By JANELLE QUIBUYENNational Vice Chairperson, Anakbayan-USA
Chicago, IL -- On May 18, Filipino youth and student leaders from across the US convened at the Centro Autonomo community center, located in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago, for the historic Anakbayan-USA Founding Congress. The congress established Anakbayan-USA as a nationwide organization and overseas national chapter of Anakbayan Philippines in the midst of city-wide protest marches and rallies against the ongoing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit. This, according to organizers, is their symbolic protest and act of defiance against the global 1% represented by NATO.
The theme of the founding congress declared the purpose and direction of Anakbayan-USA: “Makibaka! Huwag Matakot! Unite and Strengthen the Filipino Youth Movement in the US to Advance the Struggle for National Democracy in the Philippines!” The theme is aimed at calling on the youth to join the struggle against the increased repression in the US and to contribute to the struggle for genuine social change in the Philippines.
“It [AB-USA Founding Congress] couldn’t have come on any other day than today, in the face of G8 and NATO. This is our act of defiance. Our coming here together as youth and students of our people is our act of defiance in the face of imperialism. We owe this to our brothers and sisters who have suffered and who have sacrificed their lives to fight for our people’s liberation,” said Yves Nibungco, elected founding National Chairperson of Anakbayan-USA.
Over 60 delegates from Anakbayan chapters in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, San Diego, East Bay (Oakland), Silicon Valley and Chicago, including delegates from affiliate organization, League of Filipino Students (LFS) - San Francisco State University came to the founding congress to approve a General Program of Action and elect the National Executive Committee of Anakbayan-USA. Those elected were Yves Nibungco of Anakbayan New Jersey as Chairperson, Janelle Quibuyen of Anakbayan Seattle as Vice Chairperson, Eric Tandoc of Anakbayan Los Angeles as Secretary General, Ivan Penetrante of Anakbayan San Diego as Education Officer, Noemi Teppang of Anakbayan Silicon Valley as Finance Officer and Lyle Prijoles of the League of Filipino Students-SFSU as Solidarity Officer.
The keynote speech was delivered through a pre-recorded video by Jose Maria Sison, the exiled Filipino revolutionary and founding chairperson of the seminal Filipino youth organization, Kabataang Makabayan (KM). “We are certain that your congress will strengthen your resolve and will instruct you to arouse the Filipino youth throughout the US, expand and consolidate Anakbayan-USA and mobilize an increasing number of Filipino youth along the line of anti-imperialist and democratic struggle and militant support for the struggle of the Filipino youth and people for national liberation and democracy in the Philippines,” said Sison.
A live message was given via Skype by Renato Reyes, Secretary General of Bayan Philippines and founding chairperson of Anakbayan Philippines in 1998, in which he affirmed the role of Anakbayan in the US. “Anakbayan can introduce Philippine history, society and revolution to a growing number of Filipino-Americans who long to understand their roots and the struggle in the homeland. At the same time, the Fil-Am youth experience first-hand problems of racism and discrimination as well as economic exploitation and imperialist war. Anakbayan should also organize the immigrant youth who are familiar with the severity of the crisis in the Philippines, often the reason why they have to migrate,” said Reyes.
Chanting "Makibaka! Huwag matakot!", a protest chant popularized during the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle in the 70’s, members of Anakbayan-USA pledged “to continue to expose the rotten character of the Aquino regime and to raise the struggle for national democracy to a new level of intensity.” The delegates concluded the founding congress with a group oath-taking and singing of progressive Filipino songs.
Anakbayan-USA later marched with the “national liberation” contingent at the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 demonstrations in downtown Chicago comprised of Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Palestinians, Canadians and others to denounce NATO and G8 as instruments of the “Global 1%” in exploiting third world countries like the Philippines.
By JANELLE QUIBUYEN National Vice Chairperson, Anakbayan-USA
Renato M. Reyes, Jr.Founding Chairperson, Anakbayan19 May 2012
It is with great honor that I address you today at your Founding Congress of Anakbayan USA. I take great pride in being among the first activists who were part of the formation of Anakbayan in 1998 and I hope to impart to you some lessons and experiences that may be helpful in your work for the national democratic movement. I know that there have been US-based chapters of Anakbayan even before the formal founding of BAYAN USA. The formation of Anakbayan USA marks a higher level of political and organizational development.
Anakbayan was formally established in November 30, 1998 during its founding conference in Tondo, Manila, and birthplace of the revolutionary Andres Bonifacio of the Katipunan. Anakbayan takes inspiration from the Katipunan and its precursor the Kabataan Makabayan of 1964. Anakbayan is a comprehensive youth organization that arouses, organizes and mobilizes the Filipino youth for the cause of national democracy. By comprehensive, it means that we organize the youth from all walks of life, not just limited to students.
As student activists in the 90’s, it took us a while before we could truly appreciate the importance of a comprehensive youth organization. For a long time after the KM went underground, youth organizing in the cities was limited mainly to student youth, while there was a separate organization for the community youth which was also limited in scope. In the countryside, there were also youth groups based among the peasantry. However, there was no youth group that could bind them together in one organization so that their potential for revolutionary change could be unleashed.
With the formation of Anakbayan, there was now a mass organization that counts as its members the students, young workers, peasant youth, out-of-school youth and young professionals. Even graduating university students can remain part of the youth movement. The energy, creativity and daringness of the youth from different sectors and classes can be harnessed. A training ground for future leaders of the national democratic struggle is developed.
In three years from its founding, Anakbayan was able to peak at 40,000 members nationwide at the height of the Oust Estrada campaign. Anakbayan distinguished itself in the fight against the rising cost of education, cutbacks in social services, oil price increases, and demolition of communities as well as peasant struggles in the countryside.
There were problems encountered though during the period of the fascist Arroyo regime. Several internal factors contributed to the decline in membership. This has been the subject of the summing-up of Anakbayan and lessons have been gained in analyzing the experience of building a youth organization. Most important perhaps is that Anakbayan should strive to fulfill its orientation of being a truly comprehensive youth organization that arouses, organizes and mobilizes young people from all sectors and classes for the national democratic struggle.
Such an orientation is applicable in the US, as seen from your actual practice. You are able to organize students, community based youth, professionals and young workers. The conditions are quite good especially now that the crisis of world capitalism and the domestic crisis in the Philippines are all worsening. In your mass work, you give priority to mass struggles and political education and thus lay the basis for continuing expansion and consolidation. You may find Prof. Jose Ma. Sison’s message to the most recent Anakbayan Congress in the Philippines immensely helpful in building your organization in the US. Prof. Sison after all is the founder of the first comprehensive youth organization that is Kabataang Makabayan.
Anakbayan can introduce Philippine history, society and revolution to a growing number of Filipino-Americans who long to understand their roots and the struggle in the homeland. At the same time, the Fil-Am youth experience firsthand problems of racism and discrimination as well as economic exploitation and imperialist war. Anakbayan should also organize the immigrant youth who are familiar with the severity of the crisis in the Philippines, often the reason why they have to migrate. In the US, the immigrant youth also face the same social problems, in varying extents, as the Fil-Am youth. Anakbayan can provide that crucial link between the problems in the US and the historical problems in the homeland and why it is necessary to wage the struggle for a better future.
Anakbayan is a mass organization. For example, it not an elite group that requires a deep grasp of Marxism as a requisite for becoming a member. Membership in Anakbayan should be simple enough for any interested youth. The basis for membership is the acceptance of the constitution and program of Anakbayan, which could be achieved in one discussion session. It is in the course of actual struggle and practice that our activists are developed and consolidated, thus gaining a deeper understanding of issues and concepts.
Anakbayan is not a clique (barkada) that strives for exclusivity. It is a national democratic mass organization that caters to as many members as possible. The notion of “small is beautiful” does not apply to Anakbayan. We go by the saying, “the bigger, the better” because that is what the mass movement is all about, uniting the biggest number for the cause of social change. Of course you should be careful not to let undesirables inside the organization, but their numbers are very, very few compared to the thousands more that we can reach out to.
We are faced with a rabidly anti-people US-Aquino regime that has worsened poverty, promoted shameless puppetry and condoned continuing rights violations in the country. We are confronted with an ever more rapacious monopoly capitalist system that seeks to exploit further the working class worldwide and launch barbaric wars of aggression in the name of monopoly profits. The current system is bankrupt and cannot be saved. The Filipino youth, in the homeland and around the world are awakening to these realities. Militant struggle is the only viable path to securing a bright future for the Filipino youth and the youth worldwide. Genuine social change, a new social system is indeed possible.
Office of the Chairperson
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