The human cost of being an advocate

“What is to give light must endure burning.” — Viktor Frankl

JUST this weekend, me and the network I am with had an activity that revolved around various ways we can effect change in our line of advocacy work. Themes revolved around engaging in direct electoral approach, policy lobbying with local special bodies or policy makers in the local government, and identifying allies in the local government.

It was personally inspiring to hear the willingness and passion of my colleagues in identifying the patches of green they are willing to commit to. The elephant in the room that time was the human hours required in strategizing and leading the particular advocacy to its realisation. I dedicate this week’s article to all of the advocates I know that have contributed in the past and those who are currently part of the social movement and advocacy work at present.

Advocacy work in the Philippines can oftentimes be a thankless job. Despite the critical importance of their work in promoting human rights and social justice, advocates in the Philippines often face numerous challenges and obstacles that can make their work difficult and disheartening.

For example, advocates may face resistance from government officials and powerful interests who do not support their goals. They may also struggle to secure funding for their work and receive little recognition or support from the wider community. At times, they may even need to argue with their family on why they invest most of their time and resources to help address these societal issues.

Additionally, advocacy work can be physically and emotionally taxing, as advocates must confront complex social and political issues, and work to protect the rights of marginalized communities. In today’s time, following the news or current events is toxic. It drains you of your headspace and mental energies. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why most of the population chose to tune out of the news nowadays and just dive into entertaining Tiktok, reels, and memes.

But keeping up to date with the goings-on in the socio-political scene especially in governance is a vital component of advocacy work. The discipline of continuously mapping the political and power dynamics of the particular arena of advocacy you are in is required for you to move sharply and efficiently towards your goal of achieving your advocacy at hand. Consider this measure as scouting the terrain, like in Dota, Mobile Legends or LOL.

Oftentimes, the team that has more wards in the map has significant vision and better map awareness and most likely will have the upper hand in the event of a clash and eventually win the game. This work can be particularly challenging in the face of widespread poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses.

Advocates dedicate significant time to refine their strategy and proposal. They juggle school work, errands, and their adult responsibilities on top of it. At times, when they need to meet a policy maker or power holder in the local government, the meeting is usually set at the politician’s convenience. This may require the advocate to arrange his or her schedule to attend the particular meeting.

Worst case is, they cancel other schedules they have. This spells added sleepless hours, requiring patience and understanding from their family or friends. Those who have advocates as lovers, friends or family members would know. It also takes a village to raise an advocate.

In the Philippine setting, it is a known fact that red-tagging has significantly culled down the number of advocates. The irresponsible act of lumping together genuine advocates with those that subscribe to armed struggle has dealt irreparable damage to society and to the families that have lost a loved one by the continued clamping down of the military and the police force in recent years.

Despite these challenges, advocates in the Philippines continue to work tirelessly to promote human rights and social justice. However, it is important for society to acknowledge the valuable contributions of these advocates and provide them with the support and recognition they deserve for their vital work. Sa mga tumayá at patuloy na tumatayá para sa bayan, nasa inyo ang aking lubos na paggalang at paghanga.


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