Medardo “Ka Roda” Roda is probably the most loved driver in the world. On Valentine’s Day, more than 350 people gathered to pay tribute to the long-time leader of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Medardo “Ka Roda” Roda is probably the most loved driver in the world.
On Valentine’s Day, more than 350 people gathered to pay tribute to the long-time leader of Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).
The Bonifacio Hall of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman was adorned with red balloons, with the texts, “Labs ko si Ka Roda” (I love Ka Roda.) Members of Piston-Kamuning chapter wore shirts with the same message.
Organized by the Kodao Productions in cooperation with Piston, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), Labs ko si Ka Roda was indeed a serenade. Testimonies revealed why he is so loved.
Members of Piston flock to Medardo “Ka Roda” Roda, long time leader of Piston. (Photo by Ronalyn Olea)
Ka Roda was born on Oct. 27, 1934 to a peasant family in Libanan, Camarines Sur in Bicol.
In 1965, he went to Manila to find work. He landed as a stevedore at the pier.
Later, he became a taxi driver. After four hold-up incidents, he decided to drive a jeepney instead. His first route was Cubao to V. Luna.
It was then that he met activists and started studying the ills of Philippine society. He rose as a leader of the most progressive and militant transport group.
Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chairperson of Bayan, said that Ka Roda has been transformed from an ordinary jeepney driver into a street parliamentarian.
Araullo said Ka Roda led protest actions, mainly transport strikes against the soaring oil prices, against the exploitation of drivers and against the fascism of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Steve Ranjo, Piston chair, said, “Dalawampung taong pinamunuan ni Ka Roda ang Piston. Malaking bahagi niyon ay panahon ng martial law. Ganyan kabigat ang kanyang naging ambag” (Ka Roda led Piston for 20 years. A great part of it was during the martial law years. That’s how great his contributions are.)
In a video released by Kodao Productions in 2007 entitled, Ang Ruta ni Ka Roda (Ka Roda’s Route), Ka Roda relates how Marcos viewed him: “The most rebellious driver the Philippines ever had, sabi ni Marcos. Gago talaga si Marcos.” (Marcos said. Marcos was really nasty.)
Ka Roda said one day, he was invited to Camp Crame. The invitation lasted for one year and three months.
Roger Soluta, KMU deputy secretary-general, recalled how he started admiring Ka Roda.
Sometime in 1990, Soluta said he saw Ka Roda at a court hearing. Both of them were facing charges. Soluta and his co-workers at a five-star hotel in Manila were charged with drug trafficking. He said they were framed up by the management. Ka Roda, on the other hand, was slapped with inciting to sedition.
Soluta said, “Nakita ko, matibay ang paninindigan nito. Ginigipit siya dahil sa inilunsad na welga… Nakita ko, tunay na lider ito, handang magsakripisyo alang-alang sa drayber” (I saw that his convictions are firm. He was being harassed because of the strike. I saw that he is a true leader, one ready to sacrifice for the sake of his fellow drivers.)
Araullo said, “Hinahangaan si Ka Roda bilang isang sinsero, matapat at marangal na lider… Laging tinatanganan ang kahilingan ng masang drayber” (Ka Roda is admired for being a sincere and honorable leader… He always carries with him the interest of the ordinary drivers).
Even Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed. In a video-taped message, Sison described Ka Roda as an intelligent, brave and militant mass leader. Sison said Ka Roda struggled against the foreign oil monopoly and their local cohorts.