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From Kabataang Makabayan to Katanders Makabayan, 1980s activists are back in streets

/ 12:24 AM December 12, 2016
Ellis dela Cruz and his daughter, Lorena: Generations apart but marching together for love of country. —courtesy of Lorena dela Cruz

Ellis dela Cruz and his daughter, Lorena: Generations apart but marching together for love of country. —courtesy of Lorena dela Cruz

Despite their aching joints and graying hair, the men and women who survived to tell the tales of the struggle against martial law showed no hesitation in returning to the streets to face the ghost of the dictatorship past.

In what seemed to be a throwback to their youth, they  joined a crowd composed mostly of millennials at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City on Saturday to decry the return to power of the Marcoses and stand up against authoritarian rule.

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The “Dekada ’80s Boks” protest gathered former student leaders and community organizers from different militant youth groups, including Samasa, Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and Kabataang Makabayan.

Due to their age, however,  “Katanders Makabayan” would be more appropriate, quipped former student leader Ruben Felipe.

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Code names only

Coming from different schools, they knew each other only through code names—

aliases created for security purposes during the dictatorship. It was through Facebook that they later discovered each other’s real identities.

Felipe, 56, said the nearly victorious bid for the vice presidency of Ferdinand Marcos’ son, Ferdinand Jr., was the painful wake-up call that their generation’s fight was not yet over.

“I realized that our generation had shortcomings in educating our youth about the reality under martial law,” he told the Inquirer. “We needed to come back and do something about it.”

The hasty burial of the late Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani was the ultimate insult to the lives lost under the dictatorship, many of whom were their friends and colleagues, the group said.

“Like many others in my generation, I dedicated my youth and intellect to fight for the freedom of our country,” Felipe said. “But even after all our hardships, the Marcoses seem to still have the last laugh.”

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Yet the “sneaky” interment also became an unexpected sound of alarm to today’s youth

—and a sign of the passing of the torch of struggle to the young.

Even at 63, Ellis dela Cruz stood with his fellow baby boomers at Bantayog, which commemorates the lives of those who fought the dictatorship.

Simultaneous torch passing

“Sadly, as much as we are passing the torch to the next generation, the Marcos family are also passing a torch among themselves,” he said.

Dela Cruz was imprisoned and tortured for seven months, an ordeal he never thought he would survive.

“Post-martial law, I think we all had our own shortcomings, or else we did not have to march on the streets again,” he said. “We are left with no choice but to struggle…and educate the youth about the dark days of our history.”

This time, however, Dela Cruz is joined by his youngest child whom he named after Lorena Barros, an activist and founder of a militant women’s movement in 1970.

The lucky Lorena

“When I was younger, I didn’t know what my name symbolized,” said the 19-year-old student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. “Now I understand that I am the lucky Lorena who survived because my father fought and lived through the dictatorship.”

As a millennial, Lorena admitted that she is unsure whether her generation is ready to carry on with the battle waged by her father and his fellow protesters.

“I hope our generation goes beyond Facebook or Twitter because ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ alone will not stop the Marcoses’ return to power,” she said.

But she believed that the bigger question is whether she is prepared to make the same sacrifices her father did during martial law.

“I don’t know if I’m ready, and if my father is ready to pass on the responsibility to me,” she noted. “But if he wishes to continue his fight, I cannot stop him.”

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TAGS: “Dekada ’80s Boks”, Ferdinand Marcos, Kabataang Makabayan, Martial law, Philippine news updates
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