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Home Balitang Migrante “Salo-Salo Kabayan”,  a celebration of community activism!

“Salo-Salo Kabayan”,  a celebration of community activism!

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“Salo-Salo Kabayan”,  a celebration of community activism!
A group of veteran and emerging activists met for a "salo-salo" on June 17 at Thompson Memorial Park in Scarborough to share resistance stories and talk about how it should continue in memory of the martyrs and heroes of the Philippine revolution. (Photo by LQueano)

By Lui Queano

It was a lovely day that was perfect for a picnic. There were no clouds in the sky, and the sun was shining brightly in all its glory. You can hear the kids playing in Scarborough’s Thompson Memorial Park while their mothers watch and their dads take care of the grills.It was unquestionably a Saturday full of fun and joy for everyone. Teenagers are seen playing volleyball and other games that only they, with their boundless energy and youthfulness, are capable of.

At exactly eleven in the morning, community activists gathered behind the children’s playground. There were four tables that were already piled high with some kind of potluck food. Everyone was gathered together and ready to play “sungka,” play guitar while others shared their experiences from the day. Maybe the challenges that still lie ahead for them in the rest of the week.

Yzabella Magbag , ABS CBN Stargmagic Canada sang two songs and her original song “Filipino town” won everyone’s hearts. (Photo by LQ)

Migrant workers based in Scarborough were in charge of planning and organising the event, which took place last June 17 at Thompson Memorial Park in Scarborough. A continuation of the traditional Independence Day celebrations, as well as the commemoration of June as Filipino Heritage Month, as initiated by the late Paulina Corpuz, a prominent community activist and leader. Knowing the attendees, which included Bayan chair Wilma Delo, Anakbayan Scarborough youth, FWWJNet founders Hermie and Mila Garcia, Malaya convenor and Mandamus member Olivia Camacho, MRCC group, PATAC members, Migrante Ontario and original members of CAMDI (Coalition Against Marcos Dictatorship), the day was surely more than just a picnic and conversation.

Delo made an announcement to everyone present that they should all take part in the lunch, and as she explained, a program would be held afterward. This was done while they were waiting for some additional individuals and groups to arrive. There was more than enough food for everyone to share at the community “salo-salo” meal. Everyone had a good time eating the “ginataang langka with prawns,” Pinoy sweets like “puto,” the everyone’s favorite “pancit,” mango salad , “adobo,” and “pinakbet,” as well as the many other delicious dishes that were available.

Yzabella Magbag, a 10-year-old ABS-CBN Starmagic Canada workshop participant and grand finalist of Canada Centre Stage, performed two songs. She also performed her original song “Filipino Town,” which was released in 2019, and won everyone’s hearts, making the day even more exciting than it was already. The community sang along with her, despite their heads bobbing up and down and their bodies swaying in time with her beautiful melody. Yzabella, a singer trained by Josie de Leon Performing Arts, also competed in the PIDC Little Miss Philippines pageant.

The audience’s enthusiasm spiked when Delo revealed the “Tambyulo ng Bayan” segment. Delo explained that the mechanics would involve a random drawing of questions from a “tambyulo” by all participants. Whoever draws a piece of paper with a question written on it from the “tambyulo” will have to explain the answer. Al, who was an international student, was asked, “Why did you decide to get a job and move abroad?” (Ano ang nagtulak sa iyo para mangibang-bayan?) Because, as Al put it, there aren’t any jobs or work available in the Philippines. To put it bluntly, he is not alone in his struggle to make ends meet; the vast majority of Filipinos live in poverty.

To put it bluntly, Al is not alone in his struggle to make ends meet; the vast majority of Filipinos live in poverty.
This was the main motivation for Al to study abroad in Canada, an international student from the Philippines. (Photo by LQ)

One of the other participants made a discovery as a result of hearing Al, and she elaborated on it very clearly. Although the Philippines is a wealthy country with an abundance of natural resources, many Filipinos still struggle to make ends meet. According to Julia, a member of the Anakbayan Scarborough group, the reason so many Filipinos have left the country in search of economic opportunity is because of the country’s semi-colonial and semi-feudal character.  As a result, many Filipinos have fallen victim to exploitation and poverty.

Julia of Anakbayan in Scarborough (left) and Jayjay Carpio of Mangagawa sa Scarborough (right) explain the plight of
Filipinos in Canada forced to migrate as a result of Labour Export Policy due to a lack of economic opportunities in
the Philippines (Photo by LQ).

Leny Simbre, chair of Migrante Ontario, has demanded that the Marcos II government’s Labour Export Policy (LEP) be repealed, claiming that it continues to victimize Filipinos in the form of international students, seafarers, and other migrant workers. Simbre emphasized  that the current regime must create jobs for the Filipino people rather than forcing them to work in countries where their basic rights and welfare are not guaranteed.

Malaya convenor and Mandamus supporter Livvy Camacho collected signatures from many of the attendees on a Mandamus petition she brought with her. This petition is in support of the truth and transparency movement and asks the Supreme court that records of data transmissions from the May 9, 2022, midterm elections be preserved. More than 20 million votes were counted in the first hour of data transmission on the Comelec Transparency Server after polls closed at 7 p.m. on election night, but the Madamus petitioners cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Comelec results. The group claimed that suspicious activity in the transmission log occurred at the aforementioned hour, suggesting that certain data had been pre-loaded.

“Ang tunay na kalayaan ay nakasandig sa katotohanan. It is imperative that our fellow citizens combat the lies and disinformation that have resulted in the victory of the current phoney president of the Philippines,” Camacho stated.

Migrante Ontario member Mirasol Bobadilla (left) and Migrante Ontario chair Leny Simbre. Photo credit: (LQ)
If people have the right to speak their minds without fear of retribution, then “redtagging,” a practice that suppresses
and violates the human rights of community activists, will become commonplace, as Garcia claims it did after he was
targeted for reporting the truth in his newspaper, The Philipine Reporter. (Photo by LQ)

The publisher of The Philippine Reporter, Hermie Garcia, discussed the meaning of independence in greater depth. Garcia pointed out how the United States continues to influence and make decisions for the economic, political, and cultural life of the Filipinos. He based his presentation on a poster that depicts the struggle of the Filipinos for independence, which was a project made by the Filipino Writers and Journalists Network (FCWJNet). Garcia pointed out that all of the presidents since Aguinaldo up until the current regime of Marcos Jr. have continued to be subservient to the interests of the United States of America. The most recent Enhanced Defense Comprehensive Agreement (EDCA) and the newly activated Visiting Forces Agreements (VFA) only prove that these unequal military agreements continue to exploit the country, causing both an economic and political crisis.

It became glaringly obvious during Garcia’s presentation that “Kalayaan” that we celebrate annually is merely a theoretical concept. Those fighting for independence, and the general public, are not given an accurate picture of what independence entails. If people have the right to speak their minds without fear of retribution, then “redtagging,” a practice that suppresses and violates the human rights of community activists, will become commonplace, as Garcia claims it did after he was targeted for reporting the truth in his newspaper.

Jesson Reyes of the Migrants Resource Centre Canada (MRCC) spoke on-the-spot and emphasised the significance of the ongoing peace negotiations, with a focus on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). While laying the foundation for true land reform, the document promoted national industrialization. It is clear how seriously the event is taking its educational and celebratory goals for the community by the fact that they are discussing topics as important as independence and how Filipino Heritage Month should be observed.

As Reyes put it, there will always be armed conflict and civil war in the country until farmers have land to cultivate and workers have work to support their families. Pushing for peace talks would bring not only peace but also prosperity to the Filipinos. That, according to Reyes, was the triumph that the peace talks would bring to Filipinos who valued their independence.

Members of the CAMDI (Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship) showed up, with Bernie Consul reciting “Kung Tuyo na ang Luha mo aking Bayan” by Andres Bonifacio as Livvy Camacho, Malaya convenor and active supporter of Mandamus’ Truth and Transparency campaign, hummed “Bayan ko” in the background with the help of the audience. (Photo by LQ)

Those who participated in the 1980s coordinated effort to remove dictator Marcos and spoke about their experiences in the program’s final segment. Members of the CAMDI (Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship) turned out in force; Bernie Consul even recited a poem by Andres Bonifacio’s  “Kung Tuyo na ang Luha mo aking Bayan.” Consul’s recitation of the poem was made all the more poignant by Malaya convenor and active supporter of Mandamus’ Truth and Transparency campaign Livvy Camacho, who, with the help of the audience, hummed the iconic song “Bayan ko” in the background. For a country, a democracy, and a freedom that have all taken blows since the dictator’s son was elected into office amid massive electoral fraud and disinformation, this provided further justification for the community’s need to come together and participate.

Philippine Advancement Through Arts and Culture (PATAC) once again reminded the community how important it is to continue inculcating to our Filipino youth to be more visible promoting our culture and heritage as a people who have resisted conquerors since the time of spanish colonization in the Philippines. According to what the current President of PATAC, Ben Corpuz, said in his speech, the only way for us to be truly free is to continue the fight and struggle for the genuine freedom that was started by our ancestors under the leadership of Andres Bonifacio and other heroes of the people. As Corpuz mentioned, some concrete examples include working to increase the number of Filipino leaders in our community and incorporating the study of Filipino into the curriculum of schools in Canada and to continue organizing the broadest number in our community.

PATAC President Ben Corpuz’s son, Benson, danced the tinikling with nearly perfect moves while the crowd watched in awe and admiration. (Photo by LQ)

The day may be over, but I still remember the young, energetic people who were trying to learn “tinikling” and compete in “bugtong” contests as if they were ready to fight back and reclaim the “kalayaan” for which our Filipino ancestors fought and died. Our “kalayaan,” in whatever form it may take, owes everything to the sacrifices of our forebears, who inspire us to keep up the fight for true independence for our country and our people. And all of this rests on the shoulders of the younger generation of Filipinos, to whom the future of the country belongs.

On a particularly beautiful and moving Saturday, a mix of veteran and up-and-coming activists gathered in Thompson Park for a “salo-salo” to share stories of resistance and discuss how it should continue in honor of the  heroes and martyrs of the Philippine revolution.