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.

Published by Bulatlat

Authorities often downplay the traumatic impact of disasters by celebrating the resilience of their constituents. They highlight the bravery of survivors, the will to overcome unending tragedies, and the instinct to find humor and hope in the face of adversity. However, not all have sincere motives. There are those who simply wanted to evade accountability and hide their misdeeds by praising the resilience of the local population. Their sinister intent is obscured by similar narratives that emphasize the importance of mastering the vicissitudes of life. Hence, the powerful meaning of resilience is downgraded. From being a code of hope and endurance, it became a bureaucratic jargon used by politicians for petty politicking. Even the advocates of political-correctness are hesitant to invoke it in times of disaster because it might be interpreted as an endorsement of the incompetence and criminal negligence of public officials.

But resilience is a word too special to be abandoned so that callous politicians could only appropriate it for their selfish interests. For the longest time, it refers to people overcoming odds through sheer bravery and ingenuity. Why then should we tolerate opportunists who are devaluing its meaning? Instead of refraining from using it in our social discourse, we should reclaim ownership of its radical significance. It should be deployed in our linguistic arsenal as we pursue our political work.

For example, resilience is an apt word to describe the long-running people’s resistance in the Philippines. The national democratic struggle has thrived for more than half a century during the long Cold War era, the fall and disintegration of the Soviet bloc, and the spread of neoconservatism in the world. It has endured the brutal Martial Law dictatorship, the continuous all-out-wars waged by post-Marcos regimes, and the global ideological offensive against Marxism.

Its longevity is lampooned as proof of its failure as a political force. Those who echo this line fail to realize the contradiction in their argument: a supposedly obsolete movement continues to threaten the hegemony of the ruling class. They refuse to acknowledge that the revolutionary struggle has lasted this long because it has popular support.

The 20th century saw the rise of anti-colonial revolutions in Third World societies led by nationalists and communists. Some Marxist parties came to power but the uprising in other countries was violently crushed. The Philippine struggle is linked to the unfinished revolution of 1896, the fight for independence until the end of World War II, and the Huk rebellion in the 1950s. The national democratic movement emerged in the late 1950s which helped usher the revival of nationalism in the 1960s. This became the backbone of the people’s resistance which challenged the tyranny of Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s.

Succeeding administrations touted the country’s political and economic transition to dismiss the revolutionary aims of the national democratic movement. But three decades later, the Philippine state is still beleaguered by systemic ills that led to social uprisings in the past. Meanwhile, the national democratic Left continues not just to offer its program as a viable alternative but remains persistent in its comprehensive struggle for social transformation.

The country’s reactionary class has an uninterrupted rule but conveniently blames the Left for the social problems afflicting the nation. Even more absurd is that it pokes fun at the supposed failure of the armed Left to occupy and govern a territory in the islands. It could not make up its mind whether both the underground and legal Left are too powerful to dictate the country’s political economy or too insignificant and weak to dominate local politics. It knows only the language of violence when describing its class enemy. Hence, its desperation to defeat the Left is revealed by its obsession to demean the national democratic movement by branding it as dogmatic, dictatorial, unchristian, and anti-Filipino.

Despite the state-sponsored aggression against the Left and the anti-Left bashing in mainstream institutions, the flags of the national democratic movement are still waving high and even resurgent in some places.

After more than half a century, the Philippine revolutionary struggle could already offer its experience in conducting a protracted resistance in this part of the world. It could serve as a model for building a self-reliant movement while battling both fascists and revisionists. There are important lessons from other countries that can guide us in probing the status of our struggle, and at the same time, we can already put forward our own history to enrich the theory and practice of political revolution.

State reprisals have so far failed to stop the advance of the people’s movement. The heirs of Dagohoy, Bonifacio and Gabriela Silang are demonstrating how revolutionaries are capable of enduring decades of hardship and sacrifice without surrendering the fight for real independence and democracy. Some are braving the frontlines of dissent while others are finding other creative ways to support the resistance. Some are fleeing from intensified crackdowns and retreating to other places where political organizing is more feasible. This resiliency is what makes the revolutionary struggle in the Philippines a solid rock of refuge in the raging waters of tyranny and state terror.

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