Progressives salute martyrs, living heroes of armed struggle

(Photo courtesy of Renato Reyes Jr)
(Photo courtesy of Renato Reyes Jr)

“Apatnapu’t walo, at di matalo-talo.”


MANILA – Admiration, joy and pride flowed as progressives here yesterday honoured their comrades who led lives fully lived, waging “the highest form of struggle” — in the armed revolution, which after almost five decades stands undefeated and growing amid the country’s worsening poverty and crisis.

Timed on the 48th founding anniversary of the New People’s Army (NPA) on March 29, various progressive groups gathered at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) in Quezon City, to give the “highest tribute” not just for the fallen, but for all those currently waging armed struggle in the countryside, whose ultimate victory, they say, will usher in the long-desired genuine change in the country.

“We have chosen this occasion – one that will be held every year – to remember the martyrs of the Marcos Dictatorship, so that the younger generation may learn well and be inspired to emulate their example,” said Renato Reyes Jr, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general.

At Bantayog ng mga Bayani stands a granite wall inscribed with names of those who fought the Marcos Dictatorship. “Many of those names are members of the NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the National Democratic Front,” Reyes said, adding that countless other revolutionaries died in the struggle against the succeeding regimes.

The tribute to revolutionary heroes was also a celebration of the cause they served, of the victories and heights it has reached, and a tribute to their ranks, as the band Pangayaw described in a song: “Susulong, dadaluyong, kakalat, lalaganap… magtatagumpay (Advancing, surging, spreading, widening…winning).”

Proud families

Many of the martyred NPAs were youths who were recruited in sectoral and community organizations, became organizers and leaders. They eventually sought a more dangerous life and gave “the ultimate sacrifice” as guerrillas in the countryside, waging the primary form of struggle of the national democratic revolution.

Families brimmed with pride and honour as they spoke of their loved ones and their love for the country and the people.

“Ipinagmamalaki namin kahit kanino, na ang anak ko ay isang NPA, dahil ang NPA ay hindi masama, dahil ang NPA ay nagmamalasakit sa kapwa tao, sa mahihirap, sa inaapi na di pinapahalagahan ng gobyerno natin (We can proudly tell anyone that my son was an NPA, because the NPA cares for others, the poor and oppressed who are disregarded by government),” said Edna Gumban, whose son Wendell, a graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) was slain in Mindanao last year.

“Buong-pagmamalaki naming sinasabi na si Recca ay sumapi sa NPA, at ipinagsisigawan namin sa mundo na siya ay aming kadugo, at kung gaano karangal, kadalisay ang layunin ng rebolusyong kanyang pinagsilbihan (We are proud to say that Recca joined the NPA, and we can shout to the whole world that she is our family, and how honourable and pure is the objective of the revolution that she served),” said Jang Monte, whose sister Recca Noelle Monte was among the seven NPAs killed in Lacub, Abra in 2014.

Activists from Southern Tagalog came in force to give tribute to four NPA guerrillas killed in an encounter this month in Quezon: Felicardo Salamat, John Paul Aringo, Jomar Resureccion, and Jeramie Garcia.

“Kung wala kayo, walang kahit anuman ang bayan laban sa masasama at salot sa lipunan (Without you, the people have nothing to defend themselves against the evils and scourge of society),” peasant leader Orly Marcellana, recited his poem, which recalled the words of Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

The family of Resureccion, who carried the nom de guerre “Ruru,” said he set a shining example as he overcame his drug addiction and remoulded himself into a revolutionary. His transformation also shows that drug addicts are not hopeless criminals, and should be given a chance to rehabilitate.

Katherine Albarillo, the widow of slain guerrilla leader Arman Albarillo, spoke about how the former Bayan-ST leader eventually joined the armed struggle as he saw that it is the “only solution to attain justice” for his parents, who were killed by soldiers in 2002.

Katherine had her children in tow, just like some progressives at the tribute, in the hope that their offspring become the next generation of activists.

Angie Ipong, a former political detainee and now leader of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), thanked the families and parents of activists-turned-guerrillas who willingly allowed their children to follow their hearts and join the revolution.

Youth leaders enumerated names of young, martyred NPA guerrillas in recent decades, who came from communities and schools such as UP, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of the East, Adamson University, Trinity College, Ateneo de Naga, University of the Cordilleras, Manuel L. Quezon University, Mindanao State University and University of Sto. Tomas.

In the early evening at heart of the city, the challenge and call to join the NPA resonated.

Duterte’s chance to make history

Reyes said that the NPA’s 48th year is a good occasion to remind President Duterte of how the
revolutionary movement had overcome the Marcos Dictatorship and the succeeding administrations, in spite of supporting counterinsurgency plans and funding from the US. He said Duterte himself acknowledged that the NPA is supported by the poor and is fighting for an ideology, not selfish interests.

“Apatnapu’t walo, at di matalo-talo,” Reyes echoed the hashtag which has turned viral on social media.

Progressives support the GRP-NDFP peace talks, which will have its fourth round on April 2, as it tackles social and economic reforms – the roots of the armed conflict, which Reyes described as “the issues that we carry in our daily campaigns.”

In its statement, the CPP called for the strengthening of the NPA and advancement of the people’s war, as well as to thwart the government’s all-out war on the people. It also said they “are prepared for the possibility of significant progress” in the peace talks, particularly in signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (Capcr).

“Aware of the prevailing contradictions arising from the multipolar world and parallel schisms within the ruling classes and ruling clique, the revolutionary forces are willing to let the Duterte regime unfold and bare itself through peace negotiations whether it is a stark running dog of the US imperialists or not,” said the CPP statement.

At the tribute, dusk came, and the speeches, songs and tears flowed, for the loss of revolutionary forces is always heavy on the heart “like the weight of the Sierra Madre.” Still, hearts were lifted and fired up with inspiring stories of ordinary folk who took the “road less travelled.”

Former political detainee and artist Ericson Acosta sang Isang minutong katahimikan (A minute of silence), along with Reyes and other activists, about how grief comes with a promise.

“Narinig ko sa bawat pusong nagluluksa, ang yabag ng laksa, nagbababala
Naririnig ko sa bisig ng api’t dalita
Ang pintig ng digma

Narinig ko na, ngayun pa lang
O kay tapat na pangako
Na sa ating lakas
May paglayang wagas.”

(Rough translation: I heard from each grieving heart, the footsteps of throngs, giving a warning;
I heard from the arms of the poor and oppressed, the revolution throbbing, rushing…
I heard, just now, oh, a promise so sincere, that from our strength will come, freedom so true.)

Listen to the song “Isang minutong katahimikan” on Soundcloud

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