A Filipino ‘subversive’ in America runs into ‘leftist’ censors
My friend, the writer and activist Susan Quimpo, has been leading the campaign to educate young Filipinos about the horrors of the Marcos years.
But a sad, strange thing happened when she tried to spread that message in the United States, where she’s been on tour to promote a book about subversives.
The international edition of Subversive Lives, the powerful account of her family’s struggles during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, has just been published by Ohio University Press.
I wrote about Subversive Lives when it was first published five years ago, arguing that it is a must read for young Filipinos today.
Unfortunately, Susan’s U.S. tour has been marred by disruptions. One talk in Berkeley was cancelled, and invitations and outreach for two other talks in Berkeley and San Francisco had to be limited.
The reason: A local representative of a faction of the Philippine left essentially spread the lie that Susan was not a trustworthy messenger on what happened to us during the Marcos regime.
In other words, Susan’s view of the past did not fit into that faction’s view of the past and the present.
It is a bizarre and immature argument against a book that chronicles the painful journey a family that sacrificed so much in the cause against fascist rule in the Philippines.
Subversive Lives tells the story of the family of Ishmael and Esperanza Quimpo who had 10 children. Most of them became activists, eventually joining the underground left. Two of them died fighting dictatorship.
In her talk in Daly City, Susan recalled the torture endured by her siblings, and the deaths of his brothers Jun and Ronald Jan.
She has been telling their stories to Filipinos as part of a courageous campaign to remind people of the abuses during the Marcos regime. These are powerful, personal stories of courage and sacrifice, and it’s simply hard to understand why anyone who claims to also believe in the need to remind Filipinos of that period would wage a campaign to prevent Susan Quimpo from speaking before Filipinos Americans.
Susan’s visit should have been an opportunity to inform young Filipino Americans and remind immigrant Filipinos in the U.S. about the Marcos nightmare, especially at a time when fascist forces are mounting a comeback in the Philippines.
Sadly, Susan’s experience recalls other examples of political narrowmindedness and divisiveness that befell the movement against the Marcos dictatorship during the 1970s and 1980s.
In those years, one faction of the Philippine left also sought to discredit other groups and personalities mainly because they did not adhere to the “correct political line” espoused by organizations affiliated with the most dogmatic faction of the underground left.
Fortunately, the disruptions were limited to Berkeley and San Francisco. Susan’s book tour has, so far, been successful in other parts of the United States, including New York and Washington, DC.
And here’s the good news: Filipinos, especially the youth, are listening.
“Mataas ang interest among Fil-Ams,” she told me recently. “Doon ako nagulat” (Fil-Ams are very interested. I was surprised).
And that was also the case in the fight against the Marcos regime, when young Filipino Americans also joined the fight against a tyrant who eventually was overthrown with the help of overseas Filipinos.
You can order a copy of Subversive Lives through the Ohio University Press website.
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