Archive for sandiwa

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.


A Unity Statement of the Filipino Community on Immigrant Rights

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

A Unity Statement of the Filipino Community on Immigrant Rights

Together, We Have
Worked the fields and in the canneries
Nursed the ill and the elderly
Taught the young and tomorrow’s leaders
Fought for freedom and defeated tyranny
Invented new technologies and perfected the old
Ministered to congregations celebrating life and coping with grief

Together, We Are
The doctors and nurses who heal the sick and tend the wounded
The engineers who build skyscrapers and roads
The accountants who keep businesses running, small and large
The custodians and room cleaners, clerks and dock hands who do thankless jobs with dignity and pride
The veterans who braved world wars to defend democracy
The farm workers, cooks and waiters, who put food on America’s tables
The playwrights and poets, painters and musicians who awaken our dreams and inspire our actions
Four million people who are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, employees, partners and community members

Together, We Will
Continue to cherish the American values of equality and freedom, and oppose misguided policies that undermine them
Keep families and communities, workplaces and homes together, because dividing us weakens us all
Fight for immigrant rights that value our contributions to society and give us the opportunity to fulfill our potential to build a better world.

Our Principles and Demands:

Uphold the dignity and humanity of all individuals. Legalization now!
Civilized society embraces equality and upholds the humanity of all people. Labeling individuals “illegal” demeans them, and forces millions to endure dangerous jobs, and to toil in the shadows in slave-like conditions. Criminalizing people for being “undocumented” subjects millions to the exploitation of traffickers, to remain in abusive relationships, or to refrain from reporting crimes because the authorities may imprison the victim instead of the perpetrator. We need legalization now, to free our community from the indignity of being labeled as “illegal”, and the inhumane treatment which is sanctioned by it and endangers us all.

Unify and Protect Families
Families of all shapes and sizes—parents and children, siblings, cousins and grandparents, same sex couples–deserve to be together. Many Filipino families have been waiting over 20 years to have their petitions for loved ones approved. We must clear the Family Visa backlog to stabilize our communities, both in the U.S. and in our homeland. We must protect immigrant women and children escaping abuse, and refuse to allow them to be subjected to the further cruelty of deportation. Children of immigrants should be shielded from all harm, including separation from their families and the threat of deportation. Support services must be provided in our languages and with sensitivity to our cultural values and norms.

Value Our Labor– Workers Rights for All!
The U.S. was built with the blood and sweat of working people. All workers must have the right to organize and to be free from exploitative contracts and working conditions. Having a underclass of workers drives down wages and protections for all of us. We must normalize the status of guest workers, because temporary contracts serve as a tool to undermine all workers. Law enforcement should punish illegal recruitment agencies and unscrupulous employers and lawyers, who maximize profits by preying on vulnerable and desperate workers—workers should not be penalized for the actions of their employers. The labor and contributions of all people, including immigrants and those who are undocumented, should be valued equally.

Dignity, Respect and Due Process for All!
The US government’s aggressive foreign policies of war and exploitation fuel economic and social instability worldwide. Immigrants should not be blamed for our national security concerns. Rampant raids, deportation, and inhumane conditions in detention centers jeopardize the safety of everyone. The billions of tax payer dollars contracted to build up and further militarize the U.S.-Mexico borders does not make us safer. We must build our immigration policies on the sound universality of human rights, not the volatility of criminalization and militarization.

Forced Migration is a Result of the Global Economic Crisis
One-sided and unfair trade agreements that have been designed to maximize profits for greedy corporations have destroyed the economy of the Philippines and many other countries, contributing to the ever-worsening economic crisis that has forced millions of Filipinos to seek jobs and means of survival elsewhere. U.S. political and military support to corrupt regimes who bankrupt their countries and repress their people also fuel worsening migrant and refugee conditions. We will link arms in solidarity with all migrant communities in the U.S. and internationally, until we have built a society where all people can thrive, families are not fragmented and separated by the urgent need for survival, and our homelands have the conditions in which all people can live a decent and humane life.

National Alliance for Filipino Concerns * BAYAN USA * GABRIELA-USA * SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth* Filipino Advocates for Justice * FOCUS (Filipino Community Support – Silicon Valley) * Philippine Forum New York * Fellowship for Filipino Migrants – Chicago * AnakBayan Chapters of East Bay, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, New York/New Jersey * Babae SF * League of Filipino Students-SFSU * SiGAw (Sisters of Gabriela Awaken) * Philippine Forum New Jersey * South of Market Community Action Network * Filipino Ministry – Diocese of San Bernardino * Filipino Migrant Center – Los Angeles* Stanford Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) * Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) – New York* Pinay sa Seattle * Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines – Portland, New York, San Francisco Chapters * Filipino Community Center – San Francisco * Pilipino Youth Coalition – Southern Alameda County * Habi Arts – Los Angeles

NAFCON-US Demands the Immediate Release of 43 Health Workers Illegally Arrested and Illegally Detained in a Military Raid

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

8 February 2010

Reference: NAFCON National Office 718-565-8862 718-565-8856 (fax)

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns-US (NAFCON-US) Demands the Immediate Release of 43 Health Workers Illegally Arrested and Illegally Detained in a Military Raid, Rizal Province, Philippines

New York—NAFCON-US, an alliance of Filipino American organizations based in 23 cities, condemns the Philippine police and military’s illegal raid and abduction of 43 health workers and doctors who were conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal, Philippines on Saturday, February 6. The health workers and doctors administer health services to poor communities, and were participating in a First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD). Their personal belongings, as well the training materials used, were all confiscated by the military.

The human rights alliance KARAPATAN reports approximately 300 soldiers and police of the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Rizal Philippine National Police (PNP) forcibly entered the farmhouse of Dr. Melecia Velmonte at 6:15 AM. At gunpoint, the military forced the caretaker to open the gates. Inside, the soldiers fanned out to different directions. They also kicked the main door to get into the building.

When Dr. Velmonte and her son, Bob demanded for a search warrant, they were merely brushed aside by the military. All medical practitioners and health workers, were ordered to line up at the garage, frisked, and handcuffed. The victims were also questioned and photographed by the military, while another took a video recording of the interrogation. The male victims were then blindfolded with old shirts brought in by the soldiers and secured with packaging tape.

When the participants were already handcuffed, it was only then that Police Superintendent Marion P. Balonglong showed Bob a search warrant for a certain Mario Condes of Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal, charged with illegal possession of firearms. The search warrant dated February 5, 2010 and issued by Judge Cesar A. Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court, did not indicate the exact address of the Velmonte compound. Bob asserted that the warrant did not specify their address, and that Mario Condes, who is subject of the warrant, is not even the owner of the house, but he was ignored by the authorities.

The health workers were forced into the military trucks and were brought to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army. The health workers have been held incommunicado since then, and have been denied their right to legal counsel. A team from the Commission on Human Rights was also blocked from seeing the detainees.

“The PNP and AFP’s illegal abduction and detention of health professionals is reprehensible and again highlights the Arroyo regime’s disregard for human rights,” states Father Benjamin Alforque, NAFCON-US President. “We condemn the government for arresting these health care providers while they were undergoing ‘First Response Training,’ to serve the poor who are in most need of critical healthcare.”

“If the Philippine government was truly concerned with the welfare of the Filipino people, especially in light of the recent devastation caused by natural disasters such as Ondoy and Pepeng, it would be supporting, not arresting, health professionals who are trained in emergency response and who seek to serve communities,” adds Julia Camagong, NAFCON Vice President of Programs.

Karapatan Recommended action endorsed by NAFCON-US:
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate release of the health workers who are illegally arrested and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

2. The government to ensure the safety of the victims and that they are not harmed; their belongings be returned immediately to them.

3. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into raid and illegal arrest of the health workers conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal.

4. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

5. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

You may send your communications to:
H.E.Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: /

Gen. Avelino Razon, Ret. PNP
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

Norberto Gonzales
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213

Atty. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614

Atty. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102





NAFCON Mission and Purpose

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) is a national network of Filipino organizations, institutions, and individuals committed to advancing the rights and welfare, celebrating culture and history, and building unity among Filipinos living and working in the United States. Founded in 2003, NAFCON members are based in over 23 cities across the country. Member organizations include: SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns, Filipino Community Center–San Francisco, Filipino Community Support–Silicon Valley, Philippine Forum—New York and New Jersey, F.I.R.E.—New York, Habi Arts—Los Angeles, Liwanag Kultural Center—Daly City, Filipino Ministry of DSB—San Bernardino, Fellowship for Filipino Migrants—Illinois, and Filipino Migrant Heritage Commission—Virginia.

The main purpose of NAFCON is to contribute our time and efforts to fight and protect the Rights and Welfare of the Filipino immigrants all over the globe. Through education, organizing, mobilizing, fundraising, networking and lobbying; we hope to restore social justice and equality for our people in the United States and in the Philippines.

Filipina/o American Youth Denounces the Arroyo Administration’s Renewed Campaign Against Activists

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For Immediate Release

December 1, 2009

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General of SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


Filipina/o American Youth Denounces the Arroyo Administration’s Renewed Campaign Against Activists
Scare Tactics by “Special Intelligence Group” Claims the Life of a Migrant Organizer

SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth mourns and expresses outrage over the death of Danilo Benalo, a member of the Center for Filipino Seafarers (CENTERFILS), who, after harassment by suspected state agents, died of a stroke on November 24. Benalo was an organizer for Migrante International, a worldwide alliance of grassroots organizations addressing concerns of Filipino migrants.

Members of a “special intelligence group” confronted Benalo around noon on November 23 and threatened to harm his family should he refuse to cooperate with the group. They warned him that they had information about him, including his record as an activist and the whereabouts of his family. In distress Benalo agreed to meet with the state agents again that afternoon. However, when a friend, with whom
he had shared the incident and whom he had promised to call after his meeting, tried to reach him later that day, Benalo had already been rushed to a hospital due to a stroke. Benalo died the next morning.

SanDiwa not only grieves the loss of a dedicated migrant organizer, but also condemns the Arroyo administration’s renewed campaign against activists critical of the government, under the direction of newly appointed Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzeles. The death of Mr. Benalo is an addition to the growing list of political killings, enforced disappearances and torture of activists committed by military and secret intelligence groups under the Arroyo regime. “This is no different from the abduction of student activists such as Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, the abduction and torture of Filipino American Melissa Roxas, and the violent dispersal of student rallyists at Malacanang last August. All these human rights violations were committed by state forces under the direct watch of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. All the victims were people advocating for human rights and fighting for positive and genuine change in Philippine society,” said Aurora Victoria David, officer of Stanford University’s Pilipino American Student Union, a member organization of Sandiwa.

“Because of desperation of the Arroyo government in quelling resistance, it is willing to use any strategy—scare tactics, torture, or direct abduction and killing—to silence its critics. This brutal campaign indiscriminately victimizes activists, journalists, women, and church people. As long as you are vocal in criticizing the government, you are an enemy and a target.” declared Anne Beryl Corotan, Chairperson of Sandiwa. With the 2010 Philippine elections fast approaching, and due to fear of losing their positions, those in power resort to coercive acts. The recent massacre of journalists and innocent civilians over local electoral campaigns in Maguindanao, and the delisting of Migrante Partylist from contending in the coming elections are just a couple of examples of countless repressive tactics utilized by the Arroyo administration and its allies in their desperate clutch to power.

Despite all of the repression, SanDiwa vows to continue to educate, organize, and mobilize Filipina/os in the United States in demanding justice for these violations of human rights. “We will continue to protect the rights of the people and will not stop until justice is brought to Mr. Benalo and all victims of human rights violations in the Philippines,” ended Corotan.

SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For Immediate Release
November 21, 2009

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


The SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth extends its strongest solidarity with the protests led by students of the University of California system. The University of California Board of Regents committee just recently approved a series of controversial increases in student fees that will raise UC undergraduate education costs by 32% by Fall 2010. UC students across all its campuses expressed their outrage at this un-democratic decision and are demanding their right to affordable education by conducting a series of protests. This decision by the UC Regents is another step in a series of other actions throughout the UC and Cal State systems towards the erosion of public education, making college more and more unaffordable for many students and their families, especially low-income families, who are predominantly people of color.

In one protest, students at UC Berkeley took over and occupied Wheeler Hall to demand the UC Board of Regents to rescind their decision to increase student fees. One of the student protestors is PJ Nadal, a Filipino American Ph.D. student in Rhetoric Studies, and a participant of the Philippine Studies Program in 2004, a program whose past participants were the founding members of SanDiwa.

Tuition fee hikes are not unfamiliar to the Filipino student community, both here in the United States and in the Philippines. What is also happening in the Philippines that students in the U.S. can closely relate to is the rising cost of tuition at universities throughout the nation. More and more funding is being taken out of education, and college is becoming more and more unaffordable. Similar situations are happening in the U.S. In New York, the City University of New York system cut $51 million from its budget as the governor’s plan to address the state’s finances in the current financial crisis. In July 2009, The Cal State University system increased student fees by 20% and is not accepting applicants for Winter 2010 and Spring 2010 terms. In addition, classes are being cut and in effect lengthening the time for students to graduate. It is the students who are directly and severely affected by these budget cuts and tuition increases. These are just a few examples of countless others throughout the U.S. What we see is less investment on education and more funding towards law enforcement and military, which is a very similar situation in the Philippines.

Aurora David, a student coordinator of the Pilipino American Student Union at Stanford University, also a member organization of SanDiwa, stated, “We believe that this issue is not just about the UC’s or not even just about the educational system. This issue speaks volumes about our priorities as a society. Why do we keep funding wars and prisons when we can’t even educate our people? What does this reveal about those who make these decisions and their real interests?”

SanDiwa reiterates its strong solidarity with the UC student protestors and demands the UC Regents rescind its decision on the tuition fee increase, a demand that extends to all university systems across the United States and around the world. An affordable and compulsory education is a basic human right, and raising the costs of tuition at unaffordable rates for the majority of the people is a direct violation to this basic human right.

SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.

Fil-Am Groups Spearhead Relief Drive for Typhoon Victims

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by kulturalguerilla


27 September 2009

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, Sandiwa National Alliance of Filipino American Youth,

Fil-Am Groups Spearhead Relief Drive for Typhoon Victims

SanDiwa National Alliance of Filipino American Youth and its mother alliance, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), with member organizations in over 13 major states in the United States of America, are spearheading a nationwide campaign “Bayanihan for Typhoon Ondoy Disaster Relief” to help our Kababayans who were struck by the typhoon Ondoy (also known internationally as Ketsena).

Ondoy, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), surpassed the highest 24-hour rainfall in June 1967 in Metro Manila. This historic typhoon placed 26 provinces, including the National Capital Region, under the state of calamity and sent thousands of Filipino families onto their rooftops to seek safety from flash floods in only a matter of 6 hours.

“More or less 280,000 people were reportedly affected and were left hungry, sick, wet and cold by Ondoy,” said Anne Beryl Corotan, National Chairperson of SanDiwa.

As news, photos and videos of this epic tragedy reached the US, Filipino im/migrants could not help but express their concerns towards their families and friends back home who were devastated by the calamity.

“So as a quick response and as part of the alliances’ disaster relief program, SanDiwa and NAFCON will be accepting donations, specifically in forms of monetary support, medical supplies, clothes and blankets, starting today, September 27,” added Corotan.

Drop off center for the North East region will be at NAFCON and SanDiwa’s National Office, the BAYANIHAN Filipino Community Center, 40-21 69th Street, Woodside NY 11377. Locations of other regional drop-off centers are still being determined and will be announced immediately.

For the first wave of collection, donors are requested to send in monetary support on or before October 3 to be sent to the Philippines for immediate assistance. Tax-exempt donations can be made payable to Philippine Forum, a non-profit member organization of NAFCON based in New York. Material support will follow mid-October and will continue until such time that the motherland has recovered from the damages caused by typhoon Ondoy.

“In this time of tragedy, we call on all our fellow Fil-Ams and im/migrants to extend a helping hand to our Kababayans. Let us do whatever we can — whether it be a fundraising concert, mass offering, or just simply donate your extra jacket or blanket to a fellow Filipino affected by Ondoy,” ends Corotan.

“Bayanihan for Typhoon Ondoy Disaster Relief” will be facilitated with partner organizations in the Philippines, while at the same time, encouraging other organizations and individuals in the US to send back to the Inang Bayan. Collections and other related events will be monitored and updated at For more information and updates on regional drop-off centers, please call (516) 9011832 or email at


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For Immediate Release

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


September 21, 1972, is a day that the Filipina/o people bitterly remember as the day their freedom was suppressed by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos declared the Philippines placed under martial law, an abuse of power he exercised to silence his critics and suppress the opposition. Marcos ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for the subsequent years until his downfall in 1986, when the people rose up against his brutal dictatorship and ousted him from office. The years during his rule are remembered a dark period in Philippine history, when human rights violations ran rampant, which included, but limited to, enforced disappearances, arrests based on trumped up charges, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

In the years leading up to the declaration of martial law, Marcos was facing a growing opposition for a failing Philippine economy, riddled with government graft and corruption. Among the many criticisms of his administration was also a failing education system, during which the Philippine youth and student population grew restless and began massive organizing to demand education reforms. Youth and students held massive rallies, some having up to 50,000 participants. The youth and students were among those in the forefront of this opposition, during a period of time known as the First Quarter Storm. Massive oppositions from the youth and students, as well as the poor and working class, are what led Marcos to violently retaliate by declaring martial law, fearful that his power over the people was waning.

37 years later, we are seeing striking similarities. Current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) is also facing massive opposition from the Philippine people. Her administration has also faced several charges of graft and corruption, as well as over 1,000 cases of human rights violations, the same brutal power tactics of Marcos that the GMA administration is seemingly trying to emulate. Again, the youth and students are among the forefront of the opposition, this time against GMA.

In May 2009, Melissa Roxas, a Filipina American student and human rights activist, was abducted along with two companions while doing volunteer medical work in the Philippines by elements believed to be the Philippine military. After being brutally tortured for five days, she resurfaced and returned to the safety of her family in the United States. However, instead of quietly accepting this injustice, she courageously returned to the Philippines to speak out and seek justice for these atrocities, not just for her, but for all victims of human rights violations under GMA. In August 2009, about 200 youth and students conducted a rally in front of Malacañang Palace to express their outrage and disgust over the expensive international trips of Arroyo and her large entourage, prime examples of the President’s insensitivity towards the majority of Philippines who live in immense hunger and poverty. This raises the question of how much of the people’s money is being used to fund these excesses. The youth and student rallyists were met with indiscriminant and arbitrary arrests, as well as brutal physical injuries at the hands of the Philippine police.

The SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am youth joins with their fellow youth and student kababayans in the Philippines and Filipina/os worldwide in remembering the dark and brutal days of martial law, and the conditions of today that are strikingly similar. We recognize that it is because of oppressive regimes like those of Marcos and GMA that thousands of Filipina/os were and are forced to make the choice to leave the Philippines. Because of massive unemployment and poverty in the Philippines, many Filipina/os immigrated to other countries like the United States, which has the largest Filipina/o population outside of the Philippines. It is also because of oppression that a massive resistance was fomented, which ousted the Marcos dictatorship in the People Power uprising in 1986. And with the current state of “undeclared martial law” in the Philippines under the GMA administration, the youth and student opposition is as strong as ever. We will never forget the dark days of martial law and the many Filipina/os who suffered and died during this period. We will never forget the victims of the current brutal regime of GMA. And with the power of our youth voice, we will continue fighting until declared and “undeclared” martial law is “never again.”

SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.