A Love Letter from a Young Pinay Activist

A Love Letter from a Young Pinay Activist

The Clash of Activism and Filipino Family Harmony

Talking about activism in a Filipino household can feel like walking on a tightrope. You never know what kind of reaction you will get, but a negative one is often expected. The typical Filipino family places a high value on deep respect for elders and maintaining family harmony. However, this "harmony" can be disrupted when a family member chooses the path of activism, creating tension within the family.

One of the main reasons for these disputes is the inherent risk associated with activism. Parents, naturally concerned for their children's safety, experience anxiety knowing their child participates in potentially volatile protests or faces the threat of inhumane detention.

According to Global Witness, the Philippines is the most dangerous country in Asia for environmental defenders. Activists in the country are constantly subjected to various forms of rights abuses and harassment, such as red-tagging, threats to their lives, unjust detention, and even death. They are often labeled as "terrorists" or enemies of the state, which can lead to arrests without warrant and denial of appeal. Activism is not terrorism; it is unjust to silence activists and label them as "terrorists" for calling out government wrongdoings and defending human rights. Given the Philippines' history of repressing human rights defenders without accountability, any parent would naturally be extremely worried and restless.

Furthermore, the Filipino concept of "utang na loob" (debt of gratitude) creates a sense of obligation to repay the family for their sacrifices. Parents often have high expectations for their children, seeing them as the ticket out of poverty. Activism, which may require long hours and time away from family, can be perceived as an act of rebellion or betrayal.

Another reason for the clash between activism and the Filipino family is the difference in beliefs among family members. Political differences can create significant tension, especially when one member becomes an activist or vocal about societal issues. However, Filipino youth have consistently been at the forefront of movements. From the demonstrations led by student leaders against the oppressive Marcos regime from January to March of 1970 to the 1986 People Power Revolution, where young people protested against the fraudulent election and dictatorship of the Marcos regime, the youth have played a crucial role in shaping society.

Phrases like "Bata ka pa, wala ka pang alam" (you're just a kid, you don't know anything) or "Ano ba ang ambag mo?" (what's your contribution) are common utterances from the older generation to the youth when discussing politics. This underestimation silences the voices and calls of the youth, who are often seen as too inexperienced to discuss important issues. This is particularly evident within the family, where children are expected to respect and honor their elders at all times, even when facing disrespect. Protests led by the youth are seen as acts of rebellion or betrayal, perpetuating the stigma against activism.

The process of helping parents understand the aspirations and reasons behind activism is long and challenging. Not all parents will easily accept the idea. Many activists who are parents themselves educate their children about activism from a young age. Patience and clear communication are crucial. It is important to remember that, despite having different views and political beliefs, parents are also victims of the oppressive system and are more susceptible to manipulation, especially via the internet and media. Educating them is not an overnight process but a lifelong journey. Calmly explaining the reasons for becoming an activist and sharing personal experiences or stories of those affected can help enlighten them about the movement.

Constant assurances and support from both sides can strengthen family dynamics. Activists can reassure their parents about their safety and express appreciation for their concern. Meanwhile, families can offer support by encouraging the activist and acknowledging the cause they are fighting for. It is important to remember that activists aspire for genuine change and the betterment of society.

As we all dream of a reality where all Filipino families are accepting of activism, we can find affirmation and support within our communities in the meantime. Here’s a letter, addressed to you:

A Love Letter from a Young Pinay Activist

I hope this letter finds its way to you, maybe tucked in between your books or clutched tight like a pamphlet in a rally. Maybe you’re reading this on your phone, with your face being illuminated by the light of your screen. Whoever and wherever you are, I see you. I see the fire in your eyes, the fight that burns in your hearts. Whatever your fight looks like, I see you. I see the courage it takes to stand and speak up, especially when the ground beneath seems shaky. I appreciate the countless and tireless efforts you put into your work.

The struggle isn’t easy. Sometimes doubt creeps in and whispers, “Is it really worth it?”, “Are you really doing anything?”. Sometimes it even comes from your own family, the ones who are supposed to know and love you the most, who don’t understand. They worry, they fear–just like any family will do and sometimes, that kalinga translates into disapproval. What gets me through that is I remember you. I remember that a lot of you struggled with the same problems. But you fought on, and that fight continues to this day.

 What you might not realize is the impact that you have, especially on younger activists who are just starting out like me. Because of you, mga ate, kuya, at kapatid, I don’t have to start from scratch. Because of you, I wouldn’t have to struggle being alone and confused because you built the community. You built the foundation, laid the base for knowledge and ignited the fire of courage that allows us to take the fight further. 

 To those who fight for a cause their families don’t understand, I share your struggles. The weight of their worry, the sting of their disapprobation—it feels heavy. But here’s the truth, Kasama: your passion isn’t a betrayal. It is an extension of the love you have for your family, your community, and your nation. You fight for the future, and the present, where your lives, their lives, and the lives of the generations to come are better.

You are not alone. We may come from different journeys, but our desire is the same. We are the children of heroes, a lineage of Filipinos who dared to dream of a freer Philippines, of our humanity's collective liberation. 

So hold your head high, kababayan. You are the change that you’ve been waiting for. Let your voice roar, and let your actions speak volumes. May you keep dreaming, keep fighting, and keep loving revolutionarily! 

With love, solidarity, and hope,

Your kapwang Pinay activist.

1 comment

  • Anne

    Thank you for this beautiful message 🫶🏽 our fight for liberation isn’t an easy journey but is completely necessary for the future of our kapwa. Laban tayo ✊🏽

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