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My gratitude to the Philippine Women’s Center of Ontario and allied organizations for putting together this event. My thanks as well to all of you who took the time to be here. February is not our favorite month in the northeast, what with the cold, rain and generally abject weather conditions. So I know that your presence here today is an expression of support for the subject and co-author of this book, Prof. Jose Ma. Sison.

We meet at a time when once again, a crescendo of vilification is aimed at the Philippine revolutionary movement and at Prof. Sison, accusing both of a host of ills. We meet at a time when, despite the intensifying repression in the Philippines and foreign troops are poised to re-occupy segments of the Philippine territory, the most deafening condemnation is aimed at the very forces seeking to affirm Philippine independence, self-reliance and liberation. We meet at a time when silence greets the increased extrajudicial killings of activists, human rights campaigners, political campaigners, sectoral and union organizers. We meet at a time when military and paramilitary forces kill women associated with the women’s organization GABRIELA at an alarming rate. That this is happening at a time when the Manila government itself proclaims its intentions to export one million Filipinos every year adds to our apprehension. You and I and the whole world know that women account for 65% of exported Fiipinos, most of them between the ages of 22-25. We have said before that never have women been asked to be as selfless in a world that rewards selfishness the most. Today, I add that never has there been such silent complicity in the world for the enslavement and indenture of women, for their exploitation, abuse and murder.

It was in the context of this unprecedented oppression and exploitation of the Filipina that I agreed to do this book with Prof. Sison. It occurred to me that, in a movement that affirms the Filipino people’s right to dignity and self-respect, to genuine independence and self-reliance, to liberation and fulfillment, the voice of the women of the Philippines should ring loud, if not the loudest; that their role in the struggle for freedom should be vital, if not decisive. This book is this writer’s contribution and homage to the valiant women of the Philippines. By engaging in a political discourse with Prof. Sison, it was my personal hope that Filipinas everywhere would be inspired to document their experiences, their thoughts, their aspirations. And more, that they will be engaged actively in the realization of their vision of a just and peaceful society. Only by doing so can we come to a point in our history when migration will no longer be a matter of necessity nor imperative but a true matter of choice.

I hope this book serves to inspire women to engage in public discourse and action.

That said, I can tell you that this book has been an adventure, creating in its wake some astonishing and delightful situations. Most affecting was the way by which people took the book as a collective property of the Filipino people’s movement. This first happened in the Philippines where several luminaries of people’s organizations were present: Congresswoman Liza Masa, Congressman Crispin Beltran… Also Luis Jalandoni of the NDFP serendipitously was in the Philippines and attended the launch. I was surprised to find that buyers of the book asked just about every luminary present to sign their copies, so that by the time they reached me – the line was very long – I found myself adding my signature to the signatures of men and women who had fought long and hard for the people’s freedom. It was quite edifying. This happened again and again, and I realized that the book has come to be viewed as a collective expression of the people’s movement.

Needless to say, I was happy to share my hand cramps with all the famous people who signed copies of the book.

Prof. Sison’s words comprise the bulk of the book – his analysis of our history, current issues and what he foresees for the country and the people, how he views his life and role in what has become an epic struggle. At the first series of interviews I had with Prof. Sison, I was beset with difficulty, with uncertainty; I couldn’t quite get a handle on the man. It was later that I realized I was looking at him as an individual, asking personal questions and trying to understand him in terms of his own, individual approach to existence. It was only later that I realized that a warrior has no biography, only a Cause; that his biography is the Cause that is the reason for his existence, without which he drops into the common pale of humanity. I realized then how paradoxical and ironic the essence of Prof. Sison’s life has been. In his advocacy for the most ordinary of people – peasants, workers, students and youth, the great masses of our population, as it were – he had to be and indeed became extraordinary.

Extraordinary because the dominant culture of our semi-colonial and semifeudal society defined “normalcy” as subservience to the ruling class and its government, subservience to US and other foreign interests, subservience to multinational corporations and consumerism, subservience to the instruments of finance capital and imperialism. By these terms, Prof. Sison was indeed “extraordinary.”

The repercussions of this “extraordinariness” include lifetime persecution, daily threats of arrest, imprisonment, assassination. Truly, he has had no time in his life when he was not under attack or threatened. Later, I would come to understand that this fact about Prof. Sison’s life concentrates a truth about the lives of the masses on whose behalf he has struggled. Does not even the quietest of domestic helper live under constant threat? Does not even the quietest of seaman live with oppression and repression, under threat of harassment and vilication? Do not our workers and peasants live in the midst of the most acute of vulnerabilities – prey to militarization, subject to the whims of bosses and landlords, their lives jerry-rigged so that long-term planning is impossible? The whole country, as a matter of fact, lives in a constant state of insecurity, subject to the decisions of such entities as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, of the World Trade Organization.

And this is one reason, among many, why we oppose the persecution of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison. To tolerate it would be to tolerate the persecution of the Filipino masses. To countenance it would be to countenance the oppression of workers and peasants. To accept the listing of Prof. Sison as terrorist without due process, to say nothing about the severance of his social benefits, would be to approve the denial of our rights as migrants and exiles. To keep quiet about the denial of Prof. Sison’s right to work would be to accept the provisions of such programs as the Live-in Caregiver Program which restricts the migrant’s access to decent work with decent pay.

For far too long, my friends, have we – men and women of the Philippines – lived under constant attack, persecution, murder and the general indifference of the world towards our rights and our freedoms. It is time we put an end to this, by denying those who have imposed this upon us the power to continue doing it to us. This we can accomplish only if we remain in organized resistance to oppression and exploitation. It is my hope that this book will contribute to such a determination and commitment on our part, that the book will be one of the artifacts illuminating the road toward liberation.

Thank you for your kindness towards the book and Prof. Sison. And thank you for your kindness to me. Remember the warrior’s Cause and you will know his biography.