By Mark Lester Rachez
Launched on March 12, Anakbayan Hawai’i is a newly registered independent organization at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa (UHM) heralding a new era of Filipino youth and student activism in the islands.
A part of a wider, international movement called Anakbayan, it aims to bridge Filipino democratic struggles in the Philippines with the local struggles in Hawai’i. It seeks to unite youths from different sectors, particularly within marginalized and indigenous communities, to advance the cause of national democracy in the mother-country as well as in the US.
“It’s difficult not to do something when there’s so much going on in the Philippines right now,” said Victor Limon, its current elected chairperson, who was also one of its organizers.
A UHM graduate student in Urban and Regional Planning, Limon graduated with a BA in Geography from the University of the Philippines–Diliman, where he was heavily exposed to student activism and Anakbayan. He said this experience and Philippines’ rapid deterioration into chaos had inspired him to organize a Hawaii chapter.
“It’s getting worse,” he said. “Tens of thousands murdered in the drug war, chronic poverty and joblessness, landlessness in the rural provinces, corruption in government, environmental disasters caused by big mining, logging, and agro-industrial companies.”
Established in 1998, Anakbayan has played major roles in youth and student activism in the Philippines—in the second EDSA revolution, for instance.
“Anakbayan is the most comprehensive youth organization [in the Philippines], with thousands of members, including workers, farmers and indigenous youth,” Limon said. “I think the reason for Anakbayan’s success is its core progressive agenda for national democracy, which resonates with a lot of Filipinos around the world and especially with us here in Hawaiʻi.”
With the same potency and alacrity, Limon envisions extending the organization’s mission into the islands, especially to tackle challenges and issues that concern Hawaii’s indigenous, Pacific populations. “Hawai’i is such a uniquely amazing place due to its history and position in global progressive politics,” Limon said.
Asked what “national democracy” entails, Limon explained it “means an economy that works for all, and not just for oligarchs, landlords, and career politicians that comprise the political elite.” This, Limon believes, represents the state’s contemporary socio-political climate very well, whose Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) crisis—a multibillion-dollar project that will desecrate Native Hawaiians’ sacred spaces—is still a strong contention among the islands. And for the Philippines, it means “free from the greed of giant global corporations and the war agenda of foreign powers like China, Russia, and the United States.”
Although still in its incipient stage, Anakbayan Hawai’i has already taken productive steps in realizing its vision. Just last year, members participated in several solidarity events in and out of the state: they joined UHM’s campaign on International Human Rights Day in Fall 2019; rallied with Kanaka Maoli on Mauna Kea in their fight against the TMT in October; and met with other Anakbayan chapters in the US for a congressional summit, held in Los Angeles, California, in late November to early December.
To broaden its scope and strengthen the movement, Anakbayan Hawai‘i welcomes “everyone who shares our commitment to advocating for social justice and democracy in the Philippines,” Limon said, “including those who are not Filipino but who share a deep solidarity with our cause.”
Anakbayan Hawai’i is open to all Filipino youth, ages 13 to 35. To learn more about Anakbayan Hawai’i, follow them on Instagram (@anakbayanhawaii), Facebook (@anakbayanhawaii), and Twitter (@anakbayanhawaii). To join or for any inquiry, email firstname.lastname@example.org.