• A day in the lives of one-time communist rebels


    [Second of five parts]

    THE road to Capas, Tarlac, was long, even if reckoned from Angeles City, which was our first stop for the journey from Manila. Diego was driving, and the trip was reminiscent of those days in the latter half of the 80s when we would go to meetings of our intelligence unit in the house of Jake, a Bulacan entrepreneur, who was the third member of our collective; at other times, Diego and Jake would go to Clark Field to case, in intel lingo, movements of American soldiers. The difference between then and now was that, before, Diego drove his yellow worn-down Volkswagen Beetle; this time around, he steered a sedan that endured the tough unpaved, very narrow passageways meandering across a vast expanse of rice paddies with newly-planted palay seedlings.

    Earlier, Bilog had informed us, as we fetched him from his residence in Balibago, that our final destination was the farm of Juaning Rivera, who, Bilog told us, had acquired a 76-hectare tract of land. As we negotiated our way through the rice field, I wondered to myself if this was the land Bilog had talked about.

    I remembered the first time I settled on my piece of land in Antipolo. It was roughly four hectares of stark cogon patch which, given the mindset of much smarter comrades, I could have titled in my name back in the early 70s. But we were communists, weren’t we? So why bother having it titled as a private property? And in 1989, RK and I had a discussion which ended with a declaration from RK that before the first presidential election of 1992—which I perceived would consolidate the political power of the bourgeoisie (Cory’s government was a revolutionary one and very shaky as evidenced by the several coups that threatened to overthrow it)—the revolution shall have won already. As history would have it, Sison issued his Reaffirm in 1991, fragmentizing the Party and the Army—contributing wittingly by some obnoxious design or unwittingly by ideological conceit and humbug to the crumbling of the revolution. And my original settlement of four hectares—which at this writing had turned into premium real estate—has been reduced to more or less just 1 ha.
    under the incessant intrusions of what are generally regarded as “informal settlers” (am I not one among them, anyway?) and my claim to ownership of the remaining parcel must contend with obsessive passion by a former police general to land grab it. It took the intercession of my friend, Tony Halili, to stay the general’s attack. Tony, then not yet the Duterte-like mayor of Tanauan, Batangas, told the general: “Mao and I belonged to the same world of RK.”

    Magnificent, I said to myself of the sprawling rice land as we gingerly negotiated the final bend of the passageway. Both for livelihood purposes and for security purposes, too. I thought I could liken it to the Mamasapano SAF 44 carnage site, which was so extremely flat and open that you could see an enemy approaching even from miles away. Only in the midst of the terrain was a slight area covered by trees, shrubs and bushes. There was no way you could tell that the spot was a human habitat except that the meandering passageways ended there.

    Concealed by the vegetation was a house typical of provincial middle-class residences, with fowl, hog and farm animals completing the rural ambience. At the driveway, a man, tall, robust-framed and visibly fit and strong, greeted our arrival. This, Bilog introduced, was Ka Juaning Rivera, the host of the affair; hosting of the event goes on a round-robin among members of the group.

    True to Mindo’s assurances, no issues either of reaffirm or rejection of the Sison line were raised in the happening. There was only rejoicing at the continuing opportunity to renew a camaraderie born of the pure spirit of serving the people and steeped in the blood and sacrifices in the armed struggle.

    Everybody appeared resigned to the fact that armed struggle would no longer get them anywhere. I shared this view, citing Fidel Castro’s overthrow of Fulgencio Batista, in Cuba, as the last communist armed struggle to achieve victory.

    Bilog quickly retorted, “‘Yung kay Castro hindi naman communist ‘yun, eh (Castro’s was not a communist rebellion). Rebolusyon lang ‘yun laban kay Batista.”

    I was enthused by the remark. Bilog actually touched on a most sensitive aspect of the Sison-led protracted people’s war whose political line—the overthrow of US imperialism—I had been criticizing early on in my membership in the Party. For though it is admitted that our strategic enemy is US imperialism, it was foolhardy to even think of trying to overthrow US imperialism in the Philippines at a time when it maintained a stranglehold on all aspects of Philippine society—economically, politically, culturally and, most importantly, militarily. All US military installations in the country at the time were well in place.

    Bilog rightly pointed out—as I had been consistently holding—that Castro never raised the issue of communism and US imperialism in the Cuban revolution. It was purely a revolution against the dictatorship of Cuban strongman Batista. The effect—the US did not intervene in the struggle; nay, it did, lending logistics to Castro. Only when Batista fell and Castro was ensconced in power did he proclaim himself to be a communist.

    In the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, a brilliant strategist would have zeroed in on Marcos, leaving both the influence of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought and US imperialism untouched.

    But then that’s how the Sisonite revolution had been made and that’s why it happened the way it did.

    Errata: Mea culpa for two errors in my last column. Luzvimindo David was cited as former firebrand of Kilusang Makabayan, which should read Kabataang Makabayan (KM). Sheer oversight here. The other error, the Sandinista uprising was cited to be in Panama, which should read Nicaragua. Thanks to the reader who pointed this out.


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    1. Raymond Salting on

      The last communist armed struggle to achieve victory was Vietnam and Indochina in 1975. Not Cuba in 1959.