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….We live our lives, we tell our stories. The dead continue to live by way of the resurrection we give them in telling their stories. The past becomes part of our present and thereby part of our future. We act individually and collectively in a process over time which builds the human enterprise and tries to give it meaning. Being human means thinking and feeling; it means reflecting on the past and visioning into the future. We experience; we give voice to that experience; others reflect on it and give it new form. That new form in turn, influences and shapes the way next generations experience their lives.History matters. My generation gained inspiration from the study and rereading of Philippine history and the struggle and sacrifices of the heroes and heroines of the 1896 Philippine Revolution and the Philippine American war not as an academic undertaking but as part of the efforts of continuing the unfinished tasks of asserting national sovereignty and genuine democracy.
Women's studies for its part has a unique niche in academe. Based on the premise of the reality of women's oppression and the need to advance women's position in society, women-centered research and teaching have the dual aims of scholarship and advocacy.
The year 2005 commemorates 100 years of feminism in the Philippines and the 30th year of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. In 1905, "a group of prominent ladies of the times organized the Asociacion Feminista Filipina" . The character of the Asociacion Feminista Filipina, whose founding in June 2005 is considered the founding year of feminism in the Philippines, was predominantly welfare-oriented.The call for women's right to suffrage would be raised a year later, when Pura Villanueva Kalaw, the grandmother of Consuelo Ledesma-Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front, founded in 1906 the Asociacion Feminista Ilonga. It took over 30 years of vigorous organizing and campaigns by educated and elite women before the Filipino women would receive the right to vote in 1937.
The First Quarter Storm of 1970 (FQS 1970) marks the series of widespread protests in Metro Manila against the then administration of Ferdinand Marcos and signified the resurgence of nationalist struggle in the country which has been dormant since the 50s. The ferment of the FQS would lead to a frenzy of organizing among the students, community youth, workers and farmers. The Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA),established in April 1970, brought together women activists who espoused women's liberation in the context of national liberation. The establishment of MAKIBAKA is considered a major landmark in the history of the women's movement in the country as it articulated the oppression suffered by Filipino women and the need for women's liberation through participation in the nationalist struggle.
This paper will focus on MAKIBAKA. As a professor of women's studies in the University of the Philippines, as a student participant in the FQS of 1970 and as a founding member of MAKIBAKA, I would like to contribute to current efforts to end the invisibility of women in history and more importantly to reiterate that the path that MAKIBAKA pioneered remains the path to women's emancipation in the Philippines.
I will be using two basic historical methods in the writing of this paper: review of written primary sources and my personal testimonial as a participant of the FQS of 1970
Background of the FQS
The 1960s saw the formation of a radical youth organization, the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) which called for the radical restructuring of society. Its analysis of US imperialist, big comprador and big landlord collusion as the source of the backwardness of the country led to its adoption of a program for national democracy. The main contents of the program were the assertion of national sovereignty by ending US domination of the country and the attainment of genuine democracy through land distribution to the peasantry and ensuring political freedom for the broad masses of the people.
Founded in 1964, KM went on to build a student reform movement in the universities on the basis of demands for lower tuition, improvement of student facilities and democratization of university governance. At the same time, it developed links with peasant and trade union leaders and organizations with progressive tendencies. It also initiated protest actions against Philippine involvement in the Vietnam work and established student-worker and student-peasant alliances through support for working class struggles for higher wages and lower land rent.
By January 1970, the organizational groundwork of KM and Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK, an offshoot of a 1966 split within KM but which reestablished working relations with the latter by 1969) and the intensification of the economic hardship of the people due to runaway inflation caused by the overspending of the Marcos government in its 1969 reelection campaign, were conditions that gave birth to what is now called the First Quarter Storm of 1970.
The widespread use of truncheons and teargas against young university students to break up the January 26, 1970 demonstration in front of Congress led to an indignation march on January 30 to the presidential palace which ended in the deaths of four students.
The succeeding two months were marked by intense political mobilization and education. Rallies after rallies were held not only to denounce "police brutality" but to link it to fascism, US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. These demonstrations attended by tens of thousands of the youth from the various universities in Metro Manila and from the communities and factories became the fora for explaining the national democratic program as an alternative and for raising the option of revolutionary armed struggle to counter state violence.
The First Quarter Storm of 1970 generated the widespread propagation of the basic problems of the Filipino people and the alternatives and methods espoused by the national democratic movement. It also produced thousands of youth activists who organized in the provinces and who integrated with the workers and peasants to lay the basis for the realization of a national and mass-based national democratic movement in the Philippines. And it led to the formation of a contemporary women's movement that forwarded the analysis that women's liberation is inextricably linked with national and class liberation.
The formation of MAKIBAKA
The national democratic youth organizations prior to the First Quarter Storm already recognized the need for drawing in the participation of women in the movement. A women's bureau was part of the organizational structure of the Kabataang Makabayan upon its formation in 1964. The need for a particular machinery for women is based on the movement's recognition of the particularity of women's oppression and on the political premise of the crucial need to draw the support of women for the movement as they comprise "half of the sky". Young female students and professionals joined Kabataang Makabayan and other youth organizations on the basis of the political program for national sovereignty and genuine democracy. The potential of women's emancipation through participation in the revolutionary struggle was borne out by information on strides women have made in countries where revolutions were victorious. However, even with the rise in the number of women members and the existence of a women's bureau within the youth organizations, theoretical and concrete practical work related to women's issues was limited. For example, the celebration of March 8 as International Women's Day would not be commemorated until 1971.
The reemergence of a women's movement in the post-world war II period was marked by the formation in April 1970 of an all-women's group, the Malayang Kilusang ng Bagong Kababaihan (Free Movement of New Women) with the inspired acronym of MAKIBAKA which is the Filipino term for struggle.
MAKIBAKA's formation was an offshoot of the broader political movement and was influenced by the activities of the women's liberation in the west that have been reported in the mainstream media. Women activists from the various national democratic youth organizations banded together to launch the first militant all-women activity, a picket of a major beauty contest which echoed a women's action in London in that year. This initial activity was significant not merely because of its all-women character but also because it raised for the first time a woman-specific issue; the commodification of women through beauty contests, a concern never before addressed by the national movement. As a result of this activity, several women activists decided to transform MAKIBAKA from its initial character as a loose coalition to a distinct all-women youth organization.
Advancing the Women's Liberation Movement in the Philippines
MAKIBAKA became one of the youth organizations espousing and propagating an anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-fascist line in what was then called the "Second Propaganda Movement" recognizing its links with the "First Propaganda Movement" which was the precursor of the founding of the Katipunan and the 1896 Philippine revolution. MAKIBAKA's uniqueness was in its efforts to elaborate on the general statements that working class women suffer double oppression as members of their class and as women and that women can perform general and specific tasks in the movement.
Ma. Lorena Barros, anthropology major from the University of the Philippines and a poet became MAKIBAKA's founding chair. In "Liberated Women: I", Laurie (Lorena Barros' nickname) wrote:
"Women comprise more than half of the oppressed Filipino people and thus share with men a common burden of social and economic exploitation. In addition to class oppression, however, women suffer male oppression. This second type of oppression is justified by a feudal conservatism which relegates women to the category of domestic chattel, and by a decadent bourgeois misrepresentation of women as mere pleasurable objects.
…Notwithstanding this doubly oppressive condition, however, women comprise one of the most conservative sectors of Philippine society.
Conservative wives and mothers perform the very important social task of perpetuating the values of the old corrupt order. …(T)hey produce nice little girls who never dare to question what anyone in authority says, who themselves believe that women "should be seen, not heard, in short, …nice little girls who will be exactly like their mothers: quiet, obedient, passive and suffering their husbands' philandering and saintly acquiescence to the status quo."
(Ma Lorena Barros. "Liberated Women:I" in The Business Viewpoint, Sixth Issue, Vol. III, No. 2, 2nd semester 1970-71.UP College of Business Administration: 65Lauri continued with an elaboration of what liberation of women meant:
It means first of all that since the exploitation of women both as members of the oppressed class and as a social group rests on an economic base, liberation entails a restructuring of the economic system and from there the superstructure which is built on. Liberation cannot consists merely of a "change of heart" in either the exploiter or exploited, a turnabout of values. Nor can liberation start from such a "change of heart"; rather it is change in the material conditions which will bring about a "change of hear".
Second, the broad masses of the Filipino people must first be liberated before any sector, such a women, can be liberated. The primary exploitative relation, that between the American imperialists and the landlord-comprador-bureaucrat capitalist allies on the one hand and the Filipino masses on the other, must first of all be destroyed. Only then can new energies be released which will set into motion the social forces necessary for the elimination of other exploitative relations and the construction of a truly, just, equalitarian society.
Third, the liberation of women will not be a boon granted to them by their male liberators; women must seize their freedom, women must fight for it, must smash their prison walls themselves. Otherwise, they will once more be beholden to men, captive to a new set of obligations. Moreover as Frantz Fanon has argued so well, it is only action, usually violent action which is liberating. (ibid:66-67)Jose Ma. Sison's message to the First National Congress of MAKIBAKA in 1972 forwarded the analysis of the specific character and source of women's oppression in the Philippines and the current central task of the women's liberation movement
In a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country like the Philippines, it is inevitable that women like men suffer from the three systems of authority, such as political authority, clan authority and religious authority. In addition however, women suffer from the authority of the husband or what we may call "male authority". These four authorities that women have to contend with can easily be seen as expressions of the feudal-patriarchal ideology and system. Though in urban areas, there seems to be blatant reign of bourgeois ideas and values, perceived in their most decadent forms as bred by a cultural imperialism; the feudal-patriarchal ideology and system persists as a countrywide base for prejudices against women. Decades of modern imperialist culture lay over centuries of feudal patriarchalism in our history.
…..It is extremely important for the Women's Liberation Movement to grasp the line that political authority is the backbone of all the other systems of authority. By overturning that authority, we begin to overturn all the other systems. Political struggle, participating vigorously in the national democratic revolution now, is therefore the key link to the great cause of women's liberation. The Women's Liberation movement is basically a political struggle, with a revolutionary mass character. The political authority of foreign imperialism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism must be overthrown if Filipino women are to be liberated and achieve equality of the sexes
(Jose Ma. Sison "Message to Makibaka on the Women's Liberation Movement", in Struggle for National Democracy, Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation, 1972 edition:The New Filipina "Engaged in the Making of History"
For many young women activists of the FQS, membership in MAKIBAKA and other youth organizations brought home the point raised by Jose Ma. Sison particularly the point that "political struggle, participating vigorously in the national democratic revolution now, is therefore the key link to the great cause of women's liberation." We experienced the liberating effects of political participation as we went beyond women's place and roles traditionally upheld in Philippine society.
Ma. Lorena Barros, in "Liberated Women: II described the new Filipina emerging from her participation in the national struggle:
…The new woman, the new Filipina, is first and foremost a militant…
…The new Filipina is one who can stay whole days and nights with striking workers, learning from them the social realities which her bourgeois education has kept from her….. She is a woman who has discovered the exalting realm of responsibility, a woman fully engaged in the making of history…No longer is she a woman- for- marriage, but more and more a woman-for-action.
(Ma. Lorena Barros, "Liberated Women II"in Pugad Lawin, Taon 18 Blg 3, Enero-Pebrero 1971: 32To be a militant meant embracing nationalism beyond the externals of wearing the barong tagalog or dancing the tinikling but embracing nationalism as the continuation of the historic struggle of our Filipino forefathers and foremothers for national independence. It meant studying and understanding the roots of the problems in Philippine society and choosing radical change as the means to resolve these problems. This meant participation in collective actions to bring about changes in Philippine society.
Clearly, the woman militant, the new Filipina's ultimate destination was not as "ilaw ng tahanan", but as an equal of men in the struggle to end foreign and feudal exploitation and oppression. By opting to be part of the national democratic struggle, the women activists of the FQS of 1970 became, as Laurie put it, "engaged in the making of history".
MAKIBAKA provided the woman's voice and viewpoint in the rallies and demonstrations from 1970 until the declaration of martial rule in September 1972. Members marched, acted as marshalls during demonstrations, painted steamers and wrote placards, operated the mimeograph machines, organized chapters, led mass meetings, joined workers' strikes and learned from the farmers. It began work with mothers in a number of urban poor communites in Manila and set up day care centers and conducted mother's classes on child care practices. It continued to articulate the progressive women's opposition to activities such as beauty contests and fashion shows that degrade women.
Women activists also planned and held the first outdoor International Women's Day commemoration in the Philippines when it launched the Women's March Against Poverty on March 8, 1971. The only other commemoration in the Philippines recorded was the March 8, indoor forum in 1934 sponsored by the Liga ng Kababaihang Pilipina (source: )
Resurrecting the past to give it contemporary relevance was also an agenda of the militant women's movement. It was the Makibaka women in Iloilo who in 1972 prior to the declaration of martial rule, went to Pototan, the hometown of Teresa Magbanua, the Ilongga generala of the 1896 Revolution, and revived interest in the heroine to such a degree that the main street of the town was renamed after Henerala Isay1.
The declaration of martial law in September 21, 1972 ended the growing open protest movement in the cities. Progressive organizations, including MAKIBAKA, were declared illegal and their members were arrested or went underground to participate in other forms of organizations and other forms of struggles.
The existence of the pre-martial law MAKIBAKA was brief-only two and a half years since its founding in April 1970 to its illegalization in September 1972. But its impact on the women's movement in the Philippines continues to be felt.
Reviews of the women's movement in the Philippines cannot but cite the significance of MAKIBAKA2.
More importantly, its core message of women's liberation as inextricably linked with national and class liberation remains alive in the analysis and demands of the legal but militant women's movement in the Philippines represented by GABRIELA.
I would like to believe that MAKIBAKA's story as I am retelling it now will be something you, Filipino Canadian youth would "reflect on and give new form" as you yourselves become or are engaged in "making history."
1 I was part of the group women activists who went to Pototan, Iloilo in 1972 and talked to the descendants of Henerala Isay.
2 See for example Rosario del Rosario "Filipino Working Women 1913-1985" in The Filipino Woman in Focus, A Book of Readings, Amaryllis T. Torres (ed) UP Office of Research Coordination, UP Press, Quezon City, 1995 (2nd edition): 64, Aurora Javate de Dios, "Participation of Women's Groups in the Anti-Dictatorship Struggle: Genesis of a Movement" in Women's Role in Philippine History: Selected Essays, University Center for Women's Studies, University of the Philippines:Quezon City 1996 (2nd edition): 144-146, Aida Santos , Juliet de Lima
Barros, Ma. Lorena. "Liberated Woman: I" in The Business Viewpoint, Sixth Issue, Vol. III, No. 2, 2nd semester 1970-71.UP College of Business Administration: 64-67
Barros, Ma. Lorena. "Liberated Women II"in Pugad Lawin, Taon 18 Blg 3, Enero-Pebrero 1971: 32