Years ago when I was still in college, I became an aktibista
. I joined many political student organizations. I was active in many student movements and would go room to room to discuss issues and campaign for support and involvement. I joined various street rallies. At one time, I even rallied against Napocor during the anti-power-rate-increase protests risking the fact that my father was a high level executive there. When he learned about my involvement, he went ballistic and almost kicked me out of the house. I almost welcomed it then. At one time, I had even thought of joining the struggle in the countryside. But I didn’t.
What kept me from joining was that I understood fully the sacrifice and commitment that it required. I knew that to be true to my idealism, I had to sacrifice my personal dreams for the dreams of a movement. I knew then that I couldn’t do that.
Roughly coinciding with the same times in college also, I became a rakista
. Although being a rakista is a world apart from being an aktibista
, I found odd parallels in my experiences joining each ‘underground’, one political, the other music.
I had joined at a time of both movements’ decline. For the leftist movement, it was a time when the echoes of the First Quarter Storm were waning. For local music, it was a time when the glory days of the Local Ground movement were fading. Attendance at rallies was declining. The same went with local concerts.
My parents hated my activist involvement. Similarly, although to a lesser extent, they also detested my being in a rock band. The ideal in activism was to be a people’s hero but I guess my parents worried I’d end up a bandit in the hills. The ideal in rock music was to be a rock icon, but I guess my parents worried I’d end up an addict in a ghetto.
Activists had their heroes like Marx and Mao. Rockers too had their idols, such as Morrissey and Morrison. Oddly enough, I found it amusing that not a few activists actually liked to listen to Morrissey’s bitterly poignant poetry and the classic rock of Morrison’s The Doors
while not a few rockers too considered Marx and Mao as their personal heroes.
Activism and rock music both required a sense of mission and calling. In activism, it was called consciousness. In rock it was called attitude. One invoked critical thought while the other meant faithful abandon.
Both espoused ‘simple living’. In activism, because it was a conscious choice; while in rock, because you didn’t have a choice. For both, you couldn’t make much money at all, which was why. That was why aktibistas
typically wore dirty jeans, worn out sneakers and shabby t-shirts.
After college, I was faced with the question of whether or not I’d become a full-timer. I tried very briefly to be a full-time activist but quickly gave up. I wasn’t up to it. I also gave a decent shot at becoming a full-time musician but gave up after a couple of years. I couldn’t cut it.
To survive, I took up a day job while half-trying to continue both endeavors. Not exactly the best arrangement but the only practical choice I had. I had bills to pay and had in later years a family to feed. I meet a lot of my colleagues in the activist movement and the rock movement over the years and found that many of them followed a similar path. Apparently, and to my slight surprise, it was a common choice of many of my contemporaries. I found this fact comforting.
I discovered an unspoken understanding among many of my colleagues that the realities of life had forced upon us these difficult choices. Choices not necessarily agreeable to the idealism that we once proclaimed with hubris, but choices that we had to and did make.
But some did choose to go fulltime. I know quite a few who have continued their struggle for the people’s cause and a few also who’ve continued to pursue a difficult career in music. Theirs is an admirable struggle both noble and true. More so since I understand fully the sacrifice and commitment needed in either. You have to have the balls and the heart.
So to the full-time activists and musicians who’ve continued through the years still driven by their youthful idealism, my hats off to you. There is nobility in believing in something and staying the course in the face of the stacked odds. So whether you spit at a megaphone or a microphone, or whether you’re slinging an M-16 or a Stratocaster on your back, you are, in my book, true heroes.