Balik EDSA: Filipino community groups gather to mark 38th People Power anniversary

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  • On Sunday, February 25th, at Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain station, Filipino-Canadian organizations in Vancouver held a cultural gathering and rally to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the EDSA People Power I uprising. The organizations read poetry, gave political statements, and sang “Bayan Ko” while denouncing the current Marcos Jr. presidency as a continuation of his father’s authoritarian legacy.
    The rally was attended by about 100 people, with dozens of passers-by joining the rally and taking videos. Featured at the rally was an 8-foot banner reading “Balik EDSA! Labanan ang Cha-cha! Makibaka para sa lupa pagkain at hustisya!” painted by Filipino and allied youth.
    Another banner read “Filipinos 4 A Free Palestine.” Many rally organizers noted that building collective political power within the Filipino community is an important way to support the Palestinian struggle; and, that the root of the Filipino and Palestinian struggles is the shared enemy of US imperialism and shared history of colonization.
    Economic actions, such as the recent blockades at the Port of Vancouver calling for an arms embargo on Israel, are concrete forms of solidarity made possible through the unity of an organization. The stated goal of member groups of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN, or New Patriotic Alliance) is to build this unity among the Filipino-Canadian community in Vancouver to call for democratic change in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. In the spirit of international solidarity, BAYAN groups support the call of renowned Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, who wrote: “Imperialism has laid its body over the world […] Wherever you strike it, you damage it, and you serve the world revolution.”
    One rally participant, Chelsea Brager, joined Anakbayan BC (a Filipino youth-sector BAYAN organization) upon meeting Anakbayan members at a Palestine solidarity rally at Langara College. Like many other Filipino youth at the rally, Brager feels their activism is a way to “reconnect with my Filipino heritage and understand my family’s history and culture.”
    “Seeing folks from so many different sectors felt empowering,” Brager continued, reflecting on their first Filipino rally. They appreciated the friendly, intergenerational atmosphere of the rally, and shared that it was “encouraging to see how long people have been dedicated to the cause.”
    The longevity of the struggle also reflects the endemic problems that community groups have identified in the Philippines. “It’s the same story with new presidents, every time,” Brager says. “Their interests will always be the interest of their own pockets, which are filled with money from US imperialists. There’s no way to vote your way out of the suffering.” Brager went on to say that the solution to socioeconomic problems is not just to vote, but instead to join the national democratic movement and become an activist. “I joined Anakbayan to carry the legacy of my Filipino ancestors and continue their path in liberating the Philippines.”
    Although Marcos Sr. was ousted by the people in 1986, the groups represented at the EDSA rally—Sliced Mango Collective, Leni-Kiko BC, and BAYAN member organizations—assert that the root causes of dictatorship and human rights violations remain. Jaela Villegas, member of Migrante BC, notes that the extraordinarily high number of migrants leaving the Philippines for work is caused by widespread human rights violations, in addition to the mass unemployment, landlessness, and minimal industrial development that keep the Philippines vulnerable to foreign interests.
    The tone of the rally was celebratory, emphasizing the power of the millions-strong mobilization that ousted a 14-year long dictatorship in 1986. However, community groups also called for changes in Philippine society to serve the majority of people who to this day face poverty and violence. Filipinos and allies from across the youth, women, migrant, artist sectors united in their call: “System change, not charter change!”

    Photo caption: Filipino-Canadians and allies gather at Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain Station to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the EDSA People Power I uprising that ousted Marcos Sr., and to protest the current Marcos Jr. government. The banner reads: “Balik EDSA! Labanan ang cha-cha! Makibaka para sa lupa pagkain at hustisya!” (People Power Now! Fight against cha-cha [charter change]! Struggle for land, food, and justice!). Participating groups include member organizations of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Sulong UBC, Anakbayan BC, Migrante BC, Gabriela BC), Sliced Mango Collective, and Leni-Kiko BC. Photo courtesy of BAYAN BC.

    By Isa Carlin & Chelsea Brager

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