The Process of Struggle, Grieve, and Celebrate

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…

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