Sincere form of respect

A scene of Filipino-American anti-Marcos activists who gatecrashed the Asia Society in Manhattan, New York to stage a lightning protest just before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was scheduled to speak on 23 September (NY time) is reminiscent of an awry incident at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles on 14 July 2019.

In the 2019 incident, despite a clear reminder from then Philippine deputy consul general Ambrosio Brian Enciso III for everyone at the town hall meeting to exercise civility, kindness, and openness, several LA-based Fil-Am militants made a scene even before all eight Indigenous People leaders could finish their narratives about communist groups’ abuses, deception, and atrocities.

It was supposed to be a historic and healthy dialogue because, for the first time in recent history, Philippine IPs of various tribes have come to America as a team to make their voices heard and speak on their own behalf, rather than have other groups, with their own interests, speak for them and put words into their mouths.

Five alleged members of militant Bayan USA, one after another, stood up from separate seats across the room — some loudly reading scripts of anti-government chants in an American accent from their mobile phones, while others shouted at the top of their voices.

In the recent New York pandemonium, the activists sat inside the headquarters of the global non-profit organization Asia Society in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, in front of the auditorium where President Marcos Jr. was set to deliver a speech.
Bayan USA, in a statement, said the sit-in was meant to delay the program and inform the attendees whom they are hosting, and remind Marcos Jr. that they will never forget the crimes of his family.

Forming a human chain in front of the door, videos that made rounds on social media showed security personnel dragging them out of the Asia Society premises. At the LA Consulate, the audience and eight IP leaders disappointingly watched personnel send more or less 10 militants, one by one, outside the room.

How these activists gained entry to an exclusive gathering in the LA and Manhattan venues is puzzling to many.

Activism as an action on behalf of a cause or social change that goes in a variety of forms, beyond what is conventional or routine.

It had its fair share of criticism and controversy far from being performative, but in hindsight, it can create lasting change — only if people with contrasting viewpoints are aware that there’s hope out there, and there’s a way to do it and get good outcomes.

Not by ranting and apathy, but by facilitating individuals to LISTEN and take action on an issue they care about.

It is true that the phrase “I hear you” is an abused response to mean that we are paying attention. The act of hearing just happens involuntarily and doesn’t necessarily involve listening. The truth of the matter is we are not listening at all.

According to American educator Stephen Covey, “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.”

It’s a sad truth that what was supposed to be a healthy and productive engagement by the President and stakeholders attending the Asia Society forum was marred by rabid Fil-Am activists who, instead of objectively discharging their sentiments, chose to vilify rather than listen — spoiling what could have been a “free market of ideas.”

Remember, listening is one of the sincerest forms of respect, where there is much wisdom as there is in talking.

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