Youthspeak: Breaking the stereotypes of student activists

By JEMIMAH CRESENCIA
www.nordis.net

It is the most wonderful thing to see our ates and kuyas with their sablays ready to go up the stage to receive their college diplomas. All their hard work has paid off and they are filled with both dread and anticipation of what’s to come after their life as a student in UP.

Louise Montenegro is one of the UP students who graduated this year. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication and is the first among her siblings to finish college. She was part of the University Student Council and she was also the Chairperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS). Louise is one of many examples that you can be an activist and a responsible student at the same time.

She wouldn’t call herself an activist before she started studying in UP Baguio. She said UP developed her critical thinking on issues faced by the society and that she studied what is wrong and what is the right thing to do for the society.

Louise said, “I was definitely not an activist before UP. I was recruited by Tanghalang Bayan ng Kabataan sa Baguio (TaBaK-Baguio) so I was more into the progressive theater.” According to her, TaBaK-Baguio is theater from and for the masses and it was through this that she was exposed to societal issues. She then joined the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and served as the vice chairperson and eventually, chairperson of the organization.

When it comes to workload, she said it is all about priority and balance. She said that even when it comes to activism and studying, time management is very important.

When asked about her most memorable experience as a student activist, she said, “It’s the people – both the people I work with and the basic masses. When you integrate with the basic masses, you understand their true experience. Sometimes, it is also fulfilling to realize that they are happy that there are people like activists that fight for their cause.”

She recalled an activity wherein they went to the jeepney terminals in Baguio to invite the drivers to the Mayo Uno Labor Day protest.

“It was very touching because whenever we would invite them, they would thank us, student activists, for being one and voicing out their problems with regards to the jeepney phaseout – how they would lose their jobs and livelihood. It was heartwarming to know that we were the ones inviting them, but really, it is their lives and their fight, and they really are experiencing it in their lives.”

She also considers the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2017 as an important experience wherein she got to immerse with the indigenous peoples from different parts of the Philippines.

“They tell stories of how simply going to Lakbayan to tell their stories is a life and death situation. The people there had their families and theirselves being constantly harassed and even killed by the military. Their lands are being taken away from them and they are driven out by the government. To actually hear those stories from actual people, and to realize how real it all is, was a raw experience.”

She defined activism as theory into practice. She said activism is going against the system that oppresses its people and puts the masses into lower conditions while the powerful elites benefit.

“Activism is also analyzing issues through the lens of the masses and the marginalized and fighting for what is right for the people,” added Montenegro.

“Kapag aktibista ka na, kapag namulat ka na sa isyu ng bansa at katotohanan, parang wala ka na ring choice. Parang, bakit ko pa ‘to hindi gagawin kung ito ang tama?” she said.

Louise was one of the graduates who participated at the protest action conducted at the end of the ceremony. They wore their sablays proudly and raised their fists to tell everyone that they will always continue to serve the people.

When asked why students should concern themselves with affairs of the country apart from their studies, she said, “Why not? Kasalanan ang pumikit kapag namulat na. UP, and college education, equips students with more lens to see the truth in society – to truly see how the system works and how much people are suffering – to be more critical people. What is the use of theory if it is not put into practice? And now that Duterte is slowly becoming a dictator, and people are being killed merciless by the state, justice as lost, democracy is being taken away from us blatantly, and the president himself vows to kill us. This is de facto martial law, and the people’s lives are at stake. At a time like this, what else is there left to do but fight?”

“To embody the ‘serve the people’ is to always gear your craft towards making the people understand the true plight of our country. Pagmumulat sa bawat gagawin, kung saan ka man mapuntang track. Dapat ang katotohanan na ipapahayag ay laging mula at tungo sa masa,” said Louise. # nordis.net

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