Maria Karlene Shawn I. Cabaraban
At 13, she wore a bright yellow shirt on her first day of high school. Inside the school’s covered courts, hundreds of new students like her wore the same expressions of nervous anticipation. She felt like a stranger among them, a girl from Malaybalay City who had gotten an academic scholarship in an Ateneo school. Eagerly, she listened to the various speakers who welcomed the new students. When they were given a tour of the campus, she could not quell her excitement and fired question after question to the student facilitator assigned to them: “How often do we use the science labs? Do we get to handle the microscope ourselves? What books do we read in our English classes?”
Later, she was ribbed no end for her enthusiasm. Also, what’s with her insistence on speaking in English?
At 14, she joined the school publication, writing news articles as her mother had taught her. She found out however that campus journalism at the time was more focused on the form rather than substance. News pitching consisted mostly of events in school. Who will write about the science month celebration? Can anyone cover the latest interschool math contest we won over Corpus? Let’s do an interview with newly hired faculty.
At 15, she ran for the Campus Student Government presidency under the Atenean League of Leaders (ALL), an opposition party which she just founded. The decision came with much hesitation though, as her grades already suffered from her many extra-curricular preoccupations. But the call was difficult ignore. The need to challenge the status quo is, after all, integral to the Ignatian principles that she had learned from their Christian Humanism classes. “How could one be a “man and woman for others” without minding the issues which sought to normalize itself in a system that opposes opposition? How could there be cura personalis if our compassion is confined within the four corners of the Ateneo?” Ignatius seemed to have asked Myles too many times in her moments of introspection.
She lost the race. But her passion for service, ignited by her first foray into politics, could no longer be dampened.
When she took up Mass Communications at the University of the Philippines-Cebu, she let go of an opportunity at a full scholarship to study Accountancy at both Xavier University and De La Salle University. In UP, she joined the Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante or NKE where her student activism developed.
This did not come without criticism from her friends: “What’s the point in baking yourself under the sun and on the streets, holding anti-government placards and disturbing motorists? Are you paid to go to immersions in the slums and in the provinces? Don’t you get tired of shouting speeches in the streets instead of hanging out with us, your friends”
She was undeterred and did not tire of explaining. Activism did not mean opposing the government; it is challenging a system that claims to serve the people but only serves to push the poor farther into the margins of society, she said. Activism is not grounded on hate. On the contrary, it is rooted in the calling to be a man or woman for others, to “do more” for communities in need, and to actualize one’s love for the country through genuine service. Communitas ad dispersionem, Myles explained.
Today, as she languishes in jail, she is branded an “amazon” of the New People’s Army (NPA), a university graduate brainwashed by communist rebel groups, a beautiful twenty-something whose looks will fade away in jail. She has been accused of ransacking a barangay captain’s home in Negros Oriental, threatening farmers for money, and possessing high-powered firearms and explosives. A terrorist.
Internet trolls have reduced her to a meme, a poster-girl for what happens if one had bad parents, an all-too common consequence if you send your children to UP.
“Sayang, gwapa ra ba unta.”
“Tsk. Crush man nako ni sa una oh”
I cannot agree with them, though. How can she be a terrorist when she held my hand when I came out of my “closet”? How can she be a terrorist when she stood by my side when the rest of the class came up on stage to receive their awards while I sat on the side silently loathing myself for failing to join them? How can someone who said the solution is “not in hating, but in educating” be a terrorist?
Myles is not a saint as she, like most humans, has committed mistakes. But to call her a terrorist is to lose sight of the systemic problem she riled against—a system that fails to uphold its mandate to enact change, a system where oppression and impunity is pervasive, a system that demonizes dissent.
She is Myles Albasin, and she is not a terrorist. #
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The author is Myle’s friend. This piece was originally written for The Crusader, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan’s official student publication. It is republished with permission.
Myles Albasin was arrested along with five other fellow activists by the Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers in Mabinay Negros Oriental last March 3 and charged with illegal possession of firearms. Paraffin tests conducted on them came out negative, however, belying military claims the six were New People’s Army fighters caught after a firefight.