This picture, taken by me at home, features a poster that made its rounds during the brief Japanese occupation in the Philippines during World War 2. In it, a Filipino man holds the Philippine flag in one hand, and a grenade in the other. It was likely a poster my grandmother, one of the first woman journalists in the Philippines, would have seen in one of Manila’s underground districts during the war. She was the kind of person who would not have agreed with western historians that it was the 'liberation of Manila', but that it was a 'battle for Manila', because that was a war we were forced into as colonial subjects—one that had severe repercussions in our country and in Manila, the second-most devastated city during the war.
As a nation, we have always been fighting—first, for freedom from our colonial masters. In the case of Spanish colonization, we fought for freedom from colonial rule; during the American occupation, we fought against what’s been called an imperial democracy. In recent decades, we have fought against despots and against corrupt governance. We have been fighting for human rights, and for the right to feed our families. No matter history’s course, Filipinos have always been fighting the good fight. We have not not been fighting for something.
These days, we are also fighting for press freedom which has been curtailed by the recent shutdown of one of our biggest media networks, and against the indictment of our strongest journalists. We are fighting for people like Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of Rappler, one of the leading news platforms in the Philippines. Ressa was arrested for cyberlibel in June 2020 for an article Rappler published in 2012—an article she did not author, and an article that existed before the cybercrime law had even been passed. Ressa is a known critic of the current administration; an administration that has proven to be creative in finding ways to persecute its critics as in the case of Ressa. Corollarily, we are also fighting against an anti-terror law that willfully misapprehends critics for terrorists.
I am fighting for the right for the publication of this small, spontaneous essay, which might be taken as critical of this government, when all it wants to do is engage the issues at hand. I am fighting for safe groceries and safe deliveries—which means bathing vegetables and meat in a diluted Lysol wash, before they go through normal dishwashing soap, and which also means greeting every stranger with a mask, a face shield, and surgical gloves. I am fighting for the right to mass testing, which will shed light on just how far this virus has reached in my own country, where most live below the poverty line, and where citizens live in such close quarters, the virus is one handshake or sneeze away from lethal consequences.
I am fighting for my right to be seen not as a woman writer, but as a writer—one who will be taken on the same merit as my male counterparts. I am fighting for the right not to endure any of the small assaults a woman faces every single day of her life.
During these lonely but dangerous days, I am fighting for the right to not have to fight for anything.
This article was produced in cooperation with LCB diplomatique