“I have gained a new understanding of life and death, as well as the meaning of love and sacrifice. I have fallen in love with the land, my people, my culture, and my identity. A life alone doesn’t seem so bad anymore, and I’ve reached the point in my life where I am completely selfless. My love for others outweigh my love for myself.”
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Amado Khaya Rodriguez would eventually find his way home in the Philippines amongst the Mangyan people and poor peasants, after a beautiful period of awakening amidst the crisis that plagued his homeland.
His name comes from the Spanish word “Amado” which means beloved, and “Khaya” which is a translation of the Xhosa word for home. “Beloved Home” a name that Amado would embody in the truest sense in the later years of his life.
His mom Robyn describes him as “A Taurus in the truest sense” citing playful, stubborn and mischievous Amado propelling himself as if he was a cannonball from one side of the room across another, and this was before he could even walk. This vigor would be useful later in his life, traversing terrains, hills and mountains, when he chose to live amongst Filipino peasants and Indigenous Peoples.
At an early age Amado manifested a great deal of love and solidarity with others. In pre-school he organized his friends to stand up against bullies, and in Kindergarten wore a kurta for a school picture to show his solidarity with an Indian friend who was bullied in school.
Amado’s active political involvement began with his leadership and participation in the Black Lives Movement. Amado would later seek to commit his political participation to the Filipino movement. He was drawn to the history, longevity, and cohesiveness of the Philippine movement. He became active in organizing work with the local chapter of Anakbayan in the East Bay. Taking on various tasks, Amado was able to connect with a wide network of fellow activists from various organizations, he organized students at his local college, campaigned for solidarity to the Philippine movement and Filipino issues, and advocated for mental healthcare.
A major landmark in Amado’s history as an activist was his leadership in opposing the construction of a “mega stadium” across his college campus. He was able to rally students, faculty and the community to oppose the project. He stood as a David to the Goliaths that wanted to build the stadium, but through his active leadership, they were able to stop the construction.
Like most activists, the more time Amado spent fulfilling political work, the more his consciousness grew. A trip to the Philippines in 2017 would have a lasting impact on Amado’s life. When he went back home to the states after spending time integrating with various communities in the Philippines, he brought with him a piece of bamboo that contained notes on pieces of paper from people whose lives he has touched. One note that stood out was written by him, as a note himself. Amado says:
This trip would place Amado at a crossroad. It was whether he stays in the States to continue his solidarity work for the Philippines or go home and struggle alongside the kababayans in the homefront. He would eventually choose the later.
After this trip, Amado’s life would rapidly progress towards finding his way back to the people he chose to serve. According to Robyn, Amado from then on knew that he wanted to serve and commit his time, energy and life in the service of the most impoverished, oppressed, and exploited communities in the Philippines. The minute he got home to the States he was decisive “I want to go home(to the Philippines)”, he says to his mom Robyn.
Robyn shares “I was scared, especially because of his hearing impairment. Without his hearing aid he could barely hear anything. But I know I couldn’t stop him”.
She says like Amado she was also supposed to stay in the Philippines after an integration and doing human rights work in far-flung areas, she was determined to stay in the Philippines, but she got pregnant and had to stay in the States. This story, according to Robyn, gave Amado the feeling that he had to continue in the Philippines.
In late 2019 Amado would leave the United States to fully commit his life and youth to the struggle of the Mangyan People and peasants in Mindoro. Amid the global pandemic and Duterte’s de facto Martial Law, Ka Amado Khaya Rodriguez would die of septic shock due to food poisoning. His family would later find out through a friend who works with the Church that Amado worked with. To make things harder, Amado’s death came amidst an all-time high in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, which made it impossible for his family to go and claim his remains. But through his family’s organizing efforts and Amado’s own network, enough funds were raised to transport the cremated remains of Amado.
A painful reality in many rural communities, deaths like these are far too common. As Robyn puts it, the death of her son was a very profound one– he died like how many poor Filipinos died, he was living amongst them, became them, and died like them.
“Everyday in the Philippines for him was a choice. He chose to be with the struggle. He woke up every morning making this choice, and he kept choosing it” says Robyn.
Amado Khaya, “Beloved Home” found his purpose committing service to the struggle of the Mangyan and peasant communities in Mindoro. He found his beloved home in the homeland of his grandparents, in the arms of the masses he chose to serve.
After Amado’s death, Dr. Robyn Rodriguez carries on the legacy of her son through the Amado Khaya Foundation, a non-profit that aims to advance the issues and causes that Amado cared about.