These may be the words of Ginetta Sagan, an American human rights advocate, but, its sentiment is universal in scale. In the Philippines, for example, people can relate. Here, a plethora of human rights violations regularly fill the news and social media feeds just as much as the diatribes trying to sweep them under the rug. To be silent in these times of wanton oppression—aggravated by flat out incompetence and intellectual dishonesty—is to abandon the oppressed.
There are those however who chose not to do this. And on June 29, 2021, from 8PM to 9PM, some of them will be brandishing their right to talk—and sing.
In the 5th episode of the event series GANAP, “So What, Chocnut: Pista ng mga Tula at Awit Laban sa Red-Tagging at Red-Shaming,” poets and musicians will be banding together to speak out against various forms of injustice in the country. Organized by both Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing and Bookshelf PH, the event will be streamed live at Likhaan’s Facebook page: https://facebook.com/upicw
“13th month pay, maternity leave, free education, mass testing and free vaccination against COVID-19 are just a few things that we Filipinos have the right to demand for,” the group’s press release stated. “However, there is this culture of red-tagging and red-shaming prevailing, which causes innocent Filipinos who just mean to fight for our country, being arrested, and sometimes killed. All the more reason for us to fight for our freedom of speech.”
Those who will be “fighting” include poets. For instance, there’s UC Berkeley professor and renowned romance book author, Joi Barrios. The author of “Ang Lunes na Mahirap Bunuin” and “Almanac for a Revolution”, Nicolas Pichay will also be there along with one of the founding members of the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC), Creative Writing Foundation, Inc. and Manila Critics Circle, Krip Yuson. The founder and workshop director of the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA), Rio Alma will also be involved alongside UP professor of Literature and Creative Writing, Joey Baquiran. And then there’s the awardee of the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award for Makinilyang Altar, Luna Sicat. Ronald Tolentino, Ph.D graduate in Film, Literature and Culture, University of Southern California, will also be involved. Other writers expected to participate in the event are Lourd de Veyra, Fidel Rillo, and Boni Ilagan who will be reading for Bien Lumbera.
The event will also include performances from Monique Wilson, Becky Demetillo, Rica Saturay, and Upeng Galang. Joining this event are Carol Araullo at Bibeth Orteza together with hosts Noel Ferrer, Marian Roque, and Jina Umali.
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter,” the group said, quoting George Washington. The man is yet another figure known better in the United States but, like Sagan, his sentiment remain true—especially in the Philippines.