Alfred Guanlao Simbulan
(April 18, 1955 – September 17, 2016)
As a student of the University of the Philippines pursuing post-graduate studies in Public Administration, Ka Arman was a member of a fraternity or a club, or such similar grouping privileged to represent the school in various shooting competitions. In that capacity,y he became friends with the armory keeper, a Master Sergeant of the Philippine Army, who allowed him access to the ins and outs of the place, including the movement of personnel. His membership in the club and his friendly relations with the armory keeper would be put to good use when time came for the execution of Kintanar’s insurrectionary strategy. For the UP armory was no ordinary school facility. It was actually a full-blown military installation for stockpiling weapons and ordnance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Ka Arman suspected that those guns and explosives were there to address the potential of another UP Commune as happened during the First Quarter Storm.
Ka Arman marked the day the armory keeper would be alone: Saturdays. He ascertained the number of weapons that were kept in the facility: enough to arm so many battalions. He figured out with certainty how many trucks would be needed to haul the weapons to designated points around Metro Manila at which to distribute those weapons to masses who needed to be armed for the city insurrection. He also made sure the armory had enough ordnance for blasting strategic flyovers on EDSA that would be downed to block rescue effort by the military in the final Batasang Pambansa scenario: the mass hostage-taking of assemblymen — including Imee Marcos.
At the same time, multitudes of militants from the mass movement – those who were to be armed with the weapons from the UP armory – would take over Forbes Park and the big banks as a neutralizer of possible military atrocity upon the Batasan hostage-takers as well as a further pressure on Marcos to step down.
In anticipation of US intervention in the uprising, arrangements had been made with Libya and North Korea to make a countermove, just in case. Arms from the two revolution-friendly countries were in place for instant shipment and the vessels to do the shipping would sail out at signal from the source. Ka Arman was with Kintanar when those arrangements were concluded.
That was the situation in those five days in February 1986 culminating in the so-called EDSA People Power Revolt. Ka Arman had all along been in on the grand plan of revolutionary power grab, had in fact contributed substantially to devising the blueprint for it. It was all there for the taking, to put it mildly, by Party policy makers whose only job was to stamp their approval on it.
For five critical days, Ka Arman put his family in the line of fire – for it was in his house where the Party leaders deliberated on whether to push the Kintanar option of insurrection. But then to Ka Arman, if that was the price he had to pay, then so be it. The decisive meeting could not be held elsewhere anymore. The hour of reckoning was clearly approaching. From the measly crowd of 50 mobilized by ATOM, the Butch Aquino-led mass organization, the upheaval had, at the instigation by Jaime Cardinal Sin, drawn crowds numbering more than a million by police estimates. Ka Arman knew it behooved the Party to decide quickly, otherwise lose the opportunity forever.
Finally, on the night of the fourth day, which was Friday, the protracted meeting reached the consensus: Proceed.
RK and Ka Arman were ecstatic.
Alas, but when they set out in the morning to execute the plan, the media were ablaze with the news that Marcos had fled to exile. Cory’s call for civil disobedience had deposed the dictator.
Cory had stolen the revolution.
Had RK and Ka Arman prevailed in that meeting even just a day earlier than when the final decision to proceed was given, the much-touted EDSA Revolt would have been preempted by a genuine people’s uprising. Under the concrete condition of the times, that uprising would meet with harsh US reaction, the plan to install Cory as president having been a done deal as early as Marcos agreeing to call a snap presidential election. Bear in mind that on the Manila Bay that very moment, the US Seventh Fleet was docked, ready for any contingency. Also, US mobilized international media, billeting them at the Manila Hotel to cover the big event.
Surely, the insurrection would have drawn much precious blood. But then, which revolution had not been bloody?
On the other hand, Ka Arman calculated that with the entire legislature, the bourgeoisie in Forbes Park and the banking system all taken hostage, the uprising could at the very least buy time for marshalling international support for the newly-won rebel ascendancy while averting determined US intervention.
And for the potential of that intervention, Ka Arman had a contingency plan in store: Capture truckloads of US Marines or otherwise blast them. Either way, that should send notice to the United States not to try another Vietnam. SIU did have occasions to case the movements of US soldiers to and from Clark Field.in Angeles, Pampanga.
Now, this is as far as I go in this recollection. Ka Arman’s own words on that fateful week of February 1986 are the best testimony. And this testimony will be part of his memoirs, which during our last conversation on the matter, he said he had already written.
Ka Arman had seriously gotten himself engrossed in writing after Sison issued his infamous Reaffirm, which splintered the Party and the Army into smithereens. Being a conscious deviant from the ill-thought Sisonite protracted people’s war, he, it went without saying, necessarily became a victim of the Party purge that Reaffirm was in the guise of ideological re-education. He found time, while farming, to write two books, one tracing the evolution of the Philippine military, and the other on Rizal, which he dedicated to common kumpare Diego Cagahastian and I, among highly select others..
I tried to persuade Ka Arman to publish his memoirs soon enough to help reinvigorate the decaying revolution. He gave out his ubiquitous snicker at my suggestion, saying those memoirs were meant for publication posthumously.
Now Ka Arman has gone. I ask myself if his going is really just his way of giving way for the publication of those memoirs at long last. With his Major in History degree, my kumpare surely knew his business. Once those memoirs are out, he will be making his own history.
By the time you are reading this, Ka Arman has been viewed and cremated. Wake began the other day and ends today. He leaves behind children Karen, Alfred Jr. and Grace, and wife Nymia, who conveys these, her last words on Ka Arman:
On the urn containing the ashes of Ka Arman are these inscriptions: Alfred G. Simbulan, April 18, 1955 – September 17, 2016, DAKILANG REBOLUSYONARYO.
That brought memories of one of the biggest operations Ka Arman and I and the SIU undertook wherein the spirit of selfless sacrifice got so crystallized in us that it moved me into writing a song. I sing this song now by way of bidding Ka Arman goodbye.
ABUTIN ANG RUROK NG PAGLILINGKOD BAYAN
TANGANAN ANG ARMAS AT IPAKIPAGLABAN
KARAPATA’T KALAYAAN NG MGA URING
NGAYO’Y NIYUYURAKAN NG MGA DAYUHAN
WALA NI ANOMAN ANG MGA MAMAMAYAN
KUNG WALANG MASASANDIGAN
NA MATAPAT AT MATATAG AT LUMALABAN NA
BAGONG HUKBONG BAYAN
LAHAT NG HADALANG SA PAG-UNLAD NG LIPUNAN
BUHAY KO MAN AY INIAALAY
SA ALTAR NG DIGMANG BAYAN
KUNG KAPALIT AY TAGUMPAY
LANGIT NA RIN ANG KAMATAYAN
ABUTIN ANG RUROK NG PAGLILINGKOD BAYAN
TANGANAN ANG ARMAS NANG MAPANGALAGAAN
TAGUMPAY NA KAMIT NG ATING DIGMANG BAYAN
LABAN SA PAGSIKIL NG SINUMANG GAHAMAN
PAG-UNLAD NG LIPUNAN
AT PAGLAYA SA URI
ABUTIN ANG RUROK NG SOSYALIMO’T
MAKAMIT ANG KOMUNISMONG MAHAL
Godspeed, Pare. See you shortly.