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Ka Pidyong’s Revolutionary Journey

in Mainstream

The 75-year old Ka Pidyong couldn’t contain his laughter as he recalled the first time he met members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in their community, an upland barrio in Northern Luzon. He was among the first batch of peasant men and women who welcomed comrades from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA in 1971, when the twin revolutionary organizations were in the formative stage.

“There were seven of them,” he said in Filipino, grinning. “Only one had an armalite rifle, while the others had carbines, a shotgun, and a caliber .38 handgun— all teka-teka guns (teka literally means “wait” and refers to low-caliber guns). Of the last member of the team, he remembered vividly, “He had no gun, only a kaldero (a metal pot used to cook rice).”

“Three years later, they were already 16 and fully armed,” Ka Pidyong mused. “We were so happy. Our morale was high because 12 of them were recruited from our village.” Some of the original members had been redeployed elsewhere, he remarked enthusiastically, “They continued to grow, so did we.”

Decades after that first contact with the people’s army, the villagers have now established, painstakingly, their own organs of political power: the revolutionary mass organizations of peasants, women, and youth. A revolutionary council has also been elected and now governs their communities. In 2017, members of the mass organizations—representing the unity forged by the CPP, the NPA, and their allies—held their second elections in less than five years.

Setting the Revolutionary Fire

Not long after the first meeting with the NPA, community leaders teamed up with the NPA to go to different mountain villages and those near the town center. They held meetings, education sessions, and explained to the masses the ills of our society and the proposed long-term solution to their situation.

“What truly got me to realize was the fact that the Philippines is a rich country, yet only the foreigners and the local ruling elite benefit from these riches,” Ka Pidyong said.

The education session was followed by many more until, “ang dami ko nang alam (I learned so much)” Ka Pidyong continued, beaming.

The peasants in this guerrilla zone are mostly landless, some tilling a hectare or two. The communities are nestled in a public land, where any moneyed individual can claim ownership over parts or all of it in blatant disregard of existing laws. All too often, the peasants had been victims of traders who preyed on them by selling farm inputs and implements that were overpriced and buying their farm produce at dirt-cheap prices. The government, too, attempted several times to evict the peasants and give way to so-called development projects, but did not succeed.

The series of education sessions was later followed by the establishment of a local chapter of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM, National Association of Peasants), one of the founding affiliate organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The establishment of the Makibaka (Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan) followed after a few years.

As the organizations expanded, Ka Pidyong and other comrades, also thought of ways to tackle their revolutionary tasks more effectively, such as: how to give education to those who are not literate; how to maintain communal farms, form a militia unit in the barrios for their security, and how to efficiently support the various needs of the NPA— the latter task they took to heart most fervently. The welfare of the NPA fighters has always been at the forefront of the masses’ concerns. Even in times of calamities, when there was hardly anything to eat, the masses saw to it that there was food for the Red fighters.

Makibaka members took the lead in taking care of the children of fulltime cadres and Red fighters. They looked after their schooling and overall welfare. The women likewise started the health and sanitation programs, which include production of herbal medicine. The youth were organized under the Huwarang Bata (Model Youth), which initiated sports programs, among others. In those years, when members of the NPA came back from tactical offensives, the youth would welcome them with revolutionary songs.

It has been a long, arduous, but victorious journey for those who blazed the revolutionary trail in this guerrilla zone.

Tempered by Struggle

Leaders of the PKM identified two most trying moments they had experienced in their almost 50 years in struggle: the Party’s disorientation in the late 1980’s until the early 1990’s and the intense militarization during the same period.
But they held the fort, they said, never losing track of the revolution’s onward march, much more the will to push it to victory. Even in those difficult times, when the enemy surrounded them, in their hearts and in their minds they knew where they stand—to serve the Party and the masses.

In fact, while the AFP encamped at the barrio for 14 years, several organizing groups and revolutionary mass organizations were established in the communities surrounding the barrio.

“No one was ever recruited into the AFP’s paramilitary unit. There were a few who almost agreed to be recruited but we persuaded them to back out,” said Ka Pidyong with a chuckle. Ka Pidyong was arrested by the military but, after his release, went into hiding several times after because of the continuing threats of re-arrest.

At the time, the NPA stayed away from the barrio center since their presence would cause unnecessary confrontation with the government forces that would affect the unarmed civilians.

But such restraint was no longer exercised during the Party’s disorientation. The situation then turned intense, pitiful for the masses who had to bring supplies, food into the remote mountainous areas where the NPA retreated after launching tactical offensives. This was the period when military adventurism seeped into the NPA ranks and mass work and agrarian reform tasks took a back seat to tactical offensives that were launched one after another.

Ka Pidyong was among those in the barrio who disapproved the swing to military adventurism, saying it was not time to show off the NPA’s military strength in their guerrilla zone. His memory of how the NPA had shifted its focus and the change in its attitude towards the masses was still fresh. “Yung mga kasama noon wala na, kapag pinupuna ayaw na (At that time the comrades didn’t want to accept criticisms).”

Sadly, Ka Pidyong was among those who were suspected as military agents within the movement during the anti-infiltration campaign. Although he had ill feelings then, now he shrugs off the whole experience. During the rectification period, the Party and NPA cadres and red fighters humbly criticized themselves before the masses and members of the revolutionary organizations as they explained to them the rectification process.

The elders in the community did not mince words in criticizing the Party and NPA members, which the latter wholeheartedly accepted. What is important is the rectification of the errors, which led to growth and strengthening of the Party, the people’s army and the mass organizations.

One with the Party and the People’s Army

A good number of the revolution’s trailblazers are now in their 70s, their faces lined with wrinkles and the hair on their heads turning grey or white and thinning. Still they stay in high revolutionary spirit. They have been in the movement for at least 47 years. Some of them were just about 12 years old when introduced to the movement.

“I am satisfied. Despite my age and ailment, I am still able to help in whatever way I can,” Ka Pidyong remarked. He quickly added, “And, I’m energized to see young people, from our place, from other places, from the cities who come here and stay with us.”

“If the end of our struggle is still far away, where we started from is now much farther away. Let’s continue fighting,” he added.

It took several probing questions from Liberation on how these trailblazers felt about being the bearers of revolutionary power in their communities before they could answer. There was initial silence, a long silence. Tears welled in the eyes of some of them. Clearing his throat, Ka Pidyong spoke up first. He firmly declared, “Without the Party and the NPA, we have nothing.” ###


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A Woman’s Story: How the Revolution Set Her Free

in Mainstream
by Vida Gracias

She froze. She felt numbed all over her body. That’s how Selya instantly reacted when she learned that her daughter, Mina, had been killed. It was in the late nineties.

Kubkob,” Selya was told about the incident that cost her daughter’s life.  But those who brought the sad news to her, Mina’s friends, tried to assuage her shock by telling her Mina was unarmed, that she was not a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). She was just with a group on an “exposure-integration” stint among the masses in that hinterland area when the incident happened, they said.

But why were guns trained on Mina and her companions, then fired—leaving some of them dead and others wounded? How many bullets shatter Mina’s face? Selya’s heart ached to its pith as she asked:  “Ano’ng nangyari sa anak ko? (What happened to my kid?)”  Mina was just 22, beautiful, a student leader, and a damn good writer.

A mother lost her daughter

Selya never really had a direct hand in Mina’s upbringing, as the latter grew up away from her maternal watch. Of her four children, Mina was the eldest. Though her husband came from a middle-class family he was not a good provider. The couple had to grapple with financial difficulties such that they could not afford to give their children proper education. Mina’s aunt came to the rescue; she took her under her care and sent her to school.

The pain in Selya’s heart persisted.  She wanted to know fully what happened to her daughter, and why?

She remembered getting a call from Mina telling her, “Magpu-fulltime na ako” (I am going fulltime!)” What was that about? Selya didn’t even understand what “fulltime” meant. Later she learned that Mina was being restricted by her in-laws, slapped a few times, and placed under “house arrest.” But Mina persisted in what she had committed to pursue, and found a way to leave the house. Mina said she was going on a one-week case study of Dolefil Philippines, a pineapple plantation, in South Cotabato.

The last time Selya saw Mina was when she came for a short visit, slept in their house, and bonded with her siblings. Selya noticed that Mina had lost weight and had insect bites on her skin. Her stories hinted of her carrying five kilos of rice on her back and learning how to fire a gun. “Nagduda na ako (I became suspicious),” Selya quipped.

Selya went along with Mina’s friends to identify her body at a funeral parlor. “Sa paa pa lang alam ko na (Merely by seeing her feet, I knew it’s her),” said the mother who didn’t need to see the whole body to claim it’s her daughter’s.

Then one by one, people started coming to the wake, sometimes in groups aboard jeeps or trucks. They all came to honor her daughter. Priests, nuns, students, farmers, workers, people from all walks of life. Night after night they shared snippets of stories about Mina. And they were always singing of struggles and of hope. It was through their narratives that Selya came to know more about her daughter’s activities, her aspirations, and her deep commitment to serve the people.

It no longer mattered to her that Mina was being tagged as a member of the NPA.

Political awakening

Years later it was Selya herself who was holding a gun. This mother in her fifties took the road that less mothers would have traveled, not just for her daughter’s memorial but for all that she had stood for.

Selya felt her bond with Mina becoming closer in her death than in her life.  Her love and respect for Mina grew by leaps and bounds.  Along with these came Selya’s political awakening.

For five years she fought for justice; she went trooping with other mothers and relatives of human rights violations victims to government agencies, demanding state accountability. The defendants in the case of her daughter’s killing were able to post bail on charges for multiple murders—and later were acquitted.  She went to almost every rally, every fact-finding mission, and every forum to speak about her daughter’s case and those of other victims of human rights violations.

Selya also learned about a lot of things. Having come from humble beginnings, she knew first-hand what poverty was like. But she came to know that poverty was not a matter of fate but a consequence of social and economic inequality, oppression and exploitation by the few ruling classes over the majority over whom they rule. Participating in discussions and forums gave her the knowledge about the class nature of Philippine society. She was convinced about the need for a national democratic revolution to bring about fundamental changes that her daughter Mina and countless others selflessly fought for.

Revolutionary education struck deep. Unknown to many, Selya was a battered housewife. For years she was abused by her husband in more ways than one. She accepted her fate in quiet perseverance. After all she was a devout Christian who as a wife had been made to understand that she must submit to her husband’s authority.

As her political consciousness grew deeper and broader, she gradually developed her resolve to break free. Finally, one day she said enough was enough and separated from her husband.


It was an act of liberation that her remaining children, in their late teens and early twenties, understood and approved of.  But they cried when she told them she was leaving for Mindanao to spend six months in the guerrilla zone. Perhaps they cried even more when she did not return and decided to go “fulltime.” On the seventh month of her stint at the guerrilla zone she officially joined the New People’s Army.

Tama siya. Walang mali sa ginawa niya (She was correct. There was nothing wrong with what she had done),” Selya declared about Mina. Her own experience in the countryside made her fully understand the choice that Mina had made before her. She put to rest all her questions about Mina’s choices that led to her martyrdom at such a young age.

Meanwhile, Selya became an inspiration to her younger comrades. She did not ask for any special treatment, although she was in her fifties. She would do her tasks just like the rest, carrying her own load in long treks and participating in military trainings.

Trusting in her maturity, she was asked to take charge of the NPA prisoners of war (POWs) while in protective custody of her unit, specially a town mayor who was awaiting trial before a people’s court. She would see to the POW’s daily medical check-up and engage him in discussions about the NDF’s 12-point program. Later, after the mayor admitted his sins and asked for forgiveness, he was set free and became an ally of the movement.

Pag ando’n ka, wala ka nang hahanapin pa (Once you are there, there’s nothing more you would wish for)” was how Selya defined her life in the countryside under the governance of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). For sure there are material comforts not available in the guerrilla zones; there are ever-lurking threats of military attacks, but it is here in the ranks of the revolution where ordinary folks become whole and enjoy their newfound freedoms.

And so it is with Selya. With eyes sparkling, she speaks of having found a new love in her life with a comrade in arms. And her children respect her right to such new love. “Pinalaya ko na ang aking sarili (I have liberated myself),” declared Selya. And her comrades are only too happy to see her smiling so sweetly.

Pola: A Woman Toiler Turned Warrior

in Mainstream
(Adapted from “Manggagawa, Mandirigma” by Ka Lina published in Ulos 2016)
by Pat Gambao

With the persistent pursuit for gender equality, women have transcended the patriarchal norm that a woman’s place is in the sanctity of home. With the advance of capitalism, women have entered new arena where their capability, vitality and intellect are recognized or rather harnessed. Yet as women toilers in factories and business establishments, they continue to experience the same degree, if not greater, of discrimination and exploitation.

Initiation to the world of the working class

Raised in a poor family who eked out a living from peddling food stuff for snacks in their barrio, Pola managed to finish high school but failed to pursue her dream of a college degree. Instead, she enrolled in a two-year course in a vocational school through the government’s “study-now-pay-later program”. In that so-called dual training, their only claim to being a student was the ID issued to them. They didn’t have a permanent classroom to pursue formal studies. Perhaps there really was no need as all they were taught to familiarize with different materials-wires, connectors and how to tape them together to assemble the harness of a vehicle. All they were taught were companies’ business concerns. In a semi-feudal society that served as mere supplier of semi-finished products to transnational corporations, perhaps those were all they need to know.

After three months, Pola and her classmates were sent to a factory for on-the-job training as part of the course. They were supposed to be student trainees yet they were made to work like regular workers as relievers or substitutes to absentees. They received P240 per day’s work, part of which went to payment of their tuition fees. The remaining one and a half years of the course were spent in the factory with such meager pay and without any benefit, not even the mandatory social security for workers.

Despite the rigor of the job, Pola worked hard, patiently waiting for the training to end in the hope that she would be taken in as apprentice. She got the job, true, but it did not take long before she was laid off.

Travails of a woman toiler

Thus began Pola’s rollercoaster journey into the world of commodity labor, exacerbated by the onslaught of imperialism’s neoliberal globalization as it dashed fumbling for a panacea to its crisis. The woman’s values of good-naturedness, patience and subservience inculcated by a feudal class society were fully taken advantage of.

Pola later applied as a saleslady in a well-known mall in their province. But she resigned after a month. She could not stand the difficult working condition and the ridiculous and repressive policy of the establishment. For a measly wage, she had to remain standing the whole day to reach her quota for the brand of dress apparels she was selling. There was a time when she was reprimanded for bringing her handkerchief inside the store without first registering it. Personal belongings had to be registered before bringing them in lest you would be accused of stealing.

From the job in the mall, Pola worked in an electronics company where she assembled “male” and “female” terminals used in television sets. But after more or less four months, her contract ended. This was the endo (end of contract) they call in the labor lingo.

Pola ended up in a food factory, where she was hired through an agency. With a spoon, she raced after the cups of noodles to determine if the noodles and condiments were of the right quantity or if needed to be reduced, add on, or changed. Also, if the machine that put on the cup lids was out of order, she had to do it manually. They worked by shifts in the factory. There were three shifts in all. But if a worker for the next shift was absent, she was obliged to take over and work up to 16 hours. Then again, it was endo after five months.

Pola also tried working as caddie in a golf course. She was an umbrella girl who trod on the heels of the golfer to shed him from the sunlight. But unable to stand the harassment from her bosses, she left the job after two months.

Through an employment agency in Makati, Pola was back as a factory worker. This time it was in a company manufacturing plastic lids for bottles of lotions, medicines, etc. Initially, her job was trimming the extra plastic around the lids to even them out; later, she was transferred to the packaging section. Sometimes, she relieved the operator of the machine that molds the lids.

As trimmer her quota was 6,000 plastic lids a day. Due to the thinness of the lids and the absence of a protective devise, her fingers often got wounded. As instant remedy, she would put on some adhesive tapes. But in the long run, her fingers have become numbed that she would not mind at all anymore. If she had not reached her quota, she was obliged to go on “overtime-thank you”, meaning overtime without pay. Again, after five months, endo. But she could continue working there as an “extra”- doing the same work, but with lower pay and without a contract.

Since life is difficult for Pola, any job is a welcomed treat just to earn a living.

The dawning of revolutionary consciousness

One day, coming home from an arduous day’s work in the factory, Pola met some students who stayed in their community. She was invited to sit-in to their discussions on the Philippine society and revolution. That awakened her to the stark realities-the immense oppression and exploitation of workers like her, as well as of peasants, professionals, youth, women and other sectors in society. She learned that their affliction was not destined. It was designed-a sinister scheme of the ruling class to hold on to power and wealth. But the greatest lesson she learned from their discussions was the solution to the people’s problems.

Pola could not contain her rage, as well as anxiety, with that realization. All along she had been entertaining the thought of leaving her job in the factory which did nothing but extract the workers life blood and sinew to accumulate huge profits for the capitalists. After thinking it over for days, weeks, and on to several months, Pola finally decided to work full time in the movement. This was the most decisive action she took in her whole life. She has the chance now to look at life from a different perspective and open up to new opportunities, best opportunities.

Sometimes, she reminisced about her past life in the factory, in the mall, in the golf course and how she spent it in vain. She could do nothing about it now but it would serve as a potent inspiration for her to get involved and take action to change this oppressive, unjust structure.

Smashing the chains

After more than a year of working in an urban center, Pola is now Ka Lina, a red warrior of the New People’s Army. She no longer held spoons, wires, connectors, dresses, umbrellas or plastic lids. She now carries an armalite. The broad countryside is her school and each day they delve into the strategies of the people’s war that will topple the semi-colonial, semi-feudal structures that oppress the people.

She is optimistic about the future, not only hers and her family’s, but also of the coming generations. Although she may not live to see victory, she is confident that time will come when the wealth that the people produce will serve not only a few but all. She vows to commit everything about her for the revolution, which will liberate the people from the fetters of exploitation and oppression.###

Raling Iglap

in Arts & Literature/Gallery
by ARMAS (Artista at Manunulat para sa Sambayanan)

Enero, sa panulukan ng EDSA-Aurora
Ipinarada ang mga pulang bandila
Suporta sa usapang kapayapaan, ugatin ang kahirapan
Digmang bayan para sa makatarungang kapayapaan

– Enero 23, 2017 | Cubao, Quezon City


Sa may simbahan ng Quiapo, mga Bagong Kababaihan
Hawak ay hindi kandila, rosaryo, o dasal
Litanya ng pakikidigma ang binibigkas, inuusal
Hangad ay paglaya ng uring pinagsasamantalahan

– Marso 17, 2017 | Quiapo, Manila


Sa Sta. Cruz-Avenida sa Maynila
Makabayang guro ang nagmartsa
Itinuturo ang landas ng pakikibaka
Sa hukbong bayan sumapi, sumampa

– Marso 24, 2017 | Sta. Cruz, Manila


Itinanghal apatnapu’t walong taon ng pakikidigma
ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa kanto ng EDSA-Aurora
Armas ng mamamayang sinasamantala
Tagumpay ng rebolusyon ang panata

– Marso 27, 2017 | Cubao, Quezon City


Ipinagbunyi sa paanan ng Mendiola
Ikalawang Kongreso ng Partido Komunista
Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoismo ang gabay
Ibayong pagkakaisa, ibayong tagumpay

– Marso 31, 2017 | Mendiola, Manila


*Nagkaroon din ng lightning rally o raling iglap sa Sorsogon, Calamba, at Davao noong Marso 29, 2017 bilang pagdiriwang sa ika-48 anibersaryo ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan

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