Profits Enslave the World: A Song Across Generations

Many know Philip Vera Cruz as a labor leader, a community activist, and icon of the Pilipino American experience whose name (along with Larry Itliong) is given to public schools and freeway bridges. His work helped create the United Farm Workers Union and shaped the modern union movement. But few know him as a poet.

After arriving in the United States in 1926, 22 year old Philip Vera Cruz encountered the hardships and struggles experienced by working people in America - long hours, little pay, no voice or power, and no opportunity to better improve your position in life. He saw workers facing abuse and exploitation at the hands of growing US post war industrialism, and witnessed the broken hopes and dreams of so many of his fellow workers and immigrants. He wrote his feelings into his poems. One of those poems, “Profits Enslave the World” became an eloquent testament of his experiences in America, expressing his feelings about the class stratification and class struggle he experienced as an immigrant and a farm worker in the United States.

In 1973, “Profits” was put to music by Chris Bautista, a young Bay Area musician and community activist. The song found a hungry audience amongst many Pilipinos of the time who were organizing around multiple community issues, including Ethnic Studies, Tenants Rights, the Anti-Martial Law movement, and the Farm Worker Movement. The frustration and anger Philip expressed in his poem was still present for those activists of the 70s, and when “Profits Enslave the World” was put to music it connected them to the and the spirit of resistance that spanned the decades.

  • Emilio J Virata
    Eye of the Needle, The Garden, Claiming Space
  • Emilio J Virata
    Eye of the Needle, The Garden, Claiming Space
  • Emilio J Virata
    Eye of the Needle, The Garden, Claiming Space
  • Chris Bautista
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes 38 seconds
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2023
    Los Angeles
    United States
    May 7, 2023
    North America
  • Diwa Filipino Film Festival
    United States
    June 3, 2023
  • Las Vegas Filipino Short Film Festival
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    United States
    October 28, 2023
  • San Diego Filipino Film Festival Virtual Cinema
    San Diego
    United States
    October 24, 2023
Director Biography - Emilio J Virata

Educator, activist, and organizer Joe Virata spent over 30 years helping students navigate the restrictive structures of higher education. He served as Director of Asian Pacific Student Programs at Loyola Marymount University and UC Riverside, and completed his sojourn through higher education as Assistant Dean of Students. An American born Pinoy, he has wrestled with finding identity while straddling two cultures. In his retirement years he seeks ways to nurture creativity in his life. He writes. He plays music. He makes films. He lets his imagination run wild. He happily plays with his grandchildren, watching them run and laugh, and have a great ol’ time.

He shares his stories, that they might inspire some joy, or challenge some thinking, or that they might simply provide a momentary distraction from life’s daily routines.

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Director Statement

When I first heard this song I was a young college student just coming into awareness of the history and experiences of Pilipinos in the fields and farms of US Agribusiness, and the “floating plantation” of the US Navy. I had grown up in Southeast San Diego, living as a minority among minorities in the 60s and 70s, and I prided myself on being street smart rather than book smart, but I felt disconnected from my own history as a Pilipino in America. When I left the neighborhood and went off to University, this song was part of the soundtrack of organizing and activism that I was discovering. When I was learning about the history of my community, and the challenges the old timers faced and overcame, this song was playing. When I was learning to name the forces and institutions that were manipulating and controlling the conditions my community lived under, this song was playing. This song was playing when I and many others of my generation, were coming into our consciousness. It told our story, in the words of one of our elders, set to the music of one of our artists. It worked its way into the cadence of our steps on the picket line, and guided the chants lifted up by our voices. Plus you could dance the cha-cha to it, so big win all around.