Why community is the key to dealing with the Philippines’ current political situation

This work was originally written for Young Star PH and published on their now-defunct website, youngstar.ph, on May 25, 2019. Apart from minor grammar edits, the essay is unchanged and thus may communicate ideas in a way that I would choose to word or approach differently today. -Adrienne Onday

It’s easy to feel sad, defeated and alone in the wake of this dumpster fire we call the 2019 Midterm Election. In our output-oriented world that values production so much we feel guilty in moments of rest, we can get swept up in things that we instead choose to think and act immediately on our emotions instead of feeling them. But my therapist, who’s helping me with depression and anxiety, reprimanded me for that exact thing. She said, “Feelings aren’t meant to be intellectualized. They’re meant to be felt.” 

And they are. Emotions first must be felt, processed and understood before we can do something about them. 

From what I’ve seen, what most of us feel post-elections is a mix of helplessness and isolation. We may be looking for ways to address that, trying to see where we can find answers to both our personal and political struggles, but I’d like to point out that we’ll only be able to find answers in community.

Community, now more than ever, is exactly what each one of us needs. For one, despite claims that social media has allowed us to be more connected, it seems to have fostered more division and hatred. The prevalence of fake news, callout culture, and cancelling people has drastically lowered the quality of our interactions despite its ever-increasing quantity, trapping us in the logic of echo chambers rather than constructive, necessary diversity. 

Nowadays, we talk just to win, rather than to build things together. And that forces us into a sense of helplessness, too; the lack of genuine togetherness, of bridging differences and seeing a new world rise beneath our feet, of accepting and working with the complexities we each bring, inevitably makes us feel as if we can’t do anything about the issues we face under this bloody regime. 

Building and rebuilding your community today isn’t just a personal need at this point. It’s a political imperative. If we focus on building a sense of community through kind, nuanced interactions, we can build the bonds that link us together—not only strengthening us and our movements, but anchoring us to a place of rest and recuperation as well. 

If community is the answer, then, how do we start building them?

Find friends—old or new

You don’t need professional political workers or organizers to start organizing your community. We can go back to the basics: our friends, or people we already know or want to know and feel we can trust. 

You might need to send out a bat signal (“Hey! I’m super agit, anyone I can rant to about politics?”) or set a hang-out. Maybe it’s time to finally fulfill the century-old prophecy of “lunch soon!” Maybe an eyeball with long-time internet friends is necessary. Maybe a house inuman is in order. What matters is to hit friends up or make new ones. It’s always the right time to either strengthen bridges or build new ones. 

Take things offline

We can’t keep doing things online. Aside from creating our own echo chambers—which is unfortunately unrealistic and unrepresentative of society—no real change can ever come from just posting Facebook essays and engaging threads.

The most important thing to do now is to step out and talk face-to-face. Just talk in real life. We’ve been so used to our convenient spaces online that now, especially in our lowest lows, multiple chats opened don’t really make that much of a difference. The warmth and feeling of belonging that comes with physically being together, unfortunately, can never be replicated by cyberspace. However comforting and comfortable our chatboxes are for genuine, honest venting, the fact that you can see how someone responds, feel their presence, and hear the emotions in their voice in real time will almost always be better for emotional connection than some words on a screen precisely because of the spontaneity and genuineness that cannot be communicated online.

Ask yourself not just what you can do, but what you want to do 

When you’re done venting and the frustration and the nervous energy haven’t gone away, you know it’s real. Now it’s time to ask, what exactly do you want to do?

And it’s not just asking what to do. Being realistic about your own resources and limitations is important, too. We want a better society, but we can’t have it when people don’t know how to maximize their resources and skills, or when people are burnt out or not yet in the right space to act. 

Political action doesn’t just mean street mobilizations or massive rallies. If there’s something people get wrong with movements, it’s that. You can always start with small, accessible, and inclusive actions. You can do anything, from talking to more diverse people about politics, to sticker-bombing and zine-making, to street performances, to pestering lawmakers on- and offline.

What we need to keep in mind is that there is no limit to what we can do. Big political movements and actions exist, but so do those of a smaller scale. What you want doesn’t have to be big and groundbreaking immediately; new ideas of any size and focus are good, too. 

Do something, anything. Just please don’t let that energy go to waste by ranting and then moving on as if it was all you could have done. Because you can do more. You can always do more. And now, you should be able to do better because you have people who will be there with you. 

Find allies 

When you have an idea of what you can and want to do in the current space of movements (because there’s always space, even within movements, to be otherwise, and our activism has to start being more creative and different), you can immediately start doing it. But my advice is to find more people who might be good at it, or who might want to do it, too.

When we started our women’s and gender issues community Usapang Lalaki, our first step into the outside world was to message friends about meeting and to ask them to bring one extra friend with them who was either self-aware or interested in talking about men’s, women’s, and gender issues. We pitched the idea: a community dedicated to opening up spaces for conversation on women’s and gender issues which specifically aims to include men because of the glaring absence of efforts to involve everyone in the struggle against patriarchy and toxic masculinity. We had to promise some free food, but ultimately people came when we asked. And, really, extending the invitation to be present together was all we needed to make our ideas a reality.

Building a movement means building a community

Don’t be discouraged when things take too long or are too difficult, because these things will always take time and effort. In movements, both old and new, we need to start unlearning the idea that this is just another job we have to do. Remember that you wanted to do this, and so did the people working with you. 

More important than the effort, we have to start reorienting our movements towards being more relational, emotional, and personal. We aren’t just building a political force—we’re building deeper, better relationships with people to rebuild the idea of what society should and can be. We aren’t just moving for better elections, better politicians, or better laws; we’re moving because we’re learning day by day that there is something inherently wrong with how this world treats people who aren’t made to survive under the conditions it imposes on us. We’re not just building a future; we’re unlearning what the past taught us the world was supposed to be. 

Things will be slow, not because we want them to be, but because we are strengthening our relationships with each other. This will not only be our personal lifeline, but our movement’s as well. Things will be rough, so we need to have a more personal reason to stay.

Because of that, things will take time. Things will be arduous and insanely hard. This is a struggle, after all. And if you demand change without struggling for it and learning on a personal level, then something might be missing in your approach.

The silver lining of the mess of May 13 was that it proved that we aren’t just resilient in our scavenging for hope, passively looking to it to stay afloat. We are willing to take up the responsibility to fight for it, keep it alive, whatever it takes. 

But people tend to look at hope so abstractly, as if it was something that we needed to reach for metaphysically, deeper or higher than the normalcy of giving up.

As cheesy as it sounds, I’d like to say that hope is here. All we ever really need to do is to reach for the hands of the people who have been with us all along.

Wrath Over Pride: A call-out post to “radical” cis (het) men and their inadequacy in gender struggles

I want to talk about gender issues in “progressive/radical/revolutionary spaces” before Pride Month ends because it’s so important. I need to call out cis (het) men* in radical/progressive spaces—especially the anarchist, Marxist, or generally progressive men that I see around or know. 

(For those who might not know: cis is shorthand for “cisgendered,” meaning your gender matches your assigned sex at birth, while het is shorthand for “heterosexual” or straight. I put het in parentheses because the behaviors I am calling out are not only present in cisgendered heterosexual men but sometimes even cisgendered homosexual or bisexual men; however it is often in cis het men that the behaviors are observable. This specification is important because of the way cis men are raised in a society that privileges their experiences and realities while treating any other experiences and realities as wrong or deviant or subhuman.)

I understand that when it comes to gender issues, cis (het) men in radical spaces don’t want to talk about issues they do not have expertise on or experience of. There’s value in not wanting to talk over women and the LGBTQIA+. However, your silence is harming us, too. Your silence is violence to us. 

I have been talking about the need for more men to speak up when women and the LGBTQIA+ get harassed or discriminated against for years. Still—there has not been a single cis (het) man who stood vocally with women and the LGBTQIA+ in my spaces. No “radical” cis (het) man has called out misogyny or rape culture and connected these realities to how our radical spaces are still arenas of struggle in the gender aspect. No “radical” cis (het) man has talked about transphobia especially when it comes out in the news cycle. No “radical” cis het man has even spoken up in support of or in allyship with or anything about women and LGBTQIA+ rights and welfare especially during Pride. Not even a single word in the sea of takes against police brutality—even when it’s so easy to connect Pride and anti-cop stances because of fucking Stonewall.

“Radical” cis (het) men have not stepped up to the responsibility of becoming more proactive allies and support in the gender struggle, nor taken any sort of initiative to learn more, whether by asking those who experience these realities or by doing some reading and Googling themselves. 

I’m fucking sick of it as a queer woman. “Radical” cis (het) men are so fucking privileged to be able to keep silent and keep ignoring us and our realities because they can afford to see themselves as anything but their gender. They can choose to prioritize the label “activist” or “organizer” or “socialist,” down to the names of the dead old men they politically align with, but they will never see themselves as a “man,” because they can ignore their being cis (het) men—because their being cis (het) men, to them, has never shaped their political beliefs and experiences. Their being cis (het) men is not part of their struggle and therefore cannot be propagandized or worked on to them.

Meanwhile, women’s and the LGBTQIA+’s radicalism and politics will always, always, always be deeply intertwined with their womanhood or queerness. The reason we are radical is because the world is fucking shit to us because we’re women and LGBTQIA+ on top of being poor or of color or indigenous or disabled. The reason we get involved in politics is because we ourselves want to get involved with dismantling the oppression that comes the moment we are born women or identify as LGBTQIA+. 

The reason we as women and the LGBTQIA+ in radical spaces are radical is because we know and understand that we cannot separate the different parts of ourselves from each otherthus our politics has to take our womanhood, queerness, poverty, color, indigineity, disability together—because these are all different lines intersecting to make our lives oppressed under a system that says being any of these traits alone means you’re subhuman, and being any combination of these traits means you go lower in the subhuman category.

We’re already directly oppressed on a daily basis whether we are in political spaces or not. We not only get discriminated, talked over, or silenced but harassed, abused, raped, assaulted, even murdered for being women and/or LGBTQIA+. But the fact that we even have to deal with this shit—with “radical” cis (het) men either being straight-up garbage to us or thinking they’re good enough because they’re not garbage to us while doing absolutely nothing to help correct shitty situations or dismantle structures that are oppressive to us—in our very own political spaces is exhausting.

This is especially true for anarchist and Marxist men, who I have noticed can have the worst contradictions when it comes to their professed radicalism. 

Anarchist spaces here are male-dominated. It always hurts to see their proclaimed commitment to “liberation and equality for all” and their other commitment to fight with Marxists when they can’t even call out fellow anarchist men who are shit to women and LGBTQIA+. Not one anarchist man in my knowledge called out this guy named Sid when he started spouting misogynist and homophobic garbage at me. It was only another woman who offered me assistance in situations with him—never mind that I reached out to other anarchist men who him. 

In fact, I don’t even know if there is any stance against misogyny, sexism, homophobia and transphobia in anarchist spaces. I see some well-connected anarchist groups (like those running Tagay Collective) working with groups or people that have been called out for transphobia, such as Deep Green Resistance, which the IWW itself has referenced a stance against from the Institute of Anarchist Studies.

It makes me wonder what kind of liberation anarchist cis (het) men really fight for when they can’t even take a stand against the oppression others experience. Frankly, it’s not a liberation I want. I’d rather die redefining liberation myself than work with such a narrow definition that leaves me and other women and LGBTQIA+ as nothing but footnotes or addendums instead of fundamental aspects of the struggle.

Meanwhile, there are too many instances of harassment, homophobia, and even rape, that I have either personally experienced or heard from survivors and friends of survivors from Marxist and other generally progressive spaces. Survivors either get ostracized or have to adjust themselves by lying low or distancing from their groups, communities or organizations because abusers, harassers or rapists are “good and effective speakers/community organizers/etc.”

This is all to say: “radical” cis (het) men—you are not doing enough, if you are doing anything at all. To echo what my best friend, a nonbinary anarchist themself, said: even if you’re not the problem, it does not mean you are part of the solution.

Not being transphobic or misogynistic or a harasser does not let you off the hook. That should be the norm in the first place. If you were truly radical, you would step up and help dismantle this whole thing. The bare minimum is to vocally express your withdrawal of or refusal to support others who are misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic and to stand against them until they stop being misogynists, sexists, homophobes, and or transphobes.

For the anarchist cis (het) men out there: don’t just support someone because they’re fucking anarchist. Have some standards. If that anarchist espouses values that are harmful to others, they’re HARMFUL. Movements that make concessions with the things we are trying to fight ultimately succumb and become (more like) the system we fight against. We cannot and should not make concessions when human lives and dignities are on the line, because this opens up more opportunities for increased repression and oppression.

This is a reason why there are so few women and LGBTQIA+ anarchists in your spaces and why we choose to create our own spaces ourselves—because your values are shit and your spaces and talking points do not address our needs. When we talk to you about our needs, virtually NOTHING happens. For all the machismo you perform in fighting with Marxists, you have ZERO ability to confront fellow anarchist men about shitty behaviors. I know we must address these things more constructively, but the caveat to that is you actually need to address these things first. You can’t keep saying you’ll leave these matters up to the women and the LGBTQIA+ because:

  1. Women and the LGBTQIA+ cannot keep being the only ones to respond to this. We’re already dealing with the shittiness of the system on our own and in our everyday lives—don’t make us parent and take care of cis (het) men especially when men who cause us harm are not entitled to any of our emotional energy and risk of safety (And yes! You are literally putting us at risk by letting us handle misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic men on our own!);
  2. You need to be involved in this and let other men know disgusting behavior and ideas will not be tolerated because you not saying anything enables disgusting men to keep having disgusting behavior; and
  3. There are barely even any women, much less LGBTQIA+, in your spaces. How can you expect people who aren’t there to speak up? And how can you expect your spaces to be radical and revolutionary when you don’t foster the necessary radical values that allow genuine inclusivity and plurality and democracy and liberation?

For all “radical” cis (het) men of any stripe, ideology or walk of life: just because you call yourself a radical doesn’t mean you are, and just because you call your space radical doesn’t mean it is. It is part of your responsibility as radicals to call out misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic behavior when you know of it. How can you know that injustice exists and not speak up against or about it? You have to address the injustices of the system while fixing your own backyard—otherwise you’re nothing but hypocrites who use your radicalism to feed your ego.

“Radical” cis (het) men—you need to step the fuck up. Your silence is literally harming us. If you were truly for liberation, you must also be actively for our liberation as women and LGBTQIA+, because liberation is not a monolith, assumed to be the same thing for everyone; it is nuanced and attuned to the different needs and desires of different people. 

We are only truly liberated if all of us—the poor, the people of color, the indigenous, the disabled, the LGBTQIA+, the women—if every single one of us is liberated from the oppressive realities we experience. You, “radical” cis (het) men, are only as free as we are. Or, as Fannie Lou Hamer more succinctly put it: nobody’s free until everbody’s free.

And this is a threat, to “radical” cis (het) men and their spaces: we can create spaces of true liberation without you, but you cannot create spaces of true liberation without us. The reason we demand you to step up and take responsibility as cis (het) men is because we know the dominant positions you have in radical spaces that we want to be better. But if things will not change—if you will continue to perpetrate gender violence or to be silent in the face of our oppression—we can, we will, and we will continue to make spaces and entire worlds without you, and you will be left with your patriarchal ideas of what freedom is without ever knowing what liberation could be.

Adrienne Onday

(UPDATE as of July 2, 2020: Edited hyperlinked text to clarify that the IWW merely referenced a piece against DGR from the IAS, rather than penned the official stance.)

As They Destroy Us, We Must Create: On the need for rest, and regaining our power through acts of creation

The Anti-Terror Bill is just a signature away from being law. The House of Representatives passed it in a landslide victory of of 173 for, 31 against, and 29 abstain. It’s painful to say this, but I expected it. I saw it coming from miles away, and I’m not surprised or shocked.

During the final hearing, I spent my entire afternoon tending to my garden. My okras are sprouting, and our gumamela are blooming beautifully like it’s any other summer, like there’s no looming terror over us. I swept the dust of the asphalt and all the dried leaves, picked up the plastic and other trash passersby would leave on our sidewalk, and cleared our drain outside. I watered our plants, de-weeded the planters where my vegetables are, and mixed crushed eggshells into the soil. I said hello to the snails and the earthworms that I came across. I danced to music while I spaced my vegetable seedlings. I did all of this lovingly, tenderly, as if it meant the world to me.

This is a privilege I have. The availability of the choice to step away and then actually doing it isn’t something everyone has, isn’t something everyone can afford. I’ve been feeling spent and ragged and just entirely incapable of anything the past few weeks. It’s hitting its peak this week. I’m not sure if things can get worse without turning suicidal, so I have to step away.

Though I’m far from apathetic, I understand why it exists. Apathy is harmful, but it’s also a systemic issue. Some, too many of us, have been raised in insulated environments their entire lives that the big picture contains nothing but our privileged world. Some others have learned over time to be numb to all of this, because caring about the bigger picture is either inaccessible to them due to the magnitude of their own problems—hunger, joblessness, illness, abuse—or they’ve cared for the bigger picture for so long but virtually nothing’s changed for the better (I’d argue that things are in fact getting worse). Exhaustion leads to these particular forms of apathy.

We find it difficult to care because the bigness of it all is just so difficult to comprehend. We find it difficult to feel our power because we’re aiming for things that are too high, too far to reach without tools and helping hands. It’s hard to feel like you can do something when you’re small and alone and the enemy is so huge; rarely does history allow for a David-and-Goliath situation.

This painful apathy that plagues many of us, linked with the feeling of powerlessness, is often a product of the fact that caring about everything in the face of a behemoth of a problem is literally just too much for our brains. Caring about everything all the time can lead to overwhelming, stress, mental breakdowns, and even death. It becomes a never-ending noise in our heads, a surge of information we feel like we have no choice but to receive and that we don’t know what to do with. And so we pick and choose the things we can care for.

That’s not wrong. It’s a way we as human beings take care of ourselves and prioritize. And besides, it is extremely hard to care for the bigger picture when you feel like you don’t have a stake in things, when you feel like you can’t do anything about it, when it feels like your voice and your efforts won’t matter. I find myself running into this wall a lot of times, even now. But when I do, I do things that remind me that even as a small voice, I have power.

I’m going to tell you something that I have to remind myself, because they don’t like telling us this in the era of wokeness: it’s okay to retreat into your world when you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and useless as an actor in the larger scheme of things. In fact, being able to focus on and reconnect with the things within your locus of control is a step towards reclaiming the sense that you can do something more, something beyond yourself and your world, because when you can do things in your world and you can do them effectively, you gain the ability to believe in yourself, your capabilities, and the idea that the things you do can affect others.

I like to think of powerlessness as a lie the powerful feed us to stay in power; outside structures of oppression, all of us inherently bear power for the mere fact that we exist as thinking, feeling human beings with wills of our own. But power can be limited, suppressed, hidden, or too difficult to wield. I think a way to regain bit by bit the power we have is to create things ourselves.

Creation is power, in whatever scale or degree. Creating things is an exercise of our free will and power; it’s giving life to something new, something more than who and what we are. Creating even in our small spaces is a way to reaffirm ourselves that we’re still alive and we’re still capable of doing things, because one of those things is right before our very eyes, and whether or not it means anything to anyone else, it already has value because it matters to you.

For one, I’ve been joyful about gardening because I, despite being incapable in many ways, am helping plants come to life and grow. I’ve been cleaning my garden and my backyard more because it’s a small way I feel like I’m contributing to my world by picking up litter and cutting weeds to give space to other plants.

I cook and feed my siblings. I write fanfiction and personal essays. But creation doesn’t just mean physical output. You can create anything, from the material to the immaterial. Friendships and better relations with other people are created, too; I’ve bonded better with the woman who owns the sari-sari store near our house because I frequent her store these days. I’ve reached out to people who are going through the same things as me, and they have reached out to me, too. Even my understanding of the earth I work with is a relationship I created, because I’ve gotten a better sense of how the world beyond myself—the soil and other living things—thrives and needs to be cared for.

I’m angry, upset, sad, tired. With or without the Anti-Terror Bill, this is how I constantly feel, in the face of a malicious government that does not care about its people; perhaps the Anti-Terror Bill is just another load the government has added to the weight I already bear. Current efforts to counter the government’s abuse of our rights and freedom do not offer much either, in terms of both actually challenging a government that railroads even the constitution and providing a new way of being that doesn’t run us ragged. Already, many activists and active citizens are burned out; those who choose to retreat for a bit to recuperate even get called out for being “silent” and thus “apathetic” because of the lack of public performance of concern and activism.

But silence doesn’t mean apathy. And stepping away doesn’t mean stepping out forever. There is an overwhelming need, now more than ever, for people to be able to care for themselves before they can nurse themselves back to action. Individual human beings comprise our movements and our struggles; we are not machines programmed to post and tweet and march and scream without fail, without pause, without exhaustion. Individuals need to be allowed to be human beings again: to be exhausted and angry, to consider themselves over others and do things for themselves, to rest and recover the way they need to, to find time to mourn and grieve their power before finding it again. Creating can be part of this process of exhaustion, grief, rest, and healing, only if you’re doing it not just for anyone else but also, most especially, for yourself.

I dislike people quoting Heneral Luna’s bayan bago sarili out of context, as if he didn’t say the words to people in power who can ruin the nation by putting their interests over anything else. Maybe it’s time for us to acknowledge an overlooked truth for us ordinary people: walang bayan kung walang sarili.

“Di ka naman tunay na aktibista”: Reflections on Philippine Leftist exclusion

When I was an undergrad, I had to fight so many people to allow my voice and opinions to be heard. The central point of my struggle as a young activist then was to get formally organized activists to realize that speaking up is a form of action, too; that not being part of any organization or not being as physically and publicly active in political struggles as they were didn’t mean you weren’t one; that just because someone isn’t doing activism and radicalism the exact same way the established Left does, doesn’t mean they aren’t activists or radicals.

At the time, I was a middle-class kid tied to my meager-for-a-middle-class-kid allowance, my home life, and my mental health struggles. I couldn’t leave our house as much even if I tried because I didn’t have the money to, nor did I have parental permission to go to faraway (anything beyond Quezon City was far to my Marikina-based family) political events that typically last into the night. I also had to deal with crippling anxiety—I used to have attacks at least once a week, and having an attack in public where I knew no one well enough who could help me or send me to safety would not have been a good situation for me. These attacks, growing frequent around 2013 when I started university, lasted well into 2016-2017, when I started becoming more visible at protests and the general political sphere.

I figured people would say that there’s a way to circumvent all these issues, and one of those ways was to be a member of a mass organization. They could lend you money or carpool or something. They could ensure your safety. They could do so many things to alleviate my worries. But in the Philippines, they say, kung ayaw may dahilan; kung gusto may paraan. And there was a personal reason I held back: I really didn’t want to be a member of any mass org I knew of.

I didn’t want to join because they made me and the people I cared about feel unsafe, judged, and othered.

I’ve been doing some reflecting this morning and I realize now more than ever that the reason I was so hellbent on recognizing even mere expression as activism, and the reason I was so hesitant to join more largely-recognized and collective forms of activism, was because of the elitism and exclusion I and other people I encountered experienced at the hands of Philippine political circles.

How could I say activism here is elite and exclusive? My experiences crystallized in the following reflections.

People refused to see speaking up and doing what you could with what you have as enough to qualify to be part of the struggle.

And I didn’t want anything to do with those kinds of people.

People think that just because you’re a middle-class kid, you have no excuse of limitation or oppression, and that being privileged, you had to be empowered enough to go out of your way to do Activist Things. But as I mentioned above, I’m not from a well-off-enough family (I lived in a single-parent household with four siblings); I’m also the eldest child, and a woman at that, meaning I had to be an active and emotionally available mother to my siblings as our own mother couldn’t be (at some points during university, even during exams, I would have to stay up until 4 or 5am to care for my baby sibling, leaving me with an hour or two to sleep and study); and I have been suffering mental health issues that get triggered in social situations.

Having been limited back then due to these factors, learning more, speaking up and sharing what I thought, what I knew, and what I learned were the least that I thought I could contribute stripped of any other resource but knowledge and platform. I knew what I was good at, and I knew what I had and didn’t have. I was good at reading, writing, and talking people’s ears off. And even though I didn’t really have the resources necessary to frequent mass mobilizations, I was privileged enough to go to university. I had a good reach online.

So I did what I could with what I had. I was a sociology major, so I kept reading everything my professors gave me and kept up-to-date on current events of my own volition. I processed what I learned and talked about it with friends and relatives who would listen, and posted and tweeted my reflections about these things online. I called out mistakes and wrong conclusions, back when I took active part in call-out culture, before it had a name. I called for support for different causes and advocacies — against tuition hikes, against militarization, for the lumad march, for the farmers — and redirected people to resources and other people who knew more about said issues than I did.

In 2016, I took part in a little personal protest my friends did. It was an idea that my friend started. We carried it out, and I posted about the protest and my experience doing it online. Unexpectedly, this protest caught attention, went viral and extended beyond the reach I originally had. We gained more platforms to talk about the issues we were concerned about. We had more chances to point to the roots of the various problems we faced.

I spoke out not only against the administration but questioned inconsistencies with more progressive actors as well. Bringing to light a critique about the current attitude of certain actors of the Left, however, also brought me vitriol. At the time, part of the Left supported the current president both during his campaign and after his election due to his promises for the marginalized and his self-identification as a socialist. I wondered aloud about the relative silence of the Left (at least, in my circles) regarding extrajudicial killings under the president’s only policy, the War on Drugs.

The only responses this got were direct, albeit “templated”, rebuttals to my claims, and personal attacks questioning my self-identified and publicly-bestowed “activist” label. A lot of Leftists wondered how I could consider myself an activist when I wasn’t part of a mass organization or present in any protest and mobilization, the latter hurled at me despite my attendance in a handful of mobilizations they organized and which I photo-documented to use online to raise awareness and support.

I marveled at the height of the bar I had to measure up to just to become an activist. I also wondered how others who do not and cannot have access to the privileges I did can become activists themselves, in spaces where mass organizations are too far, too few, or unrepresentative of specific sectors, or where the kinds of protests that are considered “proper” may be ineffective, expensive, or altogether dangerous. Apart from the seeming binary of activism which was organizer/organized, could anyone else become an activist? Could anything else be activism?

The short answer, where I stood, was no. At least, not if I’m coming from where these “official, real” activists come from. (It should be telling that a dichotomy arises, between “official, real” as in “organized and active” activists and “unofficial, fake” as in “everyone else who doesn’t fit the mold”.)

So I gave up trying to get people to accept me and what I did, and instead did my best to help others — those similarly not accepted and finding different ways to be radical — to realize that they deserved to carve out spaces of their own and that their voices and efforts mattered, whatever other people said.

I experienced discomfort and eventually some form of trauma from discrimination and harassment in activist spaces, predominantly from encounters with “progressive” or “radical” men.

I didn’t really have anyone do that for me—no one in the political sphere really reassured me that I was doing fine as an activist and that what I was doing, what I could do, mattered. I had to work up the security and confidence to realize that myself, or find other ways to learn that what I was doing was really helping.

What I did have were Leftists who were telling me that I was fake or a reactionary, or that I didn’t have the right to critique their organizations and methods even as they critiqued mine.

I distinctly remember one man from the red side of things telling me that I was a dilawan for wanting to participate in the EDSA Day commemoration event at the People Power Monument, telling me that being a sociologist, I should know that my mere presence there means support and legitimization for the Aquinos. I met this man through Bumble, back when I was bored enough to use dating apps. I also felt extremely uncomfortable talking to him, with nicknames and backhanded compliments as the norm when he used to hit me up. Unsurprisingly, I learned a few years after that he has manipulated, lied to, and solicited sex from other women in radical spaces, amongst many other deeds. I heard the only thing his organization did about him was to warn him to limit his encounters with women or to stop doing those things.

Yet another man from the red side of things asked me very personal and intrusive questions, such as if I masturbated and how. This same man called what my friends and I did “intellectual masturbation,” and to him what we did contributed nothing to the struggles of the people.

I also remember another man from the yellow side of things getting mad at me and, consequently, at a friend because I publicly criticized an event they organized for false advertisement and many other things. He would later ignore a few attempts I made to help out in their campaigns.

I know someone, too, who hates both sides as as an active part of the Left. He mansplains to me and other women quite often and talks over us whether he is aware or not; inserts himself into conversations that don’t need him; brings up his personal preferences about sex and romance in situations that may tackle the topics but don’t ask him of it; and subscribes to the idea that political conversations anywhere other than the spaces he deems valid and with anyone other than the people he considers the only oppressed are nothing but kaburgisan—essentially excluding anyone who does even just a little bit better than the working class (and what even is a clear-cut definition of the working class at a time of economic ambivalence and precarity?).

I could go on, I realize. This is the first time I’m sitting down and specifically thinking about all the uncomfortable situations I have been confronted with when with “radical” or “progressive” men. The casual objectification they show when they talk about other women with me because they think I’d understand as queer and “one of the boys.” The unacknowledged homophobia and transphobia. The speed and ease of things descending to physical violence when one gets offended.

It all points to a hypermasculine, overexaggerated performance that, although not exclusive to the political sphere, when mixed with ideas of activism and radicalism somehow allows men to believe they are shielded from any and all criticism. As if being an activist or radical by name is enough to make them immune to both being sexists, misogynists, homophobes and transphobes and to being criticized for being sexists, misogynists, homophobes, and transphobes. It’s not impossible to hear these men’s voices in my head say, “How could I be a misogynist? I fight for equality for all!”

Tell that to the girlfriend you cheated on with someone else in your mass org. Tell that to the women in your collective you solicit sex from. Or, well, I’m sure you did; and your fellow men in the collective did nothing but baby you, defend you, and coddle you.

But sure, people like me aren’t “real” activists or radicals because we go to less protests or choose not to expose ourselves to these kinds of things.

Our idea of activism is still classist, ableist, and sexist.

When men like that not only exist but even thrive in activist spaces, you get a sense of how unfree and unfreeing our idea of activism really is. Broad, genuine, and truly inclusive representation and action cannot exist in spaces where people are made to feel used or unsafe, in spaces requiring specific experiences to be considered, in spaces where people cannot physically or even remotely participate.

Even today, people can’t just get up and leave their homes, however much we want them to do that. There are harassers to confront. There are children to be fed. There are homes to be guarded. There are disabilities to consider. This begs us to ask: what are the ways we can make radical spaces safer and braver? What are the ways we can make activism and mobilization more accessible, kid-friendly, and inclusive? 

Maybe we could have designated spaces near or outside, say, protests or meetings to care for children. Maybe there are acts of activism that can and have been done at home or elsewhere from protest sites that we didn’t recognize as acts of activism before, like free schools and care work. Maybe we have to think of ways to recognize that the PWD community has power but will have to express it differently. 

Or maybe we have to reassess and rethink our spaces altogether, see how they are hinged and founded on the discomfort, unsafety, nonparticipation and oppression of many of the people we claim to fight for. Maybe we have to drastically change how we organize our collectives. Maybe we have to consider infrastructures, language, and interactions. Maybe we have to instill self-awareness, unlearn harmful behaviors, and learn better ones instead of pointing fingers, blaming anyone else but us.

Power-together, that is, our power as the people, isn’t supposed to be monolithic and unchanging, only expressed the exact same way it was done 40 years ago by coming together in Luneta or PPM to publicly protest. Creativity needs to come in to ensure our power isn’t stagnant or exclusive. An important thing to remember is that reproductive labor (better worded as care work, or how we ensure the physical, mental, emotional, and developmental needs of people are being met) sustains our power, too. Besides, I think there are other forms of activism that may have the same effects as — if not deeper, more personal, and more immediate than — what we call mass mobilizations.

Our idea of activism is still highly exclusive, as if activism was something people performed to be included in a Cool Kids Club rather than something anyone could participate in, whoever they are, in any way they can.

Enshrining activism in the form of placards, publicity, and protests leads to the tendency to equate activism with just these factors, and equating activism with these factors leads to the belief that doing these things and these things alone is what makes you an activist. Two unfortunate consequences: those who seem to only aspire for the clout are accepted into the fold as is without pushing them to be better, while those who work hard to live the principles of radical progressivism in different ways — in ways they have access to and ways they learn how to — are overlooked, kept out, and even demonized. 

This is related to my earlier point of the lack of inclusivity in our idea of activism. I’d also like to bring up a very important point: the seeming importance of public performance (language, presentation, attendance) over personal effort (self-awareness, treating others better, taking their own steps when they can) in activist spaces creates such an unsafe and unaccepting environment. People — and men in particular, cis or not, based on my experience — seem to think that being this label or that means they’re automatically safe from being any type of wrong. I’ve met one too many manipulators, abusers, and perverts from the Left. I’ve met people who get mad and attack you personally because you dared to be dissatisfied and asked for better. I’ve met people who call you a know-it-all, only to turn to Twitter and call others out for one mistake, however tiny, and hurl orthodox Marxist vocabulary at them for not knowing better. Oddly, more often than not, these people are either highly respected, protected, or really coddled by their activist groups and spaces.  

Meanwhile, people who are just stepping into the world of political discourse and exploring their own ideas, opinions, beliefs, ethics, and stances are either eaten up by the costume party of the activism or called out and rejected for not doing activism the way others do. People who might be more radical than we would care to admit aren’t recognized as able to contribute or already contributing because we think “contribution” requires a membership subscription, be it to an organization, an ideology, an event, or a cause.

What’s attached to the membership terrifies me, to be honest. I’ve been to enough mobilizations and educational discussions to see, hear, and feel the near-exact same way people appear, talk, and act in the political sphere.

(It’s a little funny because, despite differences, most I’ve encountered from the Left have had the exact same fatal flaw across colors: their inability to recognize their own mistakes, accept criticism, and own up to and make up for them.)

The uniformity in their use of “scientific” language, the way they carry themselves, their manner of speaking, and their takes on things (which a professor of mine called “templated”) terrifies me because sometimes I feel like I’m interacting with soldiers or bots, whatever side of the Left they came from. There’s an odd disdain for nuance, too, which I’ve seen eerily echoed both online and offline and definitely acted on in many cases.

Activists here seem to function on a you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us logic which kicks in once you either try to critique them or provide a perspective that considers the context of what they might be going against at the moment. The vision feels very black-and-white, the gray area automatically qualifying as enemy territory if only for the mere fact that it’s not the exact same thing they’re saying. Even if you clarify that you’re not taking the other side, by somehow trying to be more understanding of the Enemy of the Day (or at least, where they’re coming from), you’re immediately analyzed with a suspicious eye, the Reactionary stamp hovering over you and ready to descend any time.

But almost everyone lives in the gray area. People will not see and perform activism the way “real” activists expect them to because people will have different degrees of reservations, freedom, awareness, and risk-taking. Some may not be as theoretically equipped, but intuitively act more ethically even if they can’t explain why. Some may know more than most, but not be as visible because of resources or context. There have also been countless people who have had the “right” opinions on issues but the “wrong” opinions on activism because the reputation of activism — as in marches, rallies, and public demonstrations — has been so historically tarnished in the Philippines (by State anti-communist propaganda, by issues that arise from socially-rooted phenomenon like traffic and bad infrastructure, by problems of the Left itself) that people are bound to hate what we have now. And they’re allowed that opinion because those may be rooted in different experiences that are valid.

People are shackled and privileged in different ways, just as people walk different lives. More than changing the ways people might be adding to our repertoires of activism, maybe we should strive to add to our own and get a feel for what might garner more support from people who may not be on board with our other methods. This doesn’t mean we should pander, nor does it mean our goals and principles would change; sometimes, we just need to explore the different ways we can deliver a message so that it may be received better, clearer, and more appropriately by the people who might need to hear it.

Other people are doing that at present. Some write, some create art, some talk to people. Many are not affiliated with blatantly political organizations. Some even act through hobby or interest groups. But everyone is still learning, because there has to be many different ways to approach our goal.

The point is, activism cannot and should not come from a very specific group of people with clear, non-negotiable, take-it-as-is-or-leave-it political ideologies. Including only some automatically excludes many others, and there’s a saying that goes, “I’d rather be excluded for who I include, than included for who I exclude.” If a movement that aspires for systemic change does not make an attempt to include everyone, what’s the point of having this movement at all?

Ano nga ba ang “tunay na aktibista?

I feel this question needs to be asked within our circles before we even begin to exclude people. It’s inevitably attached to the larger question of how we treat not only those who are like us, but especially those who are different from us.

The name of the game these days is othering and weaponizing identities. We already see this in how Duterte others drug users and pushers; we see this in how Trump others Blacks, people of color, and the LGBT+; are we really going to keep it alive in the spaces that are supposed to be dismantling this system that’s rooted in the oppression of certain groups and sectors? Isn’t it a point of concern that the discrimination we see the State use against its people is the same discrimination we mete out in keeping our movements “pure,” “real,” and “in line?” Isn’t aspiring for “purity” and homogeneity the problem anyway?

The activist and radical I am now — still so different, but more directly involved now than I could be before — is because of all the rejection and negativity I have experienced at the hands of those who positioned themselves at the forefront of the Philippine struggle. I have been working hard for the past few years to learn to be okay with what I am, what I’ve done, and what I want to do; I’ve also been doing my best to help others who feel as rejected and confused to be okay with being different in their political perspectives and activities, too.

I think difference is what drives change and innovation. And minding differences we need to adjust to, adapt to, and include is how we can keep our movements not only safe and alive but maybe even successful, however marginally success may feel in the face of the behemoth that is the Empire. Imagine how boring, stagnant and ineffective we would be if all of us were activists and radicals the exact same way. We’d probably still be fooling ourselves about how we haven’t really lost, even when the enemy has transformed once again, fifty years into an unrecognizable future.

-Adrienne Onday

Against The Broken Logic of Fraternities

For a long time I believed that forming communities was the only real way out of the mess we are in. But this essay comes out of a reckoning with this belief when community was the same word my mom texted me from the UPSILON celebration a few days before the release of their group chat. How nice it would have been if you had joined it like your dad did. Such a great community. They really care about each other here.

And let’s be honest: they do. From the help offered by powerful alumni behind the scenes to their tepid distancing and ultimate defense of the institution as a whole in public. Even the PR work of their frat brothers and alumni waking up furious was simple math: how do we protect those of us who are left?

To confront this problem, I wanted to think aloud about what is broken about how fraternities work and come back to my love for communities.

A Broken Foundation

I think we all instinctively understand the many ways fraternities have failed and how. We have all heard about the initiations, the violence, the fighting – that these institutions have given us men like this is not entirely surprising.

Fraternities embody and enforce a specific logic, a way of relating to others that is centered on control and domination. This logic is part of the foundation of the fraternity as an institution and affects all its interests and programs, including the misogyny and racism that it produces. The initiation process is a prime example of this logic enacted. It is vicious not just because of the explicit violence – the beatings, the bowling balls, the paddles; even as these elements are removed and the process sanitized under the public eye, the foundational violence of domination remains. Initiates are taught that a specific kind of viciousness is demanded of them to survive, that the only way out is to gain power and rank until they are the abuser instead of the abused.

These ways of relating point to one goal: to establish power and control over the rest of us. Under this lens, their facade of progressive politics and charity answers the same question as their misogyny and assorted cruelties: how do we gain and enforce power over others? The carrot and the stick are both methods of control.

The fraternity as an institution is irredeemable because at its core it is a struggle for power: how to gain it, how to keep it, and, most importantly, how to wield it like a club.

What Communities Could Be

These vicious institutions pretend at being respites against the isolation which their logic brings to the world. As we outline the things we must excise, we must also consider how to protect ourselves, heal, and grow. Instead of empowering them or wasting our time reforming them, maybe the best way to respond is to turn to each other.

I think the way out is through nurturing our communities and imagining new and more caring ways of relating to each other as a foundation. If we are to imagine a new world, we have to root it in these new ways of relating. These are immediate imaginings. Ideas of care and interdependence can be nurtured in our  spaces. We can render both the carrot and the stick worthless.

We can protect ourselves by sharing information, care, and support extracted from the logic of control. Many students already do this. When the violence between APB and Upsilon broke out, it was students that broke the news to each other, while the administration kept quiet and announced only that they were closing a gate and investigating. In response to a student’s abduction, it was students and friends on Twitter that alerted each other and were the first to respond. In the face of these institutions, we have to rely on each other and nurture these relationships and the spaces where they thrive.

At the same time, these communities can serve as the means to render fraternities irrelevant. As Adrienne pointed out in her article, many of the functions of fraternities are already better served by other spaces. We can open up our communities and allow these benefits to be provided outside their logic of misogyny and control. Let the fraternities dangle these carrots while we plant the fields.

Ultimately what we can provide is more than an alternative to fraternities and these broken institutions. By rejecting the power they try to exert over us and taking control over our lives, our communities can exist as direct opposition to them. Against the broken logic of fraternities, we can reclaim what is truly radical about communities: the realization of our interdependence and the ability to abandon these institutions as starting points for our growth. By turning to each other, we can carve out spaces of care in the cracks of the empires of their power.


On the Kingdom and Fraternities

It must be coincidence that soon after a short theology lesson from Fr. Arnel on Malkuth Yahweh, the UPSILON issue erupted. It reinforces my belief that there are many structures in society that have to be dismantled and replaced with newer and more inclusive forms of institutions.What we have now, is not good enough.

The news on frat-related violence and the revelations coming from the group chat of a fraternity only exposes the fact that institutions built on foundations of exclusion and forms of violence will have a tendency to perpetuate associated characteristics – misogyny, patriarchy, privilege, discrimination, and everything else toxic.

Do we want these structures to continue to exist in our society?

Back in my first ever Development Studies class, our professor introduced an idea that continues to influence my thinking today – development as an exercise of imagination.

Against the kind of exclusionary structures we see in society, how do we imagine and, at the same time, actualize alternative forms of living? How do we propagate alternative structures and ways of community and society that substantially protect human dignity, and ensure social inclusion for all?

I propose that we explore the wisdom of a wise man from 2000 years ago whore-imagined and spoke out against the structures of exclusion in his own community and proposed an alternative – Malkuth Yahweh. The Kingdom and Reign of God.

It certainly was not an alien concept for many of the Israelites. During that time, the Israelites believed that Israel would become the greatest nation on the earth, ruled by God and governing over all the other nations, something akin to an empire. It was literally a kingdom.

On the contrary, Jesus spoke of a Malkuth Yahweh that was not about power and empire. He added to, and at the same time, corrected the idea of a Kingdom and Reign of God then. In his preachings, he spoke of anew order of society, full of blessings and comfort especially for the poor and marginalized. It was a society where peace, joy, justice and love abound. It was new, it was different, and it was counter-cultural.

Malkuth Yahweh is a concept that is a lot more complicated than what I’ve mentioned but for the purpose of this article, I’ll just keep it simple and highlight some points which I believe can provide us with ideas worth reflecting on that might illuminate a kind of praxis for moving forward.I certainly am no expert on this topic but someday, with more readings and reflection, I hope to expound and dedicate posts to exploring this concept further.

The Kingdom is Radically Inclusive

When Jesus went around his community during his time, he was disturbed at the exclusions that were happening left and right. He must have been angered by the institutions that perpetuated and consolidated power in the hands of the few: to the kings and princes, the scribes and priests, at the expense of the poor and the outcasts.

And so he called them out and spoke against them for Malkuth Yahweh was radically inclusive and it excluded those who excluded. It was a gift to be given to all and a blessing for those who were desperate and losing hope. The kingdom was about accessibility and inclusiveness – it rejected the self-righteous who were building walls and determining the ones who were “in” and “out”. 

To be radically inclusive moves us to challenge and dismantle exclusionary structures and simultaneously calls us to build better alternatives.

The Kingdom is Here and Now

This came from the wisdom of a man that believed that there were already aspects of the kingdom that were present in current society. This can be seen in moments where people have been selfless and have cared for the other; moments of deep compassion for those with less; displays of solidarity in giving up one’s wealth and privileges to be with and struggle with the outcasts of society; moments of love, of peace, and of acting non-violently.

If the kingdom is already here, it just means that seeds have been planted before, and we are already nurturing communities and institutions that go against the toxic logic of exclusion, privilege, and concentrated power and wealth. We have to increase these spaces. We have to celebrate and appreciate these examples.

The Kingdom is To Be

The radicality of the vision demands a kind of continuous seeking, of approximating, of continuing laboring towards this ideal. I have personally visualized it as an asymptote – a point that we approximate but may never reach in our finite lives. We do not know the time when better becomes the best. This does call us to stubbornly persist in building that inclusive society, and to celebrate our victories, small or large they may be.

Against Malkuth Yahweh, I don’t see why archaic structures such as prominent fraternities should continue to exist. I’m quite sure Jesus would have been against these exclusionary structures. If by chance he was a student in UPD, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the rallies on the AS steps or at Quezon Hall.

Karlo A.

The things I have written here do not reflect the position of the organizations and communities I am involved in.This is just my personal opinion and a reflection on recent events. I am sharing these insights into my personal faith to explore alternatives to the everyday politics we see today. Sobrang bitin pa siya. Would have wanted to write more. For people who are interested in exploring the intersections of religion and politics, I’m thinking of reviving a casual reading group, the God-Dem. 😊

We Gather (Capital) To Scatter (Our Members): on #lonsileaks and #sociospeaks

The last week has been a mess with a nice scoop of ice cream on top for the University of the Philippines. That scoop of ice cream, of course, is the University’s first chance at the men’s basketball championship in 32 years.

But I’m not here to talk about that. I want the mess, because that’s more interesting than screaming at dudes throwing balls.

On the 14th of November, a frankly pathetic brawl caught on CCTV followed by a shooting incident occurred within campus grounds between Alpha Phi Beta and Upsilon Sigma Phi. After a lull in any kind of reporting about it, clashing accounts from eyewitnesses and the fraternities involved (of course), and basically nothing else done regarding campus security apart from the momentary closing of the school gate near the gun fire, the issue was (barely) tackled briefly in a statement by the University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Chancellor Mike Tan. In it, he lightly acknowledges the fraternity-related violence that occurred, glazing over all other ideas of condemnation by saying that on the same day of the gun incident, the UP men’s basketball team won a game, which “would not have been possible without the widespread support of … an alumni group where Upsilon Sigma Phi, Alpha Phi Beta and all the other fraternities … have been key players”.  

A week later, on the 21st of November, a rogue—well, someone—took to Twitter with the aid of a Google Drive to release the entirety of a Facebook group chat from Batch 2017 of Upsilon that consists of over 40,000 messages. This event is what is now known as #LonsiLeaks—which I guess is made to sound like Watergate but with college boys instead. The messages in this group chat contained comments, “jokes”, and other kinds of uses of words of the most horrid, disgusting, inhumane thoughts and beliefs.

Misogyny? Check.


Homophobia and LGBT+ harassment? Check.


Belittling of the social sciences? Check.


Marcos apologism? Check.


Racism? Check.


Islamophobia? Check.


Support of massacres and genocide? Check.


Threats of violence and harm? Check.


Flaunting of control of seats of power and authority? Check.


You name it, Upsilon’s got it.

The backlash was, understandably, immense. Nearly every day since the exposé, a new statement from a different university organization, college student council, or department is released. Calls ranged from the unanimous hashtag #EndFRV; to general sentiments on ending impunity; to the more fearless demands for the President of the UP System, Danilo Concepcion, and the Executive Vice President, Ted Herbosa, to resign. The aforementioned men occupying the highest positions of the most notorious University are, unfortunately, members of Upsilon.

The best and most constructive responses have come from the faculties of departments that have been staunchly against the presence of elitism, violence and misogyny especially in the community. My personal favorite—and my obvious bias as a graduate of it—is that of the Department of Sociology, which was directly lambasted in the group chat of Upsilon. The Department has started a series of teach-ins called Fraternities and Society, discussing the social causes and consequences of fraternity violence. The speakers are all members of the faculty, experts on education, Marxism, social organization, gender, feminism, and even, most fittingly, fraternities.

Here was a small community of professors, intellectuals, researchers, and activists making a stand against a group of snotty rich boys protected by snobby powerful men, vicious and arrogant and disrespectful of women, LGBT+, indigenous peoples, non-Catholic religions and anything else that isn’t like them. And they were making a stand the way they knew best—through in-depth, open, informal, non-hierarchic education that uses sharp structural analysis.

The 29th of November saw the first of these sessions. I sat with other students and professors on the floor of our college’s spacious lobby, greeting friends and former teachers while I caught my breath from running straight out of work. With nothing else but a Facebook event page on such short notice, the teach-in attracted more than 40 people sitting or standing on that cold tiled floor, listening to Gerry Lanuza cite Freud, Engels and Deleuze and Guattari off the top of his head to explain misogyny and the capitalist heteropatriarchy.

But I’ll have to gloss over all that to jump to the most interesting concept I learned that night. It came from Andoy Evangelista as he talked about the nuances of the “backwards vs. modern” debate in conversations of progress and development. He mentioned it merely in passing, but he explained that homonationalism is the Empire’s (or the West’s) use of LGBT+ rights and women’s rights as a measure or standard of modernism. In my understanding, it was sort of a liberal-democratic thing, where you include people as tokens of identity politics rather than actually incorporating the necessary and contextually-appropriate changes in fundamental ways of living and organizing life and society to recognize, acknowledge, and respect the diversity of human life.

It was such a good point to discuss in the context of fraternities, the patriarchy, and the Classic Woke Ass Non-Upsilonian U.P. Student, as homonationalism is a slippery slope a truly radical and progressive person would have to be mindful of if they wanted to genuinely change things. It’s a reminder that there are historical, cultural, and colonial nuances that need to be kept in mind when we talk about radical change in a country as steeped in colonial mentality and fake measures of progress like the Philippines. Maybe we can start by checking the words we use when we argue for LGBT+ and women’s rights, by being wary of the comparisons we do and the benchmarks we set for ourselves in achieving culturally- and contextually-appropriate development. The West isn’t the one and only example of progress, unlike what white feminism wants us to believe.

Another thing to watch out for is homonationalism’s unfortunate use as a false sign of alllyship by people who aren’t really allies.  For one, most organizations’ responses to the #LonsiLeaks issue was to disavow the blatant misogyny, LGBT+phobia, Islamophobia, racism, and many other things wrong with that one group chat. And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if values protecting diversity are what they really stand for. But Upsilon and its members started doing the same thing, crafting and posting statements claiming to simultaneously Wake Up Furious upon seeing the leaked messages. The fraternity and its many mouthpieces all said that everything in the chat was not in line with what they believe in and fight for, claiming to have worked hard to build safe spaces for the abovementioned sectors in the University.

I call bullshit on that.

I call bullshit on Upsilon’s statement because these stupid privileged boys could have only had the courage and platform to say the vilest things in an environment that made them see, feel, think, and believe that saying the vilest things does not have repercussions—and even if it did, there was someone to save you from the consequences anyway.

I call bullshit because Upsilon has existed for 100 years and you can’t tell me that in those 100 years, a group comprised exclusively of well-off men has not and has never produced and reproduced a culture of belittling and disrespect, of misogyny and violence, of secrecy and non-accountability.

I call bullshit because I have been privy to men’s conversations—men who aren’t even in fraternities—and the things they say in the comfort and confidence of people they know they can trust (i.e. Will not judge them, will laugh along with them, will not question them, will not point out that this is wrong, wrong, wrong) is nothing short of hair-raising, stomach-churning, nausea-inducing.

My friend told me that he and some others have a theory about Upsilon, and frats in general. Upsilon’s motto is we gather light to scatter, and he told me that he believes that fraternities serve no other purpose than to keep pooling and collecting capital. For Upsilon, he says that light means the capital that they collect: money, power, connections.

He didn’t at first get to make the necessary connection as to what they were scattering, so I answered for him: “Their members.”

Upsilon, and all fraternities by extension, scatters its members. It plants them like seeds so it can further its control and capital, broaden itself and find an in for any industry and aspect of society that can be influenced.

Frankly, I don’t see them serving any other purpose myself.

Honestly, any way I look at it, fraternities are just unnecessary as a social organization. The only thing they offer people is upwards mobility for middle-upper class men, one foot in the door of wealth and power in the form of this “brotherhood”—a network of people who have become embedded in the various seats of power in the country.

I’m still trying to understand the reasons many have used to justify the existence and utilization of frats.

Belongingness and community? Colleges and universities have orgs that address all sorts of interests and advocacies. Or literally any other kinship ties.

Brotherhood? Literally, friends—and friends won’t make you dehumanize yourself or run to and fro just to prove you’re “loyal” to them. And inb4 “Iba kasi ang brotherhood ng frat (The brotherhood of fraternities is different)!”: if you’re looking for That Kind of Brotherhood™, you’re probably already incubating toxic notions and ideas of masculinity.

To help others? But there are so many other means to do that without needing to join frats. I really don’t get this.

A rite of passage? I actually don’t know what for, and what kind of difference going through the rite of passage of joining a frat would make.

Personal development? Jesus, I’m pretty sure you can get this in any other aspect of your life from any kind of organization or responsibility.

I really cannot think of anything else fraternities can offer aside from wealth, power and opportunities. I’m not an expert on fraternities, so I won’t deny I may be missing some things here, but personally as someone who has more than just dabbled with the topics of institutions and organizations for research, and as someone who has a handful of great, trustworthy, dependable, ambitious men in my circles who have no involvements with fraternities at all, I see fraternities only as a necessity in a country so corrupt and unequal that we still need to rely on the padrino system to get anywhere at all.

So maybe let me rephrase what I said a while ago: any way I look at it, in a society that aspires to be progressive, equal, and truly radical, fraternities are just unnecessary as a social organization.

Adrienne Onday