Friends, comrades, distinguished guests, thank you very much for coming. It’s wonderful to see all of you giving tribute to Ka Bel by your very presence.
I have been privileged to have worked for and with Ka Bel for 12 years, and in all those years I became deeply familiar with how he thought and felt about the kind of society we have, and what kind of government he wanted to help build. The awareness of all this kept me in daily awe and inspiration.As an activist, as a writer, and as an activist writer I knew that I had to write about Ka Bel’s life.
This book was very easy to write. When I started it in March 2007, it’s subject was literally captive, so it was not at all a problem to schedule interviews. We spent two to four hours almost daily sifting through his memories, and on the days when we didn’t meet, I wrote.
What made the book suddenly become difficult to write is that I suddenly had to end it, but I wasn’t ready. I stopped writing, and it took me almost two years before I was able to finally look at the manuscript again and continue what I began. I stopped writing because it hurt to write.The months passed, and before I knew it, it was 2010 and Ka Bel had been gone for two years.
To make a long story short, I had to face the manuscript, the last parts of it that were not at all happy, and finally finish it. Thank you to everyone who helped me, Lisa Ito, Pia and Joel Garduce for their support and for publishing what we’re launching here tonight, Jordan Santos, Bimbim de la Paz and Jennifer Padilla. I am also most grateful to Mrs. Crispin Beltran, Ka Osang, for trusting me with her memories of her life with Ka Bel with all their drama, action, and profound political worth.
These are what I learned from writing Ka Bel’s biography.
Our goals in life are what guide us — sometimes subtly, sometimes with the directness of a man in the middle of a battlefield. We are defined by the things dearest and nearest us, how we interpret cloud formations or the constellations of stars. We are our ideas. But much more than that, we are how we take part in society: parasite, life giver, fence sitter or involved member. Slug or running tiger.
Ka Bel taught me that you are what you believe in and what you stand for. You’re defined by how you live your life and for whom. A person is the sum of all his/her parts — and this includes all the words uttered or written; songs sung and listened to, the daily deeds and outpouring of euphoria, anguish or anger, the constant energy behind defending those who need defending, and fighting against those who perpetually seek to make the darkness stay and stop the dawn from coming.
Sana mabasa ang librong ito ng maraming Pilipino, lalo na ng mga nasa labas ng Kilusan, at silang mga matagal nang tumutuya, namimintas at oo, natatawa sa mga naging paninindigan ni Ka Bel. Sana’y makita na gaya ng pulitikang kanyang niyakap, siya ay dakila, mabuti, karapat-dapat na igalang at ang kanyang mga simulain ay dapat ding tanganan. 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 napakarami , at patuloy siyang magsisilbing inspirasyon sa lahat na nakilala siya, o naka-alam sa kanyang naging buhay at pakikibaka. Napaka-palad ng kanyang pamilya dahil nabuhay sila sa piling ng isang bayani na dakila din dahil tunay na nagsikap igpawan ang mga personal na kahinaan, ang mga limitasyon ng kahirapan, at ang kawalan ng katarungan ng lipunan.
Ka Bel was already my hero even before he told me of his life. He became even more so after. Please read the book and share it. Please learn from Ka Bel’s life and be part of what he embraced, lived and fought for. Maraming salamat at magandang gabi sa inyong lahat.