The UP Diliman Office of the Culture and Arts launched Barikada Singkwenta: Pagpupugay at Paggunita, a vigil part of enKWENTrO: UP Diliman Arts & Culture Festival 2021, on February 1 in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of The Diliman Commune. It was directed by UP College of Arts and Letters professor Jose Estrella.
Visual retelling of The Commune through Barikada
Before the main event, a short video was presented of artist Toym Imao explaining Barikada throughhis grand art installation in front of Quezon Hall. Imao said that Barikada contained elements of Nagbabadyang Unos, another installation from last year in commemoration of the First Quarter Storm which depicted a floating barricade.
Both installations are part of his three-year project as regards historical events transpired in the country in the span of five decades. The final piece will be for the declaration of the Martial Law.
Barikada installation was made out of unconventional materials found throughout the university, representing the barricades during Diliman Commune and what took place before actual barricades were put up back then.
“It will tell a story about that particular time, a pivotal period in the history of the UP Student Movement in which much of what happened will be represented by different images integrated within that installation,” quipped Imao.
Imao also stressed the relevance and importance of the installation amidst the state’s heightened attacks against the UP community.
He recalled how a week before putting up Barikada, a news broke out that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated the UP-DND Accord or the agreement between UP and Department of National Defense (DND) barring state forces from entering the University premises to uphold academic freedom.
The sudden termination prompted him to think that “the University is again under siege” especially with the number of baseless red-tagging cases against progressive students, faculty, and staff. As a matter of fact, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) released a list of universities, including UP campuses, they claimed to be recruitment grounds of the New People’s Army.
He also saw the importance of the installations upon telling the stories of past events to combat historical revisionism.
Nevertheless, Imao firmly believed that the new UP students will continue the tradition of academic freedom and maintain honor and excellence.
Remembering the nine-day uprising
Engkwentro kicked off with opening remarks from UP President Danilo Conception. He emphasized the importance of knowing the country’s history and honoring the struggle of the students during the Diliman Commune in fighting for academic freedom and the freedom of the Filipino people. He was then followed UPD Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo who also delivered his message.
“Hindi maitanggi na ang siyam na araw na barikada noon ay simbolo ng tapang, tatag ng paninindigan, at pagkakaisa ng ating komunidad para ipagtanggol ang ating unibersidad.” said Nemenzo.
[We can’t deny that the nine-day barricade then was a symbol of courage, firm stance, and the unity of our community to defend our university]
Nemenzo also emphasized on the recent attacks against student activists in UP. He stressed that the institution does not decide for its students but rather the students themselves do.
“Sila, at hindi ang UP ang nagdedesisyon kung paano nila patuloy na pag-aalabin ang mga prinsipyo ng pamantasang ito, sa larangan man ng gobyerno, sa negosyo, sa kilusan, o sa mga komunidad.” he said.
[It is them [the students], and not UP who decides on how they should continue to keep the principles of the institution whether in the field of the government, business, the movement, or in communities.]
They also honored Pastor “Sonny” Mesina who was shot dead by a pro-Marcos UP professor during the commune.
Also present were Diliman Commune veterans Rowena Daroy Morales, Bonifacio Ilagan, Judy Taguiwalo, and Jose “Butch” Dalisay Jr. The Communards, as the Diliman Commune protesters referred to themselves as, shared their experiences, sentiments, and read poems inspired by the nine-day uprising.
Morales remembered throwing wooden chairs from the 3rd floor of the Arts and Science (AS) building to fuel a bonfire to light up the University as they continued their fight.
She also affirmed that she was unfamiliar with the word “commune” before yet she knew why they were there and what they stood for.
“Alam lang namin ay may pinapaglaban kami at alam lang namin na kailangang kami’y nandirito at hindi namin papagayagan na pumasok yung mga pwersang gustong sirain yung mga itinataguyod namin and what we really stood for.”
[All we knew is that we were fighting for something, that we needed to be here, and we will not let in the forces that wanted to ruin what we were upholding and what we really stood for]
On the other hand, Ilagan delivered a short yet poignant poem encouraging the community to “raise the barricades higher” and continue the fight.
“Walang masama sa ating paglaban, hanggang tiwali ang ating lipunan, yang pagreredtag, pagdakip, pagpatay, hindi magtutumpak sa kapansanan, sa mga problema’y hindi kalutasan kaya barikada’y higit pang itatag, matibay, matikas, higit pang mataas. Tuloy sa paglaban.Tagumpay! Sa wakas!” Ilagan recited.
[There is nothing wrong with our fight, as long as our society is corrupt, those red-tagging incidents, arrests, and killings will not be a solution to the problems which is why barricades should be built stronger and higher. Continue fighting! Victory! At last!]
Taguiwalo, however, expressed that a commemoration is not enough, taking into account the various issues surrounding the country and the University including the termination of the UP-DND Accord.
“Hindi sapat ang paggunita dahil sa gitna ng pandemya, sa gitna ng pinakamasahol na pag-atras ng ating ekonomiya, sa gitna ng walang habas na paglabag sa karapatang pantao ay tinuturing na, quote-unquote, na haven of the enemies of the state ang UP kaya ipinawalang bisa ang UP-DND Accord” said Taguiwalo.
[A commemoration is not enough because in the middle of a pandemic, of our worst economic recession, of relentless human rights violations, they consider UP, quote-unquote, as the haven of the enemies of the state, a reason why they terminated the UP-DND Accord.]
She reiterated Nemenzo’s statement that there is still a need for unity, freedom, and to stand up for the University to ensure that UP continues its historical role of being a critic of society and a servant of the people.
Lastly, Dalisay Jr. reads his poem about his role in the Commune entitled “At 17” as well as the last stanza of Eman Lacaba’s “Mga Bukas na Liham sa mga Artistang Pilipino”. He also signaled for the ringing of the Carillon Bells to honor students and the youth who continue to fight for human rights and social justice and for UP’s advocacy of free thought.
Musical performances were also featured throughout the vigil. To close the first event of Engkwentro, Internasyunal and UP Naming Mahal were sung by those present in the event.
A full recording of the event can be accessed through the UP Diliman Facebook page where it was originally live-streamed.
Engkwentro will continue with SA(LA)YSAY NG DILIMAN COMMUNE, a virtual exhibition that is set to be launched this February 9.