I Want to Be Planted

Reposted from a CPSO member

An orange flower with a Canadian engineering ring. The ring represents one's obligation to the people.

For my assured failures and derelictions, I ask pardon beforehand of my betters and my equals in my Calling here assembled; praying that in the hour of my temptations, weakness and weariness, the memory of this my Obligation and of the company whom it was entered into, may return to me to aid, comfort and restrain.

The Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer

During the last week of February, Chad Booc was killed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, red-tagged as a communist and labelled an armed combatant, his body paraded around posthumously as a rebel. He was an activist and volunteer teacher, spending his time in the mountains teaching Lumad children instead of working in comfort in the city. He chose to go to the mountains because he felt an obligation to serve the people.

Chad graduated from the University of the Philippines with honors in computer science, but turned down a career path in the tech industry to fulfil his calling as a servant of the people. “From CS to CS,” he joked, “Computer Science to Countryside!” It’s not an easy task, living in the mountains. It’s lots of hard work, waking up before the sun rises to work the fields, with no cellphone signal and barely any electricity.

I didn’t know Chad personally, but his death resonated with me in unexpected ways. In 2019, I graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelors in Mechatronics Engineering. I saw my friends find work at Apple, Facebook, Google – cushy, prestigious jobs. After spending a year in San Francisco in the tech industry, I asked myself what the whole point of my education was. I was disillusioned from what I thought being an engineer meant.

You see, as part of graduating from engineering school in Canada, we take an oath where we affirm our obligation to the profession and others, but mostly to humankind. As engineers, we are the ones to build bridges, highways, things to connect each other and technology meant to benefit humankind. If we are careless in our work or negligent in the design of things that people use, people can get seriously hurt or killed. We are given an iron ring, worn on our writing hand. The weight is a symbol of the gravity of the obligation, a constant reminder that our actions have consequences.

So when I worked, making toys for rich people, and making more money than I probably should, I felt alienated. I knew that I should’ve been serving the people. I should’ve been fulfilling my obligation, as an engineer and as a human being.

In 2020, I left my job to come back to Canada, to be an activist as part of Canada Philippines Solidarity Organization. I learned about the plight of the people in the Philippines, and the plight of the Filipino working class migrants in Toronto. I met so many activists who dedicate their lives to serving the people, to agitating and organizing and mobilizing the Filipino masses. I learned about Duterte and the terror bill, how he uses the AFP and the NTF-ELCAC as a blunt weapon in an attempt to cow the masses.

And then, just this month, I learned about Chad.

We all have our place in the movement, in the struggle for the people. Chad chose to go to the countryside, to teach the Lumad children, to organise and work and live with the indigenous peoples in the mountains. He chose to serve the people, rather than the interests of capital. In the capitalist reality that we live in, that is unthinkable to most people. It is a threat to those in power. Before his death, he had already been targeted by state forces multiple times. And yet he persisted.

Chad Booc's hand, holding a flower at a funeral.

If you are planted, you will be returned to the land where you came from. You are like a grain planted by the farmers, expecting to bear fruit. If you are planted, it means you will bloom again. Grow, grow, grow, grow fruit and grow more. If you are planted, it is not your end. This is only your beginning. That’s why when I die, I don’t want to be buried. I want to be planted.

Personal Facebook post from Chad Booc

I want to give my life to the people, just as Chad did. I want to struggle alongside them. I want to die knowing that my last breath was in service to the masses. But most, I want to be planted.

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