After a long day at UC Santa Cruz’s Practical Activism Conference, 34 ralliers organized in support of Anakbayan and marched to the quad steps at College Ten, chanting a uniformed call-and-response.
Anakbayan is a national youth and student political organization that supports democratic and human rights campaigns concerning the Philippines. It has a local chapter in Santa Cruz.
“Imperialismo!” cried Jared Semana, an officer of the organization’s local chapter.
“Ibagsak!” the group called back, completing the phrase meaning “Down with Imperialism!”
In honor of Pilipinx-American History Month, which the U.S. has officially celebrated every October since 1992, Anakbayan rallied to celebrate Pilipinx history, its diaspora and earlier Pilipinx activists like Larry Itliong. Itliong, whose birth month inspired the timing of the state and national commemoration, helped organize the 1965-70 Delano grape strikes.
The strikes placed Pilipinx and Latinx farmworkers in a contract negotiation struggle with grape growers. They helped improve pay and working conditions, leading to the foundation of the United Farm Workers union.
Anakbayan invited the Worker-Student Solidarity Coalition (WSSC), Sunrise Movement and other activist organizations to discuss international topics in the Philippines, like Phillipine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, in a local context during the rally.
“We are here today in solidarity with Anakbayan Santa Cruz and AFSCME [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] 3299,” said WSSC member Citlalli Aparicio, a rally speaker invited by Anakbayan.
Aparicio discussed their work with AFSCME 3299 and the union’s contract struggles with the University of California, connecting it with Anakbayan’s organizing efforts. Since 1948, AFSCME 3299 has negotiated worker contracts with the UC, representing, for example, the UC’s hospital assistants and service workers.
“Our fight here with AFSCME 3299 is not different from Anakbayan organizing to bring an end to Duterte’s regime in the Philippines. […] ‘No one is free until we are all free,’” Aparicio said.
Kelsey Gage and Grant Black, members of the Sunrise Movement, emphasized the world’s climate crisis and the need for political action.
“This is not a separate fight,” Gage said. “We are all fighting the same fight.”
Black also mentioned the need to recognize the intersectionality of identities like race and gender when organizing around the climate crisis and workers’ rights.
Hours before the rally, Anakbayan members tabled at Colleges Nine, Ten and Oakes’ Practical Activism Conference, a daylong event that invited the community to learn about social and political issues like medical racism and indigenous land rights in Hawai’i.
One of the conference workshops, Anakbayan’s seminar “In the Belly of the Beast” focused on imperialism and its international and local effects. Members like Mia Aniceto, Katherine Pua and Jared Semana taught 35 attendees about the history of U.S. imperialism and the U.S. colonization of the Philippines.
“As students in the U.S. in this privileged position in a university setting, we have a role in resisting and contributing to U.S. imperialism,” Pua said.
Anakbayan also introduced its national organization’s Rise4Rights campaign, which seeks to prevent human rights violations by divesting U.S. aid from Duterte’s administration.
Connecting the Philippines to Santa Cruz inspired Anakbayan members Aniceto and Celyjane Biag to form a local chapter of the Philippines’ national political organization, the Gabriela Women’s Party, which organizes around women’s rights.
“There’s a quote, ‘Women hold up half the sky,’” Aniceto said. “It is this idea that women cross through every sector of society. […] Gabriela is about fighting for human rights for women in the Philippines.”
After travelling to the Philippines with Anakbayan and seeing the pervasiveness of Gabriela at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Aniceto and Biag wanted to organize around women’s issues and bring their experience to Santa Cruz.
Aniceto and Biag lauded the contributions of Gabriela Silang, a Pilipinx revolutionary leader who fought for independence from Spain and acts as the namesake of the Gabriela Women’s Party.
“Women aren’t just mothers or wives,” Aniceto said. “They are people that are revolutionaries [who] play a critical role in the struggle of national democracy.”
In emphasizing the connection between these international movements and the Santa Cruz community, Anakbayan officer Jared Semana remarked on the significance of history in connecting social issues across groups.
He harked back to farmworkers’ historical struggles with wage and working conditions, emphasizing Pilipinx people’s roles in supporting California’s agriculture workers and connecting it to California’s migrant workers of this decade.
“We have a paramount responsibility to remember what caused our ancestors to come here in the first place, as farm workers are continuing now, especially during Filipino-American History Month,” Semana said.