This article was formerly presented by Prof. Judy Taguiwalo to the Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance Conference at Vancouver, Canada in November 24-25, 2005.

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This year, 2015, marks the 45th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. I am sharing this presentation made in 2005 on the impact of the FQS on female students turned activists and on the Philippine women’s movement.

INTRODUCTION

….We live our lives, we tell our stories. The dead continue to live by way of the resurrection we give them in telling their stories. The past becomes part of our present and thereby part of our future. We act individually and collectively in a process over time which builds the human enterprise and tries to give it meaning. Being human means thinking and feeling; it means reflecting on the past and visioning into the future. We experience; we give voice to that experience; others reflect on it and give it new form. That new form in turn, influences and shapes the way next generations experience their lives.

The past becomes part of our present and thereby part of our future.

That is why history matters

Gerda Lerner, “Why History Matters” in Why History Matters, Life and Thought. Oxford University Press: New York, Oxford, 1997: 211

History matters. My generation gained inspiration from the study and rereading of Philippine history and the struggle and sacrifices of the heroes and heroines of the 1896 Philippine Revolution and the Philippine American war not as an academic undertaking but as part of the efforts of continuing the unfinished tasks of asserting national sovereignty and genuine democracy.

Women’s studies for its part has a unique niche in academe. Based on the premise of the reality of women’s oppression and the need to advance women’s position in society, women-centered research and teaching have the dual aims of scholarship and advocacy.

The year 2005 commemorates 100 years of feminism in the Philippines and the 30th year of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. In 1905, “a group of prominent ladies of the times organized the Asociacion Feminista Filipina.” The character of the Asociacion Feminista Filipina, whose founding in June 2005 is considered the founding year of feminism in the Philippines, was predominantly welfare-oriented. The call for women’s right to suffrage would be raised a year later, when Pura Villanueva Kalaw, the grandmother of Consuelo Ledesma-Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front, founded in 1906 the Asociacion Feminista Ilonga. It took over 30 years of vigorous organizing and campaigns by educated and elite women before the Filipino women would receive the right to vote in 1937.

The establishment of MAKIBAKA is considered a major landmark in the history of the women’s movement in the country…

The First Quarter Storm of 1970 (FQS 1970) marks the series of widespread protests in Metro Manila against the then administration of Ferdinand Marcos and signified the resurgence of nationalist struggle in the country which has been dormant since the 50s. The ferment of the FQS would lead to a frenzy of organizing among the students, community youth, workers and farmers. The Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA), established in April 1970, brought together women activists who espoused women’s liberation in the context of national liberation. The establishment of MAKIBAKA is considered a major landmark in the history of the women’s movement in the country as it articulated the oppression suffered by Filipino women and the need for women’s liberation through participation in the nationalist struggle.

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This paper will focus on MAKIBAKA. As a professor of women’s studies in the University of the Philippines, as a student participant in the FQS of 1970 and as a founding member of MAKIBAKA, I would like to contribute to current efforts to end the invisibility of women in history and more importantly to reiterate that the path that MAKIBAKA pioneered remains the path to women’s emancipation in the Philippines.

I will be using two basic historical methods in the writing of this paper: review of written primary sources and my personal testimonial as a participant of the FQS of 1970

 

Background of the FQS

The 1960s saw the formation of a radical youth organization, the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) which called for the radical restructuring of society. Its analysis of US imperialist, big comprador and big landlord collusion as the source of the backwardness of the country led to its adoption of a program for national democracy. The main contents of the program were the assertion of national sovereignty by ending US domination of the country and the attainment of genuine democracy through land distribution to the peasantry and ensuring political freedom for the broad masses of the people.

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Founded in 1964, KM went on to build a student reform movement in the universities on the basis of demands for lower tuition, improvement of student facilities and democratization of university governance. At the same time, it developed links with peasant and trade union leaders and organizations with progressive tendencies. It also initiated protest actions against Philippine involvement in the Vietnam work and established student-worker and student-peasant alliances through support for working class struggles for higher wages and lower land rent.

By January 1970, the organizational groundwork of KM and Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK, an offshoot of a 1966 split within KM but which reestablished working relations with the latter by 1969) and the intensification of the economic hardship of the people due to runaway inflation caused by the overspending of the Marcos government in its 1969 reelection campaign, were conditions that gave birth to what is now called the First Quarter Storm of 1970.

The widespread use of truncheons and teargas against young university students to break up the January 26, 1970 demonstration in front of Congress led to an indignation march on January 30 to the presidential palace which ended in the deaths of four students.

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Rallies after rallies were held not only to denounce “police brutality” but to link it to fascism, US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

The succeeding two months were marked by intense political mobilization and education. Rallies after rallies were held not only to denounce “police brutality” but to link it to fascism, US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. These demonstrations attended by tens of thousands of the youth from the various universities in Metro Manila and from the communities and factories became the fora for explaining the national democratic program as an alternative and for raising the option of revolutionary armed struggle to counter state violence.

The First Quarter Storm of 1970 generated the widespread propagation of the basic problems of the Filipino people and the alternatives and methods espoused by the national democratic movement. It also produced thousands of youth activists who organized in the provinces and who integrated with the workers and peasants to lay the basis for the realization of a national and mass-based national democratic movement in the Philippines. And it led to the formation of a contemporary women’s movement that forwarded the analysis that women’s liberation is inextricably linked with national and class liberation.

The national democratic youth organizations prior to the First Quarter Storm already recognized the need for drawing in the participation of women in the movement.

 

The formation of MAKIBAKA

The national democratic youth organizations prior to the First Quarter Storm already recognized the need for drawing in the participation of women in the movement. A women’s bureau was part of the organizational structure of the Kabataang Makabayan upon its formation in 1964. The need for a particular machinery for women is based on the movement’s recognition of the particularity of women’s oppression and on the political premise of the crucial need to draw the support of women for the movement as they comprise “half of the sky”. Young female students and professionals joined Kabataang Makabayan and other youth organizations on the basis of the political program for national sovereignty and genuine democracy. The potential of women’s emancipation through participation in the revolutionary struggle was borne out by information on strides women have made in countries where revolutions were victorious. However, even with the rise in the number of women members and the existence of a women’s bureau within the youth organizations, theoretical and concrete practical work related to women’s issues was limited. For example, the celebration of March 8 as International Women’s Day would not be commemorated until 1971.

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The reemergence of a women’s movement in the post-world war II period was marked by the formation in April 1970 of an all-women’s group, the Malayang Kilusang ng Bagong Kababaihan (Free Movement of New Women) with the inspired acronym of MAKIBAKA which is the Filipino term for struggle.

Women activists from the various national democratic youth organizations banded together to launch the first militant all-women activity, a picket of a major beauty contest.

 

MAKIBAKA’s formation was an offshoot of the broader political movement and was influenced by the activities of the women’s liberation in the west that have been reported in the mainstream media. Women activists from the various national democratic youth organizations banded together to launch the first militant all-women activity, a picket of a major beauty contest which echoed a women’s action in London in that year. This initial activity was significant not merely because of its all-women character but also because it raised for the first time a woman-specific issue; the commodification of women through beauty contests, a concern never before addressed by the national movement. As a result of this activity, several women activists decided to transform MAKIBAKA from its initial character as a loose coalition to a distinct all-women youth organization.

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Photo credits:

Most photos used were lifted from the “Serve the People” Exhibit of UP Aperture, a photojournalism organization at the University of Philippines Diliman. 

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