Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thoughts aboard trains* [i]: Of water cannons and fires

"There is no night so long that it will not give way to the light of day," writes Ngugi wa Thiong'o in Petals of Blood. I have been reading the book aboard the MRT and these trying times gave it more meaning.

Yesterday, the contingent of about 1,000 people (an initial count, as more are expected to join the protests come the following days) that only wanted to camp out at Mendiola to register sentiments against the status quo was assaulted with truncheons and bombarded by one of the three positioned water canons. (I was not hit though, save for, say, a shrapnel, had the water cannon been a machine gun.)

The blockages of the police are the ones that caused traffic, as protesters could not make their way and break through with the barricade of shields, and helmets, and wooden crowbars (though one of the policemen was allegedly seen wielding a metal automatic baton.) Had the police given way and not resorted to brute force, the peaceful assembly could have settled without having to trouble the motorists. The delegation of the impending OccupyPH (that is to occupy Mendiola) then temporarily spent the evening singing the night away at Plaza Miranda.

Now, the people are to march to reclaim the historical monument. Else, they would make another monument, since the people themselves are the ones who create history--amid these dark times that reeks of uncertainty, as if the night is eternal and the light of day but a memory, if not a dream.

Yesterday, we saw a glimpse of that dream that starts as a sliver of light--this sliver is just a hint of the upcoming fire--and this fire is to reduce the paper foundations of the paper tigers and their paper masters to ashes. And this fire, as if solar, is a force so powerful that even most powerful water cannons can never have a tinge of chance to quell it completely.

Let me end this post and share the statement of UP Kilos Na:

December 6, 2011

The planned three-day protest, Kampuhan sa Mendiola Kontra Kaltas, Krisis at Kahirapan (Camp out in Mendiola against Cuts, Crisis and Poverty) from December 6 to 8 led by youth and student organizations was not a secret.

Timed several days before December 10, International Human Rights Day, the protest is intended to highlight the people’s impatience and exasperation (sawang-sawa na!) over the Aquino’s government’s continuing attack against education and health as reflected in the cuts to SUCs and public hospitals in the 2012 budget and link this with the pervasive poverty in the country and the social injustice against farmers such as the Hda. Luisita farm workers whose right to the land continues to be violated and Filipino workers whose demand for P125 wage increase remains unheeded.

These social issues have underlying historical and structural roots –a country which remains a neo-colony, where high government officials and crucial policies are subservient to foreign masters and dictates; a country where feudalism, of almost a similar type exposed by Jose Rizal over 100 years ago, enslaves majority of our rural population.

What better place to hold the camp-out than historic Mendiola—witness to the unstoppable protests of the people through several regimes ! Mendiola, witness to the killing of four students on January 30, 1970 in the Battle of Mendiola which was part of the First Quarter Storm. Mendiola, witness to the anti-dictatorship movement participated in by Chino Roces whose monument is in the center of Mendiola. Mendiola, witness to the massacre of peasants in the 1987 Mendiola massacre during the time of Corazon Aquino. Mendiola, witness to the determination of the anti-Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo movement to challenge and resist the prohibition of holding rallies in Mendiola in 2006!

But today, December 6, 2011, that sorry excuse of a President pretending to be a pro-people one, has shown that protests in Mendiola under his term will be treated no differently from his immediate predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. A phalanx of policemen and several fire trucks were used to prevent the protestors from proceeding to Mendiola. State violence once more was used to suppress legitimate dissent. The slogan shouted by the students this afternoon, “Walang pagbabago sa ilalim ni Aquino “rings truer than ever.

But the history of Mendiola and the history of the occupants of that palace close to Mendiola bring home the lesson that tyranny has a short shelf-life in the face of a united and determined people. The text on the T-shirt of one of the protestors in today’s rally sums it very well: “We will not bow down to repression. We will not bow down to injustice. We will not bow down to exploitation. We’re gonna stand up!”

Now standing up means joining our youth and our people in the camp-out in Mendiola against repression, against injustice, against exploitation!

*quick brief musings sharing my train of thought as I travel away from places.

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