Last weekend, Filipino American community groups led workshops on migrant stories, social justice art, and labor history. Each facilitator also connected each teaching to what they believe is the continuing U.S. military occupation of the Philippines.
On Saturday, April 21, over 300 students from 14 different Filipino youth and student organizations throughout Washington and Oregon gathered for the 17th Annual Northwest Filipino American Student Alliance (NWFASA) Conference.
The Filipino American arts organization Alay ng Kultura facilitated a workshop focused on culture, identity, and politically responsible art. A teach-in on the roots of Filipino migration was conducted by the members of women’s group Pinay sa Seattle. Members from Philippine U.S. Solidarity Organization and BAYAN-USA Pacific Northwest did an introduction to the historical legacy of author, poet and organizer Carlos Bulosan. They also discussed the identity of Filipinos rooted in an unfinished struggle for freedom in the Pacific archipelago. Finally, Anakbayan Seattle facilitated a workshop on the contributions of youth and students to the ongoing struggle for political and economic liberation, worldwide and in the Philippines.
All organizations integrated BAYAN-USA’s rally call, “US Troops Out of the Philippines” into their workshops, exposing U.S. military exercises as a violation of Philippine sovereignty. Furthermore, facilitators talked about what they see as the US and Philippines colluding to manipulate public opinion against China in the territory dispute in the South China Sea. The activists state that the presence of the U.S. military in the Philippines is economically motivated, to secure the markets of the Asia-Pacific, and ensuring Philippine natural resources were available for extraction.
More than 200 of conference attendees were exposed to the “US Troops Out Now” campaign, many unaware of the vast wealth of the Philippine islands. BAYAN facilitators discussed the recently released report citing the value of Philippine gold, enough to lift the country out of poverty, “This helps me understand why the U.S. was there in 1899 and in 2012…and there is a bill to double the interest of Stafford loans” students commented, “Americans owe more in student loans than they do credit cards, now…our tax dollars should be used to invest in education, not towards the protection of corporate wealth.”
BAYAN-USA Pacific Northwest organizations along with the Philippine U.S. Solidarity Organization are leading further teach-ins and mobilizing over thirty community members to attend events and protests against the May NATO meetings in Chicago.###