Why I'm Here

Romina Astudillo, campus journalist

April 23, 2016

From being a campus journalist who records history to being part of the Struggle that will create the change needed by history. I am here because we have a world to win.

“I hate activists.”

I said this to myself when I entered college. I swore never to join activists. To me they were good-for-nothing and traffic-causing people who are wasting their time with irrelevant slogans and principles.

Sham - Edlacir Nerfe 2

Sham is a campus journalist, and a journalist for the students, youth and the people. Photo by Efren Ricalde, from Sham’s Facebook account

Upon entering college, I eagerly joined Trinity Observer, the official student publication of my alma mater. Little did I know that my publication is a progressive one. It didn’t take me long to know that I fed myself to the one thing I hated. I was about to leave the publication despite my passion for writing.

And then a documentary flipped my decision.

Tudla Productions’ “Sa Ngalan ng Tubo”, the documentary of the struggle of the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita who earn Php 9.50 a day, somewhat stopped me from committing a big mistake, think things through and observe more. So I took a step back from the doors of our student publication and made a great leap.

All my years in college as a campus journalist exposed me to the data I needed to contribute in writing the people’s epic. I met fellow student leaders and exchanged tuition hike struggles with them, went to picket lines of workers from Kowloon House in West Avenue to the workers of Advan and Triumph south of Manila, I once helped a family in Tondo who sheltered us activists in their humble home to pack their things because their house was to be demolished to give way for the Philippine National Railways modernization.

My college days were the hype of the growing dissent and eventually the isolation of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. These were the days of frequent mobilizations calling for the ouster of the US-Arroyo regime in the streets of Makati where employees from building to building would throw confetti from their office windows to show solidarity. Our sembreaks were for trainings and seminars. Our summer vacations were for community organizing and integration with farmers and workers.

There were times that I skipped classes and exams to join mobilizations or cover certain events. But I never regret every single time I cutclass to attend such activities. In my young days as a student activist, I’ve always abided with Jose Pepe Alcantara’s words: “Ang aklat ng isang tunay na mga-aaral ay ang lipunang kanyang ginagalawan, ang kanyang guro ay ang mamamayan, at ang kanyang pagsusulit ay ang pagsasagawa ng mapagpalayang pagkilos.”

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A writer’s sanctuary is with the people. Photo by Efren Ricalde, from Sham’s Facebook account.

Having grades lower than what I usually get, I was sure no citation was to be printed on my diploma. Yet to my surprise, a medal was waiting for me on my graduation.

After graduation, it didn’t take me long before I decided to set aside academic achievements and be a full-time activist or, to use the tibak lingo, an FT. I ditched my interview for a post at Viva Films the day I decided to be an FT.

Deciding to be a full-time activist while being in a struggling middle class family was hard. My family would constantly persuade me to work instead of being an activist. I’d constantly say to my mom that I can’t be the daughter she wanted me to be, but I hope she’ll be proud of the daughter I came to be.

To my surprise, it was also in the Struggle that I learned stories about my father that were unknown to me. He was a Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer during the Martial Law period, an organization of lawyers that handles human rights cases in the Philippines. He was arrested and became a political detainee. There were only two FLAG lawyers in the province of Abra that time and they were both detained by Ferdinand Marcos.

It made me proud as a daughter knowing that I am now in the same Struggle that he tried to help and defend in his own way. I’m more than proud to say that I took his place in the Struggle.

Sham - Edlacir Nerfe

The happiness of serving the masses. Photo by Efren Ricalde, from Sham’s Facebook account

I continued to organize fellow campus journalists under the banner of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines as its Secretary General and eventually as its Chairperson. Devoid of academic responsibilities, I was able to dedicate all my time in tasks given to me. I became more engaged in people’s issues be it in the barricades of the urban poor across the metro who are to be demolished, on the hot pavements of Manila where we planked against oil cartels and budget cuts on social services orat a farm in Laguna harvesting palay with farmers who don’t have their own land to till.

To know that we live in a society where class struggle dichotomizes everything we know in two is one thing. To be in the Struggle that aims to end class antagonism which is a continuous process of learning and unlearning is another.

There is so much cruelty in the world, so many villains with sidekicks, so many diabolical plans to maintain the status quo. In my years as a full-time activist, I’ve learned that the world doesn’t need Superman (with excuses to Lois Lane).The people don’t need saviors in spandex or remarkable individuals such as kings and queens.History was not made by people in capes. History was made through the collective action of the oppressed and exploited. The masses create history.

From being a campus journalist who records history to being part of the Struggle that will create the change needed by history. I am here because we have a world to win.

Sham KPL

Sham is Kabataan Partylist’s Second Nominee. | Photo from Kabataan Partylist