Story of LABAN
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2017 - 4:00pm

Populism is anchored on the belief that change can be brought about by the leadership and personality of one person. Populist politics is often associated with the concept that a charismatic leader who appeals to and claims to embody the will of the people will be the instrument of social change.

Today, we hear of these types of leaders – Trump, Putin, Xi Jinping – as if this is a new phenomenon. But we have seen these types of leaders who were major figures on the world of politics during their lifetime and became footnotes in history a generation after their deaths – Juan Peron of Argentina, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Nguyen  Cao Ky of South Vietnam.

So what is it that brings about real change? It is ideas that change the world. It is the personalities that embody these ideas that become heroic figures in history. There are persons that have brought about real change in the world without occupying any position of power – Confucius of China,  Mahatma Gandhi of India, Martin Luther King of the United States.

In the Philippines, think of the funeral processions of Ninoy Aquino and Corazon Aquino. Millions of Filipino publicly honored Ninoy – whom Marcos had jailed – during his funeral in the midst of the martial law regime. Nearly two decades after she voluntarily gave up power by not running for the presidency, the wake and funeral procession of Corazon Aquino also brought millions of her countrymen who simply wanted to honor her; and, more important what she represented. Compare their funerals to the Marcos burial ceremonies which were done stealthily and no public outpouring of grief.

 Ninoy’s return that ended in his martyrdom symbolized the idea that democracy and human rights was a struggle that one should be willing to sacrifice their life. Corazon Aquino represented the idea of People Power – that a united people suffering under a dictatorship could restore democracy and their rights through peaceful means. This was the same message  of  Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

The People Power struggle gave birth to many terms and symbols that have now become part of the Filipino culture. The two obvious examples are the battle cry “LABAN” and the color yellow.

LABAN ( Lakas ng Bayan)

I hear the battle cry LABAN!  used now even by our sports teams when they compete in international competitions. It stands for the spirit of never giving up. But I first heard the slogan LABAN! in 1978. Marcos had called for an election for assemblymen. At first, the mood was to boycott the election. But Chino Roces said “...we have to participate, win or lose. It’s our chance to make noise.” The final decision was made by Ninoy Aquino who was then in jail. Here is the narrative on the origin of this battle cry in the book LABAN HIS STORY by Jose Cojuangco Jr.:

“We began our political strategizing in the library of Senator Soc Rodrigo’s home in New Manila listening to feedback, exchanging observations  and analyzing scenarios. Soon enough Soc’s library wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of us. We moved to his living room where Senator Lorenzo Tanada suggested the name SAPAK for Samahan Para sa Kalayaan.Charito Planas pointed out the sexual connotation of the acronym so that the idea was scrapped.

Someone mentioned LABAN and a light bulb lit up in everyone’s head. That was it. LABAN. It was what the opposition was gunning for, a FIGHT against the dictatorship! It would be the umbrella organization hovering over both the Liberal and Nacionalista Party  candidates. But LABAN was an acronym. What would it mean?

Ideas and word plays were thrown around. Someone came up with Lapian ng Bayan or Party of the Nation. Senator Rodrigo disliked the word Lapian because it stirred up images of a bloody incident in 1967 wherein the members of a quasi-religious group the Lapiang Malaya, were shot down by the Manila Police and the Philippine Constabulary. The fanatics charged at the police lines in Pasay during a protest march.

Soc Rodrigo, Alfonso Policarpio and Anding Roces pored over Soc’s collection of Tagalog dictionaries for the appropriate phrase. Policarpio came up with the phrase Lakas ng Bayan with the acronym LABAN. That was it!

The three immediately got back to us and broached the name. We unanimously agreed to use the word Lakas. It meant strength. It meant power in the hands of the people.”

LABAN would become the battle cry for those opposing the martial law dictatorship. It became the battle cry for the restoration of democracy and human rights which at that time seemed like an impossible dream. After the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the demonstrations became bigger until it finally culminated in the four-day EDSA People Power that finally toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

By that time, other groups had emerged to join the fight. One of the major vanguards of the opposition was the PDP-LABAN, the result of the merger between the Pilipino Democratic Party (PDP) and Lakas ng Bayan (LABAN).

The PDP-LABAN members were in the forefront of many of those demonstrations carrying yellow flags with the words LABAN and faced water cannons, police batons and threats of arrests.  They believed that the  color yellow and the battle cry LABAN represented ideas – democracy and human rights – that were worth dying for.

Creative writing classes for kids/teens and adults

Young Writers’ Hangout for Kids & Teens on Aug. 19, Sept. 9 and Sept. 23 (1:30-3pm/independent sessions).Speculative Fiction Writing for Adults with Dean Francis Alfar on Sept.16, (1:30pm-4:30pm).  All sessions are at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.  For registration and fee details text 0917-6240196 or email


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