Collective Action & Narrative Changemaking: A Path to Social Transformation
The enemy of societal awareness and human rights advocacy has, in recent years, taken the form of a pervasive culture of false narratives. Disinformation has paved the way for the promotion of human rights to be regarded as a misguided act of rebellion. The notion of nationalism is now branded in colors that delineate allegiances instead of ideologies. Dakila and Active Vista, a collective of artists and educators, hopes to curb this malicious culture by fighting disinformation through narrative change-making that is fueled by truth and the values that once defined what being a Filipino truly is.
Through its Heroes Hub program, launched this past June, Dakila invited young leaders to engage in several conversations and empowering workshops that could reignite the concept of Bayanihan - a national concept of collective action that ultimately leads to the social transformation of the country. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom - Philippines supports this campaign through the Heroes Hub Creative Lab that seeks to teach these young leaders how to condense political concepts into palatable narratives and different forms of media that could easily communicate human rights awareness to the current generation.
In the pursuit of social transformation and upholding the rights of its citizens, the concept of Bayan (Nation) plays a pivotal role. Bayan encompasses the contextual factors—social, political, and cultural—that shape the collective struggle of the Filipino people throughout Philippine history. It serves as a foundation for the heroes, or Bayani, who engage in Bayanihan.
The Filipino's understanding of Bayan is deeply rooted in historical struggles and movements that have shaped the nation. Examples such as the Philippine Revolution, led by the Katipunan and regional actors, were instrumental in securing national independence and sovereignty. Similarly, the EDSA Revolution, a fight against Martial Law and for democracy and human rights, showcased the power of collective struggle among various groups, including the youth, workers, professionals, and the church.
Dakila wagers that our past experiences shape the Bayan we live in today, while our present actions mold the Bayan we envision for the future. Decisions made in the past contribute to the challenges we face today, but they also present opportunities to shape a more just and equitable nation through our actions.
Bayan takes on various forms, but at its core, it revolves around people. It can be viewed as a state, representing a political organization with a centralized government that exercises authority and maintains a monopoly on legitimate force within its territory. Bayan can also be seen as a community of individuals united by shared language, ethnicity, history, traditions, economic life, customs, or national consciousness. Furthermore, it encompasses society, a collection of individuals and groups engaged in persistent social interactions within the backdrop of nationhood, statehood, and socio-economic activities.
Through the 2023 iteration of the Heroes Hub program, Dakila reshapes its annual Film and Media lab to cater to the platforms and content that artists and audiences now readily engage in. With the accessibility of content creation, the nation's citizens are now ensured meaningful participation and are empowered to speak truth amid the proliferation of lies. This empowerment involves providing people with the tools and opportunities to make informed choices. This includes engaging in open dialogue and debate, accessing relevant and objective information, perceiving the value of participation in decision-making processes, feeling safe, and making free decisions without fear of harm.
Leni Velasco, executive director of Active Vista, reiterates how, in a democracy, the people play a crucial role as the basic unit of Bayan. Her testament to the current information battlefield and the role of narratives incite the need for active participation. This could take various forms, including staying informed on public issues, monitoring the conduct of leaders and representatives, voting in elections, engaging in debates, attending community meetings, involvement in private voluntary organizations, and now also reinforcing truth not through sordid self-righteousness but through meaningful and empathetic creative outlets. Such participation must be peaceful, legal, and tolerant of different views, fostering an environment that values diverse perspectives.
Democracy, underpinned by the rule of law, safeguards citizens' rights, maintains order, and limits the power of the government. In a democratic society, all citizens are equal under the law, protected from discrimination, arbitrary arrests, and denial of freedom without a fair and public hearing. This freedom extends to the capacity to voice out dissent and utilize creative mediums for different advocacies. The rule of law ensures that no one is above the law, be it a king or an elected president. It is the duty of duty-bearers, primarily the government, to uphold and protect the rights of its citizens. However, the responsibility of safeguarding democracy lies not only with duty-bearers but also with an active and vigilant citizenry that holds the government accountable.
Grounded in our personal values and principles, which shape our identity and creativity, we can collectively strive for social change. Our loob, consisting of our personality, unique traits, beliefs, values, and principles, grounds us in our socio-political background, cultural roots, and social and psychological consciousness. By embracing our loob and striving for holistic growth, we empower ourselves to become Bayani, who work collectively with others towards positive social change.
As we reflect on our responsibilities to Bayan, Dakila asks its participants - what is our commitment to our nation, and what is the Taya of Bayan, its commitment to us? We all have a responsibility to our community and our nation, and by working collectively, we can achieve freedom, justice, and progress for our Bayan.
The Heroes Hub program aims to enrich youth leaders in encapsulating the collective struggle and aspirations of the Filipino people, shaped by historical movements and present realities. By empowering individuals, fostering democratic participation, upholding the rule of law, and embracing collective action through Bayanihan, we can forge a more just and equitable society for the betterment of our Bayan.