The Great LEAN Run is back! Survive Marcos-era Martial Law on Saturday, Sept 16

September 14, 2017 - 3:30 PM
Participants at the first LEAN Run held at the University of the Philippines on September 19, 2015. The activity is in commemoration of the late activist and student leader Lean Alejandro who was assasinated September 19, 1987. File photo by Joseph Agcaoili.

MANILA – What was it like to be an activist during the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos?

The annual Great LEAN Run, to be held on Saturday starting at the AS Parking Lot at the University of the Philippines Diliman, gives participants the chance to find out for themselves.

“The 3.7-kilometer run is a special distance experiential run that includes a specially designed obstacle course, race, and chase production,” said Atty. Susan Villanueva, chairperson of the Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan (SAMASA) Alumni Association, which is the co-organizer of the event, along with the UP Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

In the past, participants crawled through mud under barbed wire, got bombarded by water cannons, and ran away from “Metrocom police” and “paramilitary groups”. All while hearing chants and songs which activists used during the Marcos era.

“Each runner will have to wear a belt with three ribbons: life, liberty, and property. During the run, elements of the old authoritarian regime will try to grab the ribbons from the participants, as was the practice during Martial Law,” Villanueva said in a press release.

Runners will have to complete the event with at least one ribbon, “an indication that he or she survived the martial law years,” Villanueva said.

“It is an innovative approach to teach lessons to the new generation who has never experienced martial law,” she added. “Each participant will experience life under martial law and step into Lean’s slippers.”

The run is named after Lean Alejandro, a student leader who inspired many of his peers to fight against the Marcos regime.

His widow, Lidy Nacpil, described him as brave, curious, and fond of learning.

A Chemical Engineering student at UP Diliman, he eventually shifted to Philippine Studies after becoming an activist, because he no longer had time to attend his laboratory classes. He joined the campus newspaper Philippine Collegian, and was recruited into other school organizations for his eloquence. In fact, he and Nacpil met during a Church youth discussion where she was a member and he was the speaker. The two often engaged each other in debates in school.

“We fell in love while arguing,” Nacpil had said ahead of the first Great LEAN Run in 2015.

She added that he was like many of the student activists who responded to the times.

“We can’t all be extraordinary, but we can all be brave, courageous, passionate, with real compassion. It wasn’t just intellectual fascination with radical ideas. There was genuine caring for people. That was the most important thing, because ideas can be proven wrong, or be made obsolete. But genuine compassion for people is what will make you go on no matter what,” she said.

Just before Marcos fled Malacañang during the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986, Lean had marched with thousands of ralliers in Mendiola, when suddenly the military cocked their guns at the protesters.

Lean strode to the front and put his hands up, asking them to stop. It was then that he realized something that he would be quoted as saying, long after he was killed by a gunman two years later at 27 years old: “In the line of fire is the place of honor.”

This year’s Great LEAN Run will begin at 4:00 pm at the Sunken Garden. Speakers include Nacpil, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, and Atty. Barry Gutierrez, who is the lawyer for the petitioners against the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the extension of martial law. The first wave of runners will begin at 5 p.m.

For more details, contact Susan Villanueva at 0917-845-0376 or [email protected] You may also visit the Great LEAN Run Facebook page at

Here’s a peek into last year’s Great LEAN Run: