“The seeds planted by Ka Greg in the fertile soil of Negros will surely continue to grow…”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – His heart was too big it could accommodate all the oppressed.
Gregorio Ratin, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) – Negros, did not survive a bypass surgery last Feb. 5 at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). He was 48.
On the day Ka Greg passed away, his colleagues at KMP held a lightning protest inside the House of Representatives to condemn the proposal to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer). Ka Greg dedicated his life opposing CARPer, which he dubbed as a bogus land reform program, and to advancing a genuine agrarian reform.
In a statement sent through email, the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM), an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), hailed Ka Greg as a proletarian revolutionary.
“Ka Greg served the peasant masses untiringly as one of the greatest cadres of the peasant movement. He led the successful campaigns and struggles of the peasants in Negros island,” the PKM said.
The PKM cited the tillage and land occupation of farmers in Bago City in 2008. The revolutionary group added that the tillage campaign spread like fire and reached more than 86 parcels of land now being collectively cultivated and managed by farmers associations. The campaign covers more than 2,100 hectares of land planted to palay, corn and other crops, benefitting more than 2,500 peasant families in Negros.
In a tribute held Feb. 5, KMP leaders also recognized Ka Greg’s contributions.
KMP chairman and former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said that whenever he was in Negros, Ka Greg would always be busy spearheading the activities there. In between major activities when they were supposed to take some rest, Mariano said, Ka Greg always had other plans. “He would ask me, ‘Kaps, are you tired already?’ and then he would tell me we have to meet this ally. I told myself, ‘Ka Greg never seems to get tired.’”
“In his practice you would see persistent struggle and simple living. He was someone from the masses serving the masses,” Mariano said.
Mariano said that Ka Greg, while in Negros, often provided him updates regarding their local campaigns and asked for developments from the KMP national office. “He was always lively during discussions,” Mariano said of Ka Greg.
Emil Deoma, a member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) – Negros, who had worked with Ka Greg during fact-finding missions, said Ka Greg did not complain about any hardship.
“We walked for hours, we went to mountainous areas, we never heard him complain even though he had a heart problem,” Deoma said.
No task too small or difficult
Sevillano Luna Jr., Anakpawis secretary general, said Ka Greg did not only serve the peasants but the other sectors as well. He served as the regional coordinator of Anakpawis Negros and then he was assigned to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and to the Makabayan coalition.
“He accepted all the tasks that was given to him. He did not say no to any task,” Luna said.
Luna added Ka Greg was a troublemaker-of-sorts. “When Pamalakaya-Negros had problems, he willingly helped out.” Pamalakaya is an organization of fisherfolk.
“He was always happy, as though he had no problems, as though nothing burdened him,” Luna said.
Ka Greg tapped the radio for his advocacy. He served as anchor of the program “Kaling Kagtugda” in Aksyon Radyo.
Jola Diones-Mamangun, executive director of Kodao Productions, said Ka Greg served as reporter for their radio programs, first at DZRJ and then at DZUP.
Ka Greg also served as regional coordinator of Defend Patrimony-Negros.
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said Ka Greg was a not only a good leader but also an effective organizer. He was also good at alliance work, he said.
Sister Francis Anover, national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), said Ka Greg’s efforts earned the support of the religious.
“He used to be a lay worker of the RMP,” Anover told Bulatlat.com. “The nuns loved him.”
Anover said they invited Ka Greg several times to discuss the peasant situation. He also facilitated the immersion of students in peasant communities.
Anover related how Ka Greg carried Tata, a polio victim and a member of cultural group Teatro Obrero, on his back.
“They went around schools here in Manila. Tata performed songs about the struggles of Negros farmers. Ka Greg was always the one carrying him,” Anover recalled.
Ka Greg was not the usual grim-and-determined activist. He was soft-spoken and always smiling.
During an international fact-finding mission in Nagtalay, Negros Occidental, Ka Greg faced the armed security guards of the Philex mining. He never lost his temper and asserted the group’s right to investigate the impact of mining in the community.
Deoma described Ka Greg, whom they called as Mamang Greg, as a very loving and very understanding person.
“He was not only a father but a mother to us, too,” he said.
Deoma said they could always approach Ka Greg whenever they need advice. “Be it regarding our love life or organization, he would be there to listen.”
As heavy as Mt. Kanlaon
The PKM said Ka Greg’s death is as heavy as Mt. Kanlaon, Visayas’s highest mountain.