***How to Spit FiYAh in Bisaya!!***

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Interested in learning a different language? Want to know more about the Bisaya language? Kamalayan presents “How to Spit FiYAh in Bisaya”!! It is a FREE language class that will teach you how to construct basic sentences and engage in a conversation.

The creator and facilitator of this workshop is Haniely Pableo. Poster created by Althea Balmes and Tim Manalo.

Please contact anakbayan.toronto@gmail.com or call Rhea at 647.281.0652 to confirm your spot!

Space is limited!!!

Where: CSI Regent Park, 3rd Floor, Daniels Spectrum Building, 585 Dundas Street East
When: Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 4:30-6pm

SINONG TATAY MO?!? A History of Family Dynasties and Corruption

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[FREE History Workshop | Open to All | Space is Limited]

Why is Philippine Politics So Corrupt?
Why do family dynasties persist in a supposedly democratic, and supposedly independent Philippines?
And what does history teach us about the potential for real change?

This will be a one hour history talk matched with one hour of discussion.

We will look at how family dynasties came to dominate Philippine politics, economics, and pop culture. We will also look at the many attempts to overturn this climate of corruption. Where were there successes and where were there failures, and why?

In discussing corruption we’ll also examine why this corruption is not an unfortunate side effect but a necessary tool to maintain the status quo… and along the way examine some of the dark chapters–like how the CIA was born in the Philippines to crush post WWII attempts at a truly independent country…

You can email us to confirm your spot: anakbayan.toronto@gmail.com
Or you can also just drop in! (Space is limited, emailing us confirms your spot.)

“Parahin ang pangyayamot sa mga progresibong partylista!” – Anakbayan Toronto

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Mula sa hanay ng progresibong kabataang Filipino sa Canada, ang Anakbayan Toronto ay taas kamaong sumusuporta sa Kabataan Partylist at sa PISTON partylist para sa nalalapit na halalan ngayong Mayo 13.

Ang pagtatangka ng Commission on Elections (Comelec) na i-diskwalipika ang dalawang progresibong partido dahil lumabag ang mga ito umano sa patakaran sa pagpapaskil ng mga poster ay hindi makatarangunan, kahit na nagwasto na ang mga partidong ito at tinanggal ang mga posters. Ang mga partylista na kaalyado ng pamahalaan ng Pilipinas, tulad ng Akbayan at Anak Mindanao ay may tig-siyam na paglabag sa batas, ay hindi nila ito i-diniskwalipika ng kumisyon!

Ipinapakita ang anti-mamamayang interes ng Comelec at ng sabwatang US-Aquino lamang ang nangingibabaw sa paglalako ng mga partido na kaalyado nito. Kaalinsabay nito ang kanilang paniniil sa mga makamasang progresibong partylist upang panatilihin ang sistema ng pagsasawalambahala sa mga mamamayang Pilipino, nasa Pilipinas man o sa ibayong dagat.

Kung itatala, ang Piston partylist ay tuloy-tuloy na nagsusumikap sa pag-arangkada ng karapatan ng mga tsuper at sektor ng transportasyon. Sila ang pangunahing bumubusina sa laban sa pagtaas ng presyo ng langis sa konteksto ng deregulasyon ng industriya.

Sa kabilang banda, ang Kabataan partylist ay isa sa masugid na nagbitbit ng isyu para sa kapakanan at kalagayan ng mga estudyante at ng kabataang Pilipino. Sa loob lamang ng dalawang taong pagkaluklok sa Kamara, ipinakita ng Kabataan ang kasanayan at representasyon sa paglatag ng mga panukalang batas. Walo mula sa 35 lamang rito ang di kaugnay sa sektor ng kabataan, ayon sa isang pag-aaral. Aktibo rin ang pakikibaka ng mga kasama sa loob at labas ng kongreso, laban sa mga hindi makabayan na patakaran ng rehimeng US-Aquino.

Sa semi-kolonyal na kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, napatunayang minamaniobra ng pamahalaan sa Washington ang bawat proseso ng halalan sa pamamagitan ng pagtulak ng mga lokal na tuta nito upang paigtingin ang impluwensiya nito sa bansa.

Sa ating patuloy na pag ooganisa ng mga kabataang Pilipino sa labas ng bansa ay aktibo tayong nag-aambag sa paglikha ng kasaysayan. Di lamang natin pananatilihing ang muling pagkapanalo, bagkus ay itutulak rin natin ang paglawak ng representasyon ng sektor ng kabataan at masa sa kongreso .

Kami sa Anakbayan-Toronto ay nananawagan kay Commissioner Sixto Brilliantes ng COMELEC at G. Benigno Aquino III na itigil ang political harassment sa mga progresibong partylist. Itigil ang panggigipit sa mga progresibong partylist gaya ng Kabataan Partylist at PISTON! ##

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Drop-in orientation sessions available

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Meet your kasamas at ANAKBAYAN-TORONTO, the youth chapter of the Philippine national democratic movement at our DROP-IN orientation sessions. LEARN about the root causes of the problems in the Philippines and how to be part of the CHANGE.

Being politically engaged doesn’t just mean a change in Facebook status or profile picture. It means being active in your community, being involved in social issues and making a BIG difference.

We have two locations

Tuesday, April 23 3-6pm @ CSI Regent Park, 3/F Daniel Spectrum Bldg., 585 Dundas St. E Toronto, Ontario M5A 2B7

Tuesday, April 23 5-8pm @ Bathurst and Wilson Starbucks Cafe

See you there!

Why I Became an Advocate for Philippine Issues

A speech delivered on 22 Feb 2013 at “Activate TO”

by Anakbayan-Toronto Chair, Rhea A. Gamana.

Rhea SONA 2012

I used to say that activists, especially the youth, were just complaining, paralyzing the traffic, and that they should do more productive things rather than going out to yell on the streets. I used to say to myself that they should just go abroad and earn a living.  Then they would have a better life and could be able to provide their families. I changed my attitude when I reunited with my mother.  Now I understand why they do those things. I am now one of them.

My mother used to be a government employee in the Philippines, but since her salary wasn’t enough to provide for us, she decided to come to Canada and be a live-in caregiver. She left my brother and I behind.  This is a common story for Filipinos.

In the last four decades, a Labour Export Policy (LEP) has been implicitly implemented to address the economic crisis in the country. This is not a long-term and people friendly solution to poverty.

OFW Deployment photo

The Philippine economy does not have a national industrialization plan to end underdevelopment. Instead it depends on remittances from overseas Filipino workers. Their numbers continue to rise under the administration of current President Benigno Aquino III. The LEP divides families. There are now 4500 leaving every day to work in different countries. The Philippines is the number one source country of migrants to Canada.

I was a good student and daughter in the Philippines. I took care of my family. Yet I was always sad that I couldn’t speak to my mother face-to-face if I needed advice from her.

When the time had come that we were going to reunite with her, I was nervous but happy. Prior to coming here in Canada, we attended a few orientations where they told us that Canada was a better place to achieve the future I wanted.

My Philippine educational attainment was considered nothing here in Canada. I had graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English, and wanted to become a lawyer or a teacher. A week after our arrival here in Canada almost 7 years ago, I applied for a job at a fast food chain.

I resigned myself to working as a part-time cashier while waiting for the right time to go back to college. After working for almost a year, my workplace got robbed.  I thought I would die that day. The robber pointed the gun towards my stomach, and hit my head on the cash register.

That day changed me. I was diagnosed with PTSD, and that lasted for three years. This was not what I expected from a country like Canada. It was not what was described to us in the pre-departure orientation session we received in the Philippines.

According to a study titled “Filipinos in Canada: Economic Dimensions of Immigration and Settlement” by Dr. Philip Kelly of York University, Filipino immigrants have the highest educational attainment of all migrant groups yet still tend to be deskilled. For example, if I was a nurse in the Philippines, I could only work here as a nanny or personal support worker. In my case, I wasn’t able to use my education here in Canada at all.

Research also shows that children of Filipino migrants make less money than their parents and have a lower educational attainment.  According to Statistics Canada, 32% of first generation Filipinos have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 28% of the second generation.

The Philippines is a semi-colonial country, which means that the country itself is not independent and remains under the control of Western imperialism. The Philippines is a semi-feudal nation. Big business landlords and elites exploit the natural resources and the cheap serf-like labour of the country. This results in the displacement of families who then migrate to urban areas or to other countries to find a better living.

It makes me wonder why the Canadian government only allows one family member to come to Canada if they need more people here.

The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is a program of the federal government allowing Canadians to import temporary migrant live-in caregivers, known around the world as domestic workers.

If they complete the program they can become Canadian citizens and sponsor their family through the reunification program.  This takes an average of seven years, sometimes more.  That’s a long time to be separated from your family.  A long time spent taking care of the children of others, while your own need you at home.

This aspect of the program causes damage to family relationships, one that affects the children deeply—this I can tell you from personal experience.

Canadians need to be aware that we are part of this system. Not only here in Canada through our immigration policies, but also in the Philippines where Canadian imperialism contributes to forced migration. Part of our taxes goes to fund Canadian companies in the Philippines (especially in the mining sector), and Canadian military training of the Philippine armed forces to help protect those companies and forcefully displace Filipinos from the countryside through militarization.

I want a Philippines with true democracy and true independence. I want justice for the marginalized and underrepresented.

Today I am the Chairperson of Anakbayan-Toronto. We advocate for human rights, and we struggle for national industrialization that will keep Filipino families intact and ensure that no one will have to leave the country for a better life.  I don’t want any child to suffer what I went through.

Anakbayan-Toronto will not stop calling for national industrialization and genuine land reform in the Philippines, This is the only way that Filipinos will be able to work decent jobs, and not have to leave the country.

Toronto Filipino youth group slam security overkill of poldet Ericson Acosta

Youth group Anakbayan-Toronto condemns the illegal arrest and overkill security measures of political prisoner Ericson Acosta who recently granted a furlough to seek medical attention.

With the campaign of organizations such as human rights group Karapatan, SELDA and other international groups, temporary release has been granted for poet-activist Acosta, who displayed symptoms of serious health problems which may have been the effect of torture. However, he received brutal treatment even while undergoing medical treatment.

According to the Free Ericson Acosta Coalition, a broad alliance supporting the detainee, 10 full-armed personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) were stationed at Acosta’s hospital room not only to guard him but to make sure that he is handcuffed to his bed at all times.

Acosta is a poet, thespian, songwriter, and intellectual activist who has been arrested without a warrant since February  2011 by armed troops. He was tortured inside the military camp before being charged of illegal possession of explosives. He has since then been suffering from injustice as his case is still pending in court for 23 months. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Isaias P. Acosta, despite their own health conditions, have been continuously calling for their son’s release.

Acosta’s case is one in more than 400 political prisoners in the Philippines today, most of them victims of arbitrary arrests, torture and trumped-up criminal charges. More than 120 of them, including the imprisoned writer, were arrested under President Noynoy Aquino’s watch.

Anakbayan-Toronto calls for the unconditional and omnibus amnesty to be granted to Ericson Acosta and to all political prisoners.

Free Ericson Acosta!! Free all Political Prisoners!!

Sign the online petition at change.org

JOBS THROUGH NATIONAL INDUSTRIALIZATION, NOT THE LEP

Toronto—As we celebrate International Migrants Day on Dec 18th 2012, let us pause and reflect on the current state of the Filipino diaspora. Anakbayan Toronto stands firm in our call to abolish the Philippine Labour Export Policy (LEP) used by the government to keep the country’s economy afloat. The LEP was a temporary policy during the 1970s economic crisis but Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have remained to become the primary source for the country’s economic growth. OFW remittance alone brings in a huge sum of much needed revenue to the country. According to the National Statistics Office (NSO) the first eight months of this year alone already totalled $15.30 billion, 9.5 percent of which originate from Canada, much of it used to alleviate the symptoms of poverty in the Philippines.

But we must never forget the reason why this policy existed in the first place nor undermine the continued repercussions it has on the Philippine nation.

Every day the state-sanctioned migration drives 4,500 Filipinos away from their houses and communities. In 2011 alone, more than 2.2 million Filipinos left the country to work abroad. The majority of these workers are now women. Many are mothers of young children or older siblings responsible for the well being of their whole family. They leave because they are able to earn more than the average $2/day salary if they work overseas.

 

This is not for the lack of trying to find work, or lack of education—many OFWS are in fact highly educated.  Filipinos leave and the reason why OFWs exist is because the Philippines lack the commitment to build a national industrial policy that would provide Filipinos with the suitable economic condition that would encourage them to stay in the country. At the moment Philippines has the highest unemployment rate in Asia. Earlier this year, the NSO put more than 2.8 million Filipinos as unemployed and 51.7% of these are youth between the ages of 15-27.

The country’s current state of economic affairs rests squarely with President Benigno Aquino III and his government who but refuse to implement policies that generate lasting employment and self-sufficient industries in the country. What he is more interested in is the continuing sell off of our national patrimony; extensively liberalizing our industries like mining, lumber, textile and exporting our workers abroad as if they are bodies of produce. This liberalizing attitude just further degrades the economy as well as the living conditions in the Philippines.

For Aquino government the LEP is nothing but a game of economic numbers and Canada is an implicit player. The Philippines is now the number one source of migrant workers serving the Canadian economy. It lures Filipino migrants to work as non-citizens with the prospect of not buying their benefits. While Canada is the second largest receiving country for Filipino migrants, its very exploitative Temporary Workers Program and Live-in Caregivers’ Program openly expose workers to potential employer’s abuse, systemic discrimination, and subjugate them to unhealthy working conditions with the threat of deportation or termination of contract. OFWs are used to fill in necessary but unattractive jobs for the average Canadians. Working in Canada is not cheap so it is not uncommon to hear news of temporary workers who go into thousands of debt just to come and work here.

The recent visit of Prime Minister Harper to the Philippines only exacerbates the economic situation in the country. It is a proof of Canada’s tightening imperialist hold in the country through the“3M”: mining, migration and militarization. The Philippine Mining Act made legal by Aquino to liberalize foreign control of the national’s mining industry which was called by many including the proposed counteracting, People’s Mining Act (which calls to nationalize the industry) to be unconstitutional and harmful to the Filipino state. Canada is the top source of big mining companies. Granting open access through the 3M is a write-off of the betterment of our nation and sanctions the business practices of the elites which purposely undermine the working class.

Globally this means that for every pool of cheap labour accessed causes a one percent rise in unemployment which decreases the combined salary of workers to six to seven percent. But for the Filipino people it means toiling longer under even more precarious conditions.

Until now, despite Aquino’s rhetorics for a “matuwid na daan (righteous path)”, he has refused to implement a significant wage hike, to junk contractualization and uphold workers’ rights. At home, correlation can be drawn between the country’s low standards of living, hunger, crime and poverty to the lack of employment opportunities available to improve the Philippine situation. Peasants, fisherfolks, farmers and the urban poor who make up the majority of our nation continue to be the most vulnerable and bearing the most suffering. Abroad, the OFWs which the government promotes as the “modern heroes” are just as neglected. This year, ten embassies across Europe and the Pacific region closed down leaving many of the OFWs stationed in those regions unprotected and harder to give access to in times of trouble. A slap in the face still is these OFWs continue to contribute to social net (i.e. Philhealth, SSS etc) which are not immediately accessible to them.

The state’s continued sponsorship of the detrimental exportation of labour is not and should never be the answer to eliminating the social ills the people suffer from. As part of the liberalization policy of the government it only makes the Philippines worse. If the regulations stay the same, our people will also remain treated as export products; female workers will be at the forefront of exploitation and abuses; families will continue to be divided, a vicious cycle of poverty will remain and the Philippines will continue to be under control of imperialist and neo-colonial rule.

As part of the Filipino migrant community, we intensify our demands for more sufficient and sustainable jobs in the Philippines. We call the Aquino administration to stop the liberalization of the Philippines to the benefit of foreign capitalists and the Philippine elite. More importantly, we demand and immediate implementation for genuine land reform and national industrialization policies to improve the Philippines as a whole.

Abolish the LEP; Demand immediate implementation of national industrialization
Demand genuine land reform and remove liberalization policies
Protect our people and patrimony; Implement the People’s Mining Act.

Plight of Typhoon Pablo Survivors: Anti-Environment And Anti-Peoples’ Policies

We, from the national democratic organizations of Filipino migrant workers, women, youth and students and indigenous people in Toronto, stand in solidarity with the survivors of Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao. We call our allies and friends to continue our collective effort to raise funds and donations to assist them.

Typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) hit the southern island of the Philippines on the evening of December 3, 2012.  With winds of 260 km/h affecting over five million people, the super typhoon has been considered the most destructive tropical storm of the year.


As of December 11, at least 700 persons are reported dead, almost 2,000 injured, and 900 missing. The state agency for disaster risk management stated a total of 486,554 families, or 5.4 million persons, were affected by Pablo. But many were also able to get away from danger seeking shelter in makeshift evacuation centres for safety. The affected communities in the south region of the Philippines were especially quick to evacuate and mobilize in light of last year`s calamity (previously thought improbable, Typhoon Ondoy hit the southern Philippines leaving behind $1.06 billion in damages and close to 750 dead).

But the situation remain grim for many communities isolated by the landslides and flash flooding incited by the tropical storm. Aerial surveys show vast areas of flattened houses and buildings, destroyed infrastructures and agricultural lands totaling to over PHP4 billion in damages. However, Typhoon Pablo still left the country, with the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental the most damaged, in a declared state of calamity.

The Philippines is hit by an annual average share of 20 typhoons . But every year the effects of these natural disasters only seem to get worse. Even in the issue of climate change, there is no dispute that it is happening. Yet the government is doing insufficient preparations to prevent these before they strike. Many of these are the direct result of the systemic and biopolitical conditions in the country. The KALIKASAN-People’s Network for the Environment and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) both released separate statements blasting the current regime for allowing the desecration and liberalization of our sovereign land and resources.  This is a message worth repeating in light of the destruction of the tropical superstorm Pablo.

President Benigno Aquino III’s government has been more than willing to further degrade Philippine land and people.  For a pittance, Aquino has authorized exemption laws allowing big multinational mining companies, many of which are Canadian-owned, to operate without any accountability to the people and the environment.  For their benefit, Philippine land laws have been permanently altered in our constitution to allow mineral rich areas to be explored and to be exclusively reserved for extractive operations. These areas were and still are technically, ancestral domains of the indigenous communities in Mindanao. According to the country’s cultural commission, the Lumad—a Bisayan term for indigenous people which has been adopted by 15 of the 18 indigenous groups in Mindanao—comprise 2.1 million out of 6.5 million indigenous people nationally.  It is the Lumad like the B’laan, Higaonon, Manobo, T’boli and many others who are profoundly affected by these large scale mining operations.

But displacement is only one other major problem they must face. State-sanctioned assassinations have encouraged the total annihilation of these communities.  Vilification of movements was made easy through liberal policies. In 2011, the Aquino administration pursued the path for a new mining policy which seeks to employ paramilitary and even the Philippine Army to protect the investments of foreign mining firms. The lives of village tribal leaders and other members as well as many other environmental defenders who have openly voiced their opposition have been the state’s obvious targets. Mindanao-based green group Panalipdan has reported 19 deaths due to the rising struggle against mining plunder.  The RMP-NMR have also been publishing numerous stories illustrating similar cases.  One is Sharon Liguyon, whose village tribal leader husband, Jimmy, was shot dead in their home by the paramilitary because he did not want to give his consent to the company that wanted to mine in their area. With a growing and more daring opposition from the Lumad and from the general southern population, we recognize the need for bigger collective mobilizations. If not, stories like the Liguyons’ will only be normalized.

Meanwhile, advocacies like Manilakbayan have been alerting the public of the broadening alliances of internal refugees. Although the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 seeks to “recognize, protect and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities…” environment defenders and indigenous leaders have only been answered with bullets and bulldozers. Thus, many local people choose organised armed resistance against the ruling landlords and big foreign mining companies.

The government lambasting on small scale miners condemning their work as amplifying the chaotic destruction of Typhoon Pablo is totally false and is an act of betrayal geared towards the poor Filipinos. “Kadtong niuli ko sa Pilipinas duha ka bulan na ang nilabay, giduaw nako ang sitio sa New Bataan sa probinsya sa Compostela Valley ug nakit-an nako ang sitwasyon sa minahan didto. Nadugmok pag maayo ang akong kasing-kasing sa akong nahibal-an. Didto kay nailhan nako ang komunidad sa mga gagmayng minero, ug sila nagbahin sa ako ug ilang sentimyento ug unsa sila maapektuhan kung sudlun ug langyaw na dagkong minahan ang ilang yuta na posibleng madaut ang ilang yuta, panginabuhi, ug ang ilang mga kinabuhi. Mao ba ning Pilipinas na ikabilin nato sa mga musunod na henerasyon? Among ginapangayo ang hustisya ug paspas na pagtubag ni Pangulo Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III atol sa pagtabang sa atong mga kababayan para sila makahanlingkawas niining kalisod sa sitwasyon!!!”  (When I went to back to the Philippines almost two months ago, I visited New Bataan in Compostela Valley Province and saw the mining situation. I was devastated. I met small scale miners, and they shared how their community will be affected by the possible invasion of huge foreign mining, which will potentially hurt their land, livelihood, and their lives. Is this the Philippines that we want for our future generation? We demand justice and quick response from President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to help our kababayans to recover from this disaster!!!) ,said Anakbayan Toronto Chairperson Rhea A. Gamana, who is also a Mindanao native.

The Philippine delegate’s urgent appeal to halt global warming in the recent climate change conference is simply reactionary. The impact of recurring typhoons is natural, but the abilities of the Filipinos who have survived the typhoon are hampered down by conditions of unnatural nature. If the government is pro-environment and pro-people, it will recognise that the these calamities are primarily due to the sinking conditions of the status quo. The Alternative Minerals Management Bill is yet to be enacted. Typhoon Pablo confirmed that imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism are still inherent in the current system.

As Filipinos overseas, we want to register our concern regarding the continuing environmental degradation and seeming government neglect of its basic obligation to protect its people. A genuine change in political agenda must be pursued progressively by the masses to overcome capitalism and environmental catastrophe.

Defend our national patrimony versus big foreign mining firms plunder!
Stop the killings of indigenous leaders and environmental defenders!
Scrap the mining EO 79! Support the People’s Mining Bill!

N30: Filipino Youth found Anakbayan-Toronto

Toronto—Commemorating Andres Bonifacio Day, fifteen delegates join hands together to formally launch the progressive Filipino youth and student organization Anakbayan-Toronto (AB-T) on December 1st at Ryerson University.

Organized to coincide with November 30, a date  historically significant to Filipino peoples. It is the birth of the working class revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, whose leadership founded the Katipunan and laid the foundation for the Philippines’ first unified armed resistance against foreign oppression.

One hundred and forty-nine years after the renowned hero’s birth, AB-T convened as the newest overseas chapter of Anakbayan, which is translated as “sons and daughters of the people.”  The comprehensive national democratic, mass movement of the Filipino youth is the first branch in Canada.

However, since the 80s Filipino-Canadian youth, particularly in urban core centres, have been organizing themselves through cultural and nationalistic means. According to Marco Luciano, former member of the Montreal Coalition of Filipino Students (MCFS) and now Secretary General of Migrante-Canada, the ‘real upsurge’ of youth organizing was not carried on until the 90s. Programs allowing youth to bond and discuss culture and identity in the context of Filipino struggle against colonialism was pushed by concerned members of the community. In 1993 the Montreal Coalition of Filipino Students in Quebec was formed .

While in Toronto, early strands of educational discussion groups were also realized under the guidance of Philippine Solidarity Group. In 1996 issues between “baguhan” (new immigrants) and “datihan” (Canadian-born/raised) youths were shared in a play entitled “Dreams of a Revolution” in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Bonifacio-led 1896 Philippine Revolution. This search for identity and fight against colonialism moved to modes of outreach in the community and exposure trips, finally leading to the formation of Migrante Ontario Youth in 2008, shared Mithi Esguerra, a former member of the group.

Canada has the second largest Filipino community overseas. For decades, poor job prospects and the nation’s undeclared policy to export labour led Philippine citizens to pursue employment abroad. According to the Philippine National Situation by Bagong Alyasang Makabayan (BAYAN) presented by founding member Ysh Cabana, the  current Aquino administration perpetuates  this oppressive system by placing more anti-people policies and being subservient to foreign interests.

Since the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is the financial and cultural capital of Canada, it is one of the top city choices of Filipino immigrants and migrants. The GTA is home to over 140,000 Filipinos. A presentation by founding members Tim Manalo and Alex Felipe revealed that most Filipino immigrants  have non-permanent residence status and are coming in through the family reunification program. Impeded by their minority and recent immigrant status, many Filipino-Canadian youth face a number of cultural challenges and systemic barriers that hamper their economic mobilization and social integration.

Bearing the onus to address these problems, AB-T commits itself to ensure that youth stay engaged in raising social awareness and advocating for the betterment of the Filipino community in Canada and the Philippines. The newly elected officers in the founding assembly symbolize the utmost dedication of youth in leading the Filipino community towards true emancipation: Rhea Gamana as Chairperson, Jesson Reyes as the Secretary General, Ysh Cabana as Education Officer, Henessy Cruz as Finance Officer, and Tim Manalo as Solidarity Officer.

“I’m very honoured to be elected as Chairperson of Anakbayan Toronto, and I would like to thank our Kasamas for trusting me to be in this position. I will absolutely do my best to represent Anakbayan Toronto to our kababayans. I and the rest of the Kasamas will painstakingly educate and organize Filipino youth here in the Greater Toronto Area. I will continue to fight for genuine national democracy for the Philippines, and continue the unfinished struggle of Gat Andres Bonifacio.” Rhea Gamana, elected founding Chairperson of Anakbayan Toronto.

For now, Anakbayan-Toronto’s task is articulated in the founding general assembly’s theme “Ipagbunyi ang Kabataang Sumusulong tungo sa Malayang Bukas” (Celebrating the Youth Marching Towards Emancipation).

A video message by the Anakbayan Philippines National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo for the 14th Anniversary of Anakbayan, he expressed the importance for youth to carry on the legacy of arousing, organizing and mobilizing. In the words of Kabataang Makabayan’s founding chairperson, Jose Maria Sison, “Only through militant struggle can the best in the youth emerge.”

Among the guest speakers was former Chairman of the National Union of Students in the Philippines, Ben Corpuz. Presenting on the student movement in the Philippines, he emphasized how the three basic problems of Filipinos back then remain the same today, even worsened.

Special guest Vernie Diano of the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Centre (CWEARC) reflects how “The energy of the youth is direly needed to oppose the threats facing our communities.” Heartfelt solidarity messages were also delivered by allied groups including member representatives of the International League of Peoples Struggles-Canada (ILPS- Canada).

AB-T would like to thank allied organizations, BAYAN Canada, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement (FMWM) and Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture (PATAC) for their presence at the event. To the Filipino community in Canada and other chapters for their continuous support. The success of the founding assembly formally declares our member’s dedication to arouse, organize, and mobilize for the advancement of the Filipino people’s struggle towards national liberation and genuine democracy in the Philippines.

Lumalakas! Lumalawak! Lumalaban! (Strengthening! Broadening! Continuously fighting!)

Vernie Yocogan-Diano of CWEARC at ABT’s Founding Assembly

Magbunyi ang Kabataan Patungo sa Malayang Bukas! Assembly of Anakbayan Toronto (1 December 2012)

Kabataang lumalaban! Kabataang makabayan! Gawin nating makabuluhan ang slogans na ito sa paghimok at pagpapakilos ng kabataang Pilipino sa pamamagitan ng Anakbayan sa Toronto at Canada. Congratulations on your 1st Assembly as Anakbayan Toronto, the youth organization with acomprehensive mission of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the Filipino youth to advance the Filipino movement for national freedom and democracy. Mabuhay kayo.

Vernie Diano in ABT 1st GA

I am indeed honoured to be part of this historic event in the life and journey of Anakbayan Toronto.When I was informed about the assembly, what came across my mind is you probably have wanted tohold your assembly on Nov. 30 being the birthday of one of our heroes who led the revolution against Spanish colonization, Andres Bonifacio. Bonifacio’s birthday was also the date that Anakbayan was formed in 1998. You are also holding your assembly at a significant period when the women of the world are commemorating the 16-day campaign to end violence against women where we highlight the struggles of women in ending violence and discrimination particularly violence perpetrated by the stateand its institutions that make women as private property, commodities and elements of profit. In the Philippines, this is led by our national alliance of women, GABRIELA.

I convey my salute to you that as young as you are, you are already taking part in this less traveled path.The usual dream of any young person is to take the more traveled path of career development, climbing the social ladder and catching up with the fashion. As a young person then, I was not spared from that thinking. I come from a rural indigenous community where every youth’s dream was to be a “big somebody” in the future. Every youth dreamt of giving good life to her/his family. This is possible if you are able to study, finish a degree, have the connection with a politician or person in authority or have the capital to run a business. For one who grew in a rural village, these dreams are realized by leaving eventually your village. But I was also coming from a village that was involved in the armed revolution and that somehow changed the mindset and perspectives of young people. But I was not as bold as the others who saw that life was possible without leaving the village. I was an obedient child with the desire of finishing a degree, landing a good job and be a “somebody”.

When my parents sent me to study in the city of Baguio in the mid 80’s, I had no other goal but study and excel. I hear about actions in the streets and plazas but I kept myself away from these—not because I did not believe but it was because I wanted to fulfill a dream. I believed some were there not because they understood the cause but because they find it thrilling and different. I was not convinced with youth leaders who failed in their subjects or who even dropped and used their activism as a reason. My older brother happens to be one of those in the Progressive Igorots for Social Action (PIGSA). They hold long night sessions talking about perspectives,actions and self-criticism in our house. But he never invited me, nor his group to join them.Without them knowing, I listened to their discussions, read the materials they produce and actually used those materials in my arguments in school. I eavesdropped where the next action is. I realized I was open to their beliefs and movement as I found my way to their public forums and actions. Being an active member of the traditional youth organization of the Episcopal church, I was later invited to a youth camp that discussed social issues which were different from the usual discussions of the church youth. Marcos dictatorship was falling down and we were asked to reflect on the role of the youth in restoring democracy and struggling for justice. That changed a lot in my life. I had very good mentors who were priests and pastors, some of them unfortunately have left and became part of the oppressive system. One of those ministers remain to be as dedicated to the cause for social justice until now. He experienced repressive attacks including being arrested and detained. So when I graduated from college and became a registered Medical Technologist, I thought that the best way to be relevant was to do community work. The state of unemployment in the country especially for MT facilitated that decision. But overseas work was also very inviting at that time. I was first involved as a staff for a women’s NGO and then to another Cordillera NGO doing human rights work. My parents and circle of friends thought that I was missing an opportunity and not fulfilling my dream of being a “somebody”.

Fast forward to the mid-90s’, I thought of trying organizing in one province of the Cordillera to test ifI really like what I was doing. I only had the basic orientation for organizers. The next thing was I was asked to do youth organizing which I strongly resisted in the beginning. Being 26 then, I thought I was too old for that group. But then I was reminded of what Bishop Mercado of the United Methodist Church during the founding of the ecumenical youth organization of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines that “youth is not a matter of age, it is a state of the mind”. So I took the challenge—sino ang gagawa kung hindi tayo. It was a worthy experience. Not only that it gives a sense of being a youth but it was truly a learning and de-learning process. My mass work experience among the youth,indigenous peasants and the professional in Ifugao strongly influenced my perspective of being part of the indigenous peoples’ movement in the Cordillera, particularly the women’s movement. I got the greatest learning and inspiration from them. That gave me the meaning of Serve the People.

In my journey with the indigenous peoples’ movement and in the wider movement for national freedom, democracy and justice, I would like to share with you some reflections: 1) That youth is not only a phase in our life. It is a phase where we determine our relevance and use our energy in making another world. Thus it means concretizing and pursuing the cause of Anakbayan as the Philippine comprehensive youth organization for national democracy. Serve the people. 2) That the world is leading us to a mindset of “mine and mine alone”. The culture bred by neoliberal economics and politics or by imperialism entrenches individualism and for the good of the few eroding the culture of collectivism and communalism that was the way of life of the ancestors of Filipinos before Spanish colonization. It is a worldview of indigenous peoples and such values are lived by some indigenous peoples until this era of neoliberal globalization. These values are specially sustained among indigenous peoples who are pursuing self-determination aspirations in the context of their movements like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its allied members which includes indigenous youth and women. To be able to pursue Anakbayan’s mission is to give up a long list of our individual wishes like earning one degree after another while many of the Filipino youth and children in countryside and urban communities cannot even have the basic education.

The energy of the youth is truly needed as the communities in the Philippines are facing greater threats and attacks of death in their resistance against mining corporations, other development aggression, militarization and policies that rob and concentrate the national wealth for the ruling elite, corporations and their imperialist rulers. It is giving up your comfort zones to serve the people.3) As the wellspring of the movement, think about coming back home not only as a visiting force but spend a significant time in actively participating to make change happen. And you will not regret that you will change and remould as you take part in creating the relevant changes. Many of you maybe still tracing their Filipino roots but I do hope that you will find your identity politics with the national democratic movement. The young once are aging and young ones are needed to continue the unfinished work. 4) In any struggle and every way of the struggle, we encounter contradictions. Our struggle includes dealing with individual and organizational challenges and by having healthy discussions that we build on unities. Hold on to the hard-earned lessons, don’t archive these to do what you just wish to do, and enrich those lessons in your ardous and painstaking work of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the Filipino youth in Toronto and Canada. Don’t leave behind the Igorot youth who you might find difficult to deal with but I believe that unending conversations with them will draw them in. Let us work together to make the connections with our indigenous youth organization in the Cordillera through the Cordillera Peoples Alliance,pursue conversations with them as indigenous but also Filipino youth in Toronto and Canada. 5) Let the women shine as leaders and members in Anakbayan Toronto. Women hold half of the sky and women have proven their role in leadership and decision-making and this you must reflect in Anakbayan Toronto. With you, we will look forward to new leaders for Filipino mass organizations in Canada.

An enormous task is waiting for you. I will be coming twice a year until 2015 and I look forward to continue what we began in sharing the progress of our work and have the conversations necessary in advancing our work.

Fetad or betad is our word in the Cordillera in mobilizing entire communities in defence of our land,life and dignity. I do look forward that Anakbayan Toronto will live the same spirit of mobilizing Filipino youth including the Igorot youth in Toronto, build linkages with Canadian,First Nation or immigrant youth organizations in Toronto and Canada, as you spread the good work of Anakbayan Toronto as your contribution to the national democratic struggle in the Philippines. I share the words of Macliing Dulag,one of the Cordillera martyrs who led the resistance against the World Bank funded Chico dams in the 70s and was killed by a military officer, which I always to in my messages, “If we do not fight, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honourably. I exhort you all fight.”

Matago-tako kayo, agbiag, mabuhay, long live!

Vernie Yocogan-Diano
Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC)
cwearc09@gmail.com