UP students reenact scenes of martial law in ‘Lean Run’
It was a race-and-chase event reminiscent of martial law as runners had to protect life, liberty and property (represented by ribbons on their belts) from paramilitary groups and “Imeldas” wearing terno sleeves.
They were dispersed by “Metrocom police.” They crawled through the mud in the “militarized zone” and were fired with “tear gas” and water cannon as they ran for the finish line.
The University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City, turned into a no-man’s land on Saturday, as some 2,000 runners joined The Great Lean Run, an obstacle race in memory of the slain youth leader Leandro Alejandro.
“We are reenacting the past so it will not be repeated,” UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan said during the opening program. He said proceeds of the race would be used to build a freedom park on the UP campus.
The alumni of UP Samasa (Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan), in partnership with the UP Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, organized the run to mark the 28th death anniversary of Lean and the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law.
“Memory is a tricky thing. This run is an act of remembering,” said Susan Villanueva, chair of the UP Samasa alumni. “We lived through the time and it is our moral imperative to pass on this lesson—that martial law was not the good old days.”
Pique youth’s curiosity
Villanueva said the group realized that holding the usual forum or rally would not attract the younger generation.
“We want to pique their curiosity with this new approach. Then they start to ask questions about martial law and a dialogue can
begin,” she said.
Alejandro’s mother, Salvacion Alejandro, graced the event, together with his widow, Lidy Nacpil, and contemporaries in the student movement against the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos.
Also present were Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and former House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada.
Commission on Human Rights Chair Luis Gascon commended the two lawmakers for authoring the reparation act compensating the victims of martial law and funding the establishment of a museum for human rights.
“There should be a room in that museum dedicated to the student movement containing mementos of Lean Alejandro and his colleagues, such as Edgar Jopson, another student leader who was killed (on Sept. 20, 1982),” Gascon said.
Marcos declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, although some historical accounts said the proclamation was actually signed on Sept. 23. He was ousted in the Edsa People Power Revolution in February 1986.
Alejandro chaired the University Student Council in 1983 and led the students to struggle against the dictatorship. “He was one of a kind. He had empathy, compassion and intellect that really inspired so many young people to decide to fight for change and for the restoration of our freedom,” Villanueva said.
In 1985, at 25, Alejandro was elected the first secretary general of the multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which initiated popular campaigns against the dictatorship.
In the May 1987 elections, he ran for congressman in his hometown, Malabon, against Tessie Aquino-Oreta, a sister-in-law of then President Corazon Aquino, but lost.
Alejandro was assassinated on Sept. 19, 1987, after a press conference in Intramuros, Manila, where he warned of renewed threats of political repression under the post-Marcos administration.
On its way to the Bayan office in Cubao, Quezon City, his vehicle was ambushed near the office. Two of his three companions were wounded. He was 27 years old.
“Our baby was just 6 months old,” Nacpil recalled. “He was really happy when our baby was born. And then it happened.”
“In the months that followed, a lot of provincial leaders were also assassinated. So, we knew it was part of a military operation against leaders of the mass movement,” Nacpil said.
She reminded the youth not to take for granted the rights and freedom we now enjoy as democracy was restored.
“We want this to be an inspiration for you. How a generation of students offered their time, strength and talent—some even their lives—for the good of our countrymen,” Nacpil said.
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