war – was established. Filipinos defied the dictatorship in the 1970s and wowed the world with their peaceful People Power uprising in Edsa in 1986.

Recently, protesting workers and farmers ‘occupied’ Mendiola and proclaimed themselves the ’75 percent’ who are urging the 24 percent (professionals, students, middle forces) to join the struggle against the oppressive rule of the ‘1 percent’. Behold the exploited majority as they affirm their readiness to challenge the supremacy of the political dynasties.

Yes Wikileaks, there is poverty, repression, and old style imperialist meddling in the Philippines; but why dwell on these depressing topics?

The people’s movement in the islands is actually intensifying. The armed revolution has been raging in the archipelago for more than four decades already and it’s officially the world’s longest insurgency. The oppressors, the apathetic, the conformists, and the clueless observers couldn’t understand why the rebellion is thriving in the country despite the dramatic fall of the communist bloc. But the serious students of history, the oppressed, and the dreamers of a new future clearly understand the logic of revolution. They know that tyranny can’t exist without provoking anger and resistance in society.

From the Middle East to the Americas, the people are raising the level of fighting. Arab Spring. Occupy Movements. General Strikes. People’s War. Dictators are ousted in unceremonial ways but more significantly, the people are learning how to fight back. They are reclaiming politics by asserting the power of organized collectives. The one percent has the purchasing power but the people, the grassroots, has the real power to change the world. The poor will not reject charity but solidarity is superior.

The search for the perfect hashtag to capture the essence of revolution should be abandoned since the truth has to be experienced in the real world. It’s through the participation in the daily struggles that life becomes more meaningful. It’s when workers, farmers, and the rest of the exploited are united in the revolution that they are able to create history, even as they viciously confront their differences.

Therefore, the fire of life is burning in the Philippines because its people are waging a revolution. From the cities to the boondocks, the flags of the mass movement are standing proud.

*From Anton Chekhov’s short story In Exile, “Even in Siberia people live.”

One Response to “Even in the Philippines people live*”

  1. as a congressman, what will you do to help change inequality in our society? or what have you done? for this, lately


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