“THERE is hope. There is strength in numbers.”Thus said Los Angeles Council member Mitch O’farrel as parting words to Filipino-American social justice advocates after he gave a brief speech in a symposium titled “People and the power of resistance — an occasion held to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Philippine’s People Power revolution,” which is also known as EDSA revolution.
O’farrel actually echoed a comment from the crowd that was conversing with him while all of them were drawing parallels between the histories of civil rights movements in the US and the Philippines, then and now.
Earlier, five women who made up the panel during the forum brought back fragments of history from the Philippines’ people’s struggle against the corrupt and brutal regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.
As articulated by each of the five women during the forum, the quality and resilience of the people leading the struggle and the potency of the ideas being fought for are the most significant factors that sustain civil rights movements.
The very factors that bring about “strength in numbers.”
The Los Angeles council member aptly expressed this truth in his speech.
“I’ve been around long enough to know… I’m a child of the civil rights movement of the 60s and the 70s, the equal rights movement, the LGBT rights movement … I’ve been around, I’ve seen the pendulum swing back and forth. But we always, always lurch towards greater civil rights, towards greater freedom,” O’farrel said.
The councilmember, apparently referring to the presidency of Donald Trump, assailed the supposed assimilation of “all the terrible things that we were raised to be against … like racism, xenophobia, superiority and even the shameful … what would you call it … an out of proportion ego that back in the days was looked down upon.”
O’farrel said people “need to go back to the old-fashioned principles of integrity, and selflessness, and kindness, and generosity, and tolerance, and compassion for others.”
Before O’farrel’s speech, five women composed of Jocelyn Geaga, Rose Ibanez, Prosy dela Cruz, Lolit Lledo and Fe Koons took turns in sharing their personal journeys while engaged in the struggle to fight the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. The women narrated the hard life that they personally endured as activists during the said era.
One of the guest speakers Myrla Baldonado disclosed that she had to undergo rehabilitation as a consequence of the mental and physical abuses that she endured while in military detention.
Another speaker, Art Garcia said that while the People Power revolution of 1986 failed to provide systemic change to the Filipino society, the uprising brought back the democratic rights that were lost during Marcos’ 20-year rule.
Garcia credited the administration of President Corazon Aquino for the establishment of the 1987 Constitution, also known as the Freedom Constitution.
The forum was admirably moderated by Carol Ojeda-Kimbrough.
The People and the Power of Resistance was held on Saturday, February 25 at the Pilipino Workers Center at 153 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles.
The event was organized and sponsored by activists who fought martial law (1972-1986) and by LA-based organizations Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), Filipino American Human Rights Alliance-Los Angeles (FAHRA-LA), Kabataang maka-Bayan(KmB) Pro People Youth, AF3IRM, Justice For Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) and the Knights of Rizal-Historic Filipinotown Chapter.
Other participants included Dr. Enrique dela Cruz, young couple Eddy Gana and Stephanie Sajor and Jaime Geaga of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP).