Archive for September, 2010

Typhoon Ondoy…One Year Later

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

On September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy struck the Philippines, wrecking unimaginable havoc that left thousands of our kababayan dead and many more displaced. It’s been considered one the worst natural catastrophes in the history of the Philippines, but the much worse catastrophe followed with the Philippine government’s lack of response to the damage. The public emergency relief fund was completely spent before the typhoon even hit, most likely spent on former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s extravagant trips to the U.S., which included a 100+ member entourage and luxurious dinners costing tens of thousands of dollars. Much of the relief efforts in response to the typhoon’s damage was left to non-governmental organizations, with little to no help at all from the government.

For us Filipina/o progressives in the U.S., our analysis of the situation in our homeland was clear. We could not and would not just leave our kababayans alone to fend for themselves, even though we are an ocean apart. We wanted to help in a way that was direct, responsible, and accountable, while at the same time being critical of the Philippine government’s inaction. A disaster relief operation of NAFCON and SanDiwa’s general program of action was always in place, but was never utilized until Typhoon Ondoy. This relief operation was thus launched, in cooperation with Bayan-USA and Gabriela-USA as BAYANihan for Philippine Disaster Relief. Gathering aid for the victims, both monetary and in-kind, became the primary focus in all of our member organizations. What soon happened in the several weeks that followed was nothing short of remarkable. Thousands of people came and donated what they could in terms of volunteer time, monetary, or goods. Hundreds of balikbayan boxes full of donated clothes, medicine, and food began piling up at the different drop-off sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York/New Jersey. Tens of thousands of dollars were raised at countless club events and fundraisers. Programming at our respective community organizations were put on hold to channel all our efforts into helping our kababayan. Filipino Americans who didn’t care about what was going on in the Philippines had a change of heart after seeing the devastation as well as the community’s efforts to get aid directly to our kababayan. I remember getting a call from one Filipino American in particular who said he never made the effort to know about his cultural roots because he felt ashamed of it, but after seeing on the news the sheer devastation, he didn’t want to be ashamed anymore. He said he’s now 33 years old, and now wants to help out as much as he can to make up for all the lost time he spent hiding from his Filipino culture. Despite our lives being disrupted and the stress of organizing the donations and events, I don’t remember anyone complaining too much, because we knew all this was for our people back home. In the end, we were able to ship 750 boxes of in-kind aid to the Philippines as well as over $50,000 in monetary aid.

I can’t believe it’s already been one year since the Typhoon Ondoy disaster, one year since our operation, BAYANihan for Philippine Disaster Relief. As I remember back to the devastation of the typhoon itself, the devastation of the government’s lack of response, and how our transnational community came together to rebuild and heal our beloved homeland, I’m always brought back to that very emotional moment one year ago, fighting to hold back the tears. This was by far the most daunting task I have ever taken up and also certainly the most rewarding in my life as a community organizer. I’ve learned and grown much from that experience, and I am still deeply inspired by our collective work as a community and the work we were able to accomplish, the breadth of work that still remains unmatched by the efforts of the Philippine government. This past summer, I was able to integrate with Migrante International, who took me to visit the communities they work with and that were hard hit by the typhoon. They did receive our donations, and sold much of the clothes to help buy beds and building materials and tools. They are still rebuilding their communities to this day, and it was truly humbling and inspiring to see them still pushing forward and surviving.

One year later, and our communities in the Philippines, though still recovering and still neglected by the Philippine government, are true survivors and still resilient as ever. It has been said that the Filipino is like bamboo, we bend but we do not break. This disaster, both natural and man-made, may have bent us over backwards to the brink of despair. But we have proven through our transnational collective effort, we are far from broken.

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The Process of Struggle, Grieve, and Celebrate

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

Being back in the U.S. after 3 months of integration in the Philippines has been a long but steady (re)transition. This having been my third extensive stay in the motherland within the past 6 years, the (re)transition process is never easy. There’s this sense of culture (re)shock, proverbial dismemberment, and emotional disorientation. However, what makes this transition different from past experiences is having the support of the kasamas to welcome me back in the belly of the beast and help with processing everything that I have experienced. In past experiences, I still carried my individualistic tendencies and didn’t know how to properly process, to the point I shut everyone and everything off and locked myself in my room for a week.

I feel very blessed to have developed and grown to have a higher sense of collective effort, a higher sense of community. My experience with the mass movement in the Philippines definitely taught me that, and in the process, I clung close and fell in love with every kasama I have encountered, whether we’ve known each other for just a few days, 3 months, or most of our lives. No matter where we are in the world, we as kasamas fight the same struggle, grieve the same losses, and celebrate each other victories. And this is what makes this particular (re)transition process a little easier than the ones in the past.

The struggle we fight together is against the 3 basic problems; U.S. Imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism. We do this in a myriad of ways, marching in the streets, writing press statements, and doing cultural work, just to name a few. I truly felt I grew as a cultural worker during my time with the kasamas in the Philippines. It deepened my commitment to use my art and organizing with the purpose combatting the problems that plague society, and the first purpose of serving the people.

During my time in the Philippines, we have experiences losses which we have grieved together as a movement. 6 activists were victims of extrajudicial killings within the first months of the new Aquino administration. Their only crime was serving the people. It did not matter if we knew them personally or not, we still grieved together because they were part of our collective movement for national democracy.

But the loss that was very personal and quite heavy for me to take in happened after I left the Philippines. I have grown quite close to a kasama named Alex Remollino. He was a writer, a poet, and a journalist for the movement. He used his gift of writing for the purpose of serving the people, and he truly embodied what it meant to be a cultural worker. I was with him practically every day, working together on various campaigns, preparing for the People’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), and sharing many laughs in the office. Just always seeing his signature smile reminded me of what Talib Kweli calls “The Beautiful Struggle.” In the midst of struggle, as hard as it is, it’s always important to smile and laugh, because it keeps the balance in dealing with the struggle knowing how we’re doing good work in fighting oppression.

The day of my second interview for a job I was applying for, Alex passed away. I knew he had become sick and was hospitalized. The night before, I got updates from kasamas that he was getting better, so his death was devastating to accept. This was a kasama I became so close to, and is now gone from this world. Even though we only knew each other for 3 months, what mattered most was the quality of our time together, and I have gained a kasama for eternity. I had to wipe the tears away before the job interview, and to be honest, I don’t even remember how the interview went. I guess I was on auto pilot, because all I could think of was Alex. Later that night, I went to ALAY’s In Progress Open Mic and shared Lino Brocka’s “All to the Filipino Artist” to pay tribute to our beloved kasama Alex. It was cathartic for me, to engage in an artform Alex was known for, especially sharing a piece that exemplifies what it means to be a true artist, a true cultural worker. Through the facebook and twitter updates from the kasamas in the Philippines who were sharing tributes at Alex’s wake, I was there with them, grieving and celebrating the life of a true cultural worker and freedom fighter.

In this protracted struggle we fight together as a movement, we take time to grieve for the loved ones who have gone before us, but also remember to celebrate our victories. Today, I want to share and celebrate a personal victory. I don’t know what happened in that second job interview. Maybe it was my prayers being answered, staying positive, or kasamas who have passed on watching over me. But as of today, I am the new Youth Sector Bridge Project Coordinator for Community Youth Center of San Francisco. It’s a community project I have been hired to build from the ground up, to help immigrant youth learn life and job skills to contribute to their families and communities. It is a struggle that although is very local, I welcome it using all I’ve learned as an internationalist to continue serving the people. I am at this point in my life now because of all the struggles and the lessons learned from them, personally and collectively, locally and globally. It is truly a blessing from The Almighty Creator, who I praise and thank everyday for that I have been allowed to experience. The passion I have developed for serving the people I will implement into this new chapter in my life, and I wish to celebrate this with my community and my kasamas, wherever they may be.

Onward with the struggle…

SAN FRANCISCO COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE PHILIPPINES (SFCHRP) SALUTES THE LIFE OF ALEX REMOLLINO

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

SAN FRANCISCO COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE PHILIPPINES (SFCHRP) SALUTES THE LIFE OF ALEX REMOLLINO

Reference: San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines

Email: sfchrp@yahoo.com

SFCHRP mourns the death of a very dear comrade, cultural worker, and friend, Alex Remollino. Alex passed away on September 3, 2010, after battling health complications due to pneumonia and diabetes. After being in hospitalized for a week at Philippine General Hospital, his death comes as a shock after showing signs of recovery.

Alex was a writer, poet, and journalist, and he used his gift for writing to uncover the truth of what is happening in the Philippines. As a former writer for Bulatlat, a progressive and pro-people news website, he wrote many news reports on the plight of the Filipina/o people, which include poverty, landlessness, and human rights violations from the Philippine government and military manipulated by U.S. Imperialism. Alex has delivered Filipina/os abroad the concrete facts to fight against the social issues that plague the Philippines, giving them a sharp analyses on their root causes. Alex, like his fellow progressive journalists, wrote these news stories from the side of those deeply affected by exploitation and oppression, a side mainstream news media rarely dares to tell. Alex would often report these stories from the grounds where and when they were actually happening, and his finished products truly had the feel of fresh, still steaming delivery.

In addition to being a pro-people journalist, Alex was also a close comrade and fellow organizer to activists fighting for justice against U.S. Imperialism and its Philippine presidential puppets, as a staff member of BAYAN-Philippines. He would often be found at rallies and mobilizations, marching amongst the people. In mass actions, he would be on his laptop reporting the events in real-time, through online social networks or live streams. This was indeed a testament to his commitment to the masses and having their true stories be told. Aside from journalism, Alex also used his gift of writing as a cultural worker, in the form of poetry. He wrote many poems that dealt with justice, resistance, and national democracy . He wrote his poems based on his experiences with the oppressed and those fighting for liberation. He made these poems easily accessible to the masses through his blog as well as progressive news websites.

Through it all, Alex was also a very dear friend. Despite the hard work of mass organizing and progressive news writing, Alex always found time to laugh, break bread, and share his talents with those around him. Ryan Leano, of SFCHRP shares, “I first met Alex in 2009, when he was visiting the the organizations under BAYAN-USA. He shared with us the hard but rewarding life of being a progressive journalist in the Philippines, where human rights violations are seemingly indiscriminant. He also shared the basics of writing press statements and releases, of which I based a press writing workshop for our organization. I met him again in 2010 in the Philippines, where I spent 3 months doing mass organizing work with BAYAN-Philippines. I was with him almost daily, working together on the rallies and mobilizations, as well as sharing many laughs in the office. He has become a very close friend, and I am deeply affected by his passing. I miss him terribly, but I am forever grateful for all he taught me and the happy moments we shared as fellow cultural workers.”

Alex will always be remembered as a freedom fighter for the oppressed, a staunch anti-imperialist, a cultural worker with the purpose of serving the people, and a dear friend who loved to share laughter. His legacy will live on as long as cultural workers keep using their respective artforms with the purpose of serving the oppressed, the disenfranchised, and silenced.

MABUHAY, ALEX REMOLLINO! ITULOY ANG KANYANG LABANAN!!

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SF-CHRP, a member organization of BAYAN-USA, is a grassroots organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes people and communities in the Bay Area to take progressive action in upholding and supporting human rights in the Philippines, as well as supporting the human rights struggles of all people.