Going against the current? Certainly.

Student Activism


It was an exchange in this blog more than a year ago. Questions were raised. Some were answered; some will forever remain open for discussion. It was a moving debate we seldom have.  Several sides presented their arguments and counter arguments. A year has passed. And I did not expect a belated response.

I am not, however, writing this post as a response to a recent essay written by a Literature student at the University of the Philippines Visayas named Karlo Mikhael Mongaya that critiqued the essay I wrote entitled Decline of Radical Student Activism. I am of the opinion that nothing new was raised in his essay except for some additional quotes to support the claims made by students of the same persuasion as Mr. Mongaya.

When the essay was written, I was a student in Hanoi, the capital city of a country trying to embrace capitalism. It was an essay inspired by tangible observations gleaned from a former socialist state. Yes I know that I made a handful of generalizations, and reflected them in an essay that I have no intention of causing any furor among students of different persuasions at the University of the Philippines. But it did.

I am more practical than romantic. I try as much as possible to base my observation on what I see. Yes, I am a voracious reader, but I avoid as much as I possibly can to alienate my readers. Probably, the most apt description for myself would be unaligned. I have never tried associating myself to any political view. I remain true to my senses. I believe in infinite truths. Should somebody tell me the truth, I will, without any second thoughts, declare him a liar.

And such is the case of radical student activists in the Philippines, they are so preoccupied with their Truth that they have failed and refused to accept other realities outside the university that run counter to their ideals. I have a high regard for the academe, in fact it is the only place I believe I can thrive. But having lived outside its walls made me realize that the world does not work based on theories alone. Yes we can use theories to explain the social phenomena that we see and experience; it does not work the other way around, nonetheless.  Yes I’ve seen few activists who pursued what they believed in and started to effect the changes they believe this country needs. But I’ve also known former activists who decried the depraved system but who are now as rotten, or even more rubbish, than the system they used to rally against.

I always attempt not to make sweeping statements. I may be a bit cynical sometimes but I’ve never succumbed to pessimism. I believe in this country and its young people.

For what is the truth behind going against the current? It’s freeing one’s mind from the old, antiquated, outmoded thinking of the past decades. It is a struggle to free one self from the debilitating truisms that may have been true before, but have gone obsolete through time. Our age needs a new approach to tackle our present challenges. The lip service kind of activism that might have been effective in the 60s or 70s is definitely not what this age in the Philippine history needs.


5 thoughts on “Going against the current? Certainly.”

  1. You can’t simply say that student activism is going against the current. I have read your previous article stating the qualities of the real student activists. There are many types of activists, if you know what I mean. I know you remember how the strikes and rallies organized by UP students have made an impact on Philippine history. It has overthrown Marcos dictatorship. The things you enjoy right now come from these strong youth progressives who have marched their way to democracy. I hope you have not forgotten the activists who were tortured in the 1980s. I wasn’t there. Neither was I wasn’t born during Marcos’ term, but I thank the people who struggled to bring back democratic governance, who fought for freedom from the prisons of martial law. I hope you also do. Yes, it’s true that it has worked in putting and end to Martial law, but that wouldn’t mean it wouldn’t work right now. These young activists you previously mentioned to repeat the same methods of protests over and over again from petition signing, motherhood statements, and all..were just useless forms of action. I strongly disagree to that. The walkout for budget cuts, it may not have granted us the full budget allocation we proposed but it has added 140million to our budget. That’s already a great achievement. The movements made to overthrow the autocratic dean of UP have paid off. And yes, TOFI has never been scrapped for 5 years but we still continue to fight against it. We do not say that we always guarantee success every time, but we fight because we have the courage to do so. Because we are loud, you always see us like that..shouting on the streets, bringing those placards, and so on. But that’s not the only things we do. Like your description of the real activists, we do that, and even more than that. Don’t say that we don’t research because we are great researchers. We don’t make a stand without balancing the pros and cons. Student activism rooted out from discontent of the status quo. It did not crop up out of nowhere. There are activists because they feel that they are oppressed. Perhaps you don’t feel it. And that’s a challenge to us. To make you understand more, and inculcate in you the true situation of our society. So do not judge our ways. I know you know what we’re fighting for, but you don’t know why we fight for it. Do not blur the lines between school and education because they are two different things.

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