DAVAO CITY: The color red flooded the streets of Davao City on Friday after over 10,000 people, many of them farmers, members of tribal communities and even prominent politicians paid their last respects to a slain leader of the New People’s Army (NPA), Leoncio Pitao, also known as Ka Parago.
It has to be the longest funeral march that Davao City has seen in years–with mourners coming from the hinterland communities of Davao region and the provinces of Surigao and Agusan, enclaves of the NPA.
The funeral march ended at the Davao Memorial Park where Parago’s remains were cremated.
The expressions of grief and sorrow over the passing of Parago–called Tatay–was somber but at the same time, impassioned with raised fists, songs, poetry, audacious chants and tales of how great he was a man who defended the poor and the oppressed.
Former Bayan Muna party-list representative Satur Ocampo said Parago’s life was dedicated to the revolution to liberate the people from oppression.
“As a son of a poor farmer, he saw the injustices and oppression committed against the poor, the farmers, the indigenous peoples. His desire was to end this oppression, these injustices,” he added.
Thousands filled Davao City’s Almendras Gymnasium at the wake on Thursday night,.
City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was among those who delivered a eulogy to Parago, whom he called “my good friend.”
“He lived a warrior and he died a warrior,” Duterte said.
Parago, he added, was a person always guided by his principles.
A peasant from Paquibato District–Parago’s lair–also narrated how Parago influenced and helped them.
“He gave food to those who were hungry. He helped resolve disputes. He gave money to the sick. That the rebel leader called Parago, our Tatay, was to the community,” she said.
Parago was killed on June 28 in what the military said was an encounter in Barangay Panialam, Paquibato District.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), in a statement, said Parago was sick when the incident happened. He died with his medic, Vanessa Limpag.
The military said the death of Parago will definitely weaken the underground movement.
But the NDFP downplayed this. The Revolution Trade Union of the NDFP said no amount of “reactionary propaganda can prevent the outpouring of grief, salute and respect for a man whose unparalleled heroism people from all walks of life, even his enemies, consider legendary.”
“Ka Parago is gone, but the revolutionary fervor which he has inspired as a brilliant commander of the New People’s Army, as a father of the poor and downtrodden, and as a true servant of the people, has produced Paragos a thousand times over. These Paragos are now waging the people’s war in the countryside and leading the national democratic revolution toward a bright socialist future,” it added.