I just had an encounter with a man that the Jose Maria Sison played scrabbled with, had lunch with and made sure Malaya and We Forum were clipped religiously while they were in prison. The encounter was short, but wonderful, and it showed me a different face of the man who represented the Philippine national democratic revolution up to this time.
BY TERENCE KRISHNA LOPEZ
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Just minutes after my arrival from an enchanting trip from the marvelous Maguindanao, passing through the otherworldly beauty of Marawi, the only Islamic City in the country with the magical lake Lanao as a backdrop and the quiet and simple Iligan City, I was still ecstatic.
I just had an encounter with a man that the Jose Maria Sison played scrabbled with, had lunch with and made sure Malaya and We Forum were clipped religiously while they were in prison at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
The encounter was short, but wonderful, and it showed me a different side of the man who represented the Philippine national democratic revolution up to this time.
Soaped, horsed and forgotten newspapers
His close friends call him Papa Sammy. Let me call him Mang Sammy.
Probably a few years younger than Sison, Mang Sammy or Samuel Maolana looks to me like a perfect poster boy of the 1960s era. Hair not short, not too long but long enough to express freedom or non-conformism, shirt hugging him with a statement: spit it out. And when he spoke, although he was a little tipsy, everyone listened.
He started telling his JMS tales when prodded by another friend, over cans of beer as if it was just yesterday. It felt as if JMS was still in prison.
Jolly. That was his first adjective when I asked how was the man who at that time was translating Marx’s dialectical materialism into Filipino. Mang Sammy added that JMS laughed a lot and joked a lot especially when his wife Julie and child Jasm were around.
I tried to picture it, those words Mang Sammy was saying and it was really difficult for me. I only know JMS as the grim and determined leader of the Communist Party and author of the Philippine Society and Revolution. I was able to see that image of JMS later on in my mind but it did took me a few minutes – I mean of course, it’s not easy.
Another thing Mang Sammy told was about the scrabble games JMS and him played with Julie in which JMS coined words that weren’t usually acceptable such as soaped and horsed. Julie, according to Mang Sammy, would protest but since their rule was consensus of two, JMS always won. And when at one point, Julie quit and turned the table down because she felt she was being cheated by the two, JMS would just laugh about it and tell Mang Sammy, “Napikon yung matanda!” (We got into the nerves of the old lady!)
But Mang Sammy and JMS also had a “lover’s quarrel.” There were times when JMS wouldn’t talk to Mang Sammy, wouldn’t join him in meals and would smoke alone. But that too, was funny.
Mang Sammy actually was transferred from another cell to be JMS’s companion and when they became close in-mates, JMS requested Mang Sammy to do the news clippings from We Forum and Malaya, two of the more respected papers during those times. They also agreed that other papers be sold in exchange for cigarettes. One time, their prison guard accidentally included the two papers among those to be sold.
It was Julie who revealed to the clueless Mang Sammy that there were only three things that mattered to JMS at that time, other than his family and among these were the newspaper clippings.
Of course, eventually, the two in-mates went back to being friends again after sometime.
Unfortunately, as in every encounter, ours had to end. Mang Sammy and his equally interesting friends had to leave as the night started to get real deep.
And I had to prepare myself for a road trip the morning after. A road trip amid tens and tens of unchecked check points, Muslim women walking down the streets in full Muslim garb that reminded me of the Afghan women in the movie Osama, three-hour trip with strangers who speak a completely different language along narrow highways, majestic mountains and the magical lake Lanao.
Definitely though, my encounter with Mang Sammy who is now a development worker in Maguindanao is the one thing that made this trip spectacular. Not only because he took me a bit closer to the one man every young activist dreams of meeting but also because he made me believe, in a manner and flair all of his own, that age in a society that needs change, doesn’t matter, when we struggle.
And yes, Mang Sammy is separately, another interesting story to write. Contributed to (Bulatlat.com)