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Leandro Legara Alejandro
Lean Alejandro (standing with a microphone) during a students' protest against Marcos
|Born||July 10, 1960|
|Died||September 19, 1987 (aged 27)|
|Other names||Lean Alejandro|
|Alma mater||University of the Philippines|
Anti-Imperialist Youth Committee
Youth for Nationalism and Democracy
UP Diliman University Student Council
Center for Nationalist Studies
Justice for Aquino, Justice for All
Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy
|Movement||People Power Revolution|
Born to Rosendo Alejandro and Salvacion Legara on July 10, 1960 in a Manila hospital, Leandro Alejandro was the eldest son of a struggling middle-class family. An inquisitive child he would ask many questions such as why the moon would follow him, how do pigs give birth, or going as far as dismantling his toys to figure out how they work. Around his neighborhood he was known for his tutoring lessons bringing home as many as 20 of his classmates. He was also known for his love and skill in chess playing with many people in his neighborhood from his schoolmates to the policemen. As part of a lower-middle-class family Leandro he helped save some money by hauling pails of water on a cart to his house.
At St. James Academy, discipline and the value of authority were the core traditions. Lean was often called to the principal's office for going against school rules and improper behavior. He found interest in reading books and magazines containing short stories in class because would always be bored during lectures. Of the times he would listen, he would recite without being called, emanating resentment from his teachers for his forwardness and "rude" behavior.
He was chosen as corp commander of the Citizens' Army Training (CAT). He was strict and lenient, never missing a beat. Although always part of the top 10, he was never on the honor roll because his conduct was always a B. He was almost not going to graduate from high school because of this one incident where he refused answer his Social Ethics examination where he explicitly wrote down on his paper that he thought that giving insights on biblical passages were irrelevant. This prompted the school to rethink its system.
In 1978, Lean was enrolled in the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He took up B.S. Chemistry as a preparatory course to medicine, believing it was the best way to help people. He became part of the Campus Crusade for Christ during his freshman year. He shifted courses from Chemistry to Philippine studies after taking classes in history and political science and discovering the Marxist way of "understanding the world around him". His gradual politicization prompted him to join the short-lived Anti-Imperialist Youth Committee in the university which was later transformed into the Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND). He continued to be exposed to social realities in his second year of college upon joining the Philippine Collegian Liberum, the UP student publication, as a features writer where he wrote about various topics from eviction of squatters to inequities in Philippine societies. It was in being part of this publication did he find "enlightenment". Lean held several positions in UP after leaving the Collegian. He was vice president and later president of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council; vice chairman and then chairman of the UP student council in 1983 of which the council was eventually dismantled only three years after it was established because of a 400 percent tuition raise of which they confronted. In 1981, he led a rally to Mendiola, the first after martial law was lifted. The Student Council was forced to face national issues when Ninoy Aquino was murdered. He actively protested against the Aquino assassination in one of the largest student's rallies in a long time.
At 19 years old, Lean was the most popular student leader of that time, thinking about issues even outside of the classroom. Later on, he found a challenger who eventually became one of his closest friends. His friend's name is Patricio N. (Jojo) Abinales, a research assistant at the Third World Studies Center and a graduate student in political science. Jojo also contributed to the Collegian, such as the provocative essay on the decline of intellectual student activism (July 17, 1981). Lean, at that time, was given the task to write a rebuttal to Jojo's essay and then to his other various essays. This frequent exchange of opinions led to several discussions on politics and even conversations on movies, especially Star Wars, that fostered a friendship for life. Soon after, Lean could be found hanging around the Third World Studies Center library reading up on various politics-related materials and works written by Karl Marx, Nikolai Lenin, Mao Tse Tsung, Leon Trotsky, thinkers from the European New Left, and historian E. H. Carr. He did not however, limit his readings to the treatises of these intellectuals and thinkers. He was fond of reading Marx's love letters to his wife. He was an avid fan of literary fiction writer J. R. R. Tolkien and raved about The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lean often shared to his friends the interesting books he has read and movies he has watched and spontaneously began intense discussions about them. In his interests in literature and film, he empathized with the characters who subdued evil and the forces of darkness. According to Jojo, who became Lean's roommate at the Narra Residence Hall, "Lean selflessly spent many sleepless nights with us just to impress why it was important to read about the commitment of Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey (of The Lord of the Rings) to partly help us situate ourselves in a rapidly polarizing society; why, in confronting the evils of the real world, one can learn much in understanding Sauron the Great and his desire to repossess the one ring that shall make him ruler of Middle Earth; and why, in reading through the life of Gollum, one discovers that even in his miserable and deceitful life, he still would bring something good in a society threatened with darkness."
Relationship with Lidy Nacpil
Lean always considered himself as an activist and a scholar. He had a very strong attachment to the University of the Philippines. He very much loved this university and never saw it as a conformist institution, even after the EDSA revolution.
What added to his fondness for UP was that the university was what brought him and Lidy, who was then an active member of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship and later the Student Christian Movement, with Lean. In their relationship, there were a lot of meeting on various issues, some were even coupled with debates. They did spar several times but this only made closer to each other.
According to Vitug, Lidy eventually formed her views on socialism and believed it was a better alternative to the capitalist system. Lidy and Lean both became socialists and this common ground that they shared made their love for each other grow even more.
Their relationship started after Lean took Lidy to the movie Reds, when he casually told her: "I really like you. Can we try to work out our relationship?" Their relationship started on that note. They were together for 5 years before when they had an ecumenical marriage. Lean is Catholic and Lidy is Protestant. They got married at the University of the Philippines Protestant Chapel (known today as the University of The Philippines Church of the Risen Lord) on January 18, 1986. There were around 500 people who witnessed the marriage that was presided by three priests - Methodist, Anglican and Catholic.
On his first year at the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus he joined the Colegium Liberum (CL). He was also a feature writer of the Philippine Collegian, where he wrote articles critical of the Marcos administration. He was described by his contemporaries as an intellectual rebel. He played a key role in the formations of different nationalist organizations. From the formation of the Anti-Imerialist Youth Committee (AIYC), then as the founding Chairperson of a national youth and student umbrella organization, Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND) founded in August 17, 1980. He was elected chairperson of UP College of Arts & Science Student Council in 1982-83 then University Student Council (USC) in 1983-84. The establishment of the Center for Nationalist Studies (CNS) 1983.
He also played a key role in the formations of broad multi-sectoral organizations during Marcos Martial Law time. PAPA during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1981. People's MIND in 1982 against the fraudulent Marcos national referendum. Lean’s leap from a university student to a full-time activist could be traced back however from the assassination of Aquino back in 1983. By joining in with the anti-Marcos ranks and the formation of JAJA (Justice for Aquino, Justice for All movement), he realized that through engaging in National Politics, he was able to learn more compared to remaining isolated in his classrooms. He dropped out of UP to lead street marches, speak in countless rallies and symposiums, and organized alliances with business persons, politicians, professionals, workers, and the urban poor to combat the Marcos regime. He was also part of the Kaakbay or Movement for the Philippine Sovereignty and Democracy, the group led by former Senator Jose Diokno and Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy (NAJFD) in 1984 . In 1985, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) was established and Alejandro became its secretary-general. Alongside Ka Bert Olalia, Lando Olalia, Crispin Beltran, Ka Pepe Diokno, Sen. Lorenzo Tañada and the other prominent Filipino nationalist leaders, Alejandro would be at the frontlines of the parliament of the streets during the 1980s.
During the eve of Valentine’s day in 1985, Lean and Jose Virgilio (J.V.) Bautista were arrested while they were negotiating on behalf of students marching to Camp Aguinaldo. Both were taken to Camp Ipil detention center in Fort Bonifacio. They were held on a Preventive Detention Arrest (PDA), a Marcos decree that authorized the detention of any person for one year without formal charges.
Inside the prison, Lean felt anxiety from a certain sense of helplessness. He yearned to be directly involved in the events of the times. As he said, “The struggle for freedom is the next best thing to actually being free,” in his letter to Lidy. Aside from his desire to go out and protest and the constant scorning received from the guards, life inside prison was bearable. Inside he continued to fight in the only way he was able to, through writing a two-page letter to his former mentor Professor Rita Estrada of UP-Psychology Department, which describes the conditions of his incarceration, his thoughts on Marcos’ dictatorship and how it “humiliates our people”, and finally emphasizing that “we must never utilize the cruel and barbaric methods of tyranny but rather fight like men, and not dogs or rats”. After 2 months, Lean and JV were released with the help of a sustained campaign for their freedom from both domestic and international groups.
Even after imprisonment, his spirit remained unbroken and immediately went back into the protest movement. Jojo Abinales wrote in Conjuncture in August 1992: “He was brilliant when he brought differing and contentious representatives of the different classes together and made them work as a team. He had the confidence of a leader but he also had the humility to admit mistakes and learn from others”.
After the People Power Revolution of 1986, Alejandro decided to enter mainstream politics and bring the movement's ideals to Congress with his campaign slogan saying: “Sa bagong pulitika, mamamayan ang magpapasiya.”. He ran for the congressional seat of the Malabon-Navotas district against Tessie Aquino-Oreta, then current President Corazon Aquino's sister-in-law. With Tessie Aquino-Oreta riding on Pres. Aquino’s popularity and slogans such as “Ang boto para kay Tessie ay boto para kay Cory” and “Kapatid na bunso ni Ninoy”, he lost in his bid amid reports of election irregularities. Although Lean was sad and disappointed in the results of the election, he said that by giving his best in the campaign, it soothed him.
“It would be ironic if something happened to me now when we’re supposed to be in a new democracy.” - Lean Alejandro
After the 4-day EDSA Revolution in 1986, people believed that they had a right to share power with the new government. They believed that Cory Aquino had a soft heart for the Left because she released the people that Marcos had politically imprisoned. The late president Aquino also entered peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines.
High-profile street protests were organized by the Left that contributed to the new democracy. There were a lot of issues and concerns that the people wanted the government to address. Lean Alejandro was one of the charismatic and articulate leaders at that time, according to Vitug.
According to Lean Alejandro, it was the season of instability in a fragile democracy. He once described it as "much more confused and confusing (period), where everything is falling apart, and everything is touch and go." It was indeed true because on that 19th day of September in 1987, the life of this charismatic leader and martyr, was cut short in a brutal manner. He just came from a press conference at the National Press Club, where he announced plans for a nationwide strike against the military's role in government. As he was on his way to the Bayan office in Rosal Street, Cubao a van cut the vehicle that Lean was in, partially rolled down the window by the driver's seat and shot him. According to Vitug, the window by Lean's side shattered and blood splattered from Lean's head and a single shot has blown off half of his face and neck. He was 27.
The Leandro L. Alejandro Foundation (LLAF) was founded after the murder in 1987, stimulating the peace process under president Fidel Ramos. Organized in the early nineties as a peace network, Alejandro's widow Lidy Nacpil-Alejandro played an important role.
In 1997, a musical play entitled "Lean" was staged to commemorate the 10th year since Alejandro's assassination. In this play, Gary Granada, who wrote the libretto, remixed the tune of U.P. Naming Mahal in a contemporary rock version and gave it new and more "nationalistic sounding" lyrics.
“Students must realize that they are both students and Filipinos. We must be concerned with both local and national issues. Students are not messiahs. We can only inform if we are informed. And the best way to be informed is to actually integrate with the people. We must help in the conscientization of our people. Helping our people find a political formulation to their immediate problems demands that the students learn from society. We need to change our society in a very fundamental way towards social and national emancipation. And the students are in a position to serve as catalysts in social transformation. That is the historical role of the students.”
“The movement's biggest enemy was not Marcos but its own dogmatic slide and intellectual laziness. The movement must devote serious attention to the studentry because it is important to keep intellectual and critical minds alive.”
- University of the Philippines
- People Power Revolution
- UP Diliman University Student Council
- U.P. Naming Mahal
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- Lumbera, Bienvenido (2008). Serve the people : ang kasaysayan ng radikal na kilusan sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (in Filipino). Ibon Books.
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- Maramba, Asuncion (1997), Six Young Filipino Martyrs, Anvil Publishing Inc., 24
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- Maramba, Asuncion (1997), Six Young Filipino Martyrs, Anvil Publishing Inc., 25
- Maramba, Asuncion (1997), Six Young Filipino Martyrs, Anvil Publishing Inc., 25
- Maramba, Asuncion (1997), Six Young Filipino Martyrs, Anvil Publishing Inc., 34
- "Leandro L. Alejandro Foundation Archives". International Institute of Social History. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
- Maramba, Asuncion (1997), Six Young Filipino Martyrs, Anvil Publishing Inc., 37
- Maramba, Asuncion (1997), Six Young Filipino Martyrs, Anvil Publishing Inc., 38