Hope and nation


bu-op-icons-sarahI wrote “The Rebel’s Child” on March 15, 2009 a few days after a fellow public school teacher, Rebelyn Pitao aged 21years, was kidnapped, raped, and brutally killed by military elements. And all because she was her father’s daughter. On Rebelyn’s first death anniversary, I met her mother and handed her a copy of this piece. It is a poem that I would read for the babang-luksa program. I was struck by how young she looked and the idea of the countless years in which she will live with the painful memory of her daughter’s death.

Six years later today, I have belatedly heard (9 days after) that Rebelyn’s father Leoncio “Ka Parago” was killed in Paquibato District, Davao City. He was born to a poor peasant family and joined the New People’s Army at the age of 22 during the height of the Marcos dictatorship (1979). A tribute to Leoncio Ka Parago Pitao: Radiant Red star of the revolution (1957-2015) by the Southern Regional Party Committee of the Communnist Party of the Philippines reads:

“With the comrades, Ka Parago organized and taught the lumads and peasants to defend their lands and stand up for their rights. He fought the big loggers who appropriated the forests and prohibited the settlers from populating their areas. Wherever he went, Ka Parago worked hard for the interest and welfare of the poor. He would always say “it is for them, the farmers and workers and lumads, that we are here. We can never, should never rest until we see that their problems are solved.”

Revolutionary work in the countryside taught Ka Parago the intricacies of the people’s war. Very soon, he was leading a company, and later a battalion of Red fighters. He was more than a general in his comprehensive, hands-on practice in the warfront. Ka Parago was one of the best offsprings of the new democratic revolution. He showed attributes of an exceptional Red fighter and communist party member. After doing significant tasks at the district and guerrilla front levels, he was eventually assigned to regional level duties and responsibilities in the NPA. As a commander of the New People’s Army, Ka Parago led and trained so many young warriors in the art of war: from the1980s to the 1990s where they launched countless disarming operations with nary a single shot fired, to the capture of Gen. Victor Obillo and Capt. Eduardo Montealto in 1999, to the raid of the Davao Penal Colony in 2007 and the many outstanding tactical offensives mounted by the Pulang Bagani Companies of Southern Mindanao.”

Ka Parago died in the hands of a state apparatus that despised him and treated him as one of its worst enemies:

“Ka Parago was killed while undergoing treatment for his lingering illnesses. He had diabetes, hepatitis and hyperthyroidism which forced him to slow down in the midst of relentless military operations of the AFP. The medic, Ka Kyle (Vanessa Limpag) who was treating and nursing him was also razed to the ground. Well-oriented of her right under Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions, she had already raised her arms and was shouting that she was a medic, but was gunned down just the same by the raiding team.”

This is the rebel whom I had imagined if only by way of recreating her dead daughter’s very short life. Their deaths weigh heavily upon me for they speak not only of the fate of revolutionary combatants but also of their families. This afternoon while having lunch with my students, one of them, a Business Economics major, was talking about Greece and proceeded to defending the success of Cuba especially in the realm of health and education. After which he would turn to the Philippine map behind him and say “Ang Pilipinas kaya?” It was probably his very hopeful tone that sparked a remote memory of a piece I had written partly on Ka Parago. After all, it is not strange to associate armed revolutionaries with hope and nation—Pilipinas.

The Rebel’s Child
15 March 2009

“Naibalita sa Internet, kamakailan, na hindi raw gaganti ang NPA sa pagpaslang ng/gobyerno kay Rebelyn Pitao/Ngunit ito ba ang hinihingi ng masa?”
–E. San Juan Jr.

The Rebel’s Child
who is about to celebrate
her 21st is dead.
Yet her father,
who has made friends
with pastoral landscapes, carabaos,
rusting sickles
and second-hand army artillery
is absolutely still
at large.
As he has been
from the time his child learned
her first lessons
on walking.
Which consisted in learning
how to walk away
from recurring visions
that remained frighteningly strange
to the end.

Scene 1:
the rebel’s capture/the rebel’s torture/
the rebel’s mangled body/the rebel’s corpse
Scene 2:
camouflage suits/the strides of black boots/
machine guns waving/handcuffs grinding
twisted wrists.
She did not make this up.
A clique obsessed with unification
and survival
directs those images, too tactile
for dreams, in places not far off
among the fields.

Did she keep a diary like this one?
“August 15: Yesterday, a visit from Tatay
who is just back from his Southern Expedition.
It’s like this: the people’s army, his comrades,
the makeshift houses, his high-powered rifle,
his two pairs of tafetta, his Mongol pencil,
his swiss knife, his flashlight, his guitar, and
his song of hope. It’s sad
they are not mine.”

“September 20: Today, a news
of a tactical offensive
that brought the town one step closer
to revolutionary justice.
Tatay survived. Whew!

“November 11: Finished Freire’s Pedagogy
of the Oppressed, I shall be a teacher.
Tatay teaches too, you know.
He once told me that
truth is concrete.”

“March 17: I’m no teenager now.
Will be a teacher in a few months.
Because truth is concrete.”

The rebel thought it would be nice
to call his precious one
the rebel feminized.
[Secretly, he wanted to get the record straight
because the rebel is perpetually demonized
by the State].

But the rebel’s child
was not spared
from the scenes that occupied
the vacancy in her head
whenever she is reminded
of how she knew the rebel well.

Now the kids whom the rebel’s child taught
so well are learning how to walk away
from a cruel mimesis
that has become their teacher.
Because truth is concrete.

And because it is, the difference
between what is done
and what must be done
is spelled and felt
like the clenched teeth
of a people still
not used to human death.(https://www.bulatlat.com)

Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Center for International Studies (UP-CIS Diliman) and a member of the National Executive Board of the All U.P. Academic Employees Union. She is the current National Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the External Vice Chair of the Philppine Anti-Impeiralist Studies (PAIS). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.

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  1. Farewell Ka Parago, be with your beloved daughter and live happy ever after.

    Kulang pa ang kamatayan sa mga lumalapastangan sa masa..!

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