12:28 PM

Remembering Lean Alejandro: A Short Life Well Spent

Posted by Prosy Delacruz


“ If you go to someone’s home and they offer you their food, they’re giving something of themselves. Once people give, then their heart is involved. Giving – making your contribution – is what brings community alive. “ Cesar Chavez


I have heard this quite a few times -- it is valuable to honor a contribution, however small. It makes a difference in keeping a community together. I have observed this, like other Americans, when it was concretely done by the Obama presidential campaign. President Obama validated the smallest contribution, a $3.22 donation sent by a retired senior. Pres. Obama gave it such center stage importance.


The campaign focused on small, as well as grand participations, and behind-the-scenes strategy-making. This practice of gratitude has built a culture of mutual caring and continues to sustain a community to stay together. And in staying together through the recognition of contributions, whatever the amount, the equalizing factor of a democracy is kept vibrant.


I believed this practice allowed the Obama campaign to thread together the hearts of the few initial supporters initially until they ballooned to 3,000,000 volunteers who participated through various commitments: hosting fundraisers, knocking on doors, organizing phone booths, writing blogs, street rallying, and for op-ed writers, utilizing newspapers through their columns. All were acknowledged, through Obama's website and with personal letters of thanks.


These acts of appreciation by Pres. Obama and Cesar Chavez bring another individual who practiced the same show of gratitude -- Lean Alejandro.



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Lean and lanky, he was often teased and likened to a bean stalk. Lean was married to Lidy, a good-looking woman who is known for remembering precise details, including analyzing patterns and behaviors of folks she meets. She is very observant of people and listens perceptively. She is also equally generous with sharing her own travels and interactions with different cultures.


Before Lean was murdered by unidentified men in the Philippines, the couple traveled abroad, courtesy of Lidy’s parents. They made trips to visit family in the summer. During these trips, we were usually their first or last stop. Being their first stop would mean picking them up at the airport and being their last stop would entail a trip to Lidy’s parents house -- a 60-mile journey from Los Angeles county to visit and bring them to the coast.


What I remember most were the laughs, the endless eating, and analysis of the political climate back home.


Oh, how he enjoyed life! On the way back from the airport, he would eagerly recall the details of his last visit. He would remember everything, from the steamed crabs that we had at the pier to the spot where we went fishing which we showed him.


Lidy, usually would have a more precise recall. During that time, Santa Monica Pier was quite clean and fishing was allowed from the pier. We would catch barracuda and even some perch. But, after fishing, perhaps Lean remembered the coast so well -- the breeze, the languid waves lapping back and forth and he would associate our fishing with buying steamed, cooked crabs.


We would drive to Redondo Beach to buy steamed crabs to take them home and eat them with rice, vinegar and garlic. We would laugh so hard as we pried open, with difficulty, the crab claws. He made an analogy of the crabs with a person whom he encountered.


He had many reflections, perhaps foreshadowing how he needed to make the most out of what turned out to be a very brief life. Lean died at the age of 27.


He had grand stories to tell -- stories of how he persuaded folks to change their perspectives.


And his story took us to the Lords of the Rings. He loved it so much that J. Uy of the Philippine Inquirer, Sept. 19, 2007 wrote: " I ( Lidy ) introduced him to the 'Lord of the Rings.' But he didn't tell his friends that he got it from me. Macho kasi," said the feminist firebrand, ( Lidy ) chuckling at the memory of her husband, Lean.


Lean spoke in layered volumes, disclosing at times his dilemma, using the Lord of the Rings analogy: “Does the fellowship have what it takes to complete its task, or will the powers of evil overcome those of good leaving behind a world ravaged by the rage of Sauron, the Dark Lord? “


The Dark Lord of course, he was insinuating in the context of the Marcos dictatorship -- a regime that instilled fear among Filipinos. Former President Marcos was known for unreasonably sending the opposition in prison, stifling the media, and taking ownership of key industries.


Lean was then aspiring to run for Congress, at a young age of 27. As a student leader, he attracted legions and inspired crowds. He got along with everyone -- the poor, the middle-class and the wealthy elite. He was welcomed in the mansions of the rich, in churches, even in a humble slum dwelling. He inspired folks with simple words and with his abundant humor. He had a knack for creating slogans spontaneously: “ The struggle for freedom is the next best thing to actually being free," or " In The line of fire is a place of honor.”



In her August 2008 article, Marlu Villanueva-Balmaceda of Philstar.com, had this to say: “I liked Lean because he was oozing with confidence, he was so articulate, and he was totally charismatic. He was like a magnet. Even if he was talking ideology, it all made sense to me.”


My most vivid memory of Lean was how he shook my hand and how he would hold my right hand with both his hands, how he would look into my eyes and smile. He would thank us profusely for the slightest thing -- from picking them up at the airport, even to taking them out for coffee. He was always generous with his gratitude.


Lean understood the price of good, effective leadership. He knew his life would be on the line, and he was acutely aware that it could end prematurely. Yet, he never failed to thank folks that he encountered in his path.


Twenty two years later, those who murdered of Lean Alejandro have still not been brought to justice. Up to now, those who pulled the trigger on Lean and Ninoy Aquino are still unidentified.


Rumors abound that both Lean and Ninoy were assassinated by the radical arm of the military, the same people who made six coup attempts to depose the presidency of Cory Aquino.



We may never know who killed Lean. But what we do know is that his widow, Lidy Nacpil Alejandro, now remarried, is moving forward with her progressive vision. Lidy has traveled to more than 220 cities in the world, speaking on behalf of progressive causes. Her latest journey was made for the Freedom from Debt Coalition, to educate people on how massive foreign debt cripples industrialization and development in developing countries.


Today, Lean's legacy and the community he built lives on in our hearts, immortalized in a wing of Vinzon’s Hall in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, named after him. Photographs of his life as an activist are displayed in his memory.



I plan to pay my respects and gratitude on my next visit to Lean -- a good, fun friend who was ahead of his time. He gave up his life so we can have our freedom. I utilize this freedom by continuing to vigilantly write about issues he fought for -- a democratic, free world for everyone, rich or poor.






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