A Time to Rise: Collective Memoirs of the Union of Democratic Filipinos

Rene Ciria Cruz

Book cover

I learned about this book after talking with an awesome guy who used to be in the KDP (Romy Dorotan, the co-owner of the Brooklyn Filipino restaurant Purple Yam), and wanting to learn more about the role they played in opposing the Marcos regime. (I was also hoping the memoirs might have some stories about Romy, but he and his partner Amy Besa are only mentioned once in passing, without surnames.)

My advice to anyone interested in the KDP is to definitely read this book, but skip the introduction and go right into the memoirs. The KDP was a Communist organization and the introduction really foregrounds the parts of (non-governmental) Communist groups that are the most annoying to me–endless theorizing and internal squabbles over this or that tendency. I was afraid the memoirs were going to be like that and almost put down the book. But after I read the first couple of memoirs, I was totally hooked.

The essays reflect a huge diversity of people and experiences participating in the KDP. I don’t have the book in front of me any more, but I would say more than half of the essays are by women, and the book really foregrounds the important role of women in the movement (and the extra sacrifices they made in simultaneously taking responsibility for raising families). There are a mix of contributions from Filipina/os and Fil-Ams, and discussion of the associated class divides (the Fil-Ams in the KDP tended to be working class, while the Filipina/os tended to be professionals). There are a couple of contributions by a gay KDP member talking about the difficulty of coming out in a community that was, though politically radical, still culturally and religiously conservative. There is an essay about going through a radical Master’s program and an essay about getting saved from gang life through involvement in the KDP. Heck, there are even essays by white people who became major KDP activists! Overall, the book paints an implicit picture of an organization something akin to a family, with everyone ultimately united by some deep underlying values while struggling with challenging relationships and trying to deal with their own personal problems.

The essays all have a strong personal touch and are generally fairly short. A few are truly dramatic/thrilling, including a narrative of almost getting caught with Communist materials by secret police at the Manila airport and one of taking part in a protest to disrupt Marcos’s public appearance in Hawaii.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars