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Friday, June 14, 2024

A thousand Myles

Many of us are lucky enough to have been clothed, sheltered, fed and provided by fathers and nagged at in worried voices by mothers (“Where’s your assignment for school tomorrow?!”). We go to good schools and get an education and are taught that this is the only means to survive in the world. And that’s true. We enter college in the hopes of preparing for our future, learning a thing or two about struggle and struggling in four or five years, maybe graduating with honors, getting a high-paying job, live our lives. We dream of all the luxuries in the world and all the opportunities you can ever have to push yourself forward in this predator-eats-prey world sitting right in the palm of your hand and all you need to do is to close that fist.

That’s the life Myles Albasin was brought into the world with. Here we have a woman whose life was probably already written out and planned out for her, just waiting for her to step her feet into. Someone who’s laughed and smiled with family, ate outside at a KFC or at high-end restaurants with friends, cried over small heartbreaks, and held broken hearts where they shouldn’t be. Here is a woman who lived all these and loved this life and everyone around her with much fervor and passion, it seeped into particular crevices of her existence, waiting for ignition.

Myles Albasin found herself loving life so much, she had to extend this love to other people and it was in no other form than service to them. This staunch and passionate student leader and activist found herself in countless immersions with farmers, Lumad communities, the urban poor, workers, senior citizens, women, and many others who are among the most oppressed and marginalized of this nation. She found herself among the ranks of different sectors of the basic masses as they formed mobilizations and marched down the streets of Osmeña Boulevard with their calls that have been chanted for decades now. By the time groups reach Colon St., she would be in that platform, microphone in hand, fists raised in the air, declaring, “Ang tao, ang bayan!” to which hordes of people would respond with, “Ngayon ay lumalaban!”

Digital art of Myles Albasin from Batinuod (https://www.facebook.com/Bastinuod/)

Digital art of Myles Albasin from Batinuod (https://www.facebook.com/Bastinuod/)

More than these mobilizations, Myles found herself among students and the youth as well, passionately explaining to many of them and teaching them the importance of the youth in nation-building, in militantly advancing the democratic rights of students, and in being more than just students confined to the four walls of the classroom. Going to a good school was not the only means for an education for someone like Myles. There was learning that can only be obtained in school but there was also learning that needed to be obtained outside of it and the latter was far greater and more important. Myles knew and saw this.

Myles saw the people. She saw how the masses suffered in a society that was still semi-feudal and semi-colonial even now, in the 21st century. In her many immersions, Myles saw how land-grabbing kills farmers, how land equates to life for the Lumad. She saw the different faces of poverty that many of us only mock and ridicule. She saw how the workers struggle to earn meager wages just to live to the next day and how women are oppressed and victimized through it all.

She saw the Filipino people and redefined what “struggle” meant. It was not to struggle four or five years in college to graduate with honors and get a high-paying job. Rather, it was to struggle with and for the oppressed and toiling masses, to strip herself of her luxuries and her opportunities and find her feet planted in the ground where many others before her stood—among the people.

She had many opportunities that others would want grab more than anything. But the feeling of the soil under her feet filled with the life and hope of a new nation must have been the one opportunity she wanted the most. She closed in on it and embraced it.

No one has the right to judge her for the path she took after graduating. She was there to see it all. She immersed and found herself serving the people and marching alongside them, and this has given her the resolve to continue the struggle—theirs and now hers.

But she is not the first. She will certainly not be the last. There are plenty others like her, those who chose to forego their luxurious and privileged lives in pursuit of liberation. Soon, there will be many others like her as well, staunch and militant in serving the people, because for as long as the Filipino people remain oppressed, for as long as hunger prevails and exploitation remains, there can be no freedom for any of us.

The youth will make the ground shake and it will force the ruling elite who have amassed the people’s wealth for centuries to think twice. Dictators will tremble and traditional politicians will start to feel fear trickle in their veins.

The youth, with the same blood of vigor, fervor, and passion that runs in Myles Albasin, will inevitably rise anew.

Myles and her companions, the so-called Mabinay 6, recently all tested negative for gunpowder residue. This bolsters their claim that they were unarmed and never fired any guns as the military who arrested them on March 3 claimed. They said they were in the area as part of their immersion program in peasant communities in Negros. Myles celebrated her birthday on March 21 in detention at the Negros Oriental Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Dumaguete City. She is an active student leader and activist, and was a graduate of a mass communication degree at the University of the Philippines in Cebu.  

An interview with Myles, from Aninaw Productions:

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