October 19, 2016. The day the police rammed over our own people, I was with my Philo 10 class, visiting the camps of the indigenous people in the new CAL building. It was my first time this year to see them.
We were listening to the story of the Dumagat tribe leader, when an Anakbayan member showed us pictures of the incident on his phone. Pictures of a foot under a police van. I was there when he showed it to them.
It was… as if… time had slowed down. From the moment I saw their reaction… to the moment we were dismissed. The anger and grief in their eyes. It was like molten lava pooling in their eyes – wanting the people they hated to burn, and yet feeling momentous sadness as the hatred coursed through them.
Seeing them, I could feel a hundred thoughts running through their mind. They say a picture says a thousand words, and as we saw that picture, this was mine:
“Why would they do this to us?- Protecting the people who once violated our same ancestors… -What if it’s my friend? Are they okay? Who went to the Embassy? Think, think! – Wait, where are they now? What’s happening there?- Why is this happening to us?! Putang ina! Wait…Will they be safe? ….Will we?”
I called a friend from UP Manila, and he said that his friends were detained, and so were those who were badly injured, and so were the doctors who tried to help them. The police were still watching over them like vultures, waiting for their dead carcasses, excited to bring it to their boss, and feast on their triumphant battle.
I cried in the parking lot.
October 20, 2016. I did not let any insensitive sentiments pass by without them knowing this simple fact: with the freedom of speech comes an acceptance of criticism. I tried to educate as many people as I could, hoping that my voice could be heard in a void full of people who are always just full of themselves.
And I kept going, even if I had faced a handful of criticisms that had gone below the belt more than once, because the voice of the Dumagat tribe leader was echoing deep inside my mind, “You don’t need a college degree to know if you’re in the right. And if you are, then always, always choose to fight.”
October 21, 2016. I used to tell myself that I was a girl on fire, and the spit I received from strangers have doused my flame, but when human rights get trampled on with no care, I promised that I would fight. I don’t give a fuck who would stare.
As I raise my statements to the sky, hoping to attract and catch as many eyes. The broken bones my own people have had to endure had become my dried wood, and the police’s denial of the incident has become my gasoline. The friction between the police van’s tire against asphalt became the match that sparked my anger. I am so sorry. Blood had to spilled, just so eyes could be opened.
How many more gallons should be splattered on the ground before we finally receive what you’ve already had since the day you were born?
October 26, 2016. I didn’t know they were about to leave so soon. I went as soon as I could, and talked to a member of the Southern Mindanao tribe. He talked about the mining in his land, and most of all, he talked about how thankful he was to be here. Here, in UP Diliman.
That night, we had the Hugpungan, a cultural performance by the different national minority groups. I had chills the whole night, watching children talk of battle stories in front of us, amazed at the bursts of yellow, blue, red, and black all over their traditional clothes. These are children that are deprived of what we call a childhood full of innocence and Disney movies, and instead were given the battleground as their theatre stage.
After their performances, our Chancellor, Michael Tan, and the male and female leaders of the national minorities gave some closing remarks. They said, “We hope that next year, when we come back, we will no longer tell stories of our hardships, of war, and of tragedy. Hopefully, next year, we will bring with us stories of triumph.”
The host announced the different national minority groups for a curtain call. They danced in a circular motion around the stage. She invited our Chancellor to come up with them, along with other respectable leaders. The others started to invited the audience. Slowly, more and more people filled up the stage, dancing freely, chanting, “Ayan na. Ayan na. Ayan na ang sambayanan.” They mingled and merged as one uniting force – senior teachers, people of authority, students, indigenous people, children… All moving in one direction.
I was left astounded as I watched this spontaneous scenario unfold onstage. People of all ages, of different backgrounds, smiling, interacting, despite all odds – because their one goal was finally accomplished. A hopeful ending to this journey full of pain.
October, 2016. I cannot pinpoint the exact date, but this month was the month I found my purpose. This Lakbayan has changed my collegiate experience. The montage of martyrs showed every Iskolar ng Bayan who had not only dedicated their lives to the national minorities, but also died for them. I knew, then, that I wanted to be one of them.
As someone who is determined to become a psychologist, people forget that mental health is not just an issue of the proletariat or the peti-bourgeoise, but also of our national minorities. That we voice out our concerns for the health of the middle class, than the health of the children who have witnessed the burning of their schools, and other unthinkable tragedies, says a lot. I am not saying that we should disregard people who face monsters under their beds, just because other people face monsters with guns.
What I imply is this: do what you must to ensure that the people you believe should have what they must have WILL have what they must have, and I will do the same.
The indigenous people believed that UP Diliman was the safest place for them to stay, and they have stayed in many, many places. In their whole year, we have guranteed them 2 weeks away from military forces.
14 days of peace and shelter for them, in the rest of their 365 days.
14 days of enlightenment for me, in the rest of mine.
And I will not stop fighting until that 14 days of peace, turns into a three hundred and sixty-five.