Every year, BAYAN organizations from around the world send their members to the Philippines to learn from community leaders organizing against U.S. imperialism and government corruption. These same activists, also referred to as “exposurists”, also spend a great deal of time living with peasants and poor farmers to learn first-hand about the conditions they live under in the countryside. The exposure programs are meant to educate and agitate our membership, deepen their understanding of the national democratic movement, and their commitment to our organizing work.
In 2013, BAYAN-PNW made history by sending a grand total of 27 exposurists to the Philippines, 24 during the last two months of the year. Our exposurists, including two families, four children, and three non-Filipino allies, experienced a range of activities. Some highlights were Typhoon Haiyan relief work (two exposurists were the first U.S based activists to go to Leyte, one week after the typhoon hit); Lakbayan, a 3-day march across Southern Mindanao against the largest multinational mining operation in the Philippines with over 1,000 participants, nine from Seattle and Portland; and a visit to integrate with a school in a remote village in the mountains outside of Davao.
Every exposure trip has an incredible story of a long hike up a mountain to reach a remote area to bear witness to their conditions. This year, it was a trip to a village built on an old logging site near Bong Kilaton, which is still recovering from Typhoon Pablo in 2012. Residents had just built a more permanent structure for a school when the typhoon hit and they became victims of both natural and man-made catastrophes. Logging had loosened much of the earth that had previously soaked up a much of the rains that afflict the area. Bong Kilaton and nearby villagers lost lives and crops that year, and received no help from the government, but were able to survive due to the strength their organizing and direct action.
Exposurists wanted to reach them to hear their story firsthand. But, what was supposed to be a two-hour hike, turned into an epic six-hour journey through rivers, knee-high mud, and the pitch dark night! Even with the villagers as guides, many exposurists still slipped and fell in what became a very symbolic hike for everyone. While at times experiencing feelings of doubt, fear and hopelessness, helping each other up (literally) and having faith in collective struggle led to a victorious sharing of the biggest and most delicious pot of ramen noodles, once our mud-splattered exposurists finally reached the village.