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Vol. XXXI No. 1 January-March 2004
Cover Stories
Fetad, Cordillera!
People’s War, Not Tribal War
Simeon ‘Ka Filiw’ Naogsan: From Government Engineer
to Guerrilla Spokesperson
The National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP) is an alliance of
revolutionary organizations with roots
in the various sectors and regions
of the Philippines.
Its goal is to build a society
that enjoys national sovereignty,
authentic democracy, social justice,
progress and peace. It seeks
to unite with all forces willing
to achieve these goals.
Joint Monitoring Committee and CARHRIHL:
A Hard-Earned Victory for the People
Where PTC Payments Go
LIBERATION is the official publication
of the NDFP
Red Diary
Women Waging War
Love in the Time of the Revolution
Mailing Address:
Amsterdamsestraatweg 50, NL-3513
Utrecht, the Netherlands
Gay Revolutionary
On today’s significant issues and events
Fetad, Cordillera!
Onward the Cordillera peoples’ struggle
against national oppression
by Ama San Isidro
he word “Cordillera” means a
series of parallel mountains
that run along the backbone of
a continent or an island like a spinal
cord. In its true and historic sense, it
is a mountainous terrain where
different cultures meet and its people
struggle for a common cause: selfdetermination.
The Cordillera is the largest mountain
range in the Philippines where seven of the
10 highest mountains are located. It has five
provinces – Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain
Province, Ifugao and Benguet (which hosts
Baguio City). It measures 1.8 million hectares
with rich natural resources such as gold,
silver, copper and molybdenum reserves. Its
forests serve as the main source of pine in
the country. Its rivers are sources of irrigation
and hydro-energy.
The Cordillera mountain range is host to
diverse cultures because of the presence of
seven big minority groups namely, Bontoc,
Kankanaey, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Tinggian, Isneg,
and Kalinga. Government statistics show it
has a population of 1.4 million or 1.8% of the
national population.
*Fetad literally means a call for mobilization for war.
The worsening situation
While the three social ills of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat
capitalism permeate all aspects of the lives of the Cordillera people, the
issue of national oppression provides particularity to their problems and
struggle. And while the unifying cause that brings together the various
groups that make up the Cordillera people is their struggle for selfdetermination, their way out of oppression and exploitation is bound with
the new democratic revolution of the rest of the Filipino people.
According to the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front
(CPDF), the situation in the Cordillera is worsening with
unprecedented severity.
Take the situation of its vegetable farmers.
Cordillera generates 385,220 metric tons of broccoli,
cabbages, carrots, potatoes and bell peppers annually. When
the government allowed the importation of vegetables as
part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) dictated
policies, these competed with the local produce. The demand
for locally produced vegetables dwindled and the vegetable
farmers have been gravely affected.
“Talagang bagsak ang kabuhayan nila kaya kapag sinabi sa
kanila na globalisasyon ang papatay sa kanila, damang-dama nila
yun (Their means of livelihood was devastated.Thus, when
we explain to them that globalization is killing them, they
easily understand),” said Simeon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan, CPDF
Displaced peasants have tried odd jobs such as
construction work in government projects and even illegal
carabao logging. In an area in Northern Sagada, the
community tried to discourage carabao logging by imposing a fee of P1,000
per truckload. Some loggers just pay the fine have a source of income.
“Pinagtyatyagaan na nila basta kumita sila (They take the risk just to earn
The masses are so desperate that some end up as beggars. Whole
families go out of their communities to beg. There are also those who engage
in prostitution, even if this is considered taboo by tribal cultures.
“Problems here in the Cordillera are reaching fatal intensity. They
threaten our very existence and dignity,” said Ka Filiw.
As national minorities, the Cordillera people are denied their right to
freely pursue their social, economic, and cultural development, and to freely
determine their political status. The CDPF, in its statement, said that the
extent of their oppression as a people has reached a degree “equivalent to
ethnocide - the destruction of the Cordillera people’s land, life and resources
– their very existence and identity as indigenous communities.”
Major manifestations of the national oppression that they are being
subjected to are the following:
• Violation of their right to their ancestral domain, territorial integrity
and natural resources. Through unjust land laws and land grabbing, the
ruling classes and foreign monopoly capitalists take the Cordillera people’s
ancestral lands for the former’s mining, logging, dams and other projects;
• Destruction of indigenous socio-political institutions and systems
through political gerrymandering and divide-and-rule tactics by
government agencies and government-appointed leaders who
misrepresent the people. These result in boundary disputes, tribal wars
and the marginalization of tribal and community leaders;
• Institutionalized discrimination perpetrated by state and private
institutions (i.e. church, entertainment industry, mass media and
educational system) where national minorities are depicted as primitive,
barbaric and second-class citizens;
• Government neglect in the provision of social services; and
• Commercialization of their customs and practices, and the
vulgarization of their culture.
The birth of the CPDF
The Cordillera people’s just struggle for self-determination and against
national oppression gave rise to the establishment of the CPDF.
It was formed in 1981, a decade after the Communist Party of the
Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) had expanded to
the region. It held its first political congress on Jan. 17, 1987 in Sagada,
Mountain Province and its first organizational congress on March 23, 1989
in Balbalan, Kalinga.
Just like the twisty and steep Kenon and Naguillan roads, the main
gateways to the region used by commuters, the road the CPDF has had to
travel in order to effectively lead the revolutionary
struggle in the Cordillera has also not been easy.
Intense military attacks and the implementation of
insurrectionist lines and programs under the
erroneous Strategic Counter-Offensive (SCO) substage implemented during the ‘80s were major
But aside from these, cadres here have had to
grapple with issues unique to the region. Among
these was the question on how to advance the
revolutionary struggle among national minorities.
And because the comrades’ understanding of the
indigenous social system had yet to deepen, there
was a time when flawed perceptions of the situation
in the region pervaded. For example, it was at first
thought that the tribal system existing in the Kalinga
and Mountain Province was the same in Ifugao.
(Later, after a deeper social analysis, comrades
would declare the social system in Ifugao as clan
and phratry system that is quickly being eroded by
the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system
dominating the rest of the country.)
Another was the view that there is no such thing
as “landlordism” in the Cordillera because there
were no landlords
immense tracts of
land, unlike in the
nearby regions of
Cagayan and Ilocos.
Aside from being
unable to correctly
direct the struggle of
the peasant masses,
this later led into other
forces being easily
micro chauvinists like
Conrado Balweg, a
former comrade who
sought to divide the
movement in the
Cordillera by hyping
the conflict between
“ t a g a p a t a g ”
(lowlander) and “taga-bundok” and “minorya” and “di-minorya.”
In the process however of the dedicated and unwavering pursuit of
the people’s war, comrades in the Cordillera, particularly after the CPDF
was formally formed and with the guidance of the CPP, quickly learned
and adapted to the particularities of the region. The development of more
homegrown cadres also helped to gain insights on the complexities of tribal
issues and ways.
It was realized that the absence of open antagonism between landlords
and peasants did not mean the absence of class conflict. That it is the
reactionary government that serves as the chief landlord since it is through
the reactionary laws it passes and programs it implements that the
Cordillera people are deprived of their right to their ancestral lands.
Most importantly, comrades saw that the struggle in the Cordillera
should not be perceived as a “national minority war” separate from the
Filipino people’s national democratic revolution. What they did then was
combine the struggle for self-determination of indigenous peoples with
the struggle for national democracy.
Since then, the various tribes in the region have embraced the national
democratic line and program. Guided by a deep understanding of the
indigenous socio-political structures, the kadwas (comrades) have been able
to define the appropriate as well as creative forms of struggle and
This is especially true since the Second Great Rectification Movement
was launched. Comrades have been able to combine in their revolutionary
work the particularities of the struggle for self-determination of the
Cordillera people with the general principles of the national democratic
revolution. They are able to correctly apply the theory of Marxism, Leninism
and Mao Zedong Thought to the concrete conditions of the Cordillera
Rousing the Cordillera people for the revolution
The revolutionary movement in the Cordillera has gone a long way
since 1970 when comrades who trained in Cagayan and Tarlac opened the
area for revolutionary organizing. Comrades have now mastered the task
of waging war in the region and now, through the CDPF, are implementing
various programs that address the basic needs of the masses and ensure
their political education.
In fact, education work is among the priority tasks of the CPDF. It
firmly believes that education and culture are essential in its task of
awakening, educating, organizing and mobilizing the Cordillera people.
“We value education and culture as part of the work of the
revolutionary forces in transforming society. These are reflected in our
propaganda, educational and other political work,” said Ka Filiw.
“Literacy is closely linked with how we propagate a culture that is
revolutionary in the sense that it is liberating, mass-based and patriotic.
Thus, the program of the national democratic movement spells out how
we will go about solving and addressing this problem,” he said.
Ka Filiw noted that the problem of literacy also creates difficulties in
practical revolutionary work. For example, the masses practice some rituals
which, to the observation of the CPDF, have no scientific basis. According
to Ka Filiw, “We program our political work where this particular problem
is addressed through literacy, basic sciences, numeracy and other aspects
of education. We incorporate them in all our activities.”
Since the Cordillera is a region rich in culture and the arts, the CPDF
maximizes these by propagating revolutionary ideas through the use of
indigenous music, arts and other cultural forms. “The masses can easily
appreciate and participate in the propagation of revolutionary ideals if we
use cultural forms that they can relate with,” Ka Filiw explained.
Advancing the well-being
of the masses
Part of the CPDF’s work in building a
provisional revolutionary government is
organizing barangay (village) health
groups and training the masses to do
primary and secondary health care. Some
health committees are able to perform
minor surgeries.
“The more our areas are consolidated,
the more we can attend to these needs,”
he said.
There are instances, Ka Filiw said,
when health work is used as an entry
point in expanding to areas not yet
reached by revolutionary work. “It is a
proven fact that since the time the NPA was formed, health work has always
been part of its task. We have heard a lot of stories how in our formative
years, to develop good rapport with the community as well as to respond
to the community’s health problems, the Red fighters treat common
ailments such as rheumatism,” he said.
The use of acupuncture is, more often than not, successful. Until now,
Ka Filiw said, it has been an established tradition that the people’s army
has acupuncturists in its ranks.
But the task of education and medical work does not lie solely on the
shoulders of the Red fighters. The task of responding to the health needs
of the community increasingly becomes a community undertaking as the
people’s revolutionary government is set up step by step.
Promoting peace between tribes
Indigenous culture has two aspects: the positive and the negative.
While the revolutionary movement recognizes the positive aspects, it
repudiates the negative aspects.
The CPDF has formulated approaches that would enhance the positive
aspect and then advance the revolution by adopting them. Examples are
the traditions related to tribal peace pacts and inter-tribal unities. “We are
all victims of national oppression, we should redirect our efforts into
fighting our common enemy,” he said.
A negative aspect of the Cordillera people’s culture is the practice of
tribal war. The CPDF denounces tribal wars because it is counter
productive. It does not build communities and erodes inter-tribal unities.
The CPDF adopts the slogan, “People’s war, not tribal war.” (See related
article on page 8.)
A widening and deepening mass base
After the dwindling of forces caused by the political errors of the 1980s
and the confusion resulting from the factionalist maneuvers of incorrigible
elements within the movement, the CPDF was able to achieve a more than
100% increase in the recruitment of Red fighters. The regular squads were
formed into platoons and the former platoon formations have become
companies. About 60 to 80 percent of Red fighters in the region are locals,
Ka Filiw revealed.
The CPDF’s 2002 data showed there was a 63% increase in the number
of barangays covered which corresponds to a 165% increase in mass base.
But there was only a 17% increase in municipalities covered. Still a slow
pace, says Ka Filiw.
“But we are hopeful that for the remaining months of 2004 we will be
able to compensate for the slack in organizing work during the first six
months,” he said.
Ka Filiw cautions that the increase in the size of the people’s army
should correspond to the increase in the mass base. This is necessary to
conduct a widespread and intensified guerilla warfare.
“Walang silbi kung dadami ang armado pero hindi lumalaki ang mass base,
guerilla base at guerilla fronts (The increase in the number of Red fighters is
useless if the mass base, the guerilla bases and fronts do not increase), said
Ka Filiw.
Based on the objective situation, this task is not far from becoming a
reality. “Itong kahirapan na dinarama ng masa ngayon ang pinakamabisang
rekruter ng mga hukbo na sumasampa (The poverty that the masses are mired
in is the most effective recruiter for the people’s army) ,” Ka Filiw stressed.
Added to that are the abuses inflicted on the masses by the military in
the area. “Ang ginagawa ng mga kaaway ay nagtutulak sa mga anak ng mga
pesante na sumampa sa hukbong bayan (The abuses committed by the enemy
on the masses are pushing the sons and daughters of peasants to join the
people’s army),” he added.
Ready for US aggression
The war of aggression being waged by imperialist countries, specifically
the United States, Ka Filiw points out, is not frightening at all. “In fact it
would necessitate the declaration of a national war. We would be
mobilizing more of the anti-imperialist allies.”
Ka Filiw explains further that US aggression is in fact not at all new.
“The only difference would be their physical presence,” he said.
Even the use of high-technology gadgets by the U.S. armed forces
should not be feared, Ka Filiw said. “Epektibo lamang ang mga ito kung papasok
tayo sa kanyang disenyo (They will be effective only if we fight them according
to their design).”
“We should be prepared for any eventuality,” Ka Filiw said in parting.
On today’s significant issues and events
a Robin of the Lias tribe of Bontoc Province was
only a teenager when his brother, Cris Batan, was
shot dead on Feb. 23, 1993. The perpetrators were
elements of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit
(CAFGU) who belonged to the Betwagan tribe.
Cris’ death triggered a tribal war between Lias and Betwagan tribes
that has lasted for seven long years. Ka Robin, together with other
members of the Lias tribe, engaged in a shooting war with the Betwagan
“I did not understand what the revolution was then. I just wanted to
get even,” Ka Robin recalls.
Land disputes and tribal wars
Historically, competition over access to land, water sources, forests
and other natural resources trigger disputes between tribes. For years,
boundaries delineating the territories of tribes have been defined and
redefined through tribal wars, peace pacts and negotiations. But these
historically defined boundaries are often being disregarded because of
government policies and land laws.
Referring to the recent outbreak of tribal wars, Simeon “Ka Filiw”
Naogsan, spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples’ Democratic Front
(CPDF), the underground revolutionary mass organization in the
Cordillera, explains, “This is a direct effect of land laws that define
boundaries and divide the
people according to the
geographical and political
Ka Filiw said land
disputes have intensified
with the implementation of
the local government code
particularly the provision on
the internal revenue
allotment or IRA.
implementation of this IRA,
various barangays have
sought to increase their IRA
share. Thus, they try to
expand their land area but
in doing so, they encroach
on the land of another
tribe,” said Ka Filiw.
The main basis for the
computation of IRA is the
land area and population of
each village. As the village’s
land area expands, so does
its IRA and area of political
jurisdiction. This translates
allocations for the local
government units (LGU)
covering the tribe’s area.
Thus, some LGUs apply
for Certificates of Ancestral
Domain Claims or Titles
(CADC/CADT) covering
lands that go beyond their
original boundaries and
encroach on the land of
other tribes.
projects and policies like
mining and logging as well
as other activities affecting
watersheds or water rights
also cause tribal wars since
control of resources and
income from such activities
are important.
“Our observation is that there are no more fixed
boundaries.All municipalities and provinces are
experiencing boundary disputes,” Ka Filiw added.
Activities of the military and its adjunct, the
Cordillera Peoples’ Liberation Army (CPLA), also
trigger tribal wars. For example, when the CPLA
planted marijuana and conducted logging activities
in areas belonging to the Betwagan tribe, tension
between the latter and the Butbut, the tribe to which
the involved CPLA members belong, rose. The
subsequent belligerent actions of the CPLA caused
the intensification of hostilities, which soon erupted
into a full-scale tribal war. This particular conflict
has been going on since 1999.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and
Philippine National Police (PNP) also fan the
hostilities between tribes. For one thing, they sell
arms and ammunition to the warring tribes. There
are also instances when AFP and PNP officers, who
are members of warring tribes, supply arms and
ammunition to enable their respective tribes to gain
the upper hand. Often, soldiers and policemen
involved take a leave of absence to join in the tribal
The costs
Tribal wars, though seemingly micro in scale,
have immense socio-cultural, economic, and
political costs. Relationships between friends,
neighbors, even family members get strained
because of tribal wars.
During the four years of the tribal war between
the Butbut tribe of Kalinga and the Betwagan of
Mountain Province, a number have died or have
been wounded on each side and there have been
losses of property.
The CPDF estimates that the Betwagan tribe was
losing P7 million in annual income during their war
with the Butbut tribe. On the other hand, the Butbut
tribe from Bugnay stopped working in their rice
fields. Some have been forced to sell their lands.
According to Dangadang, the revolutionary
paper in the Cordillera, the mobility of the warring
tribes’ members is greatly affected. There have been
instances when children have had to skip schools
for several days especially if they would have to
pass through areas controlled by the other tribe to
get to school. During particularly violent outbreaks
of tribal conflicts, entire communities have had to
be evacuated.
NPA fighters in Cordillera belong to different
tribes.Thus, whenever tribal wars erupt, comrades
whose tribes are involved in the conflict feel the
tension. Their revolutionary education however
have taught them that the main enemy is US
imperialism and the local ruling classes and that
the masses involved in tribal conflict also belong
to the oppressed and exploited classes.
But a big cost for the revolutionary movement
of tribal wars is its delaying effect on CPDF’s
political work of unifying the Cordillera people in
the struggle for self-determination.
CPDF believes that it is only through raising
the political awareness of the Cordillera people,
and in organizing and mobilizing them in the
struggle for self-determination in particular, and
the national democratic revolution, in general, can
the problem of tribal wars be effectively addressed.
The NPA as mediators
In principle, a tribal war is a problem
confronted by the masses. As such, it is also a
problem of the revolutionary movement.
“Sa katunayan, kapag hindi mo inasikaso yan,
sisingilin ka ng masa (In fact, if the NPA does not
address the problem, the masses themselves
demand that the NPA resolves it),” Ka Filiw said.
He explains that the best time to intervene is
either “before the outbreak” or “after the emotional
outburst.” “It will be very difficult to be caught in
the middle of a shooting war,” he said.
With the Butbut-Betwagan tribal war, the NPA
immediately tried to mediate but when the local
government intervened, it temporarily gave way.
The government however failed to settle the
conflict. “They gave up,” the CPDF
leader said.
In December 2003, concerned
persons from both the Betwagan and
Butbut tribes requested the NPA to
mediate again. After a lot of legwork,
the two warring tribes were made to
meet in a neutral area in January 2004.
The meeting did not result in any
settlement but the NPA refused to give
up. It continues to serve as a bridge
between the warring tribes even when the shooting
war persisted.
“As in any conflict, we cannot force them if
they are not ready to face each other and talk. But
as long as there’s a small glimmer of hope, we have
to pursue that opening,” Ka Filiw said.
He explained that it takes time, patience, and
perseverance to resolve a tribal war. “The mediators
should practice diplomacy and must be familiar with
how tribal communities work. If you are not familiar
with the issues, the dynamics and ways of resolving
tribal conflicts, you would have a hard time,” he said.
Part of the work in mediating conflicts is
maximizing all local institutions including the LGU.
In the case of the Betwagan-Butbut tribal conflict,
the participation of a neutral LGU was crucial in
providing transportation, arranging the venue and
hosting the talks. The success of mediation efforts
is also hinges on the acceptability of the host to the
warring parties.
It is also crucial to neutralize the police, CAFGU
and AFP. And the LGU can do a lot in preventing
them from adding fuel to the hostilities.
Brothers all
Five years after his brother’s killing, Ka Robin
became active in the local chapter of the CPDF.
Education in the revolutionary movement
regarding tribal wars made him realize the effects
and futility of tribal conflicts. “Hindi pala mareresolba
ang problema sa pamamagitan ng tribal war (I came
to realize that problems cannot be solved through
tribal wars),” he said.
“Iisa ang kalaban natin kaya dapat ay magtulungan para
sa iisang layunin (We have a common enemy and we
should unite for this common purpose),” he continued.
His realization became complete when he met
Ka Ernie, an NPA fighter and a member of the
Betwagan tribe. “Nung una parang galit pa ako kasi
alam ko sila ang pumatay sa kapatid ko. Pero nang
panghawakan ko ang prinsipyo ng rebolusyon, nawala
ang galit ko sa kanilang tribu (At first
I was angry because I know they
killed my brother. But when I began
to understand the principles of the
revolution, my anger towards his
tribe disappeared),” he said.
“Para na kaming magkapatid
ngayon. Magka-buddy na nga kami
(We are like brothers now. We are
even buddies),” he said of Ka
(By Ama San Isidro)
On today’s significant issues and events
Simeon ‘Ka Filiw’ Naogsan
by Ama San Isidro
estled in a forest of the Cordillera mountains was a New People’s
Army (NPA) camp, bursting with activity. Red guerillas were
either practicing revolutionary songs or preparing dinner while
eagerly waiting for their media visitors to arrive.
It was the region’s first time to host a press
conference for Communist Party of the Philippines
(CPP) spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.
A cursory glance at the guerillas showed they
wore almost the same clothes – taffeta pants and
dark-colored shirts, plus jackets and bonnets to
protect them from the cold, as well as, for most of
them, rubber slippers for the feet.
Surrounded by pine trees and makeshift tents,
one of the guerillas however looked unusual for
the scene. He was wearing a formal blue and white
checkered polo but had on khaki cargo pants and
mountain shoes. He was also wearing a purple
jacket and a blue cap. This prompted a reporter
to ask, “Sino ba yun (Who is that)?”
The members of media later found out he was
the spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples’
Democratic Front (CPDF), the underground
revolutionary organization in the Cordillera
He introduced himself to reporters as Simeon
Naogsan but would rather be called Ka Filiw, his
nom de guerre. “I don’t usually dress up this way,”
he grinned. “My outfit is just for the press
conference.” On regular days, he said, he wears
the same clothes as anyone else.
His discomfort however was apparent, the
media-shy leader’s voice quavered at times during
the press conference. Despite this, explanations
about issues confronting the Cordillera people and
the revolutionary movement rang firm and true
amid the majestic pine forest.
The full-blooded Igorot revolutionary was
given the task of being the spokesperson of the
CPDF in 2001. “I have had several interviews with
the local media but this is my first time to face
national media,” he said.
However, his comrades said the unease was
uncharacteristic of him. They said he relates well
with the masses, one of the reasons he was given
the task of speaking for the Cordillera people.
In addition, comrades attest that he is a person
with a high sense of responsibility, widely known
in the region for his zeal for military discipline.
Most of all, Ka Filiw best represents the
Cordillera people as he comes from one of its
Igorot tribes. As such, he personally knows their
issues, predicaments, hopes and aspirations. He,
too, has suffered the bigotry shown on indigenous
groups by media, church and schools.
“Nakita ko ang pagsasamantala sa mga
kababayan ko, mga katribu ko rito sa Cordillera (I
have seen the exploitation of the tribes here in
the Cordillera) and here I am representing my
people - the tribes of Bontoc, Kankanaey, the
Ifugao, Kalinga, Dingyan and non-Igorots living
here in Cordillera. Once upon a time, we were
those derided and chided by then Secretary
Carlos P. Romulo by his famous phrase ‘the
Igorots are not Filipinos.’”
But trekking the road of the Cordillera
people’s struggle did not come easy for Ka Filiw.
Like most revolutionaries, he experienced his
share of setbacks and difficulties, in his former
profession as well as with his family.
As a college student taking up engineering,
Ka Filiw actively participated in what became
popularly known as the First Quarter Storm in the
early 70s.
Ka Filiw finished college and became a civil
engineer by profession. He worked in government
agencies for six years – first in an agency known
for its corruption and subsequently in an agency
that is supposed to check these practices.
“I was a living witness to the corruption
within the civilian bureaucracy,” he said,
recounting his experiences of being offered bribes
not just once but several times during his stay in
He also became the executive director of a
non-government organization before he ran for
congress in the 1987 elections. “I ran under the
Partido ng Bayan,” he recalled. Thus, until now,
comrades kid him and call him “congressman.”
Although he did not make it to Congress, his
continued participation in the militant mass
movement in the region made him a target for
political harassment. He received several death
threats from the renegade Cordillera Peoples’
Liberation Army (CPLA), which was then led by
the notorious Conrado Balweg, and from other
political rivals.
The threats to his security and his desire to
serve the Cordillera people the best way he can
made him decide to join the NPA.
His trek to the mountains maybe trouble-free
for the physically fit Ka Filiw. But for his family,
it was a decision that unsettled their seemingly
normal lives.
“Hindi nila natanggap yung pag-alis ko kasi hindi
naman ako nakapag-paalam. Shoot-to-kill na ang
order laban sa akin noon kaya madalian yung pagalis ko (They could not accept my decision to leave
because I was not able to properly explain it. The
military had a shoot-to-kill order against me so I
had to leave in a hurry),” he said.
His wife was the most affected by his decision.
Ka Filiw found out from comrades that his wife
had become an alcoholic. “Pag dumadalaw ako,
dalaw-asawa lang yun. Ibig sabihin, ayaw n’ya pagusapan yung pulitika, yung rebolusyon (My visits
then were purely personal. She did not want to
talk about politics and the revolution),” he
As he was at great risk, other comrades helped
his wife fight and recover from alcoholism.
Rehabilitation included mobilizing his wife and
his children to take part in the revolution in
whatever way they could.
It was only after a decade that his family was
able to visit him in the mountains. “That was in
1997. I was happy because they were able to see
what life we had as armed guerillas,” he said.
But what made the visit more meaningful was
that the “family gathering” in an NPA camp
opened his family’s eyes to the splendor of the
Ka Filiw now takes pride that his family now
fully understands the road he has chosen. “They
do not just understand, they now actively
participate in our struggle.”
Ka Filiw said he has already realized his
dream of building a revolutionary family. He is
pleased to note that his family, together with other
revolutionaries, is collectively engineering the
struggle of the Cordillera people for selfdetermination within the framework of the
national democratic revolution.
Developments in the people’s movement
The Joint Monitoring Committee and CARHRIHL
Hard-Earned Victory
for the PEOPLE
By Victoria dela Gente
n March 16, 1998, after 12 years of protracted
peace talks, the government (GRP) and the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
(NDFP) panels came up with its first substantive
agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect
for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
(CARHRIHL). But Fidel V. Ramos failed to sign it as
principal before the end of his term. Probably in a state
of drunken stupor, Joseph Estrada, then president and
principal representative of the GRP, signed it on
August 7, 1998 only to rescind it two days later. In
February of 2004, the GRP expressed its willingness to
implement the CARHRIHL and set up an interim Joint
Monitoring Committee.
While still far from addressing
the national and democratic
aspirations of the Filipino people, the
CARHRIHL is a victory for the
masses as it provides them with an
additional instrument in asserting
their rights as individuals, groups,
and communities against abuses by
the reactionary state. It adopts the
basic human rights - civil and
political, economic and socio-cultural
- which are enshrined in international
laws and conventions. It provides a
general framework of rights from
which the succeeding substantive
agenda may be based.
The agreement seeks to bind both
parties to the armed conflict to apply
the principles of international humanitarian law.
It aims to regulate the conduct of the armed
conflict by protecting hors de combat, combatants
who have surrendered, persons deprived of liberty
for reasons related to the armed conflict and their
relatives, and civilians not taking an active part in
the hostilities. The Filipino masses can utilize the
agreement in confronting the military for targeting
non-combatants as part of its strategy of
constricting the mass base of the New People’s
Army. It will therefore expose the reactionary
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the
abuses it commits during the conduct of its
military operations.
The Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) shall
monitor the implementation of the agreement. It
shall receive complaints of violations of human
rights and international humanitarian law and
shall initiate requests or recommendations to the
party concerned to undertake steps and measures
to comply with the provisions of CARHRIHL.
While merely having monitoring functions,
the setting-up of the JMC is significant for two
reasons. First, it will signal the implementation of
CARHRIHL. The setting-up of the JMC will
prevent the government from arbitrarily reneging
on its commitment to implement CARHRIHL like
it did in 1998. Second, the JMC will show how the
AFP is committing terrorist acts against the
Filipino people.
With the national and democratic character
of the revolution and the NPA’s strict rules of
conduct, the CPP-NPA-NDF will surely be able
to belie the claims of US imperialism, the GRP and
the AFP that it is a terrorist organization. On the
other hand, the worsening crisis of the semifeudal, semi-colonial system, the need of US
imperialism and the reactionary ruling classes of
the comprador bourgeoisie and big landlords to
intensify its oppression and exploitation of the
Filipino people, and the mercenary character of
the AFP will make more blatant its fascist and
terrorist attacks on the Filipino masses.
The protracted peace negotiations
The peace talks have been going on for 17
years since the ouster of the US-Marcos fascist
dictatorship. Since the start, the GRP has shown
that it is far from interested in working for a just
and lasting peace.
After securing an agreement for a ceasefire in
1986, the US-Aquino regime manifested its
indifference to pursuing the substantive agenda
of the peace negotiations. With the breakdown of
the talks precipitated by the infamous Mendiola
massacre, the regime immediately launched its
total war campaign victimizing millions of people.
The intensity of human rights violations, in a
period spanning only six years, was comparable
to the 20 years of martial rule. The Aquino
regime’s record for forcible abductions and
disappearances, and displacements of
communities even surpassed that of the Marcos
fascist dictatorship.
It was during the Ramos administration, or
after six years of impasse, that the peace talks
moved forward significantly. His administration
released a substantial number of political prisoners
and signed the The Hague Joint Declaration of
1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity
Guarantees, Joint Agreement on the Ground Rules
of the Formal Meetings Between the GRP and
NDFP Negotiating Panels, and the 1995 Joint
Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and
Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working
Committees. It was also during the Ramos regime
that the CARHRIHL was finalized and signed by
the negotiating panels. However, Fidel V. Ramos
failed to sign the agreement.
After rescinding its commitment to implement
CARHRIHL, Estrada drove the peace talks to a
standstill. The AFP then vigorously launched its
Oplan Makabayan, which was a continuation of
total war strategy of previous regimes thereby
victimizing the masses that he vowed to uplift.
After seeing that the probability of continuing with
the peace negotiations was already facing a brick
wall, the NDFP eventually declared its intention
to wait for the next GRP president before resuming
the talks.
After being installed by People Power2, Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo put the talks on the verge of
collapse. It refused to honor previous agreements
including the The Hague Declaration of 1992 and
the 1995 Joint Agreement on the Formation,
Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal
Working Committees. The US-Arroyo regime
insisted on the simultaneous formation of the
different working committees in order to frame a
final peace agreement. In June 2001, using the just
punishment by the NPA of the notorious human
rights violator, Rodolfo Aguinaldo, as a pretext,
the GRP suspended the peace
negotiations. It was only in
October 2003 that the GRP
renewed informal talks
with the NDFP. This
culminated in the
February 10-13 peace
negotiations in Oslo,
Norway and the formal
announcement of the
formation of the interim joint
monitoring committee last April 15.
The context of the peace talks
In 1968, the newly reestablished
Communist Party of the Philippines
declared that since the crisis of semi-colonial,
semi-feudal system had reached its terminal stage,
meaning it can not longer be abated, the ruling
classes could no longer rule in the old way. In
1972, martial law was declared. Even after the
ouster of the US-backed Marcos fascist
dictatorship, the ruling system was characterized
by sharp divisions among factions of the ruling
classes. Reactionary elections, as a venue for
resolving contradictions among the factions and
thereby consolidating the ruling system, have
failed to serve this purpose. On the contrary, it
has worsened these splits so much so that the twoparty system is no longer effective and elections
have become a circus where more than four
representatives from different factions try to outdo
each other in a popularity contest.
It is within this framework that developments
in the peace talks can be understood. Any gain
earned by the Filipino people as a result of the
peace negotiations did not emanate from the
sincerity of the GRP or its president. The Aquino
regime was not interested in concluding the peace
negotiations and so were the Ramos, Estrada, and
Arroyo regimes.
The Aquino regime was a transition from an
outright fascist dictatorship to a fascist state with
democratic trimmings. However, the regime was
installed by a strong anti-fascist, anti-dictatorship
movement. It was then necessary for the regime
to defuse this movement by restoring formal
democratic rights and processes, at least in the
cities and urban centers, and through grand acts
that will show its supposed commitment to justice,
democracy, and peace. It was also imperative for
the regime to consolidate its rule
and to break the momentum of
revolution. It was within this
context that the Aquino regime
entered into peace negotiations
with the NDFP. A ceasefire was
all the regime needed as a
display of its supposed
commitment to peace, to give
itself time to consolidate its
rule, and to prepare
for its total war
Filipino people.
Ramos inherited a
regime that was suffering from the severe
economic crisis, which hit during the latter part
of the 80s. It was also taking over from a regime
that was afflicted by an acute political crisis, which
resulted in a series of military rebellions. To make
matters worse, Fidel V. Ramos was elected with a
mere plurality of votes over more than five
candidates. For not being able to get even 50% of
the votes cast, he was considered as a minority
president. His closest rival, Miriam DefensorSantiago, accused him of cheating and threatened
to raise hell.
Ramos’ urgent need to consolidate his
administration, forced him to seek compromises
with all probable opponents to his regime,
including the CCP-NPA-NDF. Thus, he agreed to
mutually-beneficial terms in the conduct of the
peace negotiations. In 1997, the deeper economic
crisis that the country was confronted with forced
his regime to soften its resistance to the
The overwhelming victory of Joseph Estrada
over his closest rivals and his popularity with the
unorganized masses made him impervious to the
peace negotiations. The Estrada regime
disregarded all previous agreements entered into
by the preceding regime. He demanded for no less
than the capitulation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP. He
even prohibited members of his cabinet from
having informal talks with the NDFP without his
prior approval. It was only during the final months
of his regime did he sought out the NDFP. But by
then his regime was on the verge of extreme
political isolation and the EDSA uprising was
about to take place.
After being installed by
People power 2 as a result of
the ouster of Estrada, the
Arroyo regime saw no need
negotiations with the NDFP.
The Arroyo regime stifled the
progress of the peace talks by
making unjust demands that
are violative of previous
agreements regarding the
framework and conduct of
the negotiations. In June 2001, after only more than
four months in office, the regime unilaterally
declared that it was pulling out of the peace
However, the deep economic crisis that the
regime is confronted with and its inability to even
mitigate the effects on the Filipino people caused
widespread disenchantment to its rule. In 2002,
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was forced to declare
she was not running for a regular term to arrest
the slide in her popularity ratings. But her desire
to run for a regular term forced her to initiate
informal talks with the NDFP, in October 2003,
with the end in view of resuming the peace
negotiations. With the formal resumption of the
peace talks, the Arroyo regime hopes to gain
political points by showing the general public that
it is able to achieve something in the area of peace.
Added to this, with the expected tight race for the
presidency, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is courting
the support of progressive parties, which has the
potential of mobilizing from four to six million
votes. She hopes that the progress in the peace
negotiations will soften the criticisms of
progressive parties that her regime is anti-people
and anti-peace. Desperate for political points, the
GRP panel even promised to work for measures
that shall address the problem of the CPP-NPANDF and Jose Maria Sison’s terror listing. But they
were forced to deny this by twisting their
interpretation of the provisions that they have
signed after getting strong reactions from the US,
its imperialist master.
Working for the people’s interest
The CPP-NPA-NDF has no illusions that the
peace negotiations can lead to a just and lasting
peace at this point in the Filipino people’s struggle.
The peace negotiations can lead to peace based
on justice only when the
revolution has reached a
point where the Filipino
people and its army, the
NPA, has gained the upper
hand over the ruling classes
bourgeoisie and the
reactionary AFP.
NDFP believes that as it engages the GRP in the
peace negotiations, as an arena of struggle, it can
gain tactical victories for the people. The
CARHRIHL and the formation of the interim Joint
Monitoring Committee are examples of hard
earned victories for the people. It has also forced
the hand of the GRP to address the problem of
“terror listing”. By listing countries or groups as
“terrorists”, US imperialism aims to justify its
wars of aggression and direct armed intervention.
But whether the GRP will be serious in
implementing the CARHRIHL and allow the JMC
to function after the elections is a different matter.
Even after the GRP has signed CARHRIHL, the
AFP has intensified its military operations and has
committed violations of human rights and
international humanitarian law with impunity.
Worse, the Arroyo regime continues to harass and
murder leaders and members of progressive
parties and people’s organizations. The only way
to forestall such attacks is for the Filipino people
to assert and struggle for their rights through a
strong mass movement.
Furthermore, the negotiations for an
agreement on social and economic reforms will
surely encounter rough sailing. There are two
diametrically opposed positions. The GRP will
push for the adoption of its pro-imperialist and
anti-people policies and laws. While the legal
democratic forces fight for the people’s rights
through a strong mass movement, the NDFP will
likewise push for patriotic and pro-people policies
and agreements in the negotiations.
For as long as the peace talks continue, the
NDFP will try to gain tactical victories for the
Filipino people. But ultimately, the only road to a
just and lasting peace is through the victory of the
national democratic revolution and the subsequent
path to socialism.
Developments in the people’s movement
PTC Payments Go
By Jacinto Maypag-asa
n a village somewhere in the Cordillera region,
residents were eagerly waiting for the arrival of the
local unit of the New People’s Army (NPA). When
the Red guerrillas arrived, villagers lined up with
excitement as they took turns receiving free medical and
dental check-up inside a makeshift tent that served as a
clinic. The ailing ones among them received free
medicines or acupuncture service. Some got free dental
cleaning and extraction.
In consolidated areas in the
Cordilleras and other regions,
the barrio revolutionary
committees have developed
their capacity for providing
primary and subsequently,
secondary health care.
Mindanao, on the other hand,
literacy programs by NPA
units are regular occurrences.
Expectedly, the lessons are
conducted in near-classroom
settings, complete with
blackboards, chalk, paper,
books, and other writing
supplies and reading materials.
It is in these literacy programs
that many of the residents in
the region are able to get hold
of pens and paper and
understand the written word
for the first time. Those who
functional literacy, numeracy,
and basic science skills may opt
to pursue more learning
courses that are more
advanced than the basic
elementary education provided
by the reactionary
public school
These informal schools are
being replicated in other regions
as well. There are also cultural
programs that encourage the
production of creative works.
More importantly, these
programs develop the patriotic
fervor of the people, promote
scientific thinking, and illustrate
the masses’ role as makers of
There are other similar
programs in barangays and
municipalities in the country
revolutionary movement. In
more consolidated areas, cooperatives are being
set-up and productivity enhancement projects
are being implemented as part of the agrarian
According to Communist Party of the
Philippines (CPP) spokesperson Gregorio “Ka
Roger” Rosal, “These revolutionary socioeconomic programs actually make up for the
historical neglect by the government and
provide immediate relief to the deprived,
impoverished and long-suffering people,
especially in the countryside.”
How do NPA fighters get funds for these
activities? There are many ways of doing so,
says Ka Roger, and among these are the fundraising efforts of underground revolutionary
organizations and revolutionary taxation.
Permit-to-Campaign (PTC) fees collected from
candidates seeking to campaign during
elections in NPA areas are part of these efforts.
Concrete benefits
The revolutionary movement does not
recognize the authority of the reactionary
government as well as the elections that it
periodically holds. Instead, it has its own
government, which coexists with the
reactionary organs of power in many areas
around the country, pending the dismantling
of the existing system.
The imposition of the PTC policy on
candidates in the reactionary elections is a
manifestation of the exercise of political
authority by the people’s revolutionary
government. “The revolutionary movement
enacts, promulgates and implements within its
territories laws, such as the PTC policy, for the
interest of the people and the revolutionary
movement,” Ka Roger explains. “These render
extraneous and irrelevant the reactionary
government’s laws and functions.”
Pending the attainment of total victory by
the revolutionary forces, politicians are given
leeway to campaign in
territories within the
framework of the
reactionary electoral
exercise. But the
p e o p l e ’ s
government takes
measure to minimize
the damaging effects
elections on the
democracy through
vote buying, cheating
and the use of private
armies – all regular
reactionary elections.
They use elections to
deceive the public into
thinking that democracy is
alive and well in the
Aside from exposing
reactionary elections, the
revolutionary forces also
strive to secure tactical
gains from these for the
masses. One way is
implementation of the
PTC policy.
The collection of PTC
is a way of reclaiming
from political lords and
corrupt politicians the
wealth that they steal
through graft and
corruption. Through the
implemented by the
revolutionary movement in its guerrilla zones,
which are partly funded from revolutionary
taxation including PTC collection, this stolen
wealth are given back to the people.
PTC collection also reduces the resources
that can be used to further election fraud and
violence and prevent progressives and less
reactionary candidates from winning. In the
process and to a certain extent, it serves to
weaken the reactionaries’ monopoly of political
power based on economic power in their
respective areas.
“This way,” says Ka Roger, “through the
PTC, the people are able to get something more
substantial out of the reactionary elections than
empty promises and insulting bribes of a few
pesos. Other than that, the whole thing is only
a big circus with politicians for clowns and a
great deal of violence.”
A small portion of the PTC fees go to the
expenses of the NPA, whose fighters are also
people who need food and clothing.
All these, explains the CPP spokesperson,
is what differentiates the PTC program and the
larger system of revolutionary taxation from the
taxation system of the reactionary government.
As he points out, “The main difference is
that PTC fees and other revolutionary taxes and
collections serve the interests of the people while
collections of the
Philippine government
are pocketed by the
ruling classes and
bureaucrats; utilized to
serve the interests of
the ruling classes and
their imperialist master
to the detriment of the
masses; and are even
used to support the
reactionary armed
forces, which is used to
oppress the Filipino
protestations of the Arroyo regime, it is in fact
at times the candidates themselves who
approach the revolutionary movement to
negotiate on how much they would be paying.
In many areas, the people’s revolutionary
government hardly has to assert the PTC policy
as the candidates themselves already
acknowledge its existence.
As Simeon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan,
spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s
Democratic Front (CPDF), reveals: “Even as
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo insists that
her government will put a stop to collection of
PTC fees, her entire slate is already fully paid
in so far as the Cordillera region is concerned.”
Ka Roger points out that big political parties
usually pay for their entire slate.
That does not mean, however, that their
candidates will all be allowed to campaign in
particular areas. The most reactionary
candidates are not permitted to enter
revolutionary territories.
Ka Roger, for his part, reveals that the
manner of PTC negotiations varies from area to
area. “In the more advanced areas,” he explains,
“politicians go directly to the masses, but in
areas where revolutionary influence is not yet
as strong they talk with the local NPA fighters.”
PTC payments are usually in the form of
cash. There are no fixed amounts for these,
however. Ka Filiw cites the example of
congressional candidates who are usually
charged higher or lower amounts based on their
stand on political issues and economic status.
“There are also candidates who opt to give
in kind,” the CPDF spokesperson also says. This
is seconded by Ka Roger who says that some
candidates give arms, equipment and uniforms
to the NPA.
That politicians voluntarily negotiate with
the people’s revolutionary government
regarding PTC fees is an indication of the latter’s
strength. It may not have attained full victory
in the people’s war, but it is certainly already a
force to reckon with.
Mad ranting
Seizing the opportunity to project itself and
to rehash and twist the PTC issue in order to
further attack the revolutionary movement,
Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales recently revived her
fantastic claim that she is now a target of the
NPA because of her statements against the CPP
and the PTC.
Earlier, Rosales and fellow Akbayan solon
Mario Aguja filed House Bill No. 6581, which
seeks to criminalize the PTC policy.
Rosales’ statements are in fact already
indistinguishable from the AFP’s, effectively
exposing her true ugly color – that of a
reactionary and opportunist. Aside from
deluding herself that the NPA would waste time
on her ilk, her statements are all mere selfserving propaganda.
In a statement, Ka Roger said Akbayan is
already “in partnership with the AFP and the
fascists.” The AFP, he said, finds Akbayan’s
anti-communist rantings most useful and is
campaigning for the pseudo-reformist group to
lure votes away from progressive party list
groups. Rosales’ rantings serve to complement
the AFP’s direct assaults against suspected
supporters of the revolutionary movement.
No power
President Macapagal-Arroyo’s repeated
threats that the military will use force to stop
the collection of PTC fees are nothing but empty
The Macapagal-Arroyo government and its
armed forces have no power to stop the
people’s revolutionary government from
collecting PTC fees in as much as it
cannot stop the advance of the people’s
democratic revolution. The de facto
existence of the people’s organs of
political power is the reason why
politicians seek out the NDF to
negotiate for the amount of PTC
fees they have to pay.
It is extremely ironic that it is
the reactionary government that
revolutionary government of
politicians through the PTC.
Extortion is taxing the people,
even the poorest of the poor, and
taking away from them their
hard-earned income without
delivering any service in return, as
what the reactionary government has
been doing since time immemorial.
Developments in the people’s movement
ast year was the first
time I spent the
anniversary celebration
of the reestablishment of the
Communist Party of the
Philippines (CPP) in a guerilla
zone. The details of my trip
were given to me two days
before departure. Thus, the
next day, I found myself among those
rushing to reserve a seat at a bus
terminal. I was to leave two days
before Christmas Day, or three days
before the actual anniversary.
by Toni Hernandez
Missing our family’s traditional Christmas
reunion was compensated by the opportunity to join
a gathering of people with a noble purpose. To
appease my mother, I helped her prepare for the
family’s Christmas celebration
(though really, it was too early for us
to do much). As expected, she was
worried about my trip though I
assured her that we have safety
measures and I would be fine.
December 23: “Jakamawatan”
The 11:30 p.m. departure in
Manila the night before was just
right. I arrived at my first destination
with enough time to grab some
breakfast before meeting my guide.
We proceeded to a bus station for the
next part of my trip and to meet with
the other persons joining our trip.
We had been waiting for an hour
at the station when the old woman
seated beside me began to talk to me
in Ilocano, the dialect in the area.
Since I could not understand a word
she was saying, I blurted out what I
commercial: “Jakamawatan, Manang.”
The term should actually be “di ako
maawatan,” meaning “I can’t
understand,” but it is popularly
“jakamawatan.” She smiled
and said, “Ah, taga Maynila
(So you are from Manila).”
When finally we boarded
the bus, I found myself seated
on the last row and bounced
like a rubber ball throughout
the trip because of the rough
roads. Josh, my guide, told me
about the revolutionary
movement’s experiences in
the area. But I was a bit uneasy
passengers sporting military
haircuts. I was comforted
though whenever Josh would
tell me we were passing
through towns that were parts
of NPA guerrilla zones.
It was already past 5 p.m.
when we reached our
destination. Another group of
comrades was to serve as our
guide. We quickly ate dinner
and left at 7 p.m. Riding a
jeepney this time, we went to
our jump-off site, where they
turned us over to another set
of guides, this time, for the
mountain trek.
I was told that it usually
takes only one and a half
hours for the kadwas (local
term for comrades) to travel
what took us four hours to
cover. The guides must have
had a hard time because there
were 14 of us in all to
shepherd in the dark.
Before we set off, we were
asked to be as quiet as possible
and to turn off our flashlights
when passing through
clusters of houses. I’m proud
to say that I was the most
obedient in the group - after
all, I couldn’t use my
malfunctioned and I was
companions and seldom
conversed with any of them.
A mountaineer, I tried to
valiantly carry the heaviest
bag – mine. But later, I had to
accept the kadwas’ offer to
exchange my load with the
lightest bag.
December 24: “Kiss
After what seemed like
hours of hiking, we stopped
at a house. It was past 1 a.m.
Coffee boiled with avocado
leaves and biscuits were
offered by our hosts.
We reached the campsite
at around 3:30 a.m. Though
tired and sleepy, I couldn’t
resist talking to the guerrillas
who stayed up to
welcome us. It was thus
past 4 a.m. when I
turned in, after jokingly
telling them, “Gisingin
n’yo na lang ako sa 26,
‘pag anib na.”
Though still sleepy,
I got up at 7 a.m. Almost
everyone in the camp
was already half done
with their tasks. (I did
recover another three
hours of lost sleep in the
I was led to the
preparing breakfast
with the help of
children from nearby
While eating, a
kadwa noticed the red
marks around my neck.
He said they looked like
“chikinini” or kiss marks. They
were actually mosquito bites.
But the comrades proceeded
to tease me about them,
saying the mosquitoes were
probably male ones. One of
them said, “Pag tumagal ka na
dito masasanay ka na, di ka na
kakagatin ng mga lamok (If you
stay longer, you will get used
to it and the mosquitoes
would no longer bite you)” –
a not so subtle invitation to
join the NPA.
After lunch, all four NPA
platoons rehearsed their
respective presentations for
the anniversary celebration.
I stayed up until 11:30
p.m. jamming with the
guerrillas and other guests.
distributed to different tents to
sleep for the night.
December 25: Un-cowed
Sleeping was very
difficult, with only a malong
to fight the cold. But Ka MaiMai, a local comrade, woke
up at 3 a.m. and saw me
chilled to the bones. She
generously lent me a blanket
which she let me use
throughout my stay.
I had a good sleep then
and woke up at 8 a.m. I almost
forgot it was Christmas day
until a kadwa greeted me.
We were eating rice and
cabbage soup with daing
(dried fish) when we noticed
the arrival of old women
carrying large pans, baskets of
vegetables and other foods
donated by the community all atop their heads. I learned
they were members of the
local women’s organizing
After eating, I was asked
if I wanted to take pictures
while they prepare the cow
they bought for the next day’s
feast. The problem was, they
said, we have to fetch the cow
because it sprained its leg.
When we reached its
location, we saw it would be
too heavy to carry and the
comrades decided to make it
walk part of the way and
butcher it somewhere near the
camp. The cow stopped
walking though after an hour.
Since nobody could force it to
walk, we all decided to take a
rest too and the comrades
joked about the cow while
After a while, the cow
itself indicated it was ready to
attempting, but failing, to
stand up. The guerrillas had to
assist it to get up.
The chosen slaughter site
was just three minutes away
from the camp. Four men
worked to make the cow lie
still by standing on top of it
but, still, it managed to get up.
Ka Jun, a former jeepney
driver from Manila, tried to
use a stick which was too
small to make an impact on
the cow, much less kill it. This
caused much laughter and
In the end, the cow died
not because of our efforts but
because it slipped and hit its
head on a rock. The kadwas
then proceeded to expertly cut
the meat. Soon, the elders
were sitting under a shade
eating a local favorite dish
called kinilaw -- raw liver and
meat, mixed with salt and
apog – while others roasted
thin strips of the meat.
We were all laughing and
teasing Ka Jun as we walked
back to the camp. There was
no video camera to capture
the moment so each one gave
his or her own version of the
incident. As one storyteller
who couldn’t speak their
dialect, their laughs were
enough to indicate they
understood me anyhow. Ka
Jun himself listened and
laughed at his bloopers.
After an enjoyable lunch,
comrades started to prepare
the backdrop for the “stage.”
Guests soon began to arrive
and Red fighters started
putting up tents where the
visitors would be sleeping.
The traditional pattong
uggayam (prayer) opened the
solidarity night.
I heard the emcee said
something about “surprise
attacks” so I asked Ka Abel,
the kadwa near me, what
“surprise attacks” meant. He
mumbled something about
the camp being safe but that
extra caution was needed. I
believed his explanation –
until I heard my name being
called by the emcee. It turned
out I was to receive the first
“surprise attack” for the night.
I was thankful for the
cover of darkness while I sang
my version of Joey Ayala’s
“Walang Hanggang Paalam.”
When they requested for a
“Side B,” I was not sure
whether to be happy or not.
Did they want me to sing
another piece because they
liked my singing? Or perhaps
they confused my singing for
poetry reading and wanted to
hear another poem…
Other visitors, even the
presentations that night.
December 26: “Agbiag ti
I was told that the NPA
guerillas took two weeks to
prepare the site for the big
event. On the morning of the
big day, the locals woke up
very early to help in the
kitchen. Elder women were in
charge of cooking the meals.
settled down for the
celebration that would last till
The Red fighters formed
two groups at the center of the
commander ordered a rifle
salute before singing the
“Internationale.” After several
minutes of military drills,
underground organizations
from different provinces gave
their messages of solidarity to
the Party and the people’s
Some barangay officials
were also present to
personally express their
greetings and support despite
threats by the military. One
thanked the guerillas for the
many services they provided
in his community. The elders
rendered different versions of
Pattong dances filled the
gaps between numbers. Each
version by a group is unique,
in terms of dance steps
rendered and the gongs’
The four NPA platoons
presentations. I realized that
to be a guerilla does not only
require strength but artistic
competence as well. Each
platoon’s performance used a
tula-dula show format. Every
scene elicited laughter,
applause and appreciative
shouts from the 200 or so
Members of one of the
NPA squads impersonated
well-known traitors to the
revolutionary movement,
such as Arturo Tabara and
Popoy Lagman. It became a
game when the narrator cited
a misdeed and the audience
guessed the name of the
person guilty of the crime.
Unlike in most games though,
the audience in this case was
very certain of their answers.
At the end of the performance,
the traitors were shown being
punished accordingly.
Another squad spoofed
the Arroyo regime. Each
guerilla wore puppet head
costumes, with a curtain
hiding the rest of their bodies.
The play revolved around
guerrillas used a gag show
format. This presentation was
a surprise because their jokes
were based on current
commercial shows. (I thought
the NPAs would not be
familiar with the latest
television shows or ads.)
Spoofing commercials was
effective in drawing the
audience’s attention and
Meanwhile, the women’s
organizing group (WOG)
presented a skit that stressed
the importance of women not
only in the family but also in
organizing work. The drama
of the wife and the daughter
drunkard husband into a
revolutionary who later
organized his fellow drinking
buddies also showed the vital
role of the revolutionary
movement in getting rid of
society’s ills.
The performance of the
revolutionary cultural group
from the city under the Artista
at Manunulat para sa
Sambayanan (ARMAS), the
revolutionary organization of
artists and cultural workers,
agitated the crowd.
Meanwhile, the children
proved true the adage that age
does not matter. They
rendered a revolutionary song
interpretation where they
inside one of the tents, the
episode showed that although
we did not speak the same
language, we could still share
with each other our ideas and
December 27: Fruitful
acted like tigers that bit and
fought the oppressors. With
ages ranging from three to 10
years old, they amazed the
performance that culminated
with the raising of clenched
fists and repeated cries of
“Agbiag ti rebolusyon!” The
audience responded with
“Agbiag!” and raised their
fists, too.
After the presentations,
the celebration took a much
lighter tone, shifting to games.
Unbelievably, I soon learned
that party games such as the
“Longest Line” and “Bringme” could be played with
political relevance!
A region of rich cultural
celebration was a series of
cultural activities. In the
evening, NPA couples were
asked to render songs, before
their respective squads
depart. The Red fighters were
to leave the area ahead of the
rest of the celebrants.
opportunities to talk with
other participants. During a
chat with farmer leaders, I
heard the elder women talked
about the “kuliglig.”
I confidently butted in
and said the “kuliglig” was
noisy and they all agreed. But
my next words exposed my
ignorance. I asked, “Why do
you need ‘kuliglig’ in
farming?” for I had thought
they were referring to kuliglig,
the insect. We all laughed
after Ka Fagway, the comrade
who translated for me,
explained that “kuliglig” also
refers to a farming equipment
named so because of the noise
it makes.
Afterward, I sat with the
women who shared their
experiences with me as
women revolutionaries. Held
In the morning, we
gathered for an assessment of
the celebration. I would have
gone with the first batch to
leave the camp but since I
wanted to interview a
comrade before leaving, I
decided to leave later. The
comrade’s wife had arrived
and I didn’t want to disturb
the much-awaited reunion
After dinner, the kadwas
talked about the problems
they encountered in relation
to their families when they
joined the NPA and how they
handled them.
One of them was a former
medical student who stopped
studying and became the
medical officer of her unit
instead. And, guess what, she
became known as Ka Med!
The first women gay
couple in the area that got
married testified how hard it
was at first to be involved in a
relationship like theirs.
But according to them,
their courage and love, under
the Party’s guidance, helped
them withstand the gender
biases and inequalities of
There was also another
woman Red fighter who
decided to stay on with her
unit after getting pregnant.
December 28: Parting
I was informed that a
group of journalists from
Manila had arrived. The
“journalists” turned out to be
my friends from Ang Kalayaan,
the newsletter of Kabataang
underground revolutionary
educational discussion on the
tasks of the NPA before being
familiarized with rifles and
other weapons. While the KM
guests were trying out
unloaded rifles, comrades
teased them, “Uy, bagay. Pag
hinawakan dapat totohanin na
‘yan (You look good with it.
Once you hold it, you must
join the people’s army)!”
After the brief discussion,
other participants taught us
Ilocano revolutionary songs
even though we were
Before we left, a kadwa
gifted me with a bamboo cup
with a nice carved design and
which I intend to keep as a
At 4 p.m., before we
started our journey home, we
were again invited to eat even
though we still felt full. On the
average, we ate more than
thrice a day including the
snacks and coffee breaks.
While following the trail
that would lead us to the
plains, I thought of how the
masses had warmly treated
us. They even invited us to
come back for the NPA
anniversary in March and the
next Party anniversary!
enthusiasm etched in the faces
of the children while listening
to the guerillas at the camp, as
well as the resolve of the
parents and elders in waging
the national democratic
revolution, I knew in my heart
that the revolutionary
movement would emerge
victorious. Each generation is
revolutionaries who selflessly
offer their lives to the revolution.
December 29: Long
Our group talked about
what we would say in case we
are questioned at checkpoints.
Fortunately, we were not
stopped in any of the
checkpoints we passed.
The guides and our group
of visitors parted ways when
we reached the nearest urban
center at 10 a.m.
traveling before I would
reach my own house and lie
on my own bed. I ran out of
money though and had to
borrow some from a friend
who luckily was in town when
I reached the nearest city.
When I got home, the first
things I did were take a bath,
apply an itching cream
(particularly on “kiss marks”)
and take an anti-allergy tablet.
I couldn’t forget though
the people I met. As a
mountaineer, there were
times when I helped in clean
programs in the areas my
group explored. The NPA
though has been revivifying
more than just forests and
trees. They are rebuilding
lives ruined by exploiters,
redeeming the dignity of a
nation and fighting for justice
that has long been denied the
Filipino masses.
Developments in the people’s movement
Women have always been part of the struggle for
national freedom and democracy. Like all revolutionaries
they are a powerful force for radical change.
a Alex and Ka Jiji are
Red fighters of a New
People’s Army (NPA)
platoon in the Southern Front
of the historic Cagayan
Valley, one-fourth of whom
are women like them. Though
relatively young they are
advanced: Ka Alex, 23, is their
squad’s political guide (PG)
and Ka Jiji, 19, is her team’s.
Both come from the lower ranks of the urban
petty bourgeoisie. They were both tempered in
militant struggles among the youth sector and
in urban poor communities before taking up
arms and joining the NPA in the countryside.
In joining the armed struggle they’ve taken great
by Salvador Andres
strides not only in forging themselves as
proletarian revolutionaries but also in
advancing the full emancipation of women.
They were resting under a mango tree and
singing Pantasya – a revolutionary song written
amidst the people’s struggle in Cagayan Valley
in 1978, or before either of them were even born
– when Liberation asked them how it is to be a
woman guerrilla.
Women in the revolution
“Women are given the highest respect in the
movement and their rights fully recognized,”
says Ka Jiji, “and this is genuine respect for them
unlike in bourgeois society where a lot of the
so-called ‘respect’ is really just based on their
supposed weaknesses.” For instance she notes
the patronizing attitude to spare women from
work or tasks that are “only for men.”
Ka Alex proudly declares, “It’s only here
where I’ve really felt that I was a woman!” A
woman as a person, she stresses, and “not just
for the bedroom, the kitchen or the home.” She
also says that the movement doesn’t
discriminate even in the traditionally macho
realm of military work: “If you have the
potential or the ability the movement always
recognizes that.” Ka Alex ranked third highest
out of the 25 Red fighters in her batch for the
Basic Politico-Military Course (BPMC).
The full enjoyment of women’s rights can
never be achieved if the material conditions that
suppress them remain. Thus, the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)
fights to change the system that perpetuates
such conditions and at the same time also strives
hard to enhance the capability of
women. The NPA opening its arms to
women is already a big leap. It provides
them the option to further advance their
liberation, with help of the organization
and the changes that the NPA and the
entire national democratic revolution
have been effecting on the lives of
Which isn’t to say that the
revolutionary movement doesn’t bear
within it the imprints of the backward
society it springs from. Both Ka Alex
and Jiji are candid about the traces of
feudal and bourgeois values that still
persist especially among the newer
comrades. “It’s unavoidable,” says Ka
Alex, “but the difference is that here
everyone tries hard to change that kind
of thinking.” Ka Jiji adds that “we all begin from
the premise that no one discriminates because
of genders and everyone has the same
Women’s strengths
The challenges for women to participate in
armed struggle are far more difficult than men’s,
But on certain cases, gender can work to
women’s advantage and puts them in a better
position than men.
There’s the inestimable propaganda value
of a woman Red fighter belying, by her example,
backward notions of the weakness and place of
her gender. Whereas backward social thinking
reduces women to showcasing petty values of
beauty, timidity, and service to her man, the
woman revolutionary displays strength,
commitment, and service to the people.
Ka Jiji points out: “feudal thinking about
women among the backward masses is changed
when they see us carrying heavy backpacks,
ammo belts and guns, marching long distances
and also fighting.” For her part, Ka Alex recalls
frequent comments by peasant women to the
effect that seeing women guerrillas doing just
as well as the men makes them realize their own
potential – something which Ka Jiji says may
inspire some of their male comrades as well. Ka
Jiji also notes how women are better at drawing
other women from the villages into the
revolution, whether in their local mass
organizations or as full-time Red fighters.
The masses are also at ease quicker with the
women guerrillas than their male comrades.
Which is why, says Ka Alex, “we’re usually the
ones who first knock on the houses of the masses
especially if it’s in the middle of the night or to
those we still don’t know very well.”
Ka Jiji also adds that the masses seem to find
them more approachable or easier to talk to: “I
notice that they’re more comfortable with
women and more open to sharing their
problems with us. It’s usually our shoulders
they cry on.”
Mothers in the revolution
There’s also a particular challenge to
womanhood that no male will ever have to face,
or at least not to the same degree. Bearing
children poses a special test for women Red
fighters aiming to stay in the NPA while raising
revolutionary families.
Separation from one’s child is almost always
heart-rending for the mothers. While this is a
big sacrifice for women revolutionaries, the
revolutionary movement, on the other hand, her
unit or collective in particular, has the
responsibility to set up or ensure support
systems for mothers and children. It also advises
couples regarding when to have children and
how to rear them.
Ka Alex remembers another NPA full-timer
who, while still pregnant, braced herself for an
inevitable separation from her child. Yet after
giving birth and with her best efforts she
eventually opted to continue her service in the
movement where she and her child could be
together. “It’s a reality,” admits Ka Alex.
But she also points out the advantage of
children growing up in a guerrilla zone even if
they’re not always with their parents. “They’ll
be immediately exposed to the realities of
oppression and of people’s struggle against
this,” she says. “Before I thought that the
important thing was not to make life difficult
for my children. Now I know what’s important
is to teach them how to struggle and fight.”
Ka Jiji recalls her earlier naivety. “I once
imagined that there was a way to be both a fulltime guerrilla and a full-time mother!” But even
after realizing the impossibility of this she had
to grapple with the bourgeois notion that, if she
continued as a guerrilla, she would be
“abandoning” her child. But is it? Now she
realizes that “Whatever I do in the service of
the people I also do for my children. Everything
we work for in the movement, everything we’re
building, is also for them. To be separated from
our children is part of the sacrifice we
make in giving ourselves to something
larger than ourselves and our families.”
Ka Alex sums up what every
proletarian revolutionary strives for in
a family: “It will be the greatest joy to
have a revolutionary family.”
All revolutionaries are in the midst
of a cultural revolution to change how
society currently views women.
Steadfast women Red fighters – like Ka
Jiji, Ka Alex and the thousands more like
them especially coming from the
peasantry – are the revolutionary
movement’s standard bearers of the sort
of emancipation possible for women
with true democracy. For women the
world over, they are the portent of things
to come.
Developments in the people’s movement
oy and girl meet. There are
awkward situations, stolen
moments, talks about their future.
But they’re separated. Still, their love
flourishes and eventually they marry.
Only to be separated again.
It’s the stuff of cliché romantic tragedies, but
with a twist that makes all the difference: boy
and girl are New People’s Army (NPA)
guerrillas. So things aren’t really as tragic as they
“It sometimes happens, doesn’t it? You see
this person and… ah… something hits you that
you can’t explain. Then your life changes.” Ka
Alfred fidgets but beams a smile while
reminiscing the first time he saw Ka Kelly. She
laughs: “He was so shy and kept pretending that
he wasn’t looking at me!”
That was seven years ago but it’s as clear as
yesterday for them. It’s a sharpness of memory
and feeling that serves them in good stead. Ka
Kelly, 21 years old, is with the sentro-de-grabidad
(SDG, or center-of-gravity) platoon of their
guerrilla front in Camarines Sur province in the
Bicol region of Southern Luzon. Ka Alfred, 24,
on the other hand, is in one of the front’s more
mobile platoons assigned to full-time mass work
and mass base-building. He juggles
responsibilities as medical and logistics officers
with being second in command of his unit.
It is the policy of the revolutionary
movement to have couples work in areas or
units where they can be accessible to one
another. NPA guerrillas are however deployed
according to where they are needed most and
sometimes, separation of married couples
cannot be avoided. For Ka Kelly and Ka Alfred,
separation is particularly par for the course.
Together, briefly
Their first meeting – the “life-changing” one
– was in 1997 when both were still civilians. Ka
Alfred hails from a land-scarce peasant family
planting rice and coconuts; Ka Kelly from a
landless family of farmworkers.
Ka Alfred had just moved to Ka Kelly’s
barrio (village) to help, firstly, his brother farm
and also the NPA unit in the area as a courier.
He had been out hunting with Ka Kelly’s father
(a former Red fighter) and, as conveniently
arranged by Ka Alfred’s brother (also a former
Red fighter), had dropped by Ka Kelly’s house
on his way home.
After that, said Ka Kelly, “I’d get excited
whenever I heard the clatter of plastic water
jugs!” Their homes weren’t that far apart and
Ka Alfred always passed near her house on his
way to the spring to fetch water.
Ka Kelly was already active in her barrio’s
revolutionary youth organization as its finance
officer. With such involvement apparently also
came precocious discernment. “We started out
as friends,” she says, “and I quickly saw that
he was different from the other boys. He was a
good guy, and active in the movement. He
didn’t just hang around not doing anything.”
They did the barrio romance thing, including
going to the annual local dance. “I really liked
her,” Ka Alfred recalls, “but still it took a while
for me to build up courage.” Ka Kelly herself
asked him to dance and, when he pleaded
ignorance, argued that she’d teach him “for
when he got around to courting someone.”
They also did the love-in-a-militarized-zone
thing. The dogs’ sudden barking usually heralds
strangers entering the barrio, often enemy
soldiers. Hearing dogs barking early one
morning, Ka Alfred ran to Ka Kelly’s hut to
warn her, knowing that she was getting ready
to meet kasama (comrades) from the NPA. But
the military was already rounding up villagers
and had gotten there first. They saw Ka Alfred
and placed him with Ka Kelly. Prevented from
going anywhere, they kept busy pounding palay
(unhusked rice grains). “I was happy anyway,”
grinned Ka Alfred, “because we were together!”
However just months after they first met,
Ka Kelly had to leave her barrio to help a
comrade’s family elsewhere. They didn’t see
each other again for well over a year. On the
very rare occasions when Ka Kelly would come
back, Ka Alfred would be away. On the very
rare occasions when Ka Alfred would go where
Ka Kelly was staying, she’d be away. They only
managed one letter between them and settled
for news about each other, and relayed
greetings, from friends and relatives they came
Red love
They finally saw each other again in 1999 –
briefly, but long enough to decide that they’d
both join the NPA. Easier done for Ka Alfred
who was already 19 years old at the time. He
joined the NPA in January 2000 and shortly
after, following the practice within the
movement, formalized their relationship. There
was a visit during which they agreed to develop
their relationship within the framework of the
revolution – that, together, they’d place the
revolutionary interests of the masses above all.
Pushing through with the decision to join
the NPA was less easy for the then 16-year-old
Ka Kelly. “It was such a long wait,” she says,
“and three months before my 18th birthday, I was
already insisting that the kasama allow me join
the NPA.” But wait she had to and was able to
join only in May 2001 – in a unit different from
Ka Alfred’s.
They’d only seen each other once since Ka
Alfred went full-time and had no other contact
between them. With Ka Kelly now also a Red
fighter, they arranged to meet to see where their
relationship was. Meet they did – once – and in
an instant knew that nothing had changed
between them. “Well,” quips Ka Kelly, “nothing
except that our communications went from
rarely to nothing.” Ka Alfred prefers to say, with
truly revolutionary optimism: “it just took
With effort, more letters were exchanged
after that and in the year that followed six
precious ones made their way across the
guerrilla front. They also saw each other during
a couple of front-wide activities. And they
developed as revolutionaries and as “magkarelasyon” (romantic couple).
“We got to know each other better,
weaknesses and all,” says Ka Alfred, “at the
same time as we kept at our revolutionary
work.” Ka Kelly adds, “we strengthened our
relationship and ourselves with the help of the
Five-and-a-half years after they first met –
inevitably, it seems in retrospect – came the
decision to get married. Why so long? Apart
from the obvious separation “we knew that we
first had to give ourselves time to develop as
revolutionaries,” says Ka
Kelly. And, stresses Ka Alfred,
“we knew that having a
family in the middle of a war
is no simple matter. We
wouldn’t get married if we
didn’t think we were ready to
have a family.”
Double celebration
Sure enough, Ka Kelly and
Ka Alfred got married on
March 29, the same day as the
anniversary of the founding of
the NPA. The Party wedding,
unlike its bourgeois and feudal
counterparts, wasn’t a display
of status but an affirmation of
their equality in the relationship
and a strengthening of their
commitments to the revolution.
The simple but festive
double celebration was held
on the top of a hill near the
peak of the province’s most
mountain – the site of
countless battles in decades
past. It overlooked rolling hills
of coconut groves and thick
forests of mahogany, kamagong
and gemelina, and, beyond, the
vast waters of Ragay Gulf.
The wedding day was
followed by the wedding night
and – since the bride and groom
are Red fighters, remember –
followed only a couple of days
later by the newlyweds’
separation and return to their
respective units and areas.
But of course their story
doesn’t end there and a child
is already on the way. “Our
contribution to the next
generation of revolutionaries,”
smiles Ka Alfred. Ka Kelly
nudges and teases him: “The
first of three!”
Developments in the people’s movement
by Salvador Andres
a Joan, like all proletarian revolutionaries, is
struggling to build a socialist future that liberates all
oppressed peoples. Yet unlike most revolutionaries his gender
isn’t what it might first seem: Ka Joan is gay.
Ka Joan is a full-time red
fighter in a platoon of the New
People’s Army (NPA) in the
South Front of the Cagayan
Valley region. “I have the heart
of a gay,” he confidently
declares, “a gay revolutionary.”
Ka Joan, 25 years old, hails
from a peasant family in
Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao
that plants corn, bananas and
gemelina. He left home at 13
years old to work in a Manila
night club first as a wardrobe
aide to two dancers, who
virtually adopted him, and then
as the club’s floor manager.
When Ka Joan was 17 years old
he went on vacation in one of
Bulacan’s small urban centers
where a community organizer
linked up with him. A few
months later he stopped work
to become a full-time urban
poor organizer himself: “I
thought: ‘I have to do
something so that the people
and my fellow gays can fight for
their rights.’”
After another few months
Ka Joan was tasked to help with
urban poor organizing in a city
in Northern Luzon. “The
masses there embraced me so
warmly and I saw that no one
was organizing the youth,” he
recalls. The first time he entered
a guerilla zone was for an
anniversary celebration of the
Makabayan (KM or Patriotic
Youth). When he returned for
the anniversary celebration of
the Communist Party of the
Philippines (CPP) a month
later, Ka Joan opted, amidst stirring songs of
revolution, for the life of a guerrilla: “After
walking so far and seeing how the people lived it
was so easy for me to make my decision.”
A fighter like, and unlike, any other
Ka Joan is already well over a year in the NPA.
He is his squad’s S4 and occasional medic as well
as a vice-team leader (VTL). His unit has been
actively conducting tactical offensives and he has
performed creditably in these, reflected for
instance in his appointment as VTL.
Ka Joan says he has known and been open
about being gay ever since he was a child growing
up in Mindanao. He already had fighting instincts
even then. He recalls: “I’d get hurt whenever my
gay friends were ridiculed or beaten up by other
kids. So even if I wasn’t the one being attacked I’d
really go up and fight with my friends’
tormentors.” At a young age he’d also confront
adults like his friends’ parents. “I’d tell them that
gays are people too,” he remembers, “and that
they are still their children and came from them.”
On their part, Ka Joan’s family was supportive
of his gender orientation which helped to ensure
that he’d be able to face the world confident of
rather than burdened by his sexuality. “My family
loved me very much including my father who’d
always say to others, ‘whatever happens he is my
Gays in the revolution
Though he knows of very few gays in the
movement he says it can’t be because it
discriminates against them. “I found out about the
Party’s official stand on gays only later on. But even
without knowing the policy their practice was clear
because the comrades were convincing me to go
full-time and fully embraced me when I did.”
Nonetheless, Ka Joan admits, there are still
traces of feudal and bourgeois views on gays and
he says that there are still male comrades,
especially, who are awkward around him. But he
declares: “There’s a very big difference between
the comrades and outside. Here you know they’re
really trying to accept me for what I am if they
don’t already. Here you feel that the masses and
the comrades genuinely care for you very much.”
With still relatively few gays in the movement
it is still developing processes to accommodate
the implications of, according to Ka Joan, “being
gay and having what’s clearly a man’s body.” He
bathes separately in the same way that men and
women bathe separately. He still basically buddies
with the men but when sleeping in close quarters
is careful that there’s a little space between his and
the others, again in the same way that men and
women would be separated if they’re sleeping
The reaction from the masses is generally
positive – that the NPA doesn’t discriminate and
accepts gays – aside from the inevitable initial
surprise. Rey, a corn farming peasant who met
Ka Joan for the first time and at first thought he
was a woman, said that he breaks the stereotype
of gays being “weak, always in beauty parlors or
in their small businesses.”
When asked what he looked forward to in the
future Ka Joan replied: “Of course we want
Socialism, to liberate the people including gays
and lesbians. The Party advances the interest of
all the people and all the oppressed.” Vintage
revolutionary talk from a most non-traditional
Look who’s reading
Photo from Pulang Mandirigma: Images of the People’s Army
This Red Fighter, a former urban poor organizer turned
countryside guerrilla, pores over a copy of Liberation.
The revolutionary magazine is read as well by
comrades and friends in the cities and abroad.