That youth is not always wasted on the young was proved in the hours after the shock burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani the other Friday, when young people gathered in various areas nationwide to register indignation at the deed. It continued to be proved throughout the day and well into the night at the People Power Monument on Edsa, where they massed and clamored for motorists to honk for justice—and were thrilled to be duly acknowledged.
In the succeeding days up to “Black Friday,” students and young professionals made their presence felt in protest actions intended to relay a clear message to President Duterte, the Marcos heirs, and nine Supreme Court justices: The dictator’s burial in the Libingan is an insult to the nation and to the victims of martial law. It is unacceptable.
Millennials had been getting a bad rap lately, as a rule thought to be flighty, self-indulgent, ignorant of history, and insensitive to the suffering of martial law victims (thus, it is said, the surge of the dictator’s son and namesake). Who would have thought they’d rise to the occasion?
Breathtaking was the sight of these allegedly clueless young people leaving their classrooms, their offices and their hangouts in a spontaneous outpouring of disgust on Nov. 18. They came out bearing hand-made signs expressing what they felt and voicing it for good measure, in their trademark cool. Dig out the dictator: “Hukayin! Hukayin!” Or: “No to Marcos! Yes to Ilocos empanada!” And, the height of twit: “I am a temperamental brat!”
In her recent Young Blood piece titled “On Edsa on a Friday,” millennial Cecilia Ejercito explained how she overcame niggling doubt and joined the protest action: “Who knows when the freedom to make a stand will disappear? Mine may not have been the strongest voice at that rally. Even on my way there, I was doubtful about what my contribution could possibly be. But if we leave it all to the strongest voices, how can a movement be sustained? Sometimes all it takes is a little push from different people (knowingly or not), to get you where you need to be… Never doubt what influence you can have in driving one person to take one step, and in effect, driving an entire movement. When that happens, maybe the bigwigs will be persuaded to do what’s right, too.”
Black Friday saw this same spirit at Rizal Park in Manila, where the youth held their own among an estimated 15,000-strong crowd, and never mind the bad weather. Similar scenes of protests were seen in Bacolod, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, Los Baños, Legazpi, Quezon City, Tacloban and Zamboanga. “Marcos, Hitler, diktador, tuta!” they yelled, reprising their elders’ chant in the 1970s. “Stand with the brave, bury Marcos in another grave,” read their streamer. Also: “Hold the Marcoses accountable.”
The generation that did not live through martial law is learning its lessons from its forebears.
“I used to be scared, but not anymore. My choice is to fight,” cried a UP student at Rizal Park. That cry was heard by the veterans of Marcos-era street protests, and it felt like a true passing of the baton between generations. Activist nun Sr. Mary John Mananzan was moved to wax nostalgic, recalling what she saw and heard back in the day, and to acknowledge how far the young people have come. “Millennials,” she said, “you are the hero!”
At the Quirino Grandstand, in the gathering dark, the protesters raised their bright tablets and smartphones to the sky, the pinpricks of light illuminating everything around them. Indeed, it’s a new battleground.
But the struggle continues, and wonder of wonders, the young generation is taking its place at the frontline. These good Fridays are presenting an unmistakable sign of hope: that the spirit of resistance to injustice is not dead, and would not fade with the dwindling survivors of martial law.
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