I first wrote this blog entry in 2005; and this same piece was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in April or May 2006 as part of a series of essays on Fathers’ Day.
I decided to repost this in the light of the upcoming peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Deomocratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Rafael Baylosis is an NDFP adviser on socio-economic reforms, but there is a major hindrance in his being able to partcipate in the talks because of the completely false and fabricated criminal charges filed against him by the GRP.
Despite the implementation of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which gives protection and immunity for NDFP consultants and staff — particularly those participating in the peace talks– Ka Raffy’s safety is still in question.
What sort of man is Rafael Baylosis and why is it important that he be able to attend the talks? Why is he being persecuted by the GRP? What does he stand for and believe?
These questions cannot be answered in one sitting; but I wrote this entry in tribute to one of the two people who have helped shape the way I view the world and how life should be lived as a national democrat.
Sunday, August 21st, 2005
When I was in college, I was a member of the UP Karate Association. Our sensei — or teacher — was shihan (synonymous with teacher, or master) Jerome. He was a tall, well-built man who was on the quiet side. He was friendly but firm. He wasn’t a perfectionist, but he demanded that his students — us UPKA members who kicked and punched and leaped and jumped like sweating lizards in white gis within a red dojo)– perform the exercises or kata with a little more than plain dexterity. I think he wanted us to be graceful. Not surprising, what with karate-do a sport of grace, not unlike ballet.
So there I was trying to control my breathing, steadying my legs (which in the beginning hurt like heck from having to bend and squat halfway for 15-20 minutes at a stretch every hour), focusing what physical force I had in my fists and aiming at invisible opponents. I learned how to place well-aimed blows; how to make the proper fist (thumbs tucked under the other fingers to secure them from being broken upon impact with a hard object like, say, someone’s skull); how to make the air whistle with kicks swiftly delivered then retracted; how to pivot, with my center of gravity nearer to the ground and my body below hitting range. I learned to slow-breathe, focus and meditate.
It was exhilarating. Sensei Jerome was a great teacher. He hardly spoke, but he communicated volumes with a nod of his head, a gesture of his steady hands, or by executing an absolutely perfect, graceful yet very powerful movement such as blocking a blow with his arm.
Now, a decade later, I have a different sensei. I’m not studying karate anymore (I wish I was, though. I miss it, my body misses the light and weightlessness of feeling), but I’m studying something more difficult and demanding than karate.
My sensei’s name is Rafael Baylosis. He is alleged to be the secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) before he was imprisoned by the Marcos dictatorship until he was released in 1995. Now, as a strictly legal, above-ground civilian, he is the vice-chairman of Anakpawis National Political Party and a consultant on socio-economic concerns in the peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
I’ve had the honor of working with and learning from Ka Raffy since 1998 when I was still in the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) labor center as propaganda officer, and he was the Political affairs secretary. It was from him that I learned to get up at 6am and be ready to begin writing 15 minutes later (he was always my wake-up call. Used to bug the hell out of me).
He taught me how to be consistent with my work habits (and I try to imitate and adopt his own work ethic — constancy, timeliness, economic but determined movements, sharp awareness of developments. I still lack patience and cool-headedness, though. I’m still trying to overcome my tendency to become quite the monster when confronted with upsetting things) and how to recognize, analyze and then resolve political contradictions in concepts and ideas.
He taught me to push the limits of what I used to believe as the limits to my abilities and skills.
But apart from these, I learned and still learn from Ka Raffy how to live with integrity. I know this sounds stilted, but this is the only way I can describe this.
Rafael Baylosis is a great father, a loving husband, a supportive comrade, an intellectual and a dreamer. He has, since he became an activist at 18 in UP Diliman, a friend and comrade of the likes of then 21- year old Jose Ma. Sison and other veterans of the First Quarter Storm and the Diliman Commune, lived plainly and simply; but always his actions and thoughts have been profoundly in service to a cause greater to himself.
After presiding over important campaign or consultation meetings, he washes the dishes after meal times in the Anakpawis headquarters and cleans the conference room.He always ask after the health of Kasamas, or how they’re doing in their respective line of work. He makes silly and corny jokes that people often laugh at, not so much because the jokes themselves are funny, but because they are amused at Ka Raffy’s boyishness.
He is a calm and confident leader in rallies and demonstrations, a fiery public speaker, a well-read ideologue, a lover of music, and a great cook (well, they say he is — I’m too finicky an eater to actually try his more complicated Ilocano dishes made up of, well, various vegetables. I’m not crazy for vegetables).
Ka Raffy is capable of compelling such fierce loyalty, because to put it plainly, he is such a good person and worthy of the highest respect. Approachable and light-hearted, young activists like myself can always rely on Ka Raffy to give comforting but well-grounded advice. While an understanding and tolerant person, he is strict when it comes to the core activist principles and their application to work and living.
I am no end humbled and awed at how such an evolved human being, a well-known and highly-respected individual in the Kilusan sees it fit to trust me with his confidence and guide me through my political work and growth as an activist.
Though right now (and often in the last seven years) I give him headaches because of my stubborn nature, it is one of my life’s highest ambitions to make Ka Raffy proud of me, because I am so proud and honored to say that what I am today and what I am capable of doing and achieving for the Kilusan is largely because of his influence. He is my Jedi master, and I hope never to be like Anakin Skywalker but to be as Obiwan Kenobi. He trains and teaches by example, and this, I think, is the best way to teach. He, along with Crispin ‘Ka Bel’ Beltran are the biggest political and personal influences in my life. From them I learn not only how to be activist, but to be, hopefully, a good person.
Often, to be worthy of one’s teachers, to be a good person are the highest and best things one should hope to be.