TORONTO FILIPINO YOUTH: EMBODY THE FIGHTING SPIRIT OF BONIFACIO IN HIS 150TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY.

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The significance of Andres Bonifacio’s revolutionary life story is not lost on history books. Youth group Anakbayan-Toronto (AB-TO) lead the 150th birth anniversary of the working class hero Andres Bonifacio on November 30 in the University of Toronto. Simultaneously, the local chapter also celebrates the first year anniversary together with over a hundred chapters around the world.

Solidarity video messages from BAYAN Canada spokesperson Dr. Chandu Claver spearheaded the action packed day as AB-TO members listened attentively to his militant greetings. Anakbayan-Seattle Chairperson Jennilee Policarpio wished the Toronto group and conveyed the significance of building the first overseas chapter eleven years ago to address the issue of Filipino-American youth to connect them all back to the Philippines. The national situation of the Philippines was reported back by Anakbayan Philippines Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo who enunciated the need for all Anakbayan chapters to organize and mobilize against the incompetent BS Aquino administration.

“Hindi na nating maaring tiisin na magpatuloy ang kahirapan ng ating mamamayan sa ilalim ng isang rehimeng taksil sa taong bayan, at para lamang sa iilan at mapagsamantala” said Crisostomo.

Outgoing Secretary General Jesson Reyes facilitated the discussions in remembering Bonifacio and the revolutionary movement Katipunan, which spearheaded the 1896 Revolution, the first anti-colonial uprising in entire Asia and spawned as well the first republican government in this region.

Under the theme “Continue the Unfinished Struggle,” the gathering brought together youth from different backgrounds and showed a wonderful expression of their fervor for genuine change in society.

Since it was founded in 2012, AB-TO has carried out its mandate to uphold the rights, welfare and interests of the Filipino youth, migrants and workers in the Greater Toronto Area. More so it has continued to empower people from different backgrounds through its real-time and online project Kamalayan by providing short courses on critical Philippine history, identity and questions on national pride. It contributed to researches on the Filipino youth situation, local campaigns like Raise the Minimum Wage in Ontario, extension of consular services in provinces with a growing Filipino population and fundraising initiatives for super Typhoon Haiyan survivors.

Local youth organizer Rhea Gamana, founding chairperson of Anakbayan-Toronto, helped provide a framework on the current situation of Filipino youth in Canada. Gamana shared her insights on why Filipinos leave the Philippine only to find more challenges after arriving in the host country.

AB-TO members all showed earnestness in learning more of their heritage and keeping abreast on both current affairs in the community and in the home front. New members also committed in helping out in realizing the spirit Bonifacio and the Katipunan imbued by serving the people as everyone clapped and chanted in unison.

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.anakbayato.org, email anakbayan.toronto@gmail.com or follow AB-TO on twitter @anakbayanto

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N30: Filipino Youth found Anakbayan-Toronto

Toronto—Commemorating Andres Bonifacio Day, fifteen delegates join hands together to formally launch the progressive Filipino youth and student organization Anakbayan-Toronto (AB-T) on December 1st at Ryerson University.

Organized to coincide with November 30, a date  historically significant to Filipino peoples. It is the birth of the working class revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, whose leadership founded the Katipunan and laid the foundation for the Philippines’ first unified armed resistance against foreign oppression.

One hundred and forty-nine years after the renowned hero’s birth, AB-T convened as the newest overseas chapter of Anakbayan, which is translated as “sons and daughters of the people.”  The comprehensive national democratic, mass movement of the Filipino youth is the first branch in Canada.

However, since the 80s Filipino-Canadian youth, particularly in urban core centres, have been organizing themselves through cultural and nationalistic means. According to Marco Luciano, former member of the Montreal Coalition of Filipino Students (MCFS) and now Secretary General of Migrante-Canada, the ‘real upsurge’ of youth organizing was not carried on until the 90s. Programs allowing youth to bond and discuss culture and identity in the context of Filipino struggle against colonialism was pushed by concerned members of the community. In 1993 the Montreal Coalition of Filipino Students in Quebec was formed .

While in Toronto, early strands of educational discussion groups were also realized under the guidance of Philippine Solidarity Group. In 1996 issues between “baguhan” (new immigrants) and “datihan” (Canadian-born/raised) youths were shared in a play entitled “Dreams of a Revolution” in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Bonifacio-led 1896 Philippine Revolution. This search for identity and fight against colonialism moved to modes of outreach in the community and exposure trips, finally leading to the formation of Migrante Ontario Youth in 2008, shared Mithi Esguerra, a former member of the group.

Canada has the second largest Filipino community overseas. For decades, poor job prospects and the nation’s undeclared policy to export labour led Philippine citizens to pursue employment abroad. According to the Philippine National Situation by Bagong Alyasang Makabayan (BAYAN) presented by founding member Ysh Cabana, the  current Aquino administration perpetuates  this oppressive system by placing more anti-people policies and being subservient to foreign interests.

Since the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is the financial and cultural capital of Canada, it is one of the top city choices of Filipino immigrants and migrants. The GTA is home to over 140,000 Filipinos. A presentation by founding members Tim Manalo and Alex Felipe revealed that most Filipino immigrants  have non-permanent residence status and are coming in through the family reunification program. Impeded by their minority and recent immigrant status, many Filipino-Canadian youth face a number of cultural challenges and systemic barriers that hamper their economic mobilization and social integration.

Bearing the onus to address these problems, AB-T commits itself to ensure that youth stay engaged in raising social awareness and advocating for the betterment of the Filipino community in Canada and the Philippines. The newly elected officers in the founding assembly symbolize the utmost dedication of youth in leading the Filipino community towards true emancipation: Rhea Gamana as Chairperson, Jesson Reyes as the Secretary General, Ysh Cabana as Education Officer, Henessy Cruz as Finance Officer, and Tim Manalo as Solidarity Officer.

“I’m very honoured to be elected as Chairperson of Anakbayan Toronto, and I would like to thank our Kasamas for trusting me to be in this position. I will absolutely do my best to represent Anakbayan Toronto to our kababayans. I and the rest of the Kasamas will painstakingly educate and organize Filipino youth here in the Greater Toronto Area. I will continue to fight for genuine national democracy for the Philippines, and continue the unfinished struggle of Gat Andres Bonifacio.” Rhea Gamana, elected founding Chairperson of Anakbayan Toronto.

For now, Anakbayan-Toronto’s task is articulated in the founding general assembly’s theme “Ipagbunyi ang Kabataang Sumusulong tungo sa Malayang Bukas” (Celebrating the Youth Marching Towards Emancipation).

A video message by the Anakbayan Philippines National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo for the 14th Anniversary of Anakbayan, he expressed the importance for youth to carry on the legacy of arousing, organizing and mobilizing. In the words of Kabataang Makabayan’s founding chairperson, Jose Maria Sison, “Only through militant struggle can the best in the youth emerge.”

Among the guest speakers was former Chairman of the National Union of Students in the Philippines, Ben Corpuz. Presenting on the student movement in the Philippines, he emphasized how the three basic problems of Filipinos back then remain the same today, even worsened.

Special guest Vernie Diano of the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Centre (CWEARC) reflects how “The energy of the youth is direly needed to oppose the threats facing our communities.” Heartfelt solidarity messages were also delivered by allied groups including member representatives of the International League of Peoples Struggles-Canada (ILPS- Canada).

AB-T would like to thank allied organizations, BAYAN Canada, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement (FMWM) and Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture (PATAC) for their presence at the event. To the Filipino community in Canada and other chapters for their continuous support. The success of the founding assembly formally declares our member’s dedication to arouse, organize, and mobilize for the advancement of the Filipino people’s struggle towards national liberation and genuine democracy in the Philippines.

Lumalakas! Lumalawak! Lumalaban! (Strengthening! Broadening! Continuously fighting!)

Vernie Yocogan-Diano of CWEARC at ABT’s Founding Assembly

Magbunyi ang Kabataan Patungo sa Malayang Bukas! Assembly of Anakbayan Toronto (1 December 2012)

Kabataang lumalaban! Kabataang makabayan! Gawin nating makabuluhan ang slogans na ito sa paghimok at pagpapakilos ng kabataang Pilipino sa pamamagitan ng Anakbayan sa Toronto at Canada. Congratulations on your 1st Assembly as Anakbayan Toronto, the youth organization with acomprehensive mission of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the Filipino youth to advance the Filipino movement for national freedom and democracy. Mabuhay kayo.

Vernie Diano in ABT 1st GA

I am indeed honoured to be part of this historic event in the life and journey of Anakbayan Toronto.When I was informed about the assembly, what came across my mind is you probably have wanted tohold your assembly on Nov. 30 being the birthday of one of our heroes who led the revolution against Spanish colonization, Andres Bonifacio. Bonifacio’s birthday was also the date that Anakbayan was formed in 1998. You are also holding your assembly at a significant period when the women of the world are commemorating the 16-day campaign to end violence against women where we highlight the struggles of women in ending violence and discrimination particularly violence perpetrated by the stateand its institutions that make women as private property, commodities and elements of profit. In the Philippines, this is led by our national alliance of women, GABRIELA.

I convey my salute to you that as young as you are, you are already taking part in this less traveled path.The usual dream of any young person is to take the more traveled path of career development, climbing the social ladder and catching up with the fashion. As a young person then, I was not spared from that thinking. I come from a rural indigenous community where every youth’s dream was to be a “big somebody” in the future. Every youth dreamt of giving good life to her/his family. This is possible if you are able to study, finish a degree, have the connection with a politician or person in authority or have the capital to run a business. For one who grew in a rural village, these dreams are realized by leaving eventually your village. But I was also coming from a village that was involved in the armed revolution and that somehow changed the mindset and perspectives of young people. But I was not as bold as the others who saw that life was possible without leaving the village. I was an obedient child with the desire of finishing a degree, landing a good job and be a “somebody”.

When my parents sent me to study in the city of Baguio in the mid 80’s, I had no other goal but study and excel. I hear about actions in the streets and plazas but I kept myself away from these—not because I did not believe but it was because I wanted to fulfill a dream. I believed some were there not because they understood the cause but because they find it thrilling and different. I was not convinced with youth leaders who failed in their subjects or who even dropped and used their activism as a reason. My older brother happens to be one of those in the Progressive Igorots for Social Action (PIGSA). They hold long night sessions talking about perspectives,actions and self-criticism in our house. But he never invited me, nor his group to join them.Without them knowing, I listened to their discussions, read the materials they produce and actually used those materials in my arguments in school. I eavesdropped where the next action is. I realized I was open to their beliefs and movement as I found my way to their public forums and actions. Being an active member of the traditional youth organization of the Episcopal church, I was later invited to a youth camp that discussed social issues which were different from the usual discussions of the church youth. Marcos dictatorship was falling down and we were asked to reflect on the role of the youth in restoring democracy and struggling for justice. That changed a lot in my life. I had very good mentors who were priests and pastors, some of them unfortunately have left and became part of the oppressive system. One of those ministers remain to be as dedicated to the cause for social justice until now. He experienced repressive attacks including being arrested and detained. So when I graduated from college and became a registered Medical Technologist, I thought that the best way to be relevant was to do community work. The state of unemployment in the country especially for MT facilitated that decision. But overseas work was also very inviting at that time. I was first involved as a staff for a women’s NGO and then to another Cordillera NGO doing human rights work. My parents and circle of friends thought that I was missing an opportunity and not fulfilling my dream of being a “somebody”.

Fast forward to the mid-90s’, I thought of trying organizing in one province of the Cordillera to test ifI really like what I was doing. I only had the basic orientation for organizers. The next thing was I was asked to do youth organizing which I strongly resisted in the beginning. Being 26 then, I thought I was too old for that group. But then I was reminded of what Bishop Mercado of the United Methodist Church during the founding of the ecumenical youth organization of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines that “youth is not a matter of age, it is a state of the mind”. So I took the challenge—sino ang gagawa kung hindi tayo. It was a worthy experience. Not only that it gives a sense of being a youth but it was truly a learning and de-learning process. My mass work experience among the youth,indigenous peasants and the professional in Ifugao strongly influenced my perspective of being part of the indigenous peoples’ movement in the Cordillera, particularly the women’s movement. I got the greatest learning and inspiration from them. That gave me the meaning of Serve the People.

In my journey with the indigenous peoples’ movement and in the wider movement for national freedom, democracy and justice, I would like to share with you some reflections: 1) That youth is not only a phase in our life. It is a phase where we determine our relevance and use our energy in making another world. Thus it means concretizing and pursuing the cause of Anakbayan as the Philippine comprehensive youth organization for national democracy. Serve the people. 2) That the world is leading us to a mindset of “mine and mine alone”. The culture bred by neoliberal economics and politics or by imperialism entrenches individualism and for the good of the few eroding the culture of collectivism and communalism that was the way of life of the ancestors of Filipinos before Spanish colonization. It is a worldview of indigenous peoples and such values are lived by some indigenous peoples until this era of neoliberal globalization. These values are specially sustained among indigenous peoples who are pursuing self-determination aspirations in the context of their movements like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its allied members which includes indigenous youth and women. To be able to pursue Anakbayan’s mission is to give up a long list of our individual wishes like earning one degree after another while many of the Filipino youth and children in countryside and urban communities cannot even have the basic education.

The energy of the youth is truly needed as the communities in the Philippines are facing greater threats and attacks of death in their resistance against mining corporations, other development aggression, militarization and policies that rob and concentrate the national wealth for the ruling elite, corporations and their imperialist rulers. It is giving up your comfort zones to serve the people.3) As the wellspring of the movement, think about coming back home not only as a visiting force but spend a significant time in actively participating to make change happen. And you will not regret that you will change and remould as you take part in creating the relevant changes. Many of you maybe still tracing their Filipino roots but I do hope that you will find your identity politics with the national democratic movement. The young once are aging and young ones are needed to continue the unfinished work. 4) In any struggle and every way of the struggle, we encounter contradictions. Our struggle includes dealing with individual and organizational challenges and by having healthy discussions that we build on unities. Hold on to the hard-earned lessons, don’t archive these to do what you just wish to do, and enrich those lessons in your ardous and painstaking work of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the Filipino youth in Toronto and Canada. Don’t leave behind the Igorot youth who you might find difficult to deal with but I believe that unending conversations with them will draw them in. Let us work together to make the connections with our indigenous youth organization in the Cordillera through the Cordillera Peoples Alliance,pursue conversations with them as indigenous but also Filipino youth in Toronto and Canada. 5) Let the women shine as leaders and members in Anakbayan Toronto. Women hold half of the sky and women have proven their role in leadership and decision-making and this you must reflect in Anakbayan Toronto. With you, we will look forward to new leaders for Filipino mass organizations in Canada.

An enormous task is waiting for you. I will be coming twice a year until 2015 and I look forward to continue what we began in sharing the progress of our work and have the conversations necessary in advancing our work.

Fetad or betad is our word in the Cordillera in mobilizing entire communities in defence of our land,life and dignity. I do look forward that Anakbayan Toronto will live the same spirit of mobilizing Filipino youth including the Igorot youth in Toronto, build linkages with Canadian,First Nation or immigrant youth organizations in Toronto and Canada, as you spread the good work of Anakbayan Toronto as your contribution to the national democratic struggle in the Philippines. I share the words of Macliing Dulag,one of the Cordillera martyrs who led the resistance against the World Bank funded Chico dams in the 70s and was killed by a military officer, which I always to in my messages, “If we do not fight, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honourably. I exhort you all fight.”

Matago-tako kayo, agbiag, mabuhay, long live!

Vernie Yocogan-Diano
Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC)
cwearc09@gmail.com

Lumalakas! Lumalawak! Lumalaban!

Youth-student organization Anakbayan hold’s the founding assembly of their Toronto chapter to advance the people’s struggle of the Philippines


A message from Anakbayan Toronto Organizing Committee:

In the spirit of the youth revolutionaries of Bonifacio and the pre-Martial Law youth organization of Kabataang Makabayan, the Anakbayan Toronto Organizing Committee warmly invites all our allies, other chapters, those in the struggle, other youths and the community at large who share the passion and interest of activism, to the founding assembly of the Toronto chapter of Anakbayan.

Anakbayan is the comprehensive, national democratic mass organization of the Filipno youth. It was established on November 30th 1998 to unite the youths from all sectors of the society: workers, migrants, students, out-of-school youth, women, professionals, Indigenous, Muslim, Christians, peasant, fisherfolks and many others, to advance the cause of national democracy of the Philippines and liberalization from foreign imperialism.

The theme for the inaugurating general assembly is set as Magbunyi ang Kabataan Patungo Sa Malayang Bukas (Celebrating the Youth Marching Towards Emancipation) to acknowledge the Filipino youth’s continuing history and commitment to arousing, organizing and mobilizing their community. Filipino youths have had their share of the fight from demanding justice for Filipino youth like Jeffrey Reodica, to tackling the effects of the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) on the youth and their family, to forwarding and making the national democracy movement of the Philippines relevant to other Filipino youth in Toronto. The inauguration and the first general assembly meeting of Anakbayan Toronto is a step closer to making the voices of Filipino youth stronger and be heard; and make the youth be the leaders of their community to continue the struggle towards a genuine independent Philippines.

Join the Organizing Committee on December  01 2012 and be part of building the new chapter. Everyone is welcome.

Event schedule includes:

  • History of Youth Organizing
  • Situating the Youth in the Philippines and Canada”
  • Reading of the Constitution and Bylaws and Election of Officers
  • Our Allies and their Messages of Solidarity
  • Cultural Presentation

Anakbayan Toronto Founding General Assembly-
Ipagbunyi ang Kabataang Sumusulong tungo sa Malayang Bukas
(Celebrating the Youth Marching Towards Emancipation)

SCC 115, Student Centre, Ryerson University
December  01, 2012; 6-12 pm

FREE event
Space is wheelchair accessible