How does one weave a tapestry of colors to come up with a beautiful piece of art? That question keeps running through my mind as I examine and analyze the data that I have on student activism in Cebu in the 1970s. It is no longer as black and white as I assumed it would be when I first started doing my research. Now I see the nuances and the gray areas as well. It is like knowing a person better. Once you get to listen to a person’s story, you get to understand him/her better as the whole picture becomes clearer.
I was never a student activist in my college years in spite of the fact that I studied at the supposedly “bastion of academic freedom” and activism. I always found the explanations of the activists lacking and because of that I never joined their ranks. Their all-out “no” to anything the government did or said turned me off. I asked one of them, “why can’t you acknowledge the positive or good things the government has done instead of being focused on all the wrong things?”
I am not blind. I know our government’s flaws. I am well aware of our leaders’ flaws but I am also aware of their strengths and accomplishments. That is why I admired what one of my interviewees told me this afternoon. He was a student activist during the Marcos years. He said, “I’ve never been for Duterte but I acknowledge that I liked what he said about the mining industry and I acknowledge the other accomplishments he has done in other sectors. It is important to look at things objectively.” I liked how he said that.
I think one can serve this nation without being allied to a student activist organization. Activism is not one organization’s monopoly. In the same way, one can also be a critical thinker without being critical of everything the government does. I do not agree with protesting for protest’s sake. I also subscribe to the idea that if we are quick to judge what is broken or negative then we must also be equally quick to acknowledge what is good and positive.
So going back to my question about all these stories…I told my interviewee that, at times, I am stumped about how to write their stories altogether as some of them want to keep their anonymity and “exploits” unwritten. Well, there is always a way. I just have to find it fast.