Inspired by kasama Nato Reyes, this is my reflection of my life defining moments in 2010. It’s good to look back and see the growth I have made as an activist, an artist, and scholar. Rather than by rank, this will be by chronological order.
10. Completing my first year of my doctorate program. It’s still beyond me how I managed being a full-time student while working full-time and being Malong Co-coordinator in PEP.
9. Art Without Barriers with Melissa Roxas. This event is where I saw before my own eyes the healing power of cultural work. For Melissa Roxas to lead this after being wrongfully detained and tortured by the Philippine military was truly inspirational. I’ve learned so much from her in terms of cultural work.
8. Performing with Diskarte Namin at the Power in Numbers concert. This band is a group of cultural workers I’ve always looked up to. So to be playing the kulintang with them was truly an honor. I saw it as my way of connecting with the late BJ Alisago, a member of Diskarte Namin who died a few years ago. Although I never met him in person, the kasamas tell me we share many similarities as cultural workers, and that to me is an honor in itself.
7. Seeing my family in Isabela, Philippines, for the first time. I finally got to see the land where my grandfather grew up and harnessed his farming skills. All my relatives there are still farmers, and though it’s a hard life, the simple way they live humbled me and made me appreciate my peasant roots.
6. Short expo program with Migrante International in the Philippines. Migrante was the organization we worked with during the typhoon disaster relief effort last year. I got to see firsthand the urban poor communities hardest hit by the typhoon, whose families have at least 2 members working abroad as OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). The communities are still rebuilding, but their resilience is inspiring. I even got to teach their youth Hiphop dance, and despite having to dance in slippers or even barefoot, they are awesome dancers.
5. Visiting the Morong 43 in their detention center in Bicutan, Philippines. You can read about my experience visiting them in my blog here.
6. Working as part of the Bayan secretariat in the Philippines. I got to see how the National Democratic movement in the Philippines works and what it’s like to be a full-time activist. In the process I met and worked with several cultural workers from Concerned Artists of the Philippines and Ugat Lahi. I was creating something creative almost everyday, whether it was a video, slideshow, or dance routine. This experience allowed me to live and breathe cultural work.
5. Connecting and dancing with the Philippine Allstars. Despite being world champions on several occasions, they are the most down to earth and humble dancers I’ve ever met. The level of passion the dance community in the Philippines is unlike any I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in the dance game for almost 10 years. Perhaps it’s because they treat each practice, each performance, and each competition like it’s their last. Many come out of poverty, and dance is their way out of poverty. They put their hearts out on the dancefloor because poverty is not something they want to return to. Some even put so much passion in their performance that they break down and cry when they’re done. Learning this taught me to never take my talent in dance for granted and always stay hungry. I’m thankful the Allstars also had me come in and teach to their students. (videos here and here)
4. Performing a dance piece for SONA ng Bayan. I’ve been to and participated in past SONAs (State of the Nation Address), but this was the first time Hiphop dance was part of the program. There have always been other forms of cultural work, such as rock bands, interpretive and indigenous dance, rapping, singing, and spoken word. But never has there been Hiphop dance, and I’m thankful and humbled to bring that to SONA. Performing a dance piece that fiercely addressed the social ills of society, in front of 10,000 of my kababayan, meant more to me than any other performance I’ve ever done in my life. This is what I want to eventually bring to dance community.
3. Returning to Soulidified Project a more committed, determined, and passionate dancer. Perhaps it was my time with the dancers in the Philippines that reignited my passion for dance. I may be past my prime and not be able to pick up the new styles of choreography as quickly as I used to, but the passion for dance still remains.
2. International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees in Mexico. I was able to meet with migrants rights and hunan rights activists from Central and South America as well as from around the world. International solidarity was strengthened in fighting for the rights and welfare of migrants around the world and for their voices to be heard. Also the profound respect internationalists had for the National Democratic movement in the Philippines was eye-opening to me.
1. The release of the Morong 43. When I got the text and saw the updates on twitter, I cried tears of joy. These are kasamas whose only crime was providing free health care to those who most need it and who were neglected by the government. Seeing the pictures and videos of them reunited with their families was a testament to the hard work and dedication we all had as human rights advocates in clamoring for their release. We will continue fighting to the release of the rest of the 43 who are still in detainment because of bureaucratic red tape, and the release of all political prisoners.
Looking back at all this, I’m proud of what I was able to do this past year. I’m humbled and thankful for all the people, the kasamas, family, and friends, who have played pivotal roles in my growth this past year. And since I also turned 30 years old this year, I feel determined and energized more than before. I see this as a time of rebirth, my completion of Saturn’s return, and have more ambitions in the coming year.
Here’s to an amazing 2010 and an ambitious 2011. Isulong ang pakikibaka at Mabuhay sa iyong lahat!