According to Wikipilipinas, “tibak is a play on the Filipino word, aktibista, and generally refers to activists and street parliamentarians.

“Its origin and continuous use could be traced to University of the Philippines student activists and teachers during the 1960s and 1970s. As an advocate of academic and intellectual freedom, it was a natural consequence that UP would produce students and faculty-members who are critical and socially-aware.

“The tibaks of UP distinguished themselves during the Martial Law years, participating in rallies, demonstrations, forums and other mass actions that ultimately led to the downfall of the Ferdinand Marcos administration. From the 1990s onwards, the word tibak also applies to activists who are professionals, farmers and other activists who are not students or teachers from UP.”

A question I encountered on social media asked: Uso pa ba ang tibak?

Impressions of what atibak is have, indeed, changed through the years.

When they used to be the idols of their generation, tibaks these days are often regarded as nuisance. They disrupt the traffic and the general peace and order.

Some are regarded as paid accomplices by a select few who only wish to advance their selfish interests.

Some will say that if you ask these tibaks what they are protesting about, they wouldn’t know what to answer.


But going back to the question: Uso pa ba ang tibak?

During the turnover ceremonies and press conference of newly installed Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary Gina Lopez, two University of the Philippines Diliman mining engineering graduates plus one more senior student presented her with two sets of kaldero.

A third graduate (a cum laude at that), if only for a brief moment, engaged the secretary in what could have been an interesting discussion on mining and poverty.

I don’t think the secretary saw that coming. Nobody saw that coming.

For those who did not get it, the secretary, a known anti-mining advocate, once said in a forum that she doesn’t own a kaldero. This was to answer a question posed to her by a participant after he was made to choose between food or minerals.

Lopez: Anong pipiliin mo? Yung minerals or yung pagkain.

Participant to the forum: Both.

Lopez: Ah hindi pwede.

Participant: Saan ka magluluto ng pagkain? May kaldero ka o wala?

Lopez: Wala.

When the gift-giving incident made it to social media, there were generally two reactions.

Some were shocked and bilib na bilib over the subtlety but nonetheless brazenness of the act.

Some were angered.

There were those who said these students are bayarans. A comment on Facebook told them: Mag-aral na lang kayo!

Exactly. This is what these students have been doing the past five years at the country’s best university – studying the latest and safest in mining.

That they decided to go to the press conference and not hit the streets for your usual rally at Mendiola says a lot about how tibaks have evolved. They are unafraid of an intellectual discussion, devoid of mis and disinformation. They have their aces lined up and they know it.

If Madam Secretary ever decide to listen to these tibaks she won’t be disappointed. She will realize that the future of the country is in good hands and that they are the new-generation tibaks our country needs.

Long live our young mineros.

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