Last February 2, 2018, the UP Center for Integrative Studies (UP CIDS) Program on Alternative Development (UPAD) and the Program on Social and Political Change (PSPC), the UP Third World Studies Center, the UP Department of Political Science, and the Laban ng Masa held the Philippine book launch of A Time to Rise: Collective Memoirs of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP).
A Time to Rise, which is more than a two-decade undertaking according to Editor Cindy Domingo, not only narrates the stories of activism against the dictatorship in the Philippines – it also brings into light the role of KDP in fighting racism, fascism and imperialism in the US. The book chronicles the forty-three accounts of the Union of Democratic Filipinos during the politically turbulent 1970s and ‘80s, the full and multifaceted picture of KDP recruitment, organizing, and training, and women’s central role in the organization and its leadership.
Dr. Maria Victoria R. Raquiza from the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, Social Watch – Philippines, and Laban ng Masa, served as the moderator of the Philippine book launch. She invited Dr. Eduardo C. Tadem, the Co-Convenor of UPAD, current President of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, and former Professor of the UP Asian Center to give the welcome remarks.
Armin Alforque’s commentary on Philippine political exiles
The book launch began with Mr. Armin Alforque’s commentary on Filipino political exiles, which he defined as “anyone who, because of political conditions in the Philippines, had to leave the Philippines or had left previous to those conditions and could no longer go back.” Albeit miles away from the Philippines, the Philippine international community in the US maintained their ties with the government and were affected by the declaration of Martial Law. The impact however varied across communities because of the broad spectrum of political involvement where the formation of KDP was the consolidation of the left wing movement.
Mr. Alforque also showed pictures of the KDP activities from a press release of their Anti-Marcos Coalition where several Filipino exiles were signatory to and a photo of Filipino exiles welcoming visiting human rights lawyers from the Philippines.
He also highlighted the important role that Filipino exiles play even when overseas. Because of the natural support from the US – Filipino community, the Filipino political exile and their contributions became much stronger, vibrant, and meaningful. “Something that perhaps those that would read this book and the lessons it has might want to research and study in terms of relevance.”
Mr. Alforque stressed that “a Filipino exile should play a key role in the discussion taking place here in the Philippines event though they’re abroad.” Their participation in the movement is conditioned by the community they are in and without the support of the community, that person – that exile – wouldn’t be as effective.
Cindy Domingo on the KDP’s Book Project
Cindy Domingo, one of the editors of the book, shared the importance of writing about the Philippine-American experience because there are “rows and rows of books about the Vietnamese-American and Chinese-American books but very little of Philippine-American books and international solidarity.” She hoped that this book will add to the understanding and fight the stereotype of Filipinos as passive people. “We have a history of organizing against racism, fascism, and imperialism. We are organizers and we fight against the isms that oppress us.”
The KDP Book Project also envisions to serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Filipino-Americans and Asian-Americans to continue the fight against discrimination and fascism and strengthen the solidarity of Filipinos around the world. The book also speaks of the particular experience of Filipino-Americans and how they negotiate these identities.
According to Ms. Domingo, A Time to Rise is not a comprehensive history of the KDP. Instead, it is a collection of personal accounts of the people involved in the movement. In writing these personal stories, the book turned into a corpus of moving pieces about the sacrifices people made, their highs and lows, and their hopes and disappointments in the movement. These reflections covered a moment, a day, and even years in the movement.
Aside from the personal stories the book also included the struggles that the organization itself faced: conflicts with the Philippine Left during the post-Aquino assassination, surveillance and harassment from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Philippine Government under the “Philippine Infiltration Plan.”
Ms. Domingo described the organization as “unusual” where in they advocated for socialism in the context of the US: the right to housing and the right to be educated about the history of Philippine – American communities, the struggle for representation, US imperialism in the Philippines – and the freedom from discrimination. The organization also had dual nature in its composition of Filipino exiles, Filipino – Americans, old people, young people, Japanese – Americans which they brought together under its program. One program of KDP was its theoretical school that met every year “where they laid the basis to continue to analyze the changing political situations of the Philippines and the US.”
After Ms. Domingo, two excerpts from the book were read. “Defending Nurses — I’d Do it Again” by Esther Hipol Simpson, a leading member of KDP chapter in Chicago and a registered nurse, who lobbied against the deportation of H-1 Visa nurses during the late 1970s, a time where nurses were facing deportation for having failed their board licensure examinations. The second excerpt was from Edwin Batongbacal’s “No Regrets” which began with the question “Why was I ever drawn into the movement?”
Ricardo Jose: Commentary on A Time to Rise: Collective Memoirs of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP)
To end the program, Dr. Ricardo Jose of the UP Third World Studies Center and the UP Department of History gave a brief commentary on the book. He described the book as “intensely personal, riveting, and revealing” as it gives us a glimpse of the lives led by people who were united by a common concern for country and for the community. “
Dr. Jose hopes for the release of a Philippine edition of the book and, perhaps, a Filipino edition as well. This book provides a different perspective on the anti-Marcos struggle that needed to be written about and deserves to be read especially by Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world.