- Child of the Revolution:Finding a Voice in Activism and Academia
In November 2016, the young students of St. Scholastica's College in the Philippines gathered outside their Manila campus grounds to protest the order allowing the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery). Clad in their instantly recognizable navy blue and white pinafore uniforms, carrying handmade posters and placards, the children raised their fists to the air, and chanted in perfect unison: "MARCOS IS NO HERO!" (Occeñola).
During the presidential elections of 2016, Rodrigo Duterte declared his support for the burial, citing that there was no legally sound argument to oppose it—Marcos was, after all, both a former member of the military and a former president. Thus, upon being elected to the country's highest political office, he announced approval of the order and sparked numerous protests from Filipinos all around the world.
A burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani has been an honor for deceased military personnel and national figures in the Philippines since its establishment in 1947. The order to provide Marcos with that honor was particularly controversial due to the brutal nature of Marcos' fourteen-year period of authoritarian rule, known as Batas Militar, or Martial Law. Those who supported the burial cited it as an important and symbolic step toward national healing (Reformina). But those who opposed the move—a camp led by survivors of the era's definitive human rights abuses—argued that the Marcos burial would only serve to further the rampant efforts toward historical revisionism that bolstered the continuing, if not thriving, political and public careers of various members of the Marcos family (Obordo; Torres-Tupas).
In Edinburgh, I stood across from the Balmoral Hotel with a small contingent of local Filipinos and protested the Marcos burial in solidarity with our countrymen half a world away. Our demonstration went largely [End Page 191] unnoticed. We carried placards, chanted familiar lines, and sang old protest songs, but it mostly felt like we were speaking to a public who neither knew, nor wanted to know, about what was happening in a small, far-off Asian country. The only people who took photos were the protest organizers and the only people who rallied to our cause were our fellow Filipinos who 'liked' these photos through social media platforms.
The same could not be said of the St. Scholastica protests. Theirs were demonstrations that demanded attention, not just because of their cause but also primarily because of how young they were1—for despite how strongly young people associate themselves with sociopolitical movements and participate in protest,2 adults often perceive young people as apolitical (Rodgers 239).
Their most high-profile criticism was from the Mocha Uson Blog, a collectively run self-identified pro-Duterte Facebook page fronted by the eponymous celebrity blogger turned political pundit and government official. The page posted numerous denunciations of the 2016 St. Scholastica protests. Some were in the form of reposted photos of the girls in action, captioned with hashtags like "#galawangDILAW" (#YELLOWmovement)3 (Mocha Uson Blog, "Pinlit") or accusatory statements implying that the children were just serving the opposition party's agendas (Mocha Uson Blog, "We"). One of the platform's opinion pieces claimed that its own views on the issue were devoid of political motivation, and that their main concern was St. Scholastica College betraying its responsibility as an educational institution by allowing students to take part in an activity that would put them in harm's way; patriotism, the piece argued, was better demonstrated and taught by studying history in the classroom, not by protesting in the streets (Mocha Uson Blog, "Ito"). Like-minded critics rallied to the blog's comments section and their own social media spaces, and even labelled the school's and parents' alleged "complacency" in the matter as child abuse. Others cited the fact that these protesting children were not even born during martial law and thus couldn't possibly understand what they were fighting for. Some even said that the children were brainwashed by the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), who at the time vehemently opposed...