As Philippine senators threw mud at each other and called each other names (trying to outdo each other in self-righteousness and in their respective attempts to prove that they were pristine and corruption-free), Ka Douglas Dumanon, former national treasurer of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), former secretary-general of the urban poor people’s organization Kadamay, and KMU national council member passed away last night after a long struggle against cancer.
How do you describe Ka Doug and the kind of person he was?
A gentle giant. A kind, compassionate man who always cared to know how others around him were doing. He had a gentle sense of humor, and it always showed in his eyes. I never saw him get angry or upset. He was mild-mannered by nature, and he was a 100% non-complainer.
I was a staff of KMU National for seven years, starting when the office was still in Intramuros and there were only three small, cramped rooms and only a 486 computer and a dot matrix printer.
Through all that time until I left for Bayan Muna in 2001, it was Ka Doug who handed me my monthly political allowance. When I first started in KMU, there was really no money (it was the aftermath of the re-affirm/reject kaguluhan, and the traitors who left to form BMP had all but wiped out the KMU bank account), and Ka Doug explained to me that I would not be receiving a salary or anything similar to it. I remember how sheepish he looked, somewhat apologetic. I hastened to say that I knew what I was getting into, that it didn’t matter. All the same, every month, Ka Douglas handed me P500 ‘para sa pagkain at pamasahe sa jeep.’
I will never forget those P500 bills. Each was so precious, and never before then did I really learn about the value of money. Galing kasi sa butaw ng mga manggagawa yung allowance, Ka Douglas told me, and as such I was so honored. I would’ve worked for nothing, because I knew that everyone else in the office barely received anything either and they had families to support. Commitment, strong and tested, was something I learned from Ka Doug and the others in that small office — Ka Manny Sarmiento, Ka Bel, Teddy, Ka Bong, Ka Sha, Ka Dick, Ka Robert and Ka Noli.
It was Ka Doug who taught me how to put together project proposals: together we made one for a foreign finance agency seeking its support for a KMU monthly newspaper. He was a patient editor, and I remember how funny it was that at the time, we were mostly guessing about the statistics we we put in the proposal. We crossed our fingers. “Ang Manggagawa” did come to light of day beginning year 1998.
Ka Douglas was a comfortable person to have around you, an adult who did not intrude, but all the same you knew he would pay attention if you had problems. Remember, I was barely 20 when I got into KMU, and I still had bashfulness issues despite being tibak for the last three years. Ka Doug helped making me feel at home in the KMU office because of his kindness.
When I first heard that he had cancer and that they had to cut off his leg, I had just come back from Hong Kong after 10 months of clearing my head and getting my ducks in a row again. I was shocked and saddened. I was told, they told me, that his cancer began in his throat, and it was an effect of his frequent visits to Payatas where he was deployed as an organizer-leader of Kadamay. The permanent stench, the perpetual smoke rising from the piles and piles of rotting garbage and the methane, they said, made him ill.
I was unable to visit him, as my work kept me busy (Ka Bel was still under hospital arrest then, and I was desperate to make up for lost time).
In was only in May, during the Labor Day commemorative rally in Liwasang Bonifacio that I finally, and literally finally, saw Ka Doug.
He sat on a bench near the fountain, and he had only one leg after the other was amputated to stem the tide of cancerous cells which ran amok in his system. He was thin and haggard looking. He also appeared tired, he was tired, and I tried very hard not to show him that I felt sorry seeing him lamed when I was used to him being the big and tall man with the cheerful stride, a more graceful Mr. Bean with glasses, his posture correct.
Instead, I smiled and hugged him tightly, and asked him how he and his crutches were getting along. Said crutches were an aluminum pair, and he had them propped somewhat carelessly near him.
“Di pa kami bati,” he joked. He hated using the crutches, he said. he often forgot that he was one-legged, and he sometimes stood up only to realize that he couldn’t without falling. “Di pa ako sanay, naiinis pa ako.”
I told him he’d get used to them soon enough, and started to tell him about an article in Readers’ Digest that I read, about positive thinking, about adapting, about mentally and spiritually accepting change so it would be easy for his body to adjust.
“Yakang-yaka mo yan, Ka Doug!”, I said. He nodded, laughing.
We then shifted to other topics, because I could see that he would much rather we talk about other things, far removed from what had happened to him. He wanted news, he wanted stories, he was bored at home, he said.
So we talked and talked, and in my head, I could picture Ka Douglas the way he used to be, and it pained me.
Hay naku, Ka Douglas. Napaka-bata mo pa para mawala sa amin. Ang dami mo pa sanang magagawa. Ikaw na walang piniling gawin; ikaw na walang ginawang gawain na hindi mahusay. Ikaw na napakamasayahin. Mabuting ama, mabait na asawa. I know your daughters and your wife are so proud of you, how you remained devoted to the Movement all these years since your youth, and how you waged your struggle to keep sane and cheerful despite the pain of cancer and the pain of losing a limb and becoming, again, dependent on others to be able to move around. You were a hero in so many, many respects. Lider manggagawa, ehemplo sa lahat sa kabaitan, katapatan sa gawain, husay at sipag.
Ka Doug, paalam. Salamat po sa lahat. Isa kang bayani ng uring manggagawa, ng masang anakpawis. You made waging revolution look easy, because you did your part so willingly, so cheerfully. Didn’t you get to make me work hard for P500? For that I will always be grateful.
The following are some of the comments this tribute got when I posted it in Facebook:
Tekla Dt:naiyak naman ako nito. pa-share ha.
Anna Leah Escresa: Ina, I was fortunate to work with Ka Doug during my almost a year work in Kadamay. Tama ka, hindi siya marunong magalit at ang pasensya ay walang patid. Noong panahong humarap din ako sa krisis, nandoon siya at nakaagapay. Hindi nanubumbat, hindi naniningil, nakaagapay hanggang makitang muli ang liwanag. Salamat, Ka Doug! =)
Kilusang Mayo Uno: Sa ngalan ng mga manggagawa at maralitang tinulungan, ipinaglaban at pinaglingkuran ni Ka Douglas, maraming salamat, Ina! Salamat sa pagbabahaging ito sa kung ano siya sa mga mambabasa. Bigyan natin ang tunay na parangal ang kadakilaan ni Ka Douglas sa patuloy na paglilingkod sa uring manggagawa at sambayanan!
Noy Natividad: I remember Ka Douglas for his politically savvy ways. He never tires of reminding trade union activists the value of alliance work. “Kapag ika’y nasa gawaing alyansa, wag mang-aaway. Laging hanapin kung saan kayo pwedeng magkaisa.” Salud, camarada.You will always be a model activist for me.
Me-an Yazon: nalulungkot pa ako…matagal kong nakasama si k.douglas, ni minsan di ko sya nakitang napagod o umangal… pasensya na po at di ko man lang kayo nadalaw… malaking kawalan kayo sa kilusan…
Manny Sarmiento: Sa mga mangggawa siya’y bayaning kaibigan,
Bayani sapagkat di sya nagkulang man lamang,
O bumitaw sa prinsipyo ng unyong tunay at makabayan,
Kaya’t sa puso nila’y ang Douglas na pangalan ay di malilimutan!