In the now distant year of 1912, at the age of 14, Tañada became an activist. Tañada was a fifth grade student at the time, and the direct cause of his rebellion was a tyrannical American school superintendent. The latter wished to build a playground, and to this end, harnessed the resources of his young charges. He made them work on Saturdays and Sundays, and as a result, the students could not go home for the weekends. Discontent began to spread among their ranks. The school children organized themselves, and led by one Santayana, they decided to boycott their classes.
When the startled superintendent learned of their action, he called the strikers one by one. And when Lorenzo's turn came, the American could not believe his eyes, for young Tañada was the smallest in class. "What, you?" he exploded, "why have you done this to me?" "Sir, it is because we cannot go home on Saturdays and Sundays," the boy explained. The upshot of it was that Santayana was expelled, but Lorenzo and his classmates were allowed to stay in school. Their exploitation came to an end. Tañada looks back fondly at that incident in his early life and describes it as the first student strike in Philippine history.
Amadis Ma. Guerrero, Graphic, 29 December 1971