Los Angeles Historic Filipino Town groups host ‘Women Against Marcos’ Book LaunchBy Florante Peter Ibanez
The Friends of Echo Park Library, along with the Filipino American Library and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, hosted this month the launch of Women Against Marcos: Stories of Filipino and Filipino American Women Who Fought a Dictator at the Echo Park Library in Historic Filipino town, Los Angeles.
The event featured author Mila De Guzman of San Francisco and Cindy Domingo of Seattle, one of the book’s interview subjects and their resistance with others against the 14-year Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines.
What makes the book unique is its focus on women’s roles both in the Philippines and in the U.S.
The six women in the book trace their experiences in the resistance movement — from student activism to work among the clergy to organizing in the underground to life as political prisoners to leading the committee for justice for the murders of Seattle labor leaders and anti-Marcos activists Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes.
Moderator Rose Ibanez, a former leader of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP) in Los Angeles, which organized demonstrations in front of the local Philippine consulate to protest martial law in the 1970’s-1980’s, raised questions, which prompted readings from the book. De Guzman and Domingo discussed the subject of sexism within the movement.
De Guzman read excerpts from Mila Aguilar’s story about the plight of women in the Philippine movement. Aguilar narrated, “As a first victory, we managed to convince the men to share household chores. I memorialized our struggle against our male comrades’ privileged position by penning the poem ‘Machismo’.” Domingo read an account of her experience with her older brother Silme Domingo, who questioned her attendance at an anti-Marcos protest because of his concern for his younger sister’s safety. To try to make her less recognizable to Marcos agents who were armed with cameras, he commanded her to wear a Zorro mask if she wanted to stay in the protest. She later removed the mask and returned it to him.
Before leading the audience in singing the iconic, nationalist “Bayan Ko,” Carol-Ojeda Kimbrough, retired Asian American Studies Professor at CSU Fullerton and former chairperson of the Los Angeles Anti Martial Law Alliance (AMLA), gave a moving introduction.Originally written in Spanish during the revolution against the Spanish colonial rule, revolutionaries continued to perform the tune during the Philippine American War. Outlawed during Marcos’ martial law, the song became a symbol of the nationwide resistance to the dictatorship. The popularity of “Bayan Ko” further increased following the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. and millions of Filipinos militantly sang it at his funeral.
During the question and response session, the audience reacted with compassion to the readings about the real life struggles of the courageous women in the book. UC of San Diego professor Jody Blanco and former activists also discussed the urgent need to share the struggles and experiences of activists in the 1970s and 1980s with young Filipino American students and activists of today.
The program closed with Filipino refreshments, book signing and acknowledgment of the event sponsors.