What the title really means is “Oh my Gabriela I married an activist.” No, I didn’t marry a person named Gabriela but my wife is a member of the Gabriela women’s group. To my non-Filipino friends, Gabriela is an activist group known for its uncompromising, über defense of women’s rights. Its members chose the name Gabriela in honor of Gabriela Silang, a folk heroine from Ilocos who fought Spanish colonialists.
Before proceeding, I’d like to emphasize that I’m using the OMG expression as a positive exclamation. It’s like this: OMG I won the lottery prize! And not like this: OMG who is this person sleeping in my room? But quite like this: OMG is it the time of the month already?
There’s really no surprise about her activism since I’m also a proud and even unrepentant national democratic activist. I knew from the start the kind of life I will endure, oops, celebrate with her. It’s not as if she deliberately hid her activism to lure me into submission. So this is not a candy piece about an innocent soul screaming for justice after learning about the truth of his better half. Neither is this an erotic expose of the exotic world of underground activists. First, we are not in the underground; and second, the love life of activists is not really esoteric. We meet, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we fall in love again, and then we die. But love is defined broadly here; love that suffuses the personal and political, love that colors the marital and class struggle.
I am writing this partly in reaction to social media memes that claim to instruct us about the magic and mysteries of love. Indeed, most of the time they are feel-good moral invocations that boost middle-class romantic relations. They are funny, witty, and ultimately celebratory notions of modern romance. But I find many of them unsatisfactory and even naïve. Indeed, love may be a universal theme and force for good but it rarely resembles the fairy tales of our bedtime stories and the lives of pop culture idols.
For every hashtag that promotes progressive love, there are dozens peddling a feudal concept of romance. How can we move on when we are hostaged by a delightful throwback of disempowering mementoes of the past? There must be a decisive rupturing with the old to embrace the promise of the authentic new. The preceding statement applies to both love and politics. But can we ever truly liberate ourselves that will finally allow us to claim the future? Ahh, here lies the duplicity of so-called modern love (and politics): it relegates the past to insignificance when it encounters something new and seemingly attractive yet it achingly seeks the return of lost time when life suddenly becomes dull and difficult. It is irritatingly, irresistibly, insatiable. Love moves or flows in a continuum and perhaps the best way to grasp its essence is to experience its brutal total impact in a dialectical way. Dialectics? Relax, it’s just dialectics. The past merging with the present and future. The past breaking through the contradictions to give way to the present and future. The future returning to the past. Who better to explain this concept than an activist reared in the art and science of creating truths? And what can be more fun than testing this theory in real life?
The activist who understands that the personal reflects the political and vice versa. The activist lover who seeks the rational amid the frenzy of subjective emotions. The ‘full time’ lover in the age of ephemerality. The couple committed to and united by the ideals of justice and equality.
“Proletarian victory aside, the ultimate prize of the revolution is embracing the struggle with the love of your life.”
A war is always raging somewhere but sometimes we choose to be oblivious to what’s happening around us. But alas, when we open our eyes to reality, the world becomes more than knowable; it is suddenly transformed into an object ready to be transformed into something else. Then, we join the ranks of various anonymous collectives so that this world-without-name will soon emerge. In the course of waging this long struggle, we meet fellow travelers who will remain our best of friends and comrades. A most special gift is crossing paths with a person who will, to put it mildly, overwhelm your inner being. But exchanging affections is just one of the pleasurable things you will do with this person. The best part is taking this life journey with him or her. Proletarian victory aside, the ultimate prize of the revolution is embracing the struggle with the love of your life.
Much has been said about two individuals overcoming their differences in the name of love. It is a celebrated love story and charming proof of our shared humanity. Without doubt, love can come from the unlikeliest sources. Perhaps no two persons are alike so that they can find it easier to love another being. Isn’t the feeling of completeness one of the unconscious desires of a person seeking love? I do not strongly contest this assertion. But let me also argue that it isn’t enough for lovers to transcend their differences. After the acceptance and compromise or during the non-stop struggle over this issue, the two lovers must learn and promise to share something essential. Perhaps a fundamental aim to guide their lives. A higher cause to strengthen their union. A vision of an ideal life that will inspire the couple to become better individuals.
Differences are normal and exciting but a shared perspective is perhaps more enduring. A couple, activist or not, giving their very best to the fulfillment of an intangible goal is perhaps leading a happier and more contented life over a couple hostaged by pecuniary desires.
I have no other example to offer other than what I experience everyday in my married life. Let me say a few words about my wife, my activist wife: As more and more people are tragically succumbing to the inhuman dictates of vulgar materialism, I derive a humble pride that my wife and I are not slaves to this pestering virus that destroys solidarities and relationships. I am prouder, much much prouder in fact, that my wife is an activist like me – studying dialectics, empowering the grassroots, and fighting for a new future.
There are life challenges to surmount, everyday petty battles that consume our energies, societal obligations to fulfill in the old decaying order – but the prospect of surviving all of these with my wife by my side while pursuing the political struggle for genuine social change is my daily boost that allows me to face the harsh world with more confidence and happiness.
Mong Palatino is the country’s first blogger turned legislator. After serving two terms in Congress, he is now the chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Metro Manila.
Click below to read Mong’s “Bakit Aktibista ang Crush ng Crush Mo?”