Chicago, IL – On May 18, Filipino youth and student leaders from across the US convened at the Centro Autonomo community center, located in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago, for the historic Anakbayan-USA Founding Congress. The congress established Anakbayan-USA as a nationwide organization and overseas national chapter of Anakbayan Philippines in the midst of city-wide protest marches and rallies against the ongoing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit. This, according to organizers, is their symbolic protest and act of defiance against the global 1% represented by NATO.
The theme of the founding congress declared the purpose and direction of Anakbayan-USA: “Makibaka! Huwag Matakot! Unite and Strengthen the Filipino Youth Movement in the US to Advance the Struggle for National Democracy in the Philippines!” The theme is aimed at calling on the youth to join the struggle against the increased repression in the US and to contribute to the struggle for genuine social change in the Philippines.
“It [AB-USA Founding Congress] couldn’t have come on any other day than today, in the face of G8 and NATO. This is our act of defiance. Our coming here together as youth and students of our people is our act of defiance in the face of imperialism. We owe this to our brothers and sisters who have suffered and who have sacrificed their lives to fight for our people’s liberation,” said Yves Nibungco, elected founding National Chairperson of Anakbayan-USA.
Over 60 delegates from Anakbayan chapters in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, San Diego, East Bay (Oakland), Silicon Valley and Chicago, including delegates from affiliate organization, League of Filipino Students (LFS) – San Francisco State University came to the founding congress to approve a General Program of Action and elect the National Executive Committee of Anakbayan-USA. Those elected were Yves Nibungco of Anakbayan New Jersey as Chairperson, Janelle Quibuyen of Anakbayan Seattle as Vice Chairperson, Eric Tandoc of Anakbayan Los Angeles as Secretary General, Ivan Penetrante of Anakbayan San Diego as Education Officer, Noemi Teppang of Anakbayan Silicon Valley as Finance Officer and Lyle Prijoles of the League of Filipino Students-SFSU as Solidarity Officer.
The keynote speech was delivered through a pre-recorded video by Jose Maria Sison, the exiled Filipino revolutionary and founding chairperson of the seminal Filipino youth organization, Kabataang Makabayan (KM). “We are certain that your congress will strengthen your resolve and will instruct you to arouse the Filipino youth throughout the US, expand and consolidate Anakbayan-USA and mobilize an increasing number of Filipino youth along the line of anti-imperialist and democratic struggle and militant support for the struggle of the Filipino youth and people for national liberation and democracy in the Philippines,” said Sison.
A live message was given via Skype by Renato Reyes, Secretary General of Bayan Philippines and founding chairperson of Anakbayan Philippines in 1998, in which he affirmed the role of Anakbayan in the US. “Anakbayan can introduce Philippine history, society and revolution to a growing number of Filipino-Americans who long to understand their roots and the struggle in the homeland. At the same time, the Fil-Am youth experience first-hand problems of racism and discrimination as well as economic exploitation and imperialist war. Anakbayan should also organize the immigrant youth who are familiar with the severity of the crisis in the Philippines, often the reason why they have to migrate,” said Reyes.
Chanting “Makibaka! Huwag matakot!”, a protest chant popularized during the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle in the 70’s, members of Anakbayan-USA pledged “to continue to expose the rotten character of the Aquino regime and to raise the struggle for national democracy to a new level of intensity.” The delegates concluded the founding congress with a group oath-taking and singing of progressive Filipino songs.
Anakbayan-USA later marched with the “national liberation” contingent at the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 demonstrations in downtown Chicago comprised of Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Palestinians, Canadians and others to denounce NATO and G8 as instruments of the “Global 1%” in exploiting third world countries like the Philippines. ###