Struggle for Peace: the highest common denominator

April 25, 2011

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

What do Easter, Cordillera Day and the anniversary of National Democratic Front of the Philippines have in common?  Well they fell on the same day this year, and for Montreal Filipino community organizers and their friends it was enough for celebrations.  So on April 242011, indigenous people originally from the Philippine Cordillera region, the Philippine Independent Church in Montreal (PIC), Filipino migrant workers and community activists gathered for an event under the theme of “Prospects for Peace in the Philippines”.  The day’s celebration was organized jointly by Bayan Canada, Migrante Quebec and the Centre for Philippine Cocnerns.

The Cordillera Organizing Committee, a member of the Migrante alliance also added the theme, “Live out our glorious history of struggle; fight for land, life & honour” to highlight their continuing struggle to defend their ancestral domain.  Significant since the day marks the 27thanniversary of Cordillera Day in the Philippines.  It is a day to remember the martyrs of the struggle to stop development aggression against the indigenous people of the Cordillera during the Marcos Dictatorship.

While others also came for spiritual reflection and celebration of Easter, Fr. Atemio Calaycay of the PIC reminded people in his sermon that “peace” is holistic. As he put it, “the absence of war does not necessarily equate peace.”  Fr. Art wanted to remind people that poverty hunger and social injustices still exist to prevent genuine peace and democracy from taking root in the Philippines.

This was the theme also taken up by guest speakers via video message and Skype.  While Dr. Chandu Claver of Bayan Canada drove home the theme for the Cordillera Day celebrations, he also spoke about the ongoing political killings and the need of all Filipinos, including those abroad, to learn from the struggles of the Cordillera People.  “We must unite with each other and engage in determined struggle,” says Dr. Chandu, “together we can dare to win.”

Meanwhile, Coni  Ledesma and Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) spoke via Skype.  The presentation reminded people that there is a growing revolutionary movement in the Philippines challenging the corrupt and repressive system dominating Philippine society today.  Like in many parts of the world currently, more and more people are turning to revolution to change their society for the better.  Also important was the determination of the NDFP to fight for genuine peace even across the negotiation table from the Philippine government despite the ploys of the latter to subdue the resistance without any commitment or action to real changes in society.  Both the NDFP speakers explained that peace must be based on real justice, like the end to human rights violations, securing people’s health, ending foreign intervention in the country, genuine land reform and developing and nationalizing industry to provide meaningful livelihood to the people.

Odaya, a Native American drumming and singing group who opened the celebrations introduced one of their songs as a song of renewal or rebirth.  Perhaps here lies the more appropriate answer to the question above.

Joey Calugay

BAYAN Canada

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