Remembering the First Quarter Storm:

Four Decades of the People's Movement for National Liberation


Cagayan de Oro City


January 31, 2009




Cultural forum "Remembering the First Quarter Storm: Four Decades of the People's Movement for National Liberation," sponsored by the Initiatives for Peace (Inpeace)in Mindanao, Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan (Kasimbayan)- North Central Mindanao Region, Sisters' Association in Mindanao (Samin), Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Northern Mindanao Region; 31 January 2009; Lourdes College Auditorium, Capistrano-Hayes St., Cagayan de Oro City


Photos courtesy of BAYAN - Northern Mindanao Region


By Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Kabataang Makabayan
and Communist Party of the Philippines
January 31, 2009


I am deeply thankful that Bishop Felixberto Calang, Chairperson of INPEACE, has honored me with the invitation to give an inspirational message to the Cultural Forum entitled “Remembering the First Quarter Storm: Four Decades of the People's Movement for National Liberation.”

I have great appreciation for the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, the Sisters' Association in Mindanao, Kasimbayan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Northern Mindanao for conjoining to organize this forum and to manifest the high and broad significance of the FQS to the entire Filipino people.

You have chosen well as main speaker Bonifacio Ilagan, one of the most distinguished leaders of the FQS, who has been outstanding in adhering to the revolutionary spirit and principles of the FQS, in promoting the FQS as a beacon to the continuing struggle of the people for national and social liberation and in developing the arts in the service of the people.

The FQS was an unprecedented event in Philippine history in terms of significance, scale, intensity and consequences. It was a crucial turning point in the people's movement for national liberation and democracy. It confronted the drive of the Marcos regime to aggravate and deepen the oppression and exploitation of the people by the evil triad of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

The best and brightest sons and daughters of the nation participated in the FQS. The more the reactionary state unleashed violence against them, the more the masses of youth and people became resolute and militant in standing up and fighting for national and democratic rights.

The FQS was centered in Manila, the seat of reactionary power. But it spread the revolutionary message to the entire nation in an immediate and lasting way. In response to the escalation of violence by the Marcos regime, it urged the broad masses of the people to fight back with the call, “Makibaka, huwag matakot!” Against the rising trend of state terrorism or fascism, it raised the battlecry, “Digmang Bayan ang Sagot sa Batas Militar”.

The FQS generated a sustained popular movement upholding national independence and democratic rights, demanding national industrial development and genuine land reform, promoting a national, scientific and mass culture and espousing international solidarity of peoples against imperialism and all reaction and for justice, peace and development.

Many of those who directly participated in the FQS and those who were inspired by it became the most conscious and the most energetic militants in a wide array of patriotic and progressive formations, including the revolutionary party of the working class, the Christians for National Liberation, the progressive sections of institutions and the sectoral mass organizations and multisectoral alliances of the workers, peasants, youth, women, professionals and national minorities.

Since the occurrence of the FQS, all those who have been moulded and inspired by it have been a significant driving force in the sustained resistance of the people to the anti-national and anti-democratic policies of the Marcos regime and the 14-year reign of fascist terror, in the mass movement that eventually caused the overthrow of the Marcos fascist dictatorship and in the continuing opposition to the persistence of anti-national and anti-democratic policies under the post-Marcos regimes.

The memory and spirit of the FQS and its consequences in the people's struggle for national liberation and democracy continue to live on and grow in strength. But all of us must always consciously cherish the FQS in our hearts and minds, lest it be taken for granted and pass into oblivion. It is fine to celebrate the FQS in the entire year before and in the entire year after its 40th anniversary.

I call on the present mass activists, the church people, the lawyers, educators and other professionals to draw inspiration from the FQS. Let us emulate the FQS participants in their eagerness to learn the history and the basic problems of the Filipino people, in grasping the need to continue the Philippine revolution and carry out the new democratic revolution and in fighting courageously and tenaciously for the national and democratic rights and interests of the Filipino people.

We are confronted today by problems far worse than those during the time of Marcos. The semicolonial and semifeudal character of Philippine society has persisted. The problems of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism have been aggravated and deepened by the US-instigated policy of “neoliberal” globalization, which has accelerated superprofit-taking, and the policy of “global war on terror”, which has stirred up state terrorism, US military intervention and imperialist wars of aggression.

Now, an unprecedented global financial and economic crisis, generated from the US, has descended upon the frail pre-indusrial semifeudal economy of the Philippines. The broad masses of the people are suffering acutely from the depressed economic and social conditions and from the escalating campaigns of state terrorism by the Arroyo puppet regime. We must draw from the FQS the fighting spirit, the principles and the methods of generating resistance in the national and provincial capitals and on a nationwide scale in both urban and rural areas. ###


MP3 of the speech of Prof. Jose Maria Sison






By Bonifacio P. Ilagan
Chair, First Quarter Storm Movement

Paper delivered for the cultural forum "Remembering the First Quarter Storm: Four Decades of the People's Movement for National Liberation," sponsored by the Initiatives for Peace (Inpeace)in Mindanao, Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan (Kasimbayan)- North Central Mindanao Region, Sisters' Association in Mindanao (Samin), Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Northern Mindanao Region; 31 January 2009; Lourdes College Auditorium, Capistrano-Hayes St., Cagayan de Oro City

YOU have asked me to talk about a lifetime, a year short of 40 to be exact, if we count from 1970. And speaking of 40, Jose Rizal was 35 when Spanish bullets felled him at the park. Andres Bonifacio was 34 when the sentence of death was meted out against him. Gabriela Silang was 33 when she was hanged.

Harking back to more recent years, Edgar Jopson was 34 when he was killed in Matina, Davao City. Merardo Arce, my buddy in the UP Diliman Kabataang Makabayan and Panday Sining, was 31 when he was gunned down in Cebu City. Ma. Lorena Barros, a dear friend of mine, was 28 when she was murdered in Quezon. Lean Alejandro was 27 when military rightists ambushed him outside the office of Bayan in Quezon City.

I could go on and on in this litany of precious lives all ending before 40 and we could all end up in a chorus of distress.

But you did not ask me to come to Cagayan de Oro City to deliver a eulogy for the dead. You asked me to present a tribute to our people's renewed struggle for national freedom, peace and democracy that had crossed a lifetime. If I recited this record of some of the finest lives that had touched our own, it is because they form part of the lifeline of our people's aspirations to realize the fullness of their human potential. Having survived my generation that made its mark in the first three months of 1970, now called the First Quarter Storm, I can only dedicate this address to them.

But it is more for us on whom the departed have handed down the mass movement that an accounting of the years must be done – for obvious reasons: It is us who must be keenly aware of where we stand in order to know where we are going.

Why 1970

Indeed, why do we mark 1970 in the manner that we do? Why not 1950, or 1968 – 69? I guess it must be because in 1970, the mass movement took on a qualitative leap that undeniably changed the stream of our history. Of course, 1970 could not have happened had the events of the previous years not occurred and set the stage for the FQS.

Where were you in early 1970? That is a question that I am fond of throwing around when conversation shifts to Philippine history -- because I have a ready answer to that. But when I am told that one has not yet been born in 1970, I feel old, and my youth, ancient history. And so, for those who have not yet been born in 1970, or who had no remembrance of it because they were still infants or toddlers, it was when the youth of the land displayed in public a social enlightenment never before seen in these parts. For the first three months of 1970, political demonstrations, people's marches and people's congresses became an almost daily happening in Manila and elsewhere.

So what was outstanding about that? Nowadays, protest actions happen many times over, too, and many a Filipino does not give a hoot, especially the elite and the power-wielders. That is exactly the point: When the FQS happened in 1970, the nation was given a jolt so strong it shook the foundations of society. Today, when we talk of the climate of impunity, we refer not only to the realm of human rights but also to the realm of governance. Philippine officialdom has become unbelievably immune to rallies and public criticism, bereft of ethics, soaked to the bones in corruption and self-interest.

In the course of the FQS of 1970, youth and student activists fanned out across the breadth and width of the country, their placards and streamers echoing the cry of the heroes of a bygone revolution against colonialism. If today we talk of a vision-mission-goal in our respective organizations, they, too, had their VMG, but did not call those in that manner. They were simply dedicated to “arousing, organizing and mobilizing” the people.

I was there when it happened.

A flashback

January 1970 offered a great opportunity for activists of all shades to get together in a show of force against the Marcos regime. Marcos was set to deliver his “State of the Nation Address” on the 26th. We were prepared to present our own version. On that day, about 50,000 students, joined by workers, peasants and the middle class trooped to Congress to give Marcos the lie. It was also an occasion for the national-democrats to reject once again the forthcoming constitutional convention. On the other hand, the social-democrats, led by their own firebrand Edgar Jopson, proclaimed that it was the only remaining hope for national reformation.

The violence that ensued after Marcos had delivered his fairy tale in Congress was a most graphic show of police brutality, which the media dutifully reported. Against a force of some 7,000 policemen and soldiers, the demonstrators stood their ground for hours. Scores were hurt, some badly. Marcos again issued his standard line: It was a mob instigated by the communists to sow anarchy.

While activist organizations mapped out their actions, Marcos met with his generals to prepare for a war scenario. Meanwhile, smaller protest actions kept alive the tension in the air. In less than a week, the activists mounted another massive rally to protest state fascism and reiterate the people’s demands for social change. January 30-31, 1970 turned into a seesaw battle between the activists and the combined forces of the police and combat troopers of the various service units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Starting early in the evening of January 30, a melee broke out on the street fronting the presidential palace. Poison crept in the air. Tear gas blinded our eyes and made breathing painful. We scampered for water to wash off the chemical. We attacked, nevertheless, and the police retreated; the armed goons of the state attacked, we took a retreat. The metropolitan police were unable to control the situation. Marcos called in the jungle fighters and special forces trained by the U.S. Now we had to dodge bullets as bodies started falling to the ground.

All in all, some 12,000 government forces were thrown in the battle that spread through a big part of downtown Manila and lasted until the wee hours of January 31.

People’s support in the communities where the fighting erupted sustained the courage of the activists. We pitted sticks and stones, improvised bombs and projectiles against the tear gas, water cannons and assault rifles of the government troopers, all courtesy of the U.S.

During the night, four students died of multiple bullets wounds. Hundreds, maybe thousands, were injured. I came out of it unscathed, but I shared in the collective leap in consciousness. All the discussion about history and society and the basic problems of the people redounded to only one singular course of concrete action: Be with the people and fight, and fight some more.

February saw an almost weekly demonstration in Manila, often ending in a battle with the police. By March, we were launching not only public meetings but also six-hour marches all over the metropolis. We brought the burning issues of the day right where the most impoverished of the people were -- in slum areas many of us never knew existed, in factories where the workers eked out a living, in side streets where the dregs of the city throve. Meanwhile, rallies and marches were also happening in the urban and town centers in Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Northern Luzon, Bicol, Visayas and Mindanao.

Slogans and a Tradition

The FQS of 1970 was a time to be bold and daring for a cause that became my generation’s badge of courage. Like most of the youth activists of the time, the experience was all I needed to affirm for life a dictum: Against an intrinsically oppressive and exploitative system, to rebel is justified!

The FQS of 1970 affirmed that the central social and political issue was Reformism versus Revolution; that since Philippine society was semicolonial and semifeudal, the path to genuine change was national-democratic.

As one gigantic school, the FQS of 1970 animated three life-changing principles. First, to overcome reactionary or retrogressive attitude and the culture of subservience – "Makibaka, Huwag Matakot! (Struggle, Be Not Afraid)." Second, to remold one's self and achieve truthful and correct knowledge – "Mula sa Masa, Tungo sa Masa (From the Masses, to the Masses)." And third, to light up one's path and find life's meaning – "Paglingkuran ang Sambayanan (Serve the People)."

All told, the FQS established and enshrined a tradition of militancy and selfless service to the people, and a recognition of the role of the masses – the workers and the peasants in their collective strength -- as the motive force in the making of history and in the triumph of any movement for social transformation.

Ingrained, too, in this tradition is the legacy of critical thinking and dedication to fight oppression and exploitation in whatever forms these may take, assertion and defense of human rights and commitment to stand for freedom and justice wherever we are and whatever we do. These values could very well be a code for living life.

The FQS of 1970 is a reminder of the continuing past. Every time we commemorate or study the FQS, we are told that the struggle to free our people goes on because the aim of national and social liberation remains to be done. The global system of oppression and exploitation has worsened the condition of the people everywhere in the world. The power relations that have victimized the masses for so long are still in place. And so, the fight must go on: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!

Beyond the FQS of 1970

But the enemy, then epitomized by the Marcos regime, would not surrender without putting up a fight. In 1971, the president suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and eventually declared martial law in September 1972 to install himself as a full-fledged dictator.

The people's movement had to take a few steps back. For a time, Marcos became cocksure that martial law would last forever. Bloodied but undaunted, and in a manner that was slow but certain, our movement not only reclaimed lost ground but also regained new frontiers. The whole struggle against the Marcos military dictatorship is a testament to the resiliency and awesome dedication of the men and women, heroes and martyrs, of the national-democratic movement.

In many a subplot to the drama that was the movement, even the staunchest of the opposition was drawn to it. There was Edgar Jopson, for instance, who eventually transformed to become one of its leaders, a role model no less, of the revolutionary movement.

We all know how martial law ended -- with the people aroused, organized and mobilized, finding their bearing, choking Edsa and storming the palace. Unfortunately, when Edsa of February 1986 comes to mind nowadays, there is a palpable attempt to cut off the FQS of 1970, as well as the long and arduous national-democratic struggle during martial law, from the chain of events and the continuum of history. Some quarters would rather have it that the Edsa Uprising happened in a flash.

For whatever it meant, the Edsa Uprising, mistakenly called a Revolution by many, did not deliver on its promises of social change. At best, it caused the return to power of the old elite who comprised the big landlords and bureaucrat-capitalists who were also the traditional politicians. This time, they were accompanied by the newly-rising power-brokers masquerading as the enlightened generation of civil society leaders with novel ideas about social movements.

In the political euphoria, the Cory Aquino interlude proved to be a difficult period in the people's struggle. We had to move about in a vastly altered political landscape. And we moved heavily because we were burdened by the errors of the past. Not a few among us also got entangled in the confusion of the so-called democratic space, not knowing that that space was meant to suffocate anyone who actually believed and went in it. They thought they were thinking out of the box, little knowing that they were actually being boxed in by the patrons of the "new" dispensation. Other than that, the alternative to Marcos eventually shed off amity with the people and decided to pursue the agenda of the elite, to which she really belonged, and of their foreign patrons.

In the end, however, righteousness of thinking prevailed. Persistence to the basic principles of the mass movement won the day.

But it was far from a walk in the park for the people and their movement during the administrations of Gen. Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada. During their watch, the two gentlemen proved to be as unscrupulous as their predecessors in assaulting the mass movement. Likewise, as the errors and the ghosts of the past continued to hound us, we persisted and fought tooth and nail on many fronts. That we are meeting today, inspired by the history of some 39-40 years, is proof enough that the movement of the people, and for the people, is here to stay. Be advised, however, that a staying power does not equate with victory.

At the height of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's perorations about a state of national emergency, one senator said that Marcos was better than she was. Marcos at least declared martial law before he did what he did. Gloria did not care as much, doing what Marcos did without declaring martial law.

And so now, we come to the reign of Gloria. We find that the Philippines remains in a state of crisis that could be traced 39 years back in time, definitely even more. The cancer of society that we decried in the 1970s still persists today. The "isms" of our youth remain as the "isms" of our so-called golden years that stare us all in the face: U.S. imperialism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism – even as some quarters say these have all become hogwash now, laos na. To these people, I say, please take another look. These are the evils that keep our people oppressed and exploited even now. The power structure and power relations -- the triangle of Philippine society is what has always been the repulsive Philippine status quo.

The challenge, thus, is for all of us, nationalists, social change agents, mass activists, enlightened church people and citizens to march hand in hand in the mainstream of the people’s continuing struggle for freedom, justice and democracy.

National Liberation

All efforts must be connected to a single struggle: our people's struggle for national liberation. Let not the sense of national liberation be taken away from our various struggles for human rights, jobs, just wages, land to till, education, social services. Deconstruct any of these away from national liberation and we construct a problem in favor of the enemy.

Colonialism and imperialism deprived our people of an opportunity to develop as human beings and as one national community. But it is also in the wars against colonialism and imperialism that Filipinos learned the ideal of national liberation.

That flag you see waving resplendently in the air is a flag of highly questionable independence. That is because, even as Spain, the U.S. and Japan came and went, there was no national liberation of the people that we could speak of.
The wealth and economy of the Philippines have remained in the control of Spanish landlords and their descendants, American monopoly-capitalists and Japanese manufacturers. The cultural impositions of these aggressors have so infected the psyche of the Filipinos that much of our own identity is now lost in the dissonance of the alien standards.

The uninitiated wonders endlessly. Why have our people remained poor? Why have we degenerated in the many aspects of nationhood? Why have peace and progress remained as elusive dreams for the toiling masses? It is because the essential need to liberate our nation from the bondage of foreign oppression and exploitation has yet to be fulfilled. Indeed, a just and lasting peace, as well as the full development of the potentials of country and people, is possible only if the demand for national liberation is completely satisfied.

Today in the Philippines, it is the current national-democratic movement that has stood up to the task. It
has proven to be the most steadfast. And it has made one thing clear: It is in the victory of this movement that genuine progress and a just and lasting peace will blossom. Without attaining complete and unconditional national liberation, no flag of independence may flutter in the air, no progress report worth heralding, no peace may reign in the land.

National liberation is an intrinsic right in the existence and development of a people. Deprived of it, they are left at the mercy of the forces of oppression and exploitation. National liberation, therefore, is the collective safeguard of a people against foreign subjugation. It also is the bedrock upon which independence, sovereignty and national development are established.

National liberation is the single biggest collective enterprise that a people need to undertake to be able to develop its potentials to the fullest. As in a play, it is the premise upon which a people’s struggle against the forces of underdevelopment must be won.

Expectedly, the local and international powers that benefit from the subjugation of a people will always declare that movements and wars of national liberation are a threat to the cause of peace and progress. The history of the Philippines attests to this.

But it is also history that, in due time, will proclaim that going to war in pursuit of national liberation is just and righteous.

By fighting for our national liberation, there will be no false choices, and we -- even as we are called Left, will always be on the right, that is to say, correct, side of history.
To the sponsors of this significant event, the Initiatives for Peace (Inpeace) in Mindanao, Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan (Kasimbayan)—North Central Mindanao Region, Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)- Northern Mindanao Region, thank you so much for inviting me in Cagayan de Oro City.
In behalf of the First Quarter Storm Movement, I say mabuhay kayong lahat!


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