From Abra to Sarangani: The revolution in four deaths

Mong Palatino

Tatay Francis Morales. Arnold Borja ‘AJ’ Jaramillo. Recca Noelle Monte. Rendell Ryan ‘Perper’ Cagula.

AJ, Recca, and Perper were martyred NPA revolutionaries while Tatay Francis was an environmental activist who succumbed to leukemia. Their untimely deaths meant so many things to many people especially to loved ones who already shared moving tributes and testimonies about their heroism. They lived a full life, fought hard, and died with honor defending the alternative. They saw the promise of tomorrow and after this they gave their all to usher the arrival of the future. If there’s something to add, we should emphasize that their life stories gave further proof that the revolution is noble and it is a cause still worth fighting and dying for.

Through AJ, Recca, and Perper, we can surmise that the people’s army has strategic presence across the country. The NPA is supposed to be weak or nonexistent in the Cordilleras and Sarangani but what were AJ, Recca, and Perper doing there? Earlier this year, communist leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria were captured in Cebu. Based on these reports, it seems the NPA has fighting units in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Undeniably, it is now an army capable of launching a nationwide offensive.

How can NPA lose if it continues to attract the support of the young and intelligent? Perper was 23, Recca was 33, and AJ was in his early 30s when he decided to join the rebel force. Perper, Recca, and AJ were all students of the University of the Philippines, the country’s premier university. To non-Filipino readers, it’s akin to Harvard or Oxford graduates joining an armed militia to seek the overthrow of the federal government in America or the constitutional monarchy in England.

What probably inspired them was the idea of changing the old world of oppression and injustice and replacing it with a new world of liberty and equality. It is the same radical vision which led Tatay Francis to embark on a four-decade journey of fighting dictators, warlords, polluters, corporate land grabbers, and corrupt officials.

Like AJ, Recca, and Perper, Tatay Francis became an activist at a young age. A former seminarian, he chose to fight Martial Law by being a community organizer in Zamboanga. He was detained in the 1980s. But he never wavered and despite his illness, he continued to perform an active role in the people’s resistance against foreign aggression, feudal exploitation, and climate injustice.

How can the national democratic struggle become obsolete if it’s nourished by the idealism of the young and wisdom of the old? Tatay Francis belonged to the First Quarter Storm generation, AJ the student activist fought the Marcos dictatorship, Recca the young artist was an Edsa Dos baby, and Perper became a full time guerrilla warrior after college last year.

Except for those living at the top of the social pyramid, everybody resents the system but not everybody is willing to fight the system. AJ, Recca, and Perper were among those who chose to move forward the struggle for national liberation by joining the NPA. For Tatay Francis, it meant a lifetime of activism. Their lives refute the malicious claim of some conservatives in power that the NPA exists to spread senseless violence and that activists are only creating troubles in society.

Did AJ, Recca, and Perper abandon the comforts of middle-class living so that they can simply pistol shoot anyone who disagrees with them in the provinces? Recca, a Bisaya, chose to live among the Ilocano peasants even if it meant being away from her child. AJ also endured the difficulty of living separately from his wife and two children. Perper could have been the next nominee and even congressman of Kabataan Partylist in 2016.

What made them sacrifice everything to embrace the NPA way of life? The question is also the answer. For them, the idea of joining the revolution is not a choice, but a duty. It is to NPA’s credit that many of our young continue to view its political program as the most comprehensive blueprint in overhauling Philippine society.

As for Tatay Francis, he is part of a unique batch of senior citizens who defied the norms of society by choosing to grow old without shunning or compromising their radical beliefs. Thanks to activist “troublemakers” like Tatay Francis, we have won some meaningful rights in the past decades that benefited the masses.

Through Tatay Francis, AJ, Recca, and Perper, we learned that the revolution is really a collective undertaking. They made a lot of sacrifices in their lives but they were more concerned about creating a new future. AJ and Recca fought landlordism in Abra, Perper was not a boxer like Pacquiao but he chose to remain in Sarangani to knockout the roots of poverty in the province, Tatay Francis was a veteran warrior who simply dreamed of making the world a safer and cleaner place to live in. All of them found fulfillment in life not by hoarding material possessions but through empowering the poor and marginalized. They fought for tangible reforms so that these will be fairly distributed to all.

After Tatay Francis, AJ, Recca, and Perper, laptop activism became more shameful than ever. After Tatay Francis, AJ, Recca, and Perper, we finally realized the futility of simply waiting for the arrival of the armed revolution in the cities. What then is to be done? City mouse, the rural beckons!(

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila. Email:

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