Oplan Bayanihan

4 04 2011

Habi-Arts, a Los Angeles based U.S. Filipino cultural organization designed this image poster to remind the public that nothing has changed under the new Oplan Bayanihan - Human Rights Violations persist under the military's watch.


Eman Lacaba: The Brown Rimbaud

3 04 2011

The tenth of December is marked as International Human Rights Day. The first International Human Rights Day fell on December 10, 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares all people to be free and to have equal rights and dignity and enumerates all human rights, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.




Eman Lacaba, poet and warrior

The tenth of December is marked as International Human Rights Day. The first International Human Rights Day fell on December 10, 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares all people to be free and to have equal rights and dignity and enumerates all human rights, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

On International Human Rights Day, it is fitting to remember the late Filipino writer and revolutionary Emmanuel Agapito “Eman” Lacaba. He was born on the very day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly. He lost his life at the height of martial law–a victim of a human rights violation.

Eman Lacaba was born and raised in Pateros. In an essay he wrote as a high school student, “Personal Statement of Emmanuel Lacaba”, which his brother Jose, more popularly known as Pete, believes was written in connection with his application for an American Field Service (AFS) scholarship, he described his family thus: “Our family is neither rich nor very poor. At least we have enough to live on.”

Enfant Terrible

Eman Lacaba has often been compared to the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, a fact he himself alluded to in one of his poems, “Open Letters to Filipino Artists”, where he told of his being called “the brown Rimbaud.” The comparison stems from the fact that he was, like Rimbaud, an enfant terrible, a literary virtuoso at a very young age–he started writing poetry at 14—and did so like a master even then. The similarity between them became all the more striking when he lost his life without reaching his fortieth year–just like Rimbaud.

He began to display vast and varied talents at a very young age. He learned to read early and was a very voracious reader before he was in high school—reading everything, as he said, “from the Bible to Mad, from newspapers to encyclopedias, from physics to law and business books, from mathematics to poetry.” From first grade to his last year in high school, he was at the top of his class. A brilliant and prolific writer at a young age, he became editor-in-chief of the high school paper. He was also a versatile athlete; he

played basketball, soccer, and was into track and field. He was an excellent actor on the stage. In recognition of his leadership skills, his schoolmates gave him many of the top positions in school organizations–he was class president from fifth grade to his last year in high school, he became president of the High School Drama Club and the High School Student Council.

He received almost all of his pre-university education from the Pasig Catholic College. While still a student of this school, he applied for and received an AFS scholarship, through which he got to spend an entire school year in the United States.

After high school, he had the chance to choose among no less than three scholarships from the University of the Philippines (UP), the Ateneo de Manila University, and De la Salle University. He chose the Manuel de Leon scholarship at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he took a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, and maintained it until he completed his course. This, despite the fact that he spent much of his time away from the classroom, writing or doing research.


If there is something Eman Lacaba is most noted for, it is for having been a writer-activist. He was a poet, essayist, playwright, fictionist, and scriptwriter who joined the protest movement in his student days and later lost his life as an armed revolutionary.

It was at the Ateneo that he began to be involved in social and political causes. He was part of a group which fought for the Filipinization of the university administration, which was then largely American-led, and the use of Filipino as medium of instruction. His group also called on their schoolmates to immerse themselves in the issues which had begun to galvanize their fellow students at UP.

In his early days as an activist, his poetry began to show signs of the road he was to take for the rest of his life, with his increasingly frequent use of the image of Icarus, a Greek mythological character who burned his wings, fell to the sea, and died because he flew too close to the sun–an often-used symbol for those who perish in the pursuit of lofty causes.

He also joined Panday Sining, the cultural arm of the militant Kabataang Makabayan, and is believed to have participated in the First Quarter Storm.

In his college days he frequently commuted between the Bohemian life and activism. It was only after college that he would turn his back on the former.

Before he graduated from college, he won a major literary award for Punch and Judas, a short novel depicting the transformation of an intellectual, Felipe “Philip” Angeles, from Bohemian to activist.

After college, he taught Rizal’s Life and Works at UP and got involved in the labor movement. He also became a member of the militant writers’ group Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan. Just two months before the declaration of martial law, he was among a number of picketers at a small factory in Pasig who faced threats and truncheons from the police while the strike was being dispersed. He was arrested and briefly incarcerated.

After that, he became active on the stage, writing and acting in plays. He also assisted in film productions, and among his compiled writings are a number of unfinished film storylines. He wrote the lyrics for the theme song of the Lino Brocka-directed movie Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, which takes potshots at the hypocrisy of society.

In 1975 he set out for Mindanao to cast his lot with the armed revolutionary movement, to become a “people’s warrior”, as he later called himself in a poem.

Such was his passion for writing that he wrote even while leading the life of a revolutionary guerilla. It was in the hills, in fact, that he wrote one of the poems he is best remembered for, “Open Letters to Filipino Artists”, where he wrote of the armed revolutionary movement thus: “We are tribeless and all tribes are ours./We are homeless and all homes are ours./We are nameless and all names are ours./To the fascists we are the faceless enemy/Who come like thieves in the night, angels of death:/The ever moving, shining, secret eye of the storm.”

Death of a People’s Warrior

At dawn sometime in March 1976, death came for Eman Lacaba. At this time he was set to go back shortly to the city for a new assignment that would have used his writing skills, and had even agreed to write a script for Lino Brocka once he got back there

It was not yet six in the morning. Eman and three other companions were having breakfast in a peasant’s hut. Outside the house were their wet clothes and shoes, left there to dry.

Elements of an armed team made up of Philippine Constabulary (PC) men and members of the Civilian Home Defense Front (CHDF) were with a certain Martin, a member of Eman’s unit who had earlier been captured by the military. They happened to pass by the house where Eman and his companions were having breakfast. Martin recognized the clothes and shoes and pointed out the house to the PC-CHDF team, who immediately opened fire without calling on the occupants to surrender. After a brief gunfight, two of the hut’s occupants were killed including the leader of Eman’s group, while Eman and Estrieta, a pregnant teenager, were wounded.

The PC-CHDF team headed for Tagum with Eman and Estrieta, with villagers carrying the corpses. However, a few kilometers from the village, the sergeant of the PC-CHDF team decided not to bring back anyone alive. Estrieta was the first to go. The sergeant then handed a .45 to Martin and ordered him to shoot Eman. He did not want to, but in the end Eman himself said to him, “Go ahead, finish me off.” A bullet was fired through his mouth, crashing through the back of his skull. As he fell, another bullet was fired at his chest. He was 27. Bulatlat.co


18 09 2009
She is Revolution 3

She is Revolution 3

Art.illery is a blog with a pro-people kultural perspective with a women’s lens.  A good kasama who runs that blog has been doing dope art for a long time.  Her view on Arts,”Art, when used correctly, can serve a purpose beyond aesthetics.  It can arouse, inspire, educate, propagate, agitate, and empower (to name a few).  It can transform culture as we know it, a powerful weapon in any fight for liberation.  Now that’s ill!”.

Like Pablo Picasso, “Art is not made to decorate a room.  It is a offensive and defensive  weapon in defense against the enemy.”  Art.illery is used to defend the liberation movements of people’s struggle while promoting women’s rights!

Don’t make the confusion that Art.illery is out of touch with the people.  Her dope styles keeps it fresh and women and MEN love the art contributions.  I emphasized men because oftentimes, men get defensive about women’s issues-and internalize the criticisms as if all men were bad.  Let’s be concrete, there are different struggles that women face that men don’t.

By the way, women don’t just sit on the sidelines-they are active in changing history.

Click below to see the beauty of work. Read the rest of this entry »

Kultural work

8 04 2009


U.S. Troops Out Now

U.S. Troops Out Now

Kultural work has always been a trait I admired from afar.  The beauty and essence of it can breathe new life into people – it can inspire and bring about hope.  It, kultural work, has never been something I thought I could do until joining the League of Filipino Students – San Francisco State University Chapter.  

Kasama Mabait as well as Ka Princess have helped drive home the notion that kultural work in the movement should serve the people.  Kultural artists should not do art to seek the attention for oneself but for the peoples’ struggle.  I have learnt that the biggest barrier for most folks in attempting kultural work is ones’ own insecurities.  

This is very true for myself.

Recently, I have been practicing Tagalog songs such as Awit ng Pag-asa (Song of hope) that is popular in the National Democratic movement in the Philippines.  I’ve been able to now sing the song without having the lyrics in front of me after practicing often.  Once you learnt to master your own insecurities, all you have to do is practice.  Doesn’t sound too hard right?  Try singing Kahit Kailan, a song performed by Musikang Bayan in the Philippines.   Although I am struggling with that song now, I have hope that with practice I might be able to have it down by next year

The Artivista has also inspired me.  I have seen his work grown in style and content.  His dedication to the people is another bright spot in his future.   A poet once said, to die for the people is weightier than mount tai and to die but to work for the fascist and die for the exploiters and oppressors is ike a feather.  You’re art either makes a contribution to society or doesn’t.  There is no such thing as art for artsake (this of course is a hot topic).  

As Pablo Picasso states,

“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre at every level of his heart if he’s a poet, or even, if he’s a boxer, just his muscle? On the contrary, he is at the same time a political being, constantly alive to heartrending, fiery or happy events to which he responds in every way. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people and by virtue of an ivory indifference to detach yourself from the life which they so copiously bring you? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It’s an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy.”

There is always something new to learn.  Who knows, maybe Ka Mabait might just teach me the guitar or the Artivista will teach the art of painting.


4 10 2008

From Monument To Masses.

“How can we expect anyone to listen if we are using the same old voice? We need noise…”
– Refused

“The work: to make revolution irresistible.”
– Toni Cade Bambara


Revolutionary. While it’s become increasingly difficult to refrain from rolling one’s eyes whenever one hears the word, it’s even harder not to use it when describing From Monument To Masses. This San Francisco area three-piece, founded in late 2000, is constantly pushing the boundaries of instrumental post-rock–combining layers of guitar loops, driving polyrhythm and breakbeats, and sampled sound into emotional, ever-changing song structures. FMTM’s music has always moved away from the pop music standards of lead vocals, verse-chorus-bridge song structures, and radio-friendly song lengths. But there is a conscious limit to their instrumental experimentation… a desire to stay away from the suffocating artsiness of highbrow indie wankery in favor of tunes that remain grounded in a driving rock sensibility.

Among FMTM’s influences, stand out artists like Refused, Fugazi, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and DJ Shadow who are particularly inspirational for their ability to combine progressive sounds with equally progressive political ideas. Living in the Bay Area, it’s no wonder that their music celebrates political activism and social change. The group has always held that art cannot exist independently from political struggle.


With their latest album, “Schools of thought contend.”, FMTM chose to collaborate with a diverse group of artists as well as record two new studio tracks. The result is an album that showcases the band’s new musical directions and presents radical interpretations of songs from their previous full-length, “The Impossible Leap in One Hundred Simple Steps.” with sounds ranging from indie and electronic pop to drum&bass and post-rock. “Schools of thought contend.” is not some “throwaway” remix album but a true notch in FMTM’s discography that the band attests is as vital, representative, and artistically challenging as its last two albums. *EDIT* The band is touring Europe this summer and ending their European tour in Russia.  Hopefully one day they will get to go out to the third world where some of the influence of their music stems from.

From Monument To Masses:


Francis Choung – drums, keys, programming
Sergio Robledo-Maderazo – bass, keys, samples
Matthew Solberg – guitar, loops 

Contact From Monument To Masses at: