By MENCHANI TILENDO
Tribute to Rita “Taritz” Baua – anti-imperialist, internationalist, a Pillar of the Philippine national democratic mass movement
Just the other day, I woke up and found myself craving for a good tub of rocky road flavored ice cream after a long stressful day. Today, I remembered you and how much you wanted to have that ice cream date with me. It was already long overdue, but sadly, it will never happen.
I never wrote the truth as painful as this: grief in a time of a dreadful crisis takes double the emotional labor. It’s that overwhelming feeling of wanting to be there until the person can no longer stay, and the agony of letting that loss sink in until it becomes too real.
There are so many ways I would want to remember you, Taritz. So wherever you are, I hope you understand that this is my way of grieving over your passing. I know you are not a fan of being the center of attention, but you owe me this favor since you vehemently refused to let me interview you for one of the profile stories I was supposed to write for Bulatlat’s International Women’s Day special. Give mo na sa ‘kin ‘to.
Taritz, I’ve always known you as that old Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) staff who was always meticulous about things. In our daily grind as young members of the League of Filipino Students back then, we would always launch youth and student campaigns that required various forms of organizing. Part of that was the regular press conferences of youth leaders, educational fora, and mass mobilizations. In all of these efforts, we always knew that we had to go through you whenever we needed to borrow Bayan’s sound system, tables and chairs, tarpaulins, and even scissors and tape. I would always remember how strict you were in reminding us to return all the materials we borrowed. That was your way of making us, younger activists, understand the value of taking care of organizational properties – no matter how big or small. It was your way of telling us that part and parcel of being an activist is discipline in everything we do.
And I thought that’s all there is to it. I thought that’s all you’ll ever be to me. I forgot that we belonged in the same movement that teaches us to build tight connections with comrades, makes us appreciate the beauty of fighting for the same painstaking causes, and introduces us to friendships that will keep us grounded to the course.
I’d like to believe that our real friendship started when I became a member and staff of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS). As the international officer of Bayan and a dedicated anti-imperialist, you were always posted in all of the upcoming webinars and campaigns of the ILPS. You always made sure to message me for the registration link of the events, always actively participating in the discussions about global resistance movements, and always among the first to propagate news and statements about international peoples’ struggles. I also look up to you as an articulate mass leader and public speaker, a true comrade even across borders. I could only aspire to be an unwavering internationalist like you.
I also consider you as one of my best mentors in the movement. You always had that high hopes for the young ones like me. You never made us feel like the struggle was a race of generations, or a measure of how long we remained as activists. I never got the chance to tell you how much your mentoring meant to me whenever I was tasked to be the emcee of big mobilizations. I appreciate the talking points and sound bytes you sent me, the night before I would host a big protest. I am always grateful for your words of affirmation, your recognition that I can do more, that the youth can aspire to reach and further the standards set by those before us.
So little time, so much to say.
You have touched my life in more ways than one – as an activist, as a journalist, as a sprinter of the parliaments of the streets. Thank you for introducing to me the beauty of having a bond that transcends generations – a friendship that never wavered because it was held by a strong commitment of serving the people.
You lived a meaningful life, Taritz. And the gravity of your presence to all of us in the movement is a thousand times heavier to the masses you have served until your last breath.
Loss can be so hard to overcome because the finality of it is hard to accept. Like what Spanish author Javier Marias said in his novel The Infatuations:
“It is incomprehensible, because it assumes a certainty, and being certain of anything goes against our nature: the certainty that someone will never come back, never speak again, never take another step—whether to come closer or move further off—will never look at us or never look away.”
But the life you’ve lived was timeless because your commitments were bigger than yourself. So I’d like to put it this way — we will continue what you started, we will strive not to disappoint. Your legacy of comradely mentoring, anti-imperialist resistance, and selfless service to the people will live on.
From now on, I will remember you in every ice cream that I’ll have. You will always be that sweet, chilling, and soft comfort in my life.
Rest in power, my favorite boomer.