Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal described the ‘democracy’ prevailing in the country as ‘disgrasya’ and not ‘demokrasya’. (an unfortunate circumstance and not a democracy)
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – If Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal had not become a revolutionary fighter, he thought he would have been just your typical ordinary person without a vice; he would have been like just any other youth, and later a simple farmer.
But as many now know and as many more should know, according to his admirers, Rosal became a revolutionary fighter and he never stopped at it until his death in 2011, at the age of 64. He was then a famous revolutionary leader, spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), wanted and pursued relentlessly by the state military but cherished and adored in guerrilla zones and even in the urban centers reached by his broadcasting on the Philippine revolution.
He was an honor student in his elementary and high school, but he had to work various jobs after high school, doing odd jobs at the house of his parents’ sugarcane landlords. He sold mosquito nets and, according to one of the journalists who interviewed him late in his life, even worked as “kubrador” (collector) for the omnipresent jueteng (small town lottery).
Having seen and also experienced discrimination and injustice first hand, Rosal said in an interview conducted years ago, he sought out the activists himself when, at last, he started college at 24 years old, in 1971.
He was a member of the CPP even before the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. He was arrested in July 1973, and imprisoned without charges for five months, until he and others like him decided to free themselves.
Asked by his relatives what he was doing when they saw him home after he escaped from prison, he was quoted to have replied: “Ala eh, kami e pinauwi na. Wala daw kami ginagawa doon.” (Oh, we’re made to leave. They said we’re not doing anything there.)
He immediately acted on the doing-nothing part – he promptly went to the countryside and joined the New People’s Army (NPA). He and hundreds more of activists like him led in forming “revolutionary bases” and guerrilla zones.
When he died in one of those guerrilla zones 40 years later, he was someone whose presence and voice was sorely missed.
“When it had been months, then years, that we haven’t heard him on the radio, and we asked about him, we’re told he was just somewhere far. As it turned out, he was really very far away now. He’d been fetched by the Lord. It’s sad news to hear that he’s no longer with us,” said veteran broadcaster Deo Macalma in Filipino before a crowd of thousands gathered to pay tribute to Rosal.
“Ka Roger was a serious man, but he had a sense of humor,” said journalist Ed Lingao, who was one of the last journalists to have trekked to an NPA camp to interview Ka Roger.
“He held fast to his principles, but still could make you laugh,” he added of Ka Roger. He praised Ka Roger whom he described as not just another angry young man. “It’s easy to be an angry young man,” Lingao said, adding he saw more than that in the humanity of Ka Roger.
He recalled that he had asked Ka Roger in an interview if he regretted his choices in life, what he had become at various times. He said Ka Roger replied: ‘I had no regrets. I became what I am because of all those things that I went through.’
‘Till we meet again, Ka Roger’
An estimated crowd of more than 5,000 gathered March 29 to pay tribute to Rosal.
March 29 marked the 47th anniversary since the founding of the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP. In the program held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the activists who filled the theater saluted not only Rosal, but also the NPA and the CPP leading it, and the “national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective” that they have been waging for the last nearly 50 years. This revolution, they said, nurtured and developed the likes of Ka Roger. They expressed optimism that more people like Ka Roger are taking up arms and continuing the struggle, driven as they are by the Philippine society’s chronic crisis.
The tribute was dubbed as “Ka Roger: A legacy of the People’s Struggle for a Just and Lasting Peace.”
Rosal died of a heart attack five years ago, on June 22, 2011, in an undisclosed NPA guerrilla zone. He was 64. He was survived by his daughters, his family, and the rest of the ranks of armed and unarmed revolutionaries and activists professing that they are looking up to his examples.
In a statement of the CPP, it said Rosal was buried somewhere in Northern Luzon, but his cremated remains will now be brought to his hometown in Ibaan, Batangas. Rosal will be interred beside his wife Rosario Lodronio-Rosal, also a revolutionary guerrilla who died in battle, and his granddaughter Diona Andrea. The latter died at birth while her mother Andrea was still under detention.
CPP saw it fit that after five years, Ka Roger’s remains will be moved and buried in a grave marked with his name, and the homage to him as the “Voice of the Philippine Revolution.”
A serious man with a sense of humor
Rosal shot to fame as the no-nonsense, sharply witty CPP spokesperson. Although he excelled in education and organizing work of the Communist Party, and in mass work, which propelled him to leadership position in the party, the task he loved to do most was broadcasting on the radio, said Prof. Jose Maria Sison, CPP founding chair and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), in a video message shown during the program.
Rosal enjoyed broadcasting at his Sierra Madre radio program of the revolutionary movement and responded to questions thrown by his fellow broadcasters from big networks based in Manila, said Sison.
This, Rosal managed to do, because he apparently kept himself up to date. In a sharing, Satur Ocampo, former Bayan Muna Representative, recalled how he noticed that Rosal, carrying his pack and firearm, would listen on his transistor radio while traversing the forest of Sierra Madre.
Macalma also recalled how, when he was at a rebel camp for one of those press conferences about the state of society and revolution, he woke up at 4 a.m. because he heard Ka Roger listening to the news.
“He’s addicted to the radio,” said Macalma.
The NDFP in Southern Tagalog said Ka Roger’s radio pronouncements played a major role in shaping public opinion.
The NDFP hailed in a separate statement Rosal’s pioneering guerrilla radio broadcasting, where he and his team aired the good news about the revolution, and celebrated its victories and sacrifices from shifting bases of operation. How the masses were soon eager to listen to him, and how the military tried, and failed, to find and suppress him, said the NDFP statement.
The CPP recalled, in another statement, how the reactionaries were mortified at the nation’s still vivid memories, recognition and admiration for Ka Roger.
“When Ka Roger was spokesperson of the (Communist) Party, he was always a headache of fascist military officials and bureaucrat capitalists because he was promptly exposing and opposing the lies and deception of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the ruling puppet state,” the CPP said in Filipino.
Now, even in death, Ka Roger’s life is helping to expose myths, based on statements read in praise of his legacy. For example, the myth of democracy in the Philippines (Rosal himself had called it disgrasya, not really demokrasya even by its textbook meaning); the myth of promised change in elections, and the lies against the communist movement and revolution.
“Let us remember him by living up to his sharp propaganda,” his youngest daughter said in a voice message played during the tribute.
Rosal’s youngest daughter said she is proud and honored to have communist parents.
Despite the hardships of having to move frequently, growing up without seeing their parents, she said she and her sibling had never felt bereft.
“I felt the love of my parents in the love and respect they nurtured in their comrades and the masses who in turn looked out for us,” Rosal’s youngest daughter said.
She echoed the others’ statements about this being the opportune moment to recall and celebrate Rosal’s life, especially now, “when candidates are vying to be the next puppets,” Rosal’s youngest daughter said. Like the others who warned against the illusion of democracy peddled by election candidates, she warned that no real change can be expected from these competing would-be puppets. “You can get real democracy in a revolution, and not in an election.”