Photo depicting an activist wearing a black jacket over a red T-shirt and chanting through a black megaphone.

‘Makibaka! Huwag Matakot!’ Seattle Filipino Youth Attend Anakbayan U.S.A.’s Fourth National Congress

by Victor Simoes

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In early February, Anakbayan South Seattle (ABSS) sent 14 organizers to the Bay Area for the Anakbayan U.S.A. Fourth National Congress and the BAYAN U.S.A. Seventh National Congress. This gathering of over 300 people from across the country aimed to unite on a program to strengthen the National Democratic Movement in the U.S. through a series of actions, workshops, and discussions centered around the call “Laban Bayan! Unite the masses to defeat the fascist U.S.-Marcos II regime and fight for national democracy!” 

ABSS is a grassroots youth and student organization that fights for lasting change and genuine democracy in the Philippines. The overseas chapter of Anakbayan Philippines is one of three in Seattle, which also includes the home base of Anakbayan Seattle (the first overseas chapter of the organization to be founded in the U.S.) and Anakbayan University of Washington. 

“When we were at the congress, something that was emphasized is how historical of a time it is to be organizing for Philippine national democracy with Bongbong Marcos Jr. now in power,” said Nica Sy, vice chair of Anakbayan South Seattle. “We’re facing the same dynasty that was in power for 20 years under Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who committed countless human rights atrocities.”

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., popularly known as “Bongbong,” son of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., assumed the presidency of the Philippines in 2022. His controversial victory was one of the Philippines’ most important elections since the 1986 People Power Revolution that brought back democracy after 21 years of Marcos Sr.’s rule — nine years of which were under martial law, which took effect in 1972. Martial law suspended the Philippines’ constitution and led to the suppression of the press and the persecution of Marcos Sr.’s political opponents. During martial law, around 3,257 people were killed, over 34,000 tortured, and more than 70,000 detained without the right to a fair trial.

Photo depicting a group of activists gathered while holding up red signs with white text that reads, "Services NOT Surveillance."
Filipino Activists protest lack of consulate services and increased activist repression by the Marcos Regime. The Philippines is considered the world’s second deadliest country for environmental activists. Pictured at Anakbayan U.S.A. Fourth National Congress and the BAYAN U.S.A. Seventh National Congress on Feb. 6. (Photo courtesy of Anakbayan South Seattle.)

On Feb. 6, activists who attended the congress rallied in front of the Philippines Consulate in San Francisco, making a direct confrontation with the Marcos Regime. Among calls of “Services Not Surveillance,” the group demanded that the Philippine government put public money towards essential services for Filipinos back on the islands and Assistance To Nationals (ATN) to support overseas Filipino workers instead of a continued increase in the Defense Department budget. 

ATN coordinates consular efforts in responding to urgent requests for assistance by Filipinos living abroad. As of today, the Philippines Consulate in San Francisco serves Filipinos in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Northern Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Northern California but cannot attend to requests promptly.

“These services are things that the Filipino people living here in the U.S. have been saying that they’ve needed,” said Sy. ”Many folks cannot return home because their passports are expired, and it’s impossible to get an appointment with the consulate.”

ABSS explained they are not just in solidarity with the people in the Philippines but rather a part of the Philippines National Democratic Movement with a particular role in fighting for democracy and liberation as overseas Filipinos. In their understanding, while they exist outside of the Philippines, the same struggles faced by people in the archipelago today are the reasons that brought them to the U.S. in the first place.

For decades, many Filipinos have left home to search for work opportunities overseas. Today, it is estimated that more than 10 million Filipinos, or about 10% of the Philippines’ population, live abroad. These trends have long been attributed to the fragile economy and what the Anakbayan points out as the three basic problems of the Philippines: U.S. imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism.

“We also have an extraordinary role to play, living in the U.S.,” said Sy. “There’s certain power and access we can leverage as overseas Filipinos.”

Anakbayan U.S. has an ongoing campaign supporting the passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) in the U.S. Congress. This amendment would “suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has made certain reforms to the military and police forces.” The PHRA includes suspending security aid from the United States to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. These two institutions have been used to repress activists and those accused of several human rights violations. 

Back in Seattle, ABSS is agitating to put into practice the lessons learned during the congress. For the following months, the organization plans to expand its membership in South Seattle, conduct educational discussions, create public programs, and build and enrich members through collective work and cultural activities like language learning.

“We want to work with Filipinos and other youth and workers organizations or groups. Because, simultaneously, while we’re fighting for liberation back home in the Philippines, we also want to understand the issues that Filipinos face today where we live, including in the South End of Seattle,” said Marco Ares, member of Anakbayan South Seattle.

To keep up to date on future ABSS activities and more, you can follow them on Instagram at @anakbayansouthseattle.

“Now, having attended this congress, we understand on a higher level the vastness, depth, and strength of this movement, not just in the Philippines, but also here in the U.S.,” said Sy.

Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

📸 Featured Image: Activist Francesca Juico from Gabriela Seattle, a National Democratic organization of the Philippines advancing the militant women’s movement, shouts a chant from 1986’s People Power Revolution: “Makibaka! Huwag matakot!” (Fight! Do not be afraid!). Pictured at the Anakbayan U.S.A. Fourth National Congress and the BAYAN U.S.A. Seventh National Congress last month. (Photo courtesy of Anakbayan South Seattle.)

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