There is this study presented recently by Brenette Abrenica of the University of San Carlos political science department that concluded that student activism in Cebu is on a decline. That should be good news to defenders of the status quo and people wary of the causes espoused by activists but bad news to progressives, even revolutionaries.
My awakening, sort of, started in the campus. But that was in a different time, during the waning years of the Marcos dictatorship. The struggle for freedom was heightening, expanding and even the most clueless about the goings-on in society posed questions, analyzed. This dynamic was even more apparent in the academe in Cebu.
But even in the early ‘80s, student activists were but a minute percentage of the campus population. They became visible and were able to play leading roles in school affairs only because they were one with the sentiment and thinking of majority of the students at that time. That, plus their daring placed them at the forefront of the struggle.
In our school at that time, rundown facilities contrasted heavily with high tuition fees, but nobody led the fight for reforms because of the repressive nature of the school administrators. The situation prevailed until a group of activists numbering less than 50 students loosened the setup by openly articulating the demands of the majority.
That came to a head, if I remember it right, in 1983 when militant student groups campaigned for a boycott pushing for reforms in the campus. School officials, in an attempt to stifle dissent, had “goons” attempt to arrest the activists, a scene that pushed most of the students to rush out of their classrooms in sympathy. The boycott was on.
What happened after that was historic as far as Cebu’s student movement is concerned. A brother of a boycott leader was killed near the gate of the school. The struggle intensified and expanded and for the first time a rally participated in by students from different campuses gathered thousands. That was student activism at its best.
But there will always be ebbs and flows in student activism. Activists graduate, thus the need to continuously replenish the ranks, which is a formidable task. Still, for as long as exploitation and oppression exists, some student will be there to pick up the struggle. In that sense, student activism, to borrow a line from Neil Young, will never die.
–Candido O. Wenceslao (I wrote this for Sun.Star Cebu and this was published on February 2, 2007)