Authored by Diana Uichanco. Reposting with permission.
On Friday last week, the campus of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman saw some action.
Supporters of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill — a piece of legislation that proposes taxpayer-funded, State-guaranteed procurement and distribution of the “full range” of birth control supplies and services — held a demonstration to manifest their position. But that’s not really what I’m blogging about.
Sure, rallies like this are noteworthy. But even more amazing is when a small group of students swims against the current and demonstrates a stand, which, till that day, had been regarded as the unpopular one on campus.
UP has long been known for fostering an environment of activism, encouraging the habit of speaking one’s mind and standing up for one’s beliefs. And on Friday I was pleasantly jolted back to this reality, that voicing out one’s convictions was something I would witness on campus that day. I had no idea, though, that seeing the first signs of this freedom of speech would be so exhilarating.
As I entered the campus, from afar I saw patches of red on huge acacia tree trunks; coming closer I saw red ribbons and pieces of cloth tied around the trunks, some bearing the ubiquitous “No to RH Bill” stickers. What joy! “There is hope!” was my first thought upon setting eyes on the crimson representations of opposition to an oppressive proposed law that others seem to welcome with open arms, either out of ignorance, anger at perceived control freaks, misplaced idealism, or sheer disregard for the ones to suffer from such a measure.
I also spied the stickers on street lamps, waiting sheds, jeepney stops and other structures around the academic oval. Oh, joy! Never had I associated the “No” symbol (you know, the red circle with the diagonal line to indicate something forbidden) with fun or freedom more than when I was still in the habit of watching “Ghostbusters” cartoons on Friday nights in the ’80s.
After driving around campus some more — stopping several times to take snapshots — then talking to some folks, I headed home. What an exhilarating experience! Who knew ribbons and stickers could have such an effect?
But it didn’t end there. An RH march was scheduled in the afternoon, and I knew about a planned counter-activity that would express opposition against the RH bill around the same time. Nothing big, nothing spectacular. Still, I was thrilled that there were students in my alma mater who believed so intensely in their life-affirming principles that they would work so hard to make sure these principles were demonstrated in a campus that merely went with the flow as far as RH legislation was concerned.
They came from the direction of C.P. Garcia. When they appeared — mostly garbed in red (the chosen color) — each was holding a bunch of red balloons. A few of them had balloons attached to a piece of manila paper bearing the “No to RH” icon (the same one with the red circle and slash).
Pretty soon the group was nearing the oval, a few meters away from the AS steps, where a crowd of 100+ RH supporters along with some curious bystanders were gathered, listening to speeches.
As they turned and casually made their way toward the ongoing program, I couldn’t help but admire these young souls even more. Not even curious gazes and clapping seemed to daunt them; as they approached the group gathered at the steps and I realized they were really headed straight for the people, anxiety momentarily enveloped me. But it left me right away as soon as I saw the gutsy bunch stop, UP Against RH-marked balloons still in hand, and linger as they probably wondered how to execute the release of the balloons as swiftly as possible (placards, after all, were attached to some of them).
Well, it wasn’t much of a tough choice; all they had to do was pick a spot and let go. And let go they did, amid simultaneous cheering (why the anti-human-rights-of-the-unborn dudes were cheering, I couldn’t say) and chanting of “Ipasa, ipasa….RH bill….” or something. Up, up and away went the balloons, with a few getting stuck in the canopy provided by lovely branches of the huge acacia tree, and one bunch attached to a “No to RH” sign being grabbed by someone who obviously thought nothing of claiming something as his even if it didn’t belong to him. Oh, well.
What a display of composure and courage this bunch exemplified. And it wasn’t because they were a brash, fearless lot. They weren’t; they felt uneasy, and representing the silent majority the way they did was quite the challenge. For a moment there I had visions of David vs. Goliath, all because next to the people milling about the area, either actively taking part in the ongoing program or simply hanging out disinterestedly nearby, the group seemed to me like a child full of hope and idealism beside a much bigger, washed-up, jaded, overconfident grownup. And guess who triumphed?
I’m sure the deed was regarded by some as a senseless act, but when one knows it’s backed up by conviction and a sincere desire to let truth and goodness prevail, it makes perfect sense.
What makes no sense is letting the news release about an event (the RH march) see cyberspace for over 24 hours when what it describes in detail (and in the past tense) are the happenings of the event that did not happen (translation: the RH march was originally scheduled for June 25 and was cancelled due to bad weather, yet a news release describing what “happened” was on a news and events website till some of us called their attention to it). Anyway, more details about that can be found here.
(If I may add, another thing that makes no sense to me is blowing up the official count of attendees in an event to, say, 800, when photos as well as eyewitness accounts show the actual count to be 200 at the most. If RH people were more truthful about such details, they would probably sway more people to their side)
Still, while inconsistencies on the other side continue, the side of Life remains dedicated to the truth. Even if truth for one day were symbolized simply by beribboned trees…
… or a bunch of red balloons.
Read a news story about the event here
Related story here