Today is the day I start my series on how my experience was in the Philippines. Basically I’ll be digging through my notebook and photos and will be posting a post or two a day on what I had done for that day and my general feelings of the whole situation. So, naturally, I’ll start at day one, which I blogged about for a bit while I was in the Philippines.
My first day was quite busy, my flight arrived at MNL (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) at around 4 am on Monday, July 20th. When I got to the BAYAN office (after arriving at the Kilusang Mayo Uno office in Project 3 in Quezon City on Narra St.) on the corner of Maaralin St. and Matatag St. it was around noon and I was informed that I would be going on a four day march with workers, peasants, and youth all the way from Calamba, Southern Tagalog to Makati City, Manila.
Latter on there was a press conference at the BAYAN office condemning the fact that there are BAYAN officers and organizers that are on military hit lists and watch lists. Then I went to a “noise barrage” were around 50 people or so from different BAYAN organizations held up signs and chanted along the street (I think it was Quezon Blvd.) in Quezon City to essentially “advertise” the upcoming protest of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address the following week. During the noise barrage I bumped into two amazing organizers from FOCUS from San Jose, California, Melissa and Noemi (whom I latter went on an incredible three day trip to Isabella, Bulacan to see what the local KilusangMagbubukid ng Pilipinas chapters were doing to organize the peasants).
Later that night I arrived back at the BAYAN office where many folks were in a celebratory mood because one of their comrades and friends was being released from prison after two years (after she was originally kidnapped by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and then resurfaced after four days). The daughter of the prisoner was there getting ready to hop into a van with a group of eight or so people to greet her mother as she was to be released from prison. I was told she was originally jailed because she is an adviser for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) and the government had trumped up charges that she had murdered people (this was to make sure she couldn’t get bail) but she was being released because the NDF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) are going to restore peace talks between themselves. However, I was informed the next day, despite government orders to release her, the military refused to release her (however she was eventually released I believe two days latter, after initiating a hunger strike and coordinating protests with other prisoners).
This, of course, was only day one of twenty-one, I was just beginning.