Achieving Happiness

February 22, 2011

A good man worth defending (A review of Jose Maria Sison a Celebration)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:16 am

Judging from the contents of Jose Ma. Sison A Celebration, Jose Ma. Sison is well-loved and much-admired man, and those who love and look up to him are passionate in their defense of this controversial, much-maligned but undeniably unforgettable individual.

The book, as the title states, is a celebration of Sison’s life and his contributions to not only to the Filipino people’s struggle for liberation and social justice, but to the rest of humanity’s battle for good against thegreat evils wrought by the economic system of capitalism.

Here we find academic writings attesting to Sison’s intellect.

Writers ranging from university professors to newspaper columnists to human rights lawyers all assert how Sison, from the time he was a student in the University of the Philippines (UP) synthesized the experiences in war and struggle for democracy in other nations and put together a uniqe blueprint for the Philippines and Filipinos to follow in their own campaign for freedom.

NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni in his article “JMS’ Contribution to the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations” gives insight to the dialectics of the peace negotiations. Far from depicting Sison as a man of war, Jalandoni testifies how Sison used his innate diplomatic skills and uncompromising grasp of revolutionary principlesand help prevent the 1992 peace talks from falling into collapse. Jalandoni also states how Sison’s critiques and analyses on the workings of peace talks between warring parties in other nations have been crucial in keeping the NDFP’s own handling of its end in negotiations with the GRP on the correct path. Historic agreements forged with the GRP, Jalandoni says, were drafted, completed and signed with Sison’s unerring guidance as chief political adviser.

UP Manila Prof. Edberto Villegas traces Sison’s roots as a Marxist. He explains how Sison’s veneration of the most humane theory of Marxism was never without understanding, but was and is in fact founded on deepest comprehension of what Marxism has always sought to achieve for humanity and the oppressed. Sison’s Marxism, Villegas attests, was born not only out of diligent study, but out of practice: Sison the ideologue is also Sison the organizer, the intellectual who put his knowledge to the test and into practice by immersing himself in the labor and struggles of the working people.

As Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, the youngest among the contributors in the book, states, ‘Joma is not an armchair revolutionary: he offered concrete, practical and radical alternative means on how to launch a revolution. Joma’s fidelity to Marxism has has taught many activists the value of standing up for one’s principles.”

Sison, Palatino says, is a “fighting materialist”, a theorist of the future, not of the past and this is what assures the strength and permanence of his political and ideological legacy.

Here we find essays giving detailed and incisive analysis of Sison’s poetry and the romantic patriotism evident in his poems.
Sison’s poetry – some of them written in the freedom of the countryside, some of them penned in the confines of prison, and still some others the product of days spent battling longing for the beautiful country he was forced to leave — attest to the man’s innate gentleness and sensitivity. It was perhaps in his moments of loneliness and sad contemplation that he turned to poetry, and in his poems the sadness was given shape into words that urge and exhort the reader to love his country and win the war for its liberation.

National artist for Literature Dr. Bienvinido Lumbera and poets Eduardo Maranan, Alfredo Salanga and Nonilon V. Queano analyze Sison’s poetry and the frame of mind and social circumstances that fueled Sison’s creative process. E. San Juan, Elmer Ordonez and Gelacio Guillermo in the meantime explain the historical roots of liberation poetry in the Philippines, and as they do, they do not fail to cite Sison’s work as being true to the calling made by Mao Zedong that artists must serve the people in their craft.

Lumbera discusses Sison’s earlier poems as expressions of Sison’s self and his personal history. Lumbera, however, asserts that beyond being autobiographical markers of Sison’s life, the same poems are testaments to how an individual survives torture, isolation and the very threat of violent destruction through sheer will and the unshakable trust that beyond the prison walls what he has lived and fought for thrives: an armed revolution against the dictatorship.

Salanga’s theory, meanwhile, is that the personal is also the political: he said that reading Sison’s poetry, it’s clear that the poet viewed his experiences from eyes that saw the world as an arena of struggle and his own self an active participant in it.
The poet in his prison peoms, Salanga said, grasps firmly what is real — his own suffering, yes, but more so the suffering of his people.
In Celebration, too, is an essay giving tribute to Sison for his guidance to the revolutionary armed forces of the New People’s Army through his his historic article “Specific Characteristics of our People’s War”.

Writer Patrica Agbulos of course credits the work to Amado Guerrero, and says that SCPW has been and remains to be valuable in the conduct of the Filipino people’s armed war against their oppressors and it mercenary army.

It’s not clear whether Agbulos also credits Sison for writing the documents of the Second Great Rectification Movement (SGRM) of the Communist Party of the Philippines;but what is certain is the writer’s certainty that without the said articles, the damage done to the CPP and the NPA would have been worse and perhaps irreparable.

In the meantime, for all the personal and political attacks against Sison, his detractors and other enemies of the Philippine revolution are unable to convince those who support Sison in the international liberation movements that the man is passe.
Bert de Belder is fervent in his praise of Sison and his contributions to the annual International Communist Seminar in Brussels, Belgium. Sison’s contributions, de Belder said, expertly analyzes global developments — the worsening poverty, the escalating wars– as expected effects of imperialism and its desperate efforts to survive and recover. Through the years, Sison has made major contributions for the revolutionary struggle peoples of the world. Unmasking false socialism and denouncing revisionism, Sison is able to his writings and speeches help the international liberation movement move forward.

Through the years, however, attention has shifted from Sison the intellectual, poet and internationalist and become focused on Sison the victim of political persecution.

Failing to convince the Filipino people and the international supporters of the Philippine movement for liberation that Sison is a deranged terrorist, Sison’s enemies (and hence enemies of the Filipino people) have resorted to various forms of political harrassment.
The Philippine’s premier human rights defender Atty. Romy T. Capulong gives an account of the Public Interest Law Center’s (PILC) attorney-client relationship with Sison, saying that through all his legal struggles, Sison has remained optomistic and unfazed. An ideal client, Capulong calls Sison, because he listens to his lawyers’ advice.

But what makes Sison the ideal client, Capulong also says, is his clear innocence and the inherent worth and dignity in defending him at all cost.

Sison is a man whom all lawyers who passionately believe in upholding justice would love to defend. The man was a former high-profile political detainee whom the Netherlands continues to deny asylum. In recent years he has been tagged and libelled as a terrorist, his meagre bank account frozen and his benefits taken away. He has been charged with murder, with inciting to murder, and for being behind the extrajudicial execution of members of the media. In 2007, his home was raided and he himself arrested and detained and placed in solitary confinement for two years.

This aspect of his life alone is enough enough merits an entire season of a legal soap opera or drama series. In Celebration, Prof. Garry Leupp, and Attys. Jan Fermon and Edre Olalia give accounts of the legal cases Sison has been involved and is involved in. Reading the narratives, one will be struck by how serious the cases are, and how much they actually reveal about the desperation of Sison’s enemies in pinning him down.

What these legal accounts and the testimonies provided by the likes of Prof. Luis Teodoro, Bishop Deogracias Yniguez and Atty. Jose Grapilon among others serve to impart to the readers is this: in defending Jose Ma. Sison, we also defend our own rights against injustice and oppression. Sison, after all, has precisely been at the receiving end of so much negative criticism, so many legal attacks because he remains a strong critique of corruption, of injustice, of imperialism and its crimes against the working people and the rest of humanity. Sison uses what remains of his freedom defending the right of Filipinos — and other peoples — to also be free.

Finally, Sison the source of inspiration. Novelist-activist Ninotchka Rosca , Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Renato Reyes (BAYAN) and Raul Valle’s essays praise Sison as an individual who inspires the youth and even the unpoliticized.
Reyes says Sison is ‘timeless’ , referring to how the man through his writings is able to encourage new generations the Filipino youth to aspire to more beyond material wealth and instead aim for higher ideals. Far from being psychic for being able to ‘predict’ the downfall of tyrants and corrupt presidents and leaders, Sison, according to Reyes, is a dialectical materialist to the core. His ‘timelessness’ can be credited to how Sison remains abreast of global political and economic developments, and how immediately he can analyze and write about the same.

It, is perhaps, Valle’s essay on how he met Sison long, long ago in the underground movement that speaks the most and most poignantly about the man and his mission. Valle paints an image of a man who was light-hearted even in the midst of stressful situations; a man who took care to listen to younger activists and give them advice. Valle’s memories are of a young Sison who was truly hands-on when it came to work, and a Sison who took delight in it even as he was cautious and careful.

Sison’s whole life has been devoted to serving a revolution, and how he has gone about is worth all the books that have been written about it, the latest being this, Jose Maria Sison A Celebration. Ever hopeful, ever active, always able and willing to to give guidance to the Philippine mass movement which in his youth he took the lead in establishing and strengthening, Sison as seen in the eyes of his friends and supporters is more than a hero or even a genuine revolutionary: he is in the most noble sense of the word, a good man, and a good man is always worth defending.

February 18, 2011

Ericson Acosta’s Journey from ‘Troublesome’ Artist to Political Detainee

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:20 am

MANILA – Two days before the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the Armed Forces of the Philippine AFP captured an individual it later tagged as another ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Ericson after he was captured by the military. Photo from the AFP

In a report posted on the government-run Philippine Information Agency, a spokesman of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division said that it apprehended and captured a certain Ericson Acosta in the vicinity of Barangay Bay-ang, San Jorge town in the province of Samar at 10 am on Feb. 13. The announcement came after reports that Alan Jasminez, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was captured in Bulacan.

According to the report, which was based on military dispatches, a platoon from the 34th Infantry Battalion under a 2nd Lt. Jacob Madarang was conducting routine security patrol when they intercepted Acosta. Acosta , the military report said, was “acting suspiciously” as he prepared to board a pump boat toward the town proper. Acosta allegedly gave “conflicting and confusing answers” when questioned. The military also said that he “appeared nervous” and that he attempted to draw a hand grenade from his pocket.

At that point, the report went on to say, a soldier immediately grabbed Acosta’s arm and the explosive in his hand.

Acosta in a photo released to the media by the military.

An informant has allegedly also squealed to the military that Acosta, 37, is originally from Cubao, Quezon City, and that he was working under the Instruction Bureau of the National Education Department of the CPP-NPA-NDF’s Central Committee.

According to the report quoting the informant, Acosta bears the alias August Lim and that he was in charge of producing various propaganda materials.

The military took from Acosta a laptop with complete accessories and spare battery, an external hard drive, a USB dongle, a phone, six SIM cards, money amounting to P4,800, and various personal belongings.

The 8th ID’s Major General Mario Chan said Acosta’s rights were respected during and after his apprehension.

“Acosta was treated very well by the apprehending troops. As we’ve done so in the past, we assure our people that we will always be observant of human rights. Acosta will be accorded his right to counsel and be given his day in court,” the commanding general said.

Criminal charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives have already been filed against Acosta at the Regional Trial Court Branch 41 in Gandara under Criminal Case No. 11-0501. He is now under the custody of Gandara Municipal Police Office.

Ericson, Eric, Spinky Lampaso

To the military, Acosta is a terrorist as defined in the Aquino government’s military campaign Oplan Bayanihan. But to many friends and colleagues from the University of the Philippines, he is nothing of the sort. Acosta — or as he’s affectionately known to friends alternatively as “Eric,” “Green Bird” and “Dingbat” — is a poet, songwriter, and activist.

He was the culture editor of the Philippine Collegian in 1993, UP Diliman’s official student publication, and a member of Amnesty International. He dabbled in the theater, acting in a play staged by one of the campus’s main theater groups. It was for his music and poetry, however, that he was most known for.

Bayan Muna secretary-general Renato Reyes, in a blog post, reminisces about Ericson with whom he spent many a night in jam sessions on the fourth floor landing of Vinzons Hall where the Collegian’s office was. Reyes also went to UP Diliman and was at the time chairman of the League of Filipino Students (LFS).

“Our repertoire consisted of Binky Lampano, Eraserheads and The Doors tunes. We would then move to the grandstand at around 2 am to sing some more to an unsuspecting audience at Sunken Garden,” he said.

Filmmaker Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez said that because of Ericson’s love for the Lampano Alley lead singer’s music, Ericson was sometimes jokingly called “Spinky Lampaso.”

When Seattle grunge genius Kurt Cobain committed suicide, Acosta went around singing songs by Nirvana at the top of his voice. On nights when he got too drunk, the younger “probees” or probationary writers at the Collegian would get worried that Ericson would throw up on the mats in the sleeping room. He was also notorious for “borrowing” plates from the University Food Service, which he brought back to the Collegian office. There was a time when there were at least a dozen of the white ceramic plates in the Collegian’s make-shift pantry.

It was also a time when Lucky Me! instant noodle was first introduced in the market and Ericson, always mysteriously short on cash, often resorted to eating it when he couldn’t wheedle friends into lending or giving him money for better food. One time, after running out of money, he took off his shoes, folded his pant legs and waded into the wishing fountain at the back of the Shangri-la Plaza EDSA mall to get enough coins for bus fare.

The Jollibee branch in Philcoa was still being built back then, and in solidarity with community protests against the demolitions that attended the establishment of the fastfood place, he renamed the iconic bee “Jolibag.”

Ericson was not overtly political then, and to his fellow writers in the collegian, he was something of an “artistic troublemaker”: he and another editor were usually the ringleaders of drinking sessions, extorting money from staffers to buy either Tanduay rum or Ginebra San Miguel which they would then serve mixed with Sunny Orange or cola in a plastic pitcher.

A Personal Political Upheaval

Ericson’s transformation came on the heels of the massive political upheaval in UP Diliman in 1994 that was an echo of the greater changes in the ideological spectrum that swept throughout the country from the countryside to the cities. In UP Diliman, campus activists were forced to re-examine their beliefs and commitment to the cause of national democracy.

When others chose to let go of their activism saying that they were demoralized, Ericson chose to step up. It was like a switch was thrown and, overnight, Ericson took charge of his happy-go-lucky self and became serious in his political advocacies.

February 14, 2011

When Louie met Coni: a love story born in the Movement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 2:05 am

This good-fellowship – camaraderie- usually ocurring through the similarity of pursuits is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death – that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.
–Thomas Hardy, from Far From the Madding Crowd

With one of my favorite couples (and people) in the world, Ka Louie and Ka Coni

They met at a time when the Philippines was awakening to a revolution that sought to empower the poor against their exploiters. He was a priest, she was a nun, and the time was 1971, one year before the dictator Ferdinand E.Marcos declared martial law.

Luis ‘Louie’ Jalandoni hailed from a family of landowners in Silay, Negros Occidental. He grew up rich, but it was a fact that never really sunk into him until he noticed the differences between himself and the children of his family’s land tenants and farmers.

The words ‘gentle’ and ‘amiable’ were always applied to him as he grew up and until he entered the priesthood; but when he be became aware of the life and death struggle of the poor, his will and commitment to their cause became tempered with steel. To look at him even then in his early years as an activist priest, one wouldn’t have been able to tell that here was a man able to stand up against fully-armed hacienda guards with nothing but the strength of his convictions.

Ma. Consuelo ‘Coni’ Kalaw Ledesma also came from Silay, and her background was as affluent as Louie’s. Her upbringing gave her physical grace; but in her dimunitive frame came a soul eager to offer itself for the betterment of others. In those days, it was believed that taking religious vows was the best way to serve — in promising to love and to serve God, one also sought to serve others. Coni believed this, and hence she became a nun.

Nothing remains static, however; and as she became more exposed to the lives and experiences of people who lived way beneath the radar of the moneyed and supposedly more educated, she felt in her very core that there was more that could be done — that serving the people took meant more that praying for them.

It was a quirk of circumstance that two such people should meet under conditions very far from those they were born to. Both came from wealthy families, but they chose to live with the poor. They both chose to take religious vows, but in the end committed themselves to something beyond faith and religion.

In 1971, church groups began to support workers unions, and their priests and nuns as well as students began to integrate with rural communities, helping peasants and farmworkers by giving seminars on health and education. In the cities, organizing work in the urban poor communities began in 1970such as those in Tondo.

As time went, church organizing work began to include discussions on politics and the state of human rights in the country, and these were connected to why there was such widespread poverty. By 1971, there was more emphasis on organizing farmers, workers and urban poor and less focus on cooperatives and economic projects.

By then, Louie had become more than a priest, he was an activist and the head of the Social Action Center of the Bacolod diocese. In the last few years he had gained a reputation for espousing increasingly radical beliefs, bravely calling on younger seminarians and fellow priests to take a more active role in the society and in the lives of the poor.

Sr. Coni, who once was a principal for an all-girls’ school in Cebu, had heard of Fr. Jalandoni and about his work in the SAC. She gained permission from her religious superiors and went to Bacolod. When she arrived at the SAC, everyone was busy helping sugar farmworkers in their strike: at the time, more than 170 hacienda laborers of Victorias Milling Corporation were forced to launch a strike against the company’s unfair labor practices.

“He was wearing a polo barong when I first met him, and I remember being struck by how gentle he looked and sounded as he gave me a briefing on the situation the workers were facing,” Coni said.

Coni was assigned as the press relations officer, and Louie mainly in charge of the rest of the staff who included various students and out of school youth who helped the SAC in its advocacies. Louie made the rounds of the picketline areas, and lead support actions for the workers. Coni, in the meantime, took on other tasks in the SAC that needed to be completed. The leaflets, press releases and statements Louie wrote, Coni disseminated to members of the media and the rest of the Bacolod and Negros community.They were frequently together and Coni’s esteem for Louie grew.

“I saw how committed he was to helping the workers, and I wanted to be the same. For all his gentleness, he was very firm when it came to defending the rights of the poor and it didn’t matter if he was talking to a landowner, a government official or armed soldiers. He seemed to be tireless, and he literally gave everything to help the workers,” she said. She had, by then, heard how Louie had given used his inheritence to build houses and a school for the hundreds of tenants in his family’s hacienda; and how the SAC was also largely dependent on him for its finances. “His wallet was always open when it came to the workers,” she said. “It really felt like he would do anything for them.”

Louie had a car then, a Volkswagen Beetle, and more often than not it was used to run errands for the strikers and their families. Louie frequently acted as chauffer for the students who visited the picketlines, and for the strikers whenever they needed to get anything from the town.

As for Louie, he also noticed how Coni took to her work in the SAC like a a fish to water.

“She was always in high spirits as she did the work. She talked to the workers and helped give them hope as she assured them of our full support. She didn’t mind staying up late to write or to get up very early. She didn’t mind cleaning the office or arranging the files or going out on errands. What needed to be done, she did and she did so cheerfully,” he said.

He also remembers her righteous anger and indignation after the student volunteers came back from delivering rice and groceries to the picketline and narrowly escaped death when they were shot at by security men of the haciendas. “She was very angry, and she kept saying that we should all get guns and weapons to protect ourselves and defend the workers. There was no fear in her, only outrage and determination.”
Needless to say, they became good friends, and their friendship was based on mutual respect strengthened by the shared commitment to help workers and their families.

Neither would admit as to when exactly they began to feel differently about the other. Perhaps it was because they were still ordained members of the religious at the time, but more likely because neither knew what they were feeling.

“All I can say is that I was comfortable with him, and it felt happy to work with him, beside him. Aba’y malay ko ba kung ano yang romantic love na yan!” Coni said laughing.
Louie, for his part, said that he had begun feeling happy whenever he saw Coni, and he knew instinctively that it was a different sort of feeling from the kind he experienced whenever he was with other friends.

“Coni had a strong personality, and she carried it with grace and warmth that people around her never failed to be gravitate towards her. I think that was what first attracted me to her — she was always full of energy and kindness towards everyone around her,” he said.

In any case, everything became more or less apparent during a short break the SAC staff had. Louie, Coni and the students went to Alcala beach in Brgy. Punta Taytay, Bacolod for a swim and a small picnic. Coni already had permission to wear civilian clothes and not just her usual habit, and she walked barefoot in the sand.

She didn’t think there was anything remiss when casually Louie asked her to take a walk with him. She agreed and together, they left behind the students.

“We didn’t talk about anything unusual or particularly new. He was also barefoot and I saw that he was flat-footed, so I teased him about that,” Coni remembered.

After a short while, however, both of them became quiet. Coni wondered about the sudden silence, and though she still felt comfortable even in the absence of words, she became curious why Louie stopped talking.

Then Louie said that they should go back. Coni turned to go, but Louie stood there unmoving. Then he closed the short gap between them and kissed her gently on the forehead and smiled. Neither said anything.

As they returned to the others, Coni was thrown into sudden turmoil. “I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t know what I was feeling. I also became very worried if what I was feeling and what happened was right,” she said.

There was really no time to discuss with Louie what transpired between them. There was always work to be done, and what little free time they had they spent with other priests and nuns in their respective quarters.

But even if there had been time, Coni would not have known what to say.

“I had heard of other nuns saying that they crushes on Louie. One of them even said that she was certain that Louie felt the same way about her and that when the time was right, they would hold hands. I didn’t say anything because at the time I really didn’t understand anything,” she said. All she was certain of, she added, was that she was happy. Neither talked about their feelings for the other, but continued to work side by side in the SAC. Sometimes, however, Louie would touch Coni’s head as if giving her a blessing, but his hand would linger longer than it would have done on the usual congregant.

Because of her involvement in Victoria plantation strikes and her participation in political rallies and discussion fora, Coni began to outgrow her religious vows. She had seen first hand the terrible poverty that the ordinary folk of Negros experienced day in day out, and she grew to abhor the what seemed like the complete lack of conscience that the landowning families had as they threw lavish parties. She herself came from the same class, but she willingly, even willfully began to remove herself from it. Her political awareness had also begun to grow, and her eyes had been opened to the true reasons behind the worsening social conflict in the country.As for her faith, it was still strong, but convent life was no longer for her.

“I didn’t know that Louie himself accepted that his priesthood also ended when he became a member of the revolutionary movement. He told me later on when we had both gone underground that had previously remained a priest because it gave him a measure of freedom to help organize more people and encourage them to join and support the revolution. When he told me that, I was a little annoyed because he didn’t tell me sooner,” she said.

Her annoyance, she went on to explain, was because she had to go through a period of self-questioning, trying to reconcile her religious vows with her rapidly increasing political and ideological growth. “I would’ve been able to come to terms with myself sooner, and I could’ve done more to help the movement.”

Louie was forced to go underground two days after martial law was declared. He eluded arrest during the initial crackdown simply because the arresting unit of soldiers were easily fooled by denials that Louie was at the seminary when they arrived to take him. Coni was able to see him only after she, too went underground, and again they worked together in the same group gathering support against the dictatorship. They were captured in September 1973 and released in 1974, Coni being freed in July and Louie the following month.

It was during their time underground that Louie and Coni finally confessed their mutual affection. By then they were both revolutionaries, comrades in the struggle, and the love they felt for each other was as strong as their desire for the Filipino people to gain true freedom and democracy.

Louie was formally released from the priesthood in 1974, while Coni got her dispensation in December 1972 two months after she applied for it. On December 19, 1974, she married Louie in simple rites at the Archbishop’s Residence in Mandaluyong. Then newly-designated Cardinal Jaime Sin officiated. #
This is an excerpt from a book I’m trying to write about Ka Louie.