Ka Bel told me of his life during those long afternoons at the Philippine Heart Center and he was a political prisoner of the US-Macapagal-Arroyo government. I sat next to him on the hospital sofa and told him,”Let’s write a book, Ka Bel! Your life is so full of drama and action!”
He smiled and asked, “Would anyone read a book about me? Why would they? I’m just a run-of-the-mill labor unionist…” He pretended to shake his head to clear it and let the memories tumble out so we could sort them and put them in some kind of order.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said. “My life wasn’t boring at all.” Then he laughed.
Ka Bel was many things — a devoted father, a loving husband, a charismatic labor leader, a militant congressman, a true comrade, and a genuine revolutionary. All these aspects of his personal life and life in the national democratic movement I saw through the total of 12 years that I worked for and with him, and again on those afternoons we spent documenting his life.
To Ka Bel, you could only be three things: a friend and defender of the poor; an enemy of the people; or a clueless individual who should be awakened and convinced to take sides, preferably with the oppressed. He was a simple man with simple needs, but his dreams were massive, and they were all for the country he loved. He lived his life trying to convince as many Filipinos as he could that to wage revolution against injustice was everyone’s duty. He made enemies, true; but even his enemies could not help but respect his strong commitment to his cause.
This book is about Ka Bel and his ordinary life made extraordinary because of his love for the worker and the Filipino people. For the workers, for the country. Serve the people. Fight for national democracy and socialism. These were the words he lived by, and up to the last moment, he remained true to them.
Three years after I first began to write it, three years after he edited the first three chapters, I finally finished the book on Ka Bel’s life. I hope that many people would read it and learn from the life he lived. He was not run-of-the-mill, and like he himself said, his life wasn’t boring at all. It was for the people who knew him best and for those he served, a life lived in greatness.
March 2007-April 2010