Achieving Happiness

May 28, 2008

Thank you for everything, Ka Bel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 11:31 am

Managed to attend his final tribute at the House of Representatives and even join the looong cortege as it wended its way out of the Batasan Complex and into Litex. My baby cooperated, but I didn’t abuse what strength I had and stopped after the first 20 minutes of the march. Instead I stood on the sidewalk and watched the very long parade of people wearing read and the vehicles swathed with banners and streamers bearing Ka Bel’s face and name and extolling his greatness as a revolutionary.

The eulogies were so beautiful and heartfelt, specially the one delivered by Bayan Muna Satur Ocampo. The fact that he was close to tears and sounded on the verge of weeping as he neared the conclusion of his tribute did nothing to detract from the sincerity and beauty of his reading and his words, they all the more added to it.

Teddy and Ka Liza Maza’s were also sincere and included funny anecdotes. Amusing how both of them spoke of conversations they had with Ka Bel and the topics were clothes — when Ka Bel was a teenager, he supported himself through his first years in high school in Tanagan, Bicol by doing laundry. He was also, always, a snappy dresser: not fashionable, but what clothes he wore, even the plain red t-shirts and blue cords he liked to wear, he wore very, very well.

So many people attended, and somehow the heavy weight that’s been on my heart since last week when I first learned of Ka Bel’s accident and subsequent death lifted: it was very good to see, hear and feel how Ka Bel is so appreciated, so respected, and yes, so loved by so many, many people. When he was still alive he had so many detractors, and while he himself never once showed that he was affected or daunted by their brutal attacks and criticism, the people who loved and respected him, worked with him on a daily basis were often offended and angered on his behalf.

Today, so many tears flowed and the outpouring of love and grief and the collective sense of deep loss could not be denied. He was an ordinary man who succeeded in being extraordinary because he unselfishly gave his life to the furtherance of a struggle to reclaim human dignity and social justice. He was poor, and he never resented it, and he had no trouble resisting all temptation to be corrupted.

Ngayon alam na ng napakaraming tao lalo na ng mga nasa labas ng Kilusan, at silang mga matagal nang tumutuya, namimintas at oo, natatawa sa mga paninindigan ni Ka Bel kung gaano siya kadakila, kung gaano siya kabuti, kung gaano siya karapat-dapat na iginalang at pinahalagahan. Ano ba ang kanyang mga naging kahinaan at kamalian kumpara sa kabutihang inipon at nagawa niya sa loob ng 50-taong paninilbihan bilang unyunista, lider manggagawa at lingkod bayan? Sa huling pagtitimbang, walang kasing-bigat ang kahulugan ng kanyang naging buhay, at kontribusyon sa kamulatan, pagkilos at maging pagkatao ng napakaraming manggagawa at maralita.

Hindi siya santo, pero isa siyang mabuti, mahusay, walang katulad at dakilang tao. Napakalaking inspirasyon niya sa napakaraming tao, at patuloy siyang magsisilbing inspirasyon sa lahat na nakilala siya, o naka-alam sa kanyang naging buhay at pakikibaka. Napaka-palad ng kanyang pamilya, ng kanyang asawang si Ka Osang at ang kanilang 11 anak. Lumaki sila sa piling ng isang dakilang tao, dakila din dahil tunay na nagsikap igpawan ang mga sariling kahinaan, ang mga limitasyon ng kahirapan, at ng kawalang katarungan ng lipunan.

Like I’ve written in previous entries (and I’ve written of nothing and no one else this past week), I have learned so much from Ka Bel, and am and will always be grateful that I was given the chance to work with and for him in the last 12 years. Having been one of his staff, his writer will always be one of the most important achievements of my life, one of the greatest honors I could ever hope to receive. To serve a truly great man, one whose life was dedicated in service to others and to a cause that embraces all that is good and noble in life is an honor I am proud of declaring.

I stood in front of Ka Bel’s coffin with the rest of his staff in congress – Tin, Lyn, Mau, Lisa and Ka Lu – and even as we wept and supported each other (grief does make one weak), one by one we thanked Ka Bel for everything he had given to each of us: meaning and purpose, daily lessons on practicing one’s political and ideological beliefs, a shining example of how to live one’s life as an activist and as a revolutionary.

He was the best boss to have — everyday was full of pep and energy, and you never felt your efforts wasted as you worked with him and for him. But best of all, he was a great person to know — kind and giving and funny to boot! Work was always stressful because there was always so much of it; but one’s exhaustion was also coupled with a deep sense of satisfaction. It was an easy-going office attitude-wise, but it was hardworking, as evidently seen by the output. From the 12th to 14th Congress, Ka Bel was a workhorse — he did his own research, he read voraciously, and he listened attentively during discussions on various economic and political issues even as he himself actively  contributed to them — and his staff were only to glad follow his lead. I won’t go into the awards and citations he was given since 2001, but I will write that truth were told, he deserved more because he gave his all and more.

Kaya mayabang ang staff na magaling din sila — kasi sobrang husay ng kanilang principal. Forgive me the conceit, this is our chance, the only chance we’ve had to gloat.

An hour ago I woke up from a most comforting and happy dream: Ka Bel was alive and well, he was smiling at me and cracking jokes. In the dream I was so relieved that he wasn’t dead, and I went to him and hugged him, and we started to talk about the book we were writing about his life. He laughed and said that I might end up exaggerating many details just to make him look good. I told him, ‘e mabuting tao naman po talaga kayo, Ka Bel.” That’s when I woke up, and right now I feel happy.

Thank you for everything, Ka Bel. Paalam at muli, mahal na mahal ko po kayo.

Advertisements

May 26, 2008

Kato-liko

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 9:14 am

Nakakaloka talaga ang Simbahang Katoliko — hindi nagbigay ng misa para kay Ka bel sa Legaspi dahil hindi naman daw siya Katoliko.

Una, Katoliko sa Ka Bel. Bininyagang siyang Katoliko; naging sakristan nung binata siya (pero huminto nang isang hapon ay nakita ang isang pari ng kanilang parokya sa Bacacay na may kasamang babae — bumukas daw ang pinto ng opisina ng pari at may lumabas ang isang babae na sa itsura ng buhok at pananamit ay mukha daw may ginawang ‘kakaiba’ sa kwarto). Nung bandang 35 taong gulang naman siya, nagkursilo — inamin sa sarili, sa asawa at sa harap ng simbahan at mata ng diyos na siya’y nagkaroon ng mga pagkukulang at pagkakamali bilang lalaki, asawa, at ama.

Bilang congressman, nakailang beses nagpa-isponsor ang kanyang opisina ng KATOLIKONG misa sa House of Representatives. Mga misa na nakaalay sa pagsusulong ng mga adhikain ng mga manggawa, kawani at maralitang Pilipino. Nago-offertory siya, salmo responsorio, at tumatanggap noon ng kumunyon.

Nung ika-50 anibersaryo ng kanyang kasal kay ka Osang, mga Katolikong pari ang nagbigay ng misa na ginanap sa PHilippine Heart Center, kabilang na si Fr. Joe Dizon.

So Katoliko siya. Hindi man siya linggo-linggong nagsisimba o nagtitika kapag Mahal na Araw, tingin ko mas nalampasan, nahigitan ni Ka Bel ang pamumuhay ng mas maraming nagkukunwaring banal at taimtim na nagdadasal/nagrorosaryo/palagiang nagkukumpisal na Katoliko – kabilang na dito ang mga pari sa mga mayayamang parokya o yung mga pari na hindi nadadalwang-isip na suportahan ang berdugong gobyerno ni Gloria Macapagall-Arroyo at bigyan ng komunyon ang naturang mamatay-tao, kurakot at sinungaling na huwad na pangulo.

Pero kunwaring hindi siya Katoliko. Kunwaring iniwan nga niya ang pagigiing Katoliko – sapat na dahilan ba ito para tumanggi ang Simbahan na magbigay ng misa para sa kanya? Dahilan na ba ito para tanggihan ng Simbahan ang kanyang pamilya na basbasan ang labi ng kanilang pinakamamahal na padre de pamilya? Walang saysay ba ang naging buhay at paglilingkod ni Ka Bel sa mahihirap, sa masang anakpawis — ang hindi maipagkakailang pagbibigay ng buong lakas, tapang at talino sa mga pinagsasamantalahan at inaapi na sila ding sinabi ni Hesus na dapat na paglingkuran at tulungan?

On the ‘technicality’ (which is how the Church seems to understands the situation- the factor that made it decisive for it to declare Ka Bel ineligible for a Catholic mass) that Ka Bel’s family chose to hold his wake at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines refused to hold mass for Ka Bel.

One would have thought that the family’s decision would have made the Church humble and hence still offer to hold mass for Ka Bel despite. That it would’ve been some sort of wake-up call for the Church to take a more active, participatory role in the shaping of values in society; the sort of values that venerate genuine, selfless and sincere service to the poor and downtrodden and give Ka Bel tribute.

After all, he was a godly man, a man who lived for others, self-sacrificing and giving.

Nakakahiya. Talagang nakakahiya. Mga Katoliko lang pala ang ipinagdadasal ng Simbahang Katoliko? Kapag hindi ka Katoliko, gaano man kahalaga at kadakila ang iyong naging buhay, hindi ka kakikitaan ng ‘worthiness’ at bigyan ng misa at basbas?

Am going to attend the BAYAN-sponsored tribute tonight. FInally, lalabas na rin ako ng bahay at pupuntahan si Ka Bel. Naiisip ko siyang pagalitan — tatayo ako sa harap ng kanyang kabaong at manenermon – what the heck were you doing up on the roof at 6am?!! You should’ve known better! There would’ve been at least a hundred other people who would’ve gladly climbed up that ladder to fix the leak — people who would’ve been honored to serve such a humble, giving and sincere servant of the masses.

Pero wag na, wag na. Alam na ni Ka Bel kung ano ang nasa isip at puso ko. Alam kong naiitindihan niya kung bakit may galit ako sa kanya at sa kanyang biglaang pagkamatay. Noong buhay pa siya, madalas ko na rin siyang napagalitan (dahil mahal namin siya, dahil iniingatan namin ang kanyang kapakanan at kalusugan, at dahil ayaw naming managot sa sambayanan sakaling may mangyaring masama sa kanya. Sa tutoo lang, napaka-protective ng staff kay Ka Bel – gegerahin namin ang sino mang pipitik kay Ka Bel.). Lagi na lang namin siyang nasasabihan ng “Hay naku, Ka Bel!” kapag nakakalimutan niyang kumain dahil busy sa pagpapabasa; o dahil may kinausap at tinulungang masa; kapag hindi niya naiinom agad ang kanyang gamot sa altapresyon. Tatawa-tawa lang siya noon pag nahuling tumatakas mula sa kanyang mga security staff gaya nina Ka Jim at Ka Noi at susuong sa bulto ng mga rali at nakikipagkamay, nakikipag-usap sa pinakamaraming bilang ng tao. Idadaan lang niya sa biro kapag pinuna siya kung bakit bigla-bigla na lang siyang nagpapalit ng schedule nang hindi muna nagpapaabot sa kanyang appointment secretary na si Ka Ofel — hindi kasi siya marunong tumanggi sa mga paanyaya at imbitasyon: kahit sasampung tao lang ang lalahok sa isang pagtitipon, pupunta pa rin siya.

Ka Bel, huling araw na ng lamay mo bukas, at sa Miyerkules ililibing na ang iyong mga labi. Huling gabi na daw ng parangal mo bukas, pero sa tutoo lang, we, I, will never stop paying you tribute. Sa pagpapatuloy ng paggampan ko ng anumang tungkulin para sa Kilusang Mapagpalaya, sa bawat sulating nakapatungkol sa adhikain ng tunay na kalayaan, katarungan at demokrasya para sa nakakaraming api, ikaw ay palaging bibigyang pugay dahil isa kayo sa dalawang taong lubos na nagturo sa akin ng kahulugan ng tunay na paglilingkod. Sa aking pinaka-abang paraan, sa aking pinakamaliit na kontribusyon sa iyong niyakap na adhikain, sisikapin ko pong patuloy kayong parangalan. Mahal na mahal ko po kayo.

May 23, 2008

Rocky Beltran

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 12:20 pm

Ka Bel clowning around with Ariel and Maverick, June 2007. Kim and I made this video at home just now.

Samu’t-saring alaala

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 10:23 am

It’s been four days and still it’s quite difficult for me to accept that Ka Bel is really gone. I read the news reports, I see the pictures, I hear the radio updates and watch the tv coverage of his wake and the tributes; but somehow, none of these seem to make coherent sense to me: something in me is still in stubborn denial, refusing to acknowledge his complete physical loss.

I suppose it’s because I haven’t gone to his wake yet. Apart from my husband, I haven’t talked to anyone in person about his death and how it has grieved me and continues to grieve me. Is this some kind of way of keeping him alive — my not attending his wake? It’s like delaying the inevitable. I’ve cried rivers already, and even now as I write this, it’s hard to keep my eyes from blurring.

My friend Edre said that sooner or later I will have to face this and say goodbye. But the thing is, I really am not ready to say goodbye, not by a long shot.

Sometimes here, alone at home I talk out loud, addressing Ka Bel — telling him how angry I am at him for falling off the roof and dying like that. Yeah, yeah, I know the symbolism of him doing the household chores himself; his insistence on doing the repairs (alangan naman si Ka Osang ang umakyat sa bubong at ayusin ang tumutulong kisame), but he should not have done it alone, and at 6am, and without checking it out first with his children. Hay. I think he must’ve forgotten that he was 75 years old, and that he wasn’t as strong as he used to be (especially since his 16 months of incarceration courtesy of the &*%$#^Macapagal-Arroyo government).

I just wish he just stuck with watering or weeding his camote and corn garden, or digging up tubers last Tuesday; and left off fixing the roof. Hay.

It breaks my heart all over again to also think of Ka Osang and how she will now be forced to live out the rest of her years without him – him whom she lived with, loved, raised a family with, depended on and loved since she was 15 years old. I know she’s a strong woman, but a lot of her strength came from her husband’s love; the very same way Ka Bel’s strength also relied on her affection and presence.

I suppose my grief is more personal than political — I salute Ka Bel as an activist, revolutionary, a legendary labor leader, a great internationalist, exemplary congressional representative and steadfast servant of the people: all these labels are his and will remain his for posterity. But the fact is, I loved Ka Bel like my father, or grandfather – someone I respected personally because he was really a good person, a caring human being, someone of flesh and blood, someone so very dear, with or without the labels.

Napakarami kong pwedeng isulat tungkol sa kanya at kung paano ako naimpluwensiyahan ng kanyang pagkatao at pagka-rebolusyunaryo. Kung paano hindi siya marunong magkimkim ng hinanakit sa mga Kasama kahit pa parang nag-aalimpuyong apoy ang kanyang galit sa mga nang-aapi at nagsasamantala. Kung paano siya marunong tumaggap ng puna (at madalas yun, lalo na kung sobrang haba niyang magsalita sa rally o sa plenaryo — ngingiti siya, at magsosori — o may nasabing sablay sa midya). Kung paano siya tumawa at kung paano niya kayang pagtawanan ang sarili at mga patawa ng ibang tao at Kasama. Kung paano siya naging ama sa kanyang mga anak – mapagmahal, maalaga, at palaging nagsisikap na bumawi sa kanyang mga naging kakulangan noong sila’y maliliit pa at siya’y hindi pa aktibista. Kung paano siya maglambing sa kanyang asawa na kung tawagin niya’y ‘Mama’ habang siya naman ay masuyong tinatawag na ‘Daddy.’ Kung gaano siya kasipag sa pagbabasa, sa pagsusulat at pag-aaral sa bawat-araw ng kanyang buhay at paglilingkod bilang Kinatawan ng mamamayan sa kongreso.

Umaapaw ang puso at isip ko sa mga alaala tungkol kay Ka Bel, at matagal pa ang panahon bago maiibsan ang sakit ng kanyang pagkawala. Hindi madaling tanggapin na wala na siya at hindi na muling makakausap, makakatawanan, makakatrabaho. Mahirap ding hwag masaktan para sa kanyang iniwang pamilya na nakilala ko na rin at pinahahalagahan.

Oo nga pala, dalawang anak ng aso kong si Poofy ang inalagaan ni Ka Bel at kabilang na rin ngayon sa kanyang mga naulila – sa Polabear at si Dauphin. Si Dauphin talagang hiningi yun ni Ka Bel – natuwa siya nang ikuwento na matataba at balbon ulit ang pangatlong batch ng mga tuta ni Poofy. Siya mismo ang nagsakay sa van kay Dauphin, at sinama pa niya sa kanyang speaking engagement sa UP. Nahilo ang kawawang tuta, kaya pinababa at pinalakad niya sa damuhan sa labas ng UP Film Center.

Nakwento ni Ka Bel minsan na inaagawan siya ng tulugan ng dalawang aso. Nauunahan daw siya sa papag.

“Bakit hindi ninyo palabasin ng bahay o pababain sa sahig?”

Hindi daw niya kaya, naaawa daw siya. “Baka ginawin, sipunin.”

Naawa na naman. Kaya ayun, siya na lang ang natulog sa sahig habang ang mga aso kumportableng nakahilata sa papag. Sa susunod na mga gabi na nagkataong naunahan naman niya ang mga aso, kailangang isa-isahin niyang tanggalin ang mga nalagas na balahibo ng aso na dumikit na sa kanyang unan, kumot at kobre-kama.

Ka Bel, ang kulit mo talaga! Ngayon naman natatawa ako habang naiisip ang makailang beses na pumasok kang pudpod at madumi ang ilalim ng mga kuko.

“Nagbungkal na naman si Ka Bel!” Tumawa kaming lahat. “Ka Ofel, ilabas ang nailcutter…”

Umiinom ng kape kahit bawal; mahilig sa boxing; magaling mamalantsa; maganda ang penmanship; nangungupit (nang hindi sinasadya, baka adik lang talaga) ng bolpen nang may bolpen; paboritong kulay ay pula; pag may gustong hilingin, sasabihin “Meron kaya tayong…? (paperclip, liquid eraser, highlighter, lapis); hindi marunong kumanta pero pagnagsusulat unconsciously na nagha-hum ng “lalarinlarin…”; sa halip na ipaayos ang salamin pag natanggalan ng turnilyo, kukumpunihin gamit ang binaluktot na alambre at Scotch tape; pag walang panyo, okey lang na gamitin ang malinis na dish towel na sinungkit sa kusina ng sariling opisina.

Mabait. Palatawa. Matalino. Matapang. Mapagmahal.Huwaran. Dakila.

May 22, 2008

Happy Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 1:41 pm

May 21, 2008

Hay naku, Ka Bel!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:17 am

Thanks to Ms. Ellen Tordesillas for printing my blog entry about Ka Bel in her column space in Malaya today; and thanks as well to GMANews.Tv for putting it up along with the news reports about Ka Bel’s legacy and the preparations for his wake. I am very grateful because, well, I really did – do- want to share how I feel about Ka Bel and his passing. I’ve felt so helpless because much as I want to help his staff prepare the parangal, etc, I can’t be moving around being eight months pregnant. All I can do is write and try to inform as many people as possible about the ka Bel I knew and loved. The entry I wrote yesterday was hurried and fueled by deep emotion — I was literally crying while I typed the words and the keyboard was wet with my tears I kept having to wipe it with my sleeve.

I do intend to write a more coherent tribute for Ka Bel. I’ve actually begun a book on his life, writing it with Lisa Ito and Ka Andoy, but I haven’t made much progress with it since late last year when I started my pregnancy. I remember all those hours I’ve spent interviewing Ka Bel about his childhood, young adulthood and his entry into the political movement, and I can’t help but smile despite the pain: he was such an engaging person to talk to about his personal life! He was candid and funny, and honest and down-to-earth. I’ve recorded all our conversations in my MP3 player, and I took lots of pictures, and he was so lively in all of them.

I admit I wasn’t so worried about putting off writing the rest of the book for a bit (or at least until after I’ve given birth) because I took it for granted that Ka Bel would still be around for a long while yet — heck, even at least another freaking decade! You’ve never seen a more energetic person, he exercised every morning, ate healthy, never drank or smoked, and he slept early! Despite the health problems he had incurred as a result of his more recent arrest and incarceration, he wasn’t going to kick the bucket soon.

At least that’s what I thought. And now there’s tremendous pressure to finish the book, only this time he isn’t around anymore to talk to. I will have to rely on the memories and recollections of others on how he was and what he did and what shaped him into the great labor leader, genuine patriot and internationalist that he was until the last moment he breathed.

My only comfort is that at least he got to read the first 75 pages and edit them. Now, well, Ka Bel, since you trusted me enough when you were still alive to put on paper your thoughts, opinions and stands on a myriad of issues ranging from the cultural, political to economic, I hope you will trust me enough to let me finish this book on your life and the profound and undeniable impact your life’s work has made on the history and direction of the Philippine labor movement.

According to Anakpawis Party-List staff, Ka Bel’s remains will be brought to the House of Representatives on Tuesday morning, May 27, for the protocol necrological services. Prior to that, however, there will be a series of tributes for him beginning today, May 21 up to the 26th at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Cathedral in Taft Ave across the Philppine General Hospital. His body will be brought there later tonight from Bulacan.

I don’t know if I will be able to go tonight because, well, it’s kind of hard to walk, and I’m not sure am up to saying goodbye to a man I loved like a grandfather. Baka bumulahaw ako ng iyak – e iyakin pa naman ako ngayon!

I wrote his speeches and press releases and resolutions and bills and feature articles about him, and through all those pages and pages of words, words, words I got to know him deeply. We talked about his life and we talked about work. We talked about his family and we gossiped about other people (Ka Bel was pilyo — he liked gossip of the political sort, sure; but he wasn’t above listening to your run-of-the-mill, garden variety chismis about people we knew: whom broke up with whom and why; the argument that broke out between so and so; who has a crush on whom, that sort of thing. Of course he was never mean, and he was no blabber-mouth, but he did laugh, even as he promised-cross-his-fingers-hoped-to-die that he would not tell anyone. Hahahaha!).

He was my main ninong sa kasal in Quezon City Hall in 2005, and when my father died in 2003, Ka Bel travelled all the way to Santiago, Isabela where my father’s remains were to condole with my mother and the rest of our family.

He polished his own shoes, darned the holes in his pants and barong, cleaned his own desk and put his files and reading materials in order in himself. He washed his own dishes (pag hindi siya naunahan ng staff) and made his own coffee.

Well, for a time he didn’t make his own coffee because of a mistake he made with the containers. He tipped a teaspoon of instant coffee and half a teaspoon of brown powder into his mug, mixed it with water, stirred it, took a sip, and his lips puckered.

“Ne, bakit ang asim ng kape?”

“Po? Paanong maasim?”

He points to a small jar with brown powder. “Baka yung asukal sira na? Pero hindi nasisira ang asukal…”: I take the jar, take off the lid and sniff the jar’s contents: sour and pungent. I know it’s not sugar.

“Ka Bel, iced tea yan!”

Ka Bel never had money in his wallet – most of his allowance he gave to his wife, Ka Osang, and whatever was left he often gave away to people who walked up to him and asked for financial aid. It was sometimes frustrating the way he was too generous, even with the fake media photographers/reporters in Congress who badgered him to buy unfocused, blurry pictures they took of him while speaking in plenary — naaawa daw siya. He was also quite frugal. Some of his efforts were even quite extreme: he one time cut a shoe lace into two pieces, used both to tie his leather shoes and then he kept the other uncut shoe lace.

“Bakit ninyo ginupit?!” I asked, aghast when I found him at his desk burning the ends of one severed shoe lace to make sure that the ends wouldn’t unravel and fit into his shoe eyelets.

“Para may isa pa akong bagong pares ng tali pag naluma na ito.”

“Jusme, Ka Bel naman mura lang ang sintas!”

He just smiled his bright, bright smile.

May 20, 2008

Crispin ‘Ka Bel’ Beltran, mahal kong boss at Kasama

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 7:22 am

My boss, favorite labor leader/mass leader, kaibigan and pinakamamahal na kasama Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran died earlier today, a little before noon after sustaining massive head injuries. No he wasn’t felled by bullets by assassins sent by the military or the government; he died because he hit his head on the pavement when he fell off the roof of his house in Bulacan. He was fixing it, most probably because it’s the typhoon season and he didn’t want to risk water leaking through fissures or cracks and flooding his and Ka Osang’s house.

Am trying to be calm about it, because in my grief I am angry. Angry because his death was so senseless — it’s silly even! Had his fall not been fatal and had he only broken a leg or a shoulder, the entire accident would have been turned into an anecdote, a cautionary tale – one of the stories one tells about the big hearted, kind, compassionate but often stubborn great labor leader that he is. Was. I wonder how long it will be until I begin referring to Ka Bel in the past tense?

But nevermind my anger. What happened — his being on the roof, a 75-year old man with a hammer, doing household work and making sure his home and family were safe from the rains — is (was?) so like Ka Bel. He lived and worked from day to day always with meaningful intent, with purpose, with the aim to protect and defend those he cared for and loved the most. And that purpose extended (oh how it it did reach outward and forward like an undeniable force of nature!) beyond his family — he embraced the working class, the Filipino people, and even the poor and oppressed of other nations.

He was a good guy. He liked to laugh- with others and even at himself. He laughed like a little boy with a good secret and he was tickled pink by it. He had a smile that made you forgive his sometimes outrageous comments (often directed against the likes of de facto president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, DOJ secretary Raul Gonzalez, national security adviser Noberto Gonzales and Executive secretary Eduardo Ermita as well as certain officials of the House of Representatives). He was self-effacing and self-deprecating when it came to his own achievements, and in his commitment and opposition against what he he referred to as ‘the evil government’ he was fierce and fearless. He was an internationalist, a man with the highest socialist ideals, and he lived and practiced what he believed in on a daily basis. He was a good father and husband, nevermind that he was never a good provider. He shared what he had with others, be it the last crumpled P20 bill in his battered wallet, or his wide knowledge of history, politics and economics. (Those who knew him best also knew better than to start a discussion with Ka Bel about the state of the nation or the state of the economy of whatever other country — Ka Bel loved discourse, and loved a healthy discussion. Often he’d risk being late for committee hearings or plenary because he’d gotten so involved in conversations with visitors. Thank goodness his staff are persistent – they had no qualms about dragging Ka Bel away and shooing him off to his appointments.)

I worked with and for Ka Bel for more than a decade. I became one of his staff when he was still the chairman of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) back in 1995; and when he was elected to his first term as a party-list representative of Bayan Muna in 2001, I joined his office first as his media officer, and eventually as his chief of staff. This was a post I maintained when he got elected to his second and third term under Anakpawis until I moved to the NDFP-Nominated Section in the Joint Monitoring Commitee late in 2007. That’s a total of 12 years! I’m now 32, and I am proud to say that my most formative years as a writer, as an activist have been shaped and influenced by the likes of Ka Bel. Twelve years, and every day of it was a great honor to serve such a sincere, humble and highly-intelligent and deeply committed servant of the people.

I have to admit that this day is a day that I’ve long feared would come. Ka Bel wasn’t young, and he had diabetes and hypertension, and the last two years had been so stressful for him because of his unjust and illegal incarceration on trumped-up charges of rebellion. I feared that the day would come when I wouldn’t hear his voice anymore in the rallies or in the plenary hall of the House of Representatives. When I wouldn’t hear his laugh or see his smile and have him grasp my hand tightly in his as he asks how I’m doing. When the Philippine labor movement would lose its staunchest, most fearless leader.

Well, that day has arrived, and no matter how I’ve prepared myself for it mentally, emotionally it’s still quite, quite difficult to bear.

—-

For posterity – my article on Ka Bel and Ka Osang which came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in 2002:

For the last two decades, the name Crispin B. Beltran has been associated with pickets, demonstrations, strikes, and generally everything connected to the militant labor movement. Not surprising with him being the chairman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). Since August of 2001, however, he has become known as something else – a member of one of the biggest, most influential bastions of conservatism in the country, the House of Representatives.

From 2001-2003, he was one of three Bayan Muna solons. From 2004 up to present, he now stands as the chairman and representative for labor and urban poor concerns of the Anakpawis partylist. Ka Bel breathes, lives and practices the politics of change and nationalism with the same fervor he does as a leader of the parliament of the streets.

But no less interesting than his politics is his personal life. His love life alone is the stuff of movies, megged by the late Lino Brocka or Ysmael Bernal, crossed with Jose Javier Reyes.

Since 1956, Ka Bel has been married to the former Rosario Soto from Malolos, Bulacan. There’s a joke circulating around activist circles that goes “Ka Bel is a voice who should be heard in the Lower House, but in his own house, it’s Ka Osang whom he listens to.”

This is their love story.

Ka Osang is the product of a broken home. Her parents separated early in her childhood, and as the youngest among the three children, she was left to an elderly relative, her father’s aunt who lived in Gagalangin, Tondo. Ka Osang grew up wanting for nothing – she was given new dresses and jewelry whenever she asked for them. But in exchange, she had to be obedient to the very strict, and sometimes unreasonable rules of her grandmother. She was entered in La Concepcion, a convent- school, and was told never to look at members of the opposite sex. “Wala talaga akong kaalam-alam sa mga lalaki nun. Si Papa lang at yung mga kapatid ko ang pwede kong kausapin.”

But the great aunt and the nuns combined were not able to curb the young girl’s adventurous spirit. One morning, On November 10, 1956 she cut classes and together with a few classmates, sneaked into a moviehouse.

“Pinanood namin si Nida Blanca at si Nestor de Villa. Pero pag-uwi ko, nalaman na ni Lola ang ginawa ko. Matindi ang naging away,” she says. In turned out that the Mother Superior herself came to the house and told her grandmother of what happened. Livid at being lied to, the grandmother slapped Ka Osang and told her to leave. And that’s what she did.

By 12 noonshe was wandering around Quiapo, with nothing but the clothes on her back and the other piece which her enraged grandmother threw at Ka Osang as she left the house.

In a daze, she entered into one of the taxis that was parked in front of Plaza Miranda. The driver was the man who would be her husband, the then 26-year old Crispin.

“Napansin kong bata pa siya, at medyo tulala,” was his first impression. He asked her where she was going. Still reeling from her experience, she answered ‘Derecho ka lang.”

They had reached Monumento, but she still hadn’t given Ka Bel specific directions. He stopped the taxi and turned to face her. Ka Osang remembers, “Naiinis na sya. ‘Saan ba talaga tayo?” sabi niya. Ako naman, wala sa sarili, naiyak na. Sinabi ko na yung nangyari.”

Ka Bel was very sympathetic. She reminded him of his sisters back home in Bacacay, Albay. He looked at her with compassion, and told her that he would drive her home. He also urged her to apologize to her Lola, “Masama magtanim ng galit sa kapamilya.”

Ka Osang shook her head and made a move to get out. By then, night had fallen. Ka Bel refused to let her go – “May masama pang mangyari sa iyo – parang wala kang kaalam-alam sa mundo.”

So he took her to his boarding house in San Juan where he lived with a few others, and told her to stay the night. She stayed there, in Ka Bel’s room, for three days.

“Tulala lang ako, nakatingin sa labas ng bintana. Kain, tulog, tatanga sa bintana, iiyak, matutulog. Sa susunod na araw, ganun na naman.”

She was alone most of the time, as Ka Bel drove the taxi all day, and at night attended school at the Asian Labor Education Center at the University of the Philippines. When he got home at night, she would already be asleep, on a low, wide bench that served as a bed, while Ka Bel had his own bed across the room.

“Ni hindi ko alam ang pangalan nya nun. Ang tawag ko sa kanya kuya,” Ka Osang recollects, laughing. Did she ever get a crush on him? ”Wala akong pakialam talaga sa kanya nun, ang iniisip ko lang sarili ko. Pero napaka-maalalahanin niya.” It was at that time when Ka Bel gave her what she calls his first gift.

“Dilaw na sepilyong naka-kahon. May tatak na Good Morning.”

On the third day, Ka Osang wanted to go home But not wanting to further inconvenience Ka Bel, she left the house without telling him.

“Nang malaman ng papa ko kung saan ako napunta noong naglayas ako, galit na galit siya! Pinuntuhan nila yung bahay ni Ka Bel, tapos binugbog siya. Wala naman akong magawa.” Ka Bel was taken to the municipal jail in San Juan and was accused of abusing a minor. Though it was already the late 1950s, no woman would be caught alone in the company of a man if they weren’t sweethearts. And it was already a scandal if they stayed in the same room together alone. Ka Osang stayed in Ka Bel’s room for three days.

In short, they had to get married. Ka Bel could have easily refused, but he didn’t. He knew that if he refused, Ka Osang would be disgraced. “Kaya kinasal kami. Walang pag-ibig nun. Ayaw ko talaga, iniirapan ko siya, sinusungitan. Pero siya, bukas ang isip. Sabi niya, napag-aaralan naman ang pag-ibig.”

And soon enough, she did learn to love her husband. Initially it was because he was a good provider (“Sweldo niya sa pagmamaneho ng taxi, buo kung ibigay sa akin, kasama resibo”), but later on it was for himself. She learned to love him for his gentleness with the children, his sense of humor (“Malambing yan, makwento”), patience (“Nang magsama kami, di ako marunong maglaba o magluto – siya ang gumagawa nun. Tinuruan lang niya ako, hati kami sa gawaing bahay”),and inevitably, for his politics which he had long before embraced.

“Malaking dahilan yun. Kasabay ng pagkilala ko sa kanya bilang asawa, nakilala ko din siya bilang lider manggagawa. Noong una, hindi ako payag – lagi na lang siya ginagabi, o minsan di talaga umuwi, kesyo may mga seminar daw. Madalas kaming mag-away,” she says. “Nang maintindihan ko na yung trabaho niya, nagkaroon ng mas malalim na dimensyon ang pagmamahal at respeto ko sa kanya.”

But Ka Bel was ever-patient. He continually explained to her his work, and what it meant. Even in his early 20s, he had become a full-fledged labor leader. He became president of the Yellow Taxi Drivers’ Union and the Amalgamated Taxi Drivers Federation from 1955-1963. From 1963-1972, he was Vice-administrator of the Confederation of Labor Unions of the Philippines, and then vice-president of the Philippine Alliance of Nationalist Organizations (PANALO) which became the Alliance of Nationalist Genuine Labor Organizations (ANGLO), affiliated under the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) whose establishment on May 1, 1980, signaled the labor movement’s all-out war against the Marcos dictatorship.

Throughout her husband’s growing activism, Ka Osang strove to be supportive. Her love for Ka Bel and the life he had chosen was severely tested, however, in August 1982 when Ka Bel along with other labor leaders was arrested by the military.

“Sampu na ang anak namin nang ikulong siya. Wala kaming pera, maliban dun sa binibigay ng mga kasamahan sa KMU. Nagtitinda-tinda din ako nun sa palengke – isda, tsinelas. Minsan din binibigyan kami ng bigas at gatas ng mga madre na sumusuporta kay Ka Bel at sa ibang mga political prisoners,” she says.

By then they were living in a squatters’ community in Gao, Commonwealth, Quezon City, where they still live to this day. Ka Osang would walk from Commonwealth to Crame where Ka Bel was detained.

For two years, Ka Osang not only became the mother and father to their children, but also proxy labor leader: she delivered Ka Bel’s speeches for him in the rallies, and became a volunteer for Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP). She studied acupressure and acupuncture, and applied what she learned whenever she went to Crame and Muntinlupa, where other poldets were incarcerated. Along with the wives, daughters, and relatives of other political prisoners, Ka Osang lobbied for their release.

But the Marcos government was adamant. No way would it release one of its prized captives. Ka Bel was then KMU secretary general, and the president, one of the original pillars of the labor movement in the country Felixberto ‘Ka Bert’ Olalia was also under custody.

By 1984, Ka Bert had already succumbed to the constant torture of the military, as well as the dampness of the jail cells. He died of pneumonia.

“Dun na talaga ako natakot. May sakit na rin si Ka Bel nun – sa kidney naman. Ayaw siyang bigyan ng maayos na tulong medikal sa kulungan, kaya lumala yung kundisyon niya habang tumatagal. Si Ka Bert namatay na, ayaw kong masunod si Ka Bel,” Ka Osang narrated. She took action.

In Crame, she consulted with her husband and hatched a plan of escape. Ka Bel would come home for a few hours’ visit for the supposed birthday of a young nephew, then from there make his way to freedom.

Then she went to Ka Bel’s lawyers – Attys. Joker Arroyo and Rene Saguisag. “Sinabi ko sa kanilang wag pumunta sa hearing ng kaso si Ka Bel. Sa araw na yung tatakas si Ka Bel.”

The two men were incredulous – they thought Ka Osang was joking. “Tinanong nila ako – handa ba akong mabugbog?” Sagot ko, oo. Handa ka bang mamatay? Oo. Ang mahalaga makalaya siya. Pero di pa rin sila naniwala. ”

On the day of the children’s party, neighbors and friends came and pretended to celebrate. Ka Bel arrived with his guards. Beforehand, he and Ka Osang agreed on a sign – after putting down his second bottle of beer, he would make his move. He downed his second beer (“Yung beer para malabanan ang kaba – takot kasi siya para sa akin”) . There wasn’t a chance to say good-bye. He excused himself under the pretext of having to urinate. When he got to the toilet, he pulled out the piece of loose board, and squeezed himself through a rough hole made in the wall. Then his guards noticed the inordinately long time Ka Bel was taking. They broke down the toilet door and saw the gaping hole. They quickly turned on Ka Osang and began beating her.

“Suntok, sampal, sabunot. Di ko na malaman kung ano ang mas masakit, yung mukha ko ba, yung dibdib,” she remembers. They punched her in the stomach and dragged her outside, to the public basketball court which was a few meters walk from the house.

“Tinadyakan ako. Akala nila sasaklolohan ako ni Ka Bel kung marinig niya ang mga sigaw ko. Pero malayo na sya noon.”

For a month or so after, soldiers would be stationed around the house, and the house became a virtual garrison. But Ka Osang was unfazed. One time, a burly soldier asked her for a glass of water. She ignored the request.

“Namura ko yung sundalo. Sabi ko, ang dami-daming kriminal na nagkalat – sa Malacanang lang ang dami na – pero bakit kami ang binabantayan?’

Ka Bel went into hiding in Central Luzon. It’s something of a legend in the labor movement that he was taken in by members of the New People’s Army who heard of his escape. For two years, he took shelter with the rebels and took the nom de guerre “Ka Anto” after one of the fathers of the labor movement, Crisanto Evangelista.But instead of an armalite, Ka Anto carried a portable typewriter.

“Sa mga bahay na sinisilungan ng hukbo, may mga batang nasa high school. Ginawa nila akong taga-makinilya. Ako yung nagta-type ng mga assignment at term paper nila,” he says smiling.

Every three to five months, Ka Osang would visit her husband. It was a complicated process, and very tiring. She went on her pilgrimage to Central Luzon until the Marcos was ousted via People Power on February 25. When Corazon Aquino became president, she ordered the release of all political prisoners, and in particular mentioned Ka Bel.

Ka Osang herself went to take her husband home.

On hindsight, Ka Osang wonders where she got her strength. “Siguro dahil lagi akong sabik makita sya kaya di ko na pinansin yung pagod,” she says. But more importantly, she adds, she was bouyed by the knowledge that her husband was an inspiration to many. “Naging aktibista na rin ang ibang anak namin. Walang galit sa mga anak namin kahit may panahong lumaki silang walang tatay – alam nila kung ano ang pinaglalaban ng ama nila.”

And what does Ka Bel have to say about his wife?

He recites a few lines from the song Kasama by Gary Granada: “Hindi lang siya kaibigan, di lang siya kapatid. Di lang kasintahan, o kaisang-dibdib. Di lang siya asawa, o inang uliran. Siya’y aking kasama, sa mapagpalayang kilusan.”

In private, they call each other ‘Ma’ and ‘Daddy.’ He says Ka Osang has a sharp tongue. “Istrikto sya sa mga bata. Pero pag may nagka-problema ang kahit sino sa kanila, bibitawan ang lahat. Kahit sakit ng sarili niyang katawan, nakakalimutan niya,” he says. A grandson, 17-year old Cris, agrees. “Si Lola lang ang laging nanenermon, si Lolo, tahimik lang. Pero spoiled kaming lahat sa kanilang dalawa.”

Ka Bel says he is well-taken care of. Ka Osang insists on preparing his clothes every morning, whether it’s the round-collar shirts he wears to rallies, or the barong tagalogs for Congress. “Alam ko kung hindi siya ang naglalaba ng damit ko. Iba ang pakiramdam.”

She is also his chief confidante. He shares with her the details of his day – the rallies he marched in, the general mass assemblies of the local unions he has attended, and lately, about the Congress committee meetings and other legislative functions he goes to. “Siya naman kinukwento sa akin ang kakulitan ng mga apo namin,” he shares.

For a couple whose meeting and marriage are unusual at the least, Ka Bel and Ka Osang’s marriage is solid and loving. Proof of this is their 10 children, who, in turn, have given them 27 grandchildren. Oh, Osang says cheekily, there were times when Ka Bel was younger, he did a bit of fooling around, but he always returned to her. That was when the first three children were very young, and Ka Bel and Ka Osang had frequent quarrels (“Pero nagsisi naman siya – nag-kursillo sa simbahan, naging sakristan pa nga!”).

They don’t like going to movies – more often, they would just the two of them go to Bulacan and visit relatives. Every two years or so, they would travel to Albay.

Still very much like the 15-year old he rescued 48 years ago, Ka Osang becomes petulant when Ka Bel breaks his promises. “Minsan sobrang busy yan, di kami makapuntang Bulacan,” she scolds.

“Pero naiintindihan ko din. Nami-miss ko lang naman siya. Marami kasi akong kahati sa kanya, ang mga manggagawa at ang sambayanan.” #

May 19, 2008

Contractions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 12:50 pm

I’ve been out of commission for a little over a week — literally flat on my back for 8 days because of uterine contractions. Thursday night the week before last I was unable to sleep because the contractions came at 10-15 intervals and lasted at least 20 seconds each. I was freaked out of my skull because I was just verging on my 32nd week of pregnancy (8th month) and I knew that Kimiko’s lungs were still afar from being completely developed and it was a bad idea for her to be born so soon.

Immediately the following morning we headed to the hospitaland had a thorough check-up. Thank goodness my cervix didn’t dilate, and the contractions could be controlled with tocolytics through an IV line.

I stayed in the hospital for three days — prohibited from moving, told to eat sparingly, and my left wrist stuck with an IV drip. When my doctor finally discharged me, I was firmly instructed to stay home, stay in bed, and refrain from standing up and moving about for a week. So that’s what I did; all the while still taking six different tablets – a regular candystore of vitamins, tocolytics and antibotics. Talk about living on drugs! I ate my meals supine only getting up to use the bathroom and then hurrying to lie down again.

Kim moved the mattress to the living room as well because I’m not supposed to go up and down the stairs so now we’re camped in the middle of the sala. I pretend that we’re on a camping trip in the desert while I barricade myself and my tummy with pillows and bolsters. The greatest news is that Kimiko is doing fine. The ultrasound revealed that she’s the right weight and size; her lungs and heart are strong, and she’s really malikot. I wanted to ask if it was possible that it’s Kimiko’s frequent movements that made my uterus contract (“Ano ba doc, sinisipa ba si Kimiko yung uterus ko?!”), but I was certain that I’d be laughed straight out of the hospital. Kim wants me to stop working, and it’s difficult to just stop, but I suppose I should because of Kimiko — I don’t want to run any more risks. I’m going to try to work at home – mabuhay ang internet! This is what unborn babies at 32 weeks look like:

— When I got back to the office earlier today, the first thing I heard was about Randy’s disappearance. Randy being Randy Malayao, a former official of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – someone I knew back in college, not closely, but enough for me to consider as a perfectly pleasant person to have around (he always struck me as funny yet sensitive; considerate and kind). It was pretty upsetting news – and everyone at the office especially those who know him personally felt helpless and angry at the thought that Randy might be another Jonas Burgos.

This is the statement released by the National Democratic Front in Cagayan Valley about his disappearance:

May 18, 2008

Press Statement NDF-Cagayan Valley condemns latest AFP abduction of NDF consultant

The National Democratic Front-Cagayan Valley condemns the abduction of Randy Malayao, 38, last May 15, 2008 at the vicinity of Rosario, Pasig City. He is a political consultant of the National Democratic Front for Cagayan Valley. We hold the 5th Infantry Battalion, through its special agents and death squad, responsible for Malayao’s abduction.

A month before his disappearance, Malayao was reported in the Cagayan Valley’s Security Council meeting as “about to be captured.” Malayao was active in various political activities for the advancement of the people’s national democratic interests. He pushed for justice for all political prisoners and victims of the state’s terrorism, the advancement of the peasants’ struggles and fought against unjust government programs and policies. He was an active leader in the campaign against the Dy political dynasty in the region, which led to the overthrow of Faustino Dy, Jr as governor. Before his disappearance, he was active in peasants’ discussions and fora regarding the high rates of rice and other issues concerning farmers. The Arroyo government has once again committed a blatant violation of human rights and International Humanitarian Laws.

Malayao was an unarmed NDF consultant covered by immunity when they took him and detained him against his will until now. We urge all sectors, people’s organizations, human rights groups and other justice-loving individuals in Cagayan Valley and the country to join in various actions to compel the AFP to resurface Malayao. We shall not cease until his whereabouts are known and the criminals responsible are punished.

This movie amused me no end last night. If you don’t have anything better to do or watch, see this film starring Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti (mercurial, amazing actor) and Monica Belluci. It’s hilarious! Sure it’s bloody and violent, but the scenes where Owen wields a carrot for a weapon are precious.

May 6, 2008

Post May 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 9:27 am

The mercury really shot up last Thursday, but on the whole suffering through the scorching heat was nothing compared to the feeling of fulfillment I got from being able to attend (and march from UST to Liwasang Bonifacio) the International Labor Day rally led by the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

Best speakers this year were Carmen ‘Ka Mameng’ Deunida of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap; Ferdinand Gaite, chairperson of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), and Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante International. Ka Mameng was her usual tiny but fiery self, speaking with force and fire. She’s the only one who can use the words’demonyo’, ‘Hudas,’ and ‘ dorobo,’ in her speech and get away with it: she completely speaks her mind, and taps into her audience’s own outrage against the illegitimate president.

Ka Connie’s speech was the most researched ( by that I mean she gave a lot of information and updates), while Ka Ferdie yet again betrayed that he can adopt an alternative career as a political stand-up comedian (his speech centered around the theme of Gloria Arroyo’s liking for the name “Mikey”. I will spare you and not give the details here because the joke is fist-eatingly corny — but Ka Ferdie deserves five stars for the effort and the delivery. Quite entertaining.

The paragraph above was written Friday, May 2 and I only got to update it today. Been busy, been pre-occupied, and been troubled by many otherthings.

Right now am shocked and saddened by reports that almost 15,000 people have bee killed in Burma because of a killer cyclone that hit the country last weekend. I had lunch with my mom today and she was all but crying when she shared what she had read about what’s happening in Burma. It really is somewhat unfathomable and it blows the mind – 15,000 lives gone.

This led some of us in the office to look up the difference between cyclones and tornadoes. Turns out that tropical cyclones can last for weeks while tornadoes only hours; cyclones can have a coverage of over 100 miles (in terms of circumference) while tornadoes only a mile across. With storm centers both, tornadoes occupy the bottom part of the spiral while cyclones are around the middle. Imagine the devastation cyclones can cause, and to think that before I came across this information, my only other knowledge about cyclones came from reading L. Frank Baum’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ , specifically the Kansas cyclone that took Dorothy and Toto to Oz.

-Food riots in Somalia and Haiti. Dito kaya magkaka- riots na din? Gad, P50 na halos per liter of gasoline, and fares will inevitably go up. With increases in transport costs, it’s also a foregone conclusion that there will be an effect on the prices of commodities.

-GSIS’ head honcho and head magnanakaw and racketeer Winston Garcia involving himself in the Meralco overhaul row and projecting himself as pro-consumer by espousing the anti-electricity rate increase cause. Utang na loob – isang magnanakaw pinupuna ang kapwa magnanakaw! Like Garcia has the least amount of credibility! After everything he’s done and continues to do in the GSIS, making it Malacannag and Gloria Arroyo’s best, most reliable cash cow at the expense of beneficiaries? Aaaaargh!

This government sucks big-time. Di na ako magpapalawig.

Last Friday, May 2m 2008, the Philippine Star came out with an article (under Ms. Pia Lee Brago’s by-line) titled “UN: Pinoy kids suffer grave rights abuses from AFP, NPA, Abus.” Compared to other reports that came out on the same issue such as the stories in the Manila Times and the Daily Tribune, the Phil. Star gave a subjective, not to mention biased interpretation of the United Nations Report released by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The newsreport cited the paper “Child Soldiers in the Philippines,” by Merliza Makinano of the International Labor Affairs Service of the Department of Labor and Employment and its exaggerated and erroneous allegation that for the New People’s Army (NPA) , “anyone who is physically fit, regardless of age, sex, race, nationality or religion and has the capacity to fight and ready to participate in a protracted armed struggle against the government, may be an NPA fighter.” Pinagkukuha ni Makinano ang kanyang data sa mga press releases and so-called researches ng DSWD at sa AFP – so obvious naman ang bias.

It would have been better (and it would have heightened her credibility as an informed, objective reporter) if Ms. Brago did more research and discovered that since 1988, an entire year before the United Nation’s General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) , the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army had already implemented the policy of prohibiting the recruitment of children below 18 to serve as combatants. The NDFP has consistently declared both the policy and the law of the revolutionary government prohibits the NPA from recruiting children below the age of 18 to serve as combatants that can be deployed for military offensive campaigns and operations.

According to the NDFP, those between the age of 15 and 18 may be trained and directed by the mass organizations not for the purpose of participation in combat or hostilities but for the purpose of safety and self-defense in their own homes and communities. They are civilians and are not required to carry firearms. The NDFP’s position is obviously far more advanced than the standard set by the Geneva Conventions, given that the Geneva Conventions allow the military recruitment of children or youth from the age of 15 to 18, provided that within this age bracket priority is given to the recruitment of the older ones.

Kailangan din talaga na mag-research ang media nang mas malalim because so many important issues are not just black and white, and history has a way of being distorted (often deliberately by the government). Gaya na lang ng patuloy na paglabas ng mga reports na ang peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP have stopped because the latter pulled out after the CPP-NPA were included in the US and European Union’s terrorist listing. What actually happened (as far as I’ve learned), is the GRP suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Gurantees or JASIG (which is not provided for in previous agreements with the NDFP) and put up more impediments in the way of the peace talks such as charging NDFP Chief political adviser Jose Ma. Sison with terrorism. Paano nga naman makikipag-usap sa ganung sitwasyon?

Watched “Iron Man.” Ang galeng-galeng! Of course, it’s a relief na hindi na sinama yung previous anti-communist angle ng original comic strip kung saan tagapagligtas ng American and imperialist way of life si Iron Man. In the updated movie version, he’s more of a man acting out of a change of heart, common sense, and heightened conscience. I wonder if the children and families of businessmen in the techno-military and weapons industries in the US think that the movie is a crap or if they think the film made very valid, pointed points? Tanga na lang ang hindi makakakuha ng simpleng mensahe ng pelikula; but on a personal level, it’s this: you are what you create, and the impact of your actions on others will define you.

The third ultrasound revealed that we really are having a girl! We’re naming her Kimiko.

Sabi ni Anthony Ian Cruz I should broadcast the fact that am looking for Moses basket. Well, am looking for a Moses basket, and can anyone tell me where I could get one? It’s a literal basket, but for carrying babies around the house. Most carry cots being sold in the department stores are made of cloth; I would like one of sturdier material.

Favorite baby equipment for the moment: slings!