*This article is written by a fellow peace advocate, MsLopez Reaño. Please help us with our peace advocacy. End the armed conflict in the Philippines now. Expose the atrocities, lies and deceptions of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Spare the youth. Visit the site www.peace.com.ph*
November 29, 1983, a day before Bonifacio Day, I officially became a member of the New People’s Army. The scene is still vivid in my mind. Somewhere in the deep forest of Consocep, Ocampo, Camarines Sur with cloudy skies, an occasional drizzle and 15 edgy and anxious children ages 13 to 16 years old surrounded by hard, mean and nasty looking fighters of the New People’s Army. We didn’t know then what will happen; all we knew was that we will take our oath and become “freedom fighters”, with the firm belief that we will be fighting for the rights of the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized sectors. With a little apprehension and uneasiness but with excitement, we braced and took stock of our courage in anticipation for what will transpire.
A little before 4 o’clock in the afternoon Kumander Frida arrived with a pack of equally young men and women all carrying M16, carbines and Cal. 45. Young, talented, dynamic and energetic red fighters that I know deep within me were like us, students and former students, all hoping to be “a part of the change” of our society, all willing to lay down their lives. Then we took our oath, after which the crowd became jubilant, clapping, dancing and singing the “Internationale” the CPP-NPA’s victory song. All the fighters and the “kumanders” present then shook our hands, with fervor and gusto. And this officially heralded our official entry as “candidate members” of the New People’s Army or Bagong Hukbong Bayan. I was given a code name of Ka Tina, Ka Yolly and Ka. My real person was lost, I became a different person, with different personality and outlook, no longer a naïve 13 year old girl but a furious and fuming student.
From that day on, we were students by day and NPA by night. From a meek and timid 13 year old girl to a dyed-in-the-wool urban activist, I became a hard, tough, callous and fierce NPA cadre. The transformation was so abrupt, before I became an LFS member I was only a by-stander and an observer, with a wait-and-see attitude. As CM, we were given higher tasking, one, was to recruit students from the different schools not only in Naga but as far as Albay and Sorsogon. We were directed to lead team of students undergoing OD-OP (Operation Dikit-Operation Pinta) in the different towns and municipalities in the whole of Bicol region. We were also given tasks as Team Leaders of the Agitating Team assigned in mass protests and mass demonstrations, whose main task was to agitate rallyists, to provoke them to have a violent and bloody confrontation with the members of the PC-INP (Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police) then. The surreptitious and clandestine style of our operations made us more enthusiastic, thrilled, and zealous warriors. The propaganda lines of the LFS then “that the reactionary government is repressing our rights to freedom of speech” make us more obsessive and fanatical to “topple down the repressive government” of Marcos.
As a “candidate member” I was task to operate in the white area, with the League of Filipino Students. Then came March of 1985, the Higher Organ of Front Committee 75 decided that I was already ripe to work hand in hand and lived among the armed component of the movement in the hinterlands of Caramoan Peninsula. The very day that I went up the mountains was only a week or more after my graduation from Ateneo de Naga College. The environment and the terrain made me more zealous and committed to “embrace the bloody revolution” being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). It was the pinnacle of my dream, the apex of my vision “that as a Filipino youth I have to become part and parcel of the change in my society”.
In the mountains, I was assigned as a Political Officer(PO) of a platoon unit. And as a PO I was confronted and was faced to faced with so many issues against the government. And more important, negative issues against the soldiers and members of the PC-INP. Issues that gave us more leverage in agitating the people, and some of these, were:
Issues that put a wedge between the people and the government, which was the primary objective of the legal front organizations, and used to demonized the legal forces of the government. During this time, military and police brutalities were so rampant that it was so easy to recruit students to become red fighters, because of the issue that soldiers were “butchers” or “berdugo’. These issues fueled my revolutionary spirit, I despised and loathed everything that is, and for the government. I followed every task that came my way. I became notorious in recruiting innocent and unknowing students. Youth whose only desire and dream was to become a part of the change. I exploited their idealism. I literally rose from the ranks because of my accomplishments in the “underground movement” until I became a “full-time member”.
With all the communist teachings that we studied in the mountains anchored on scientific socialism or simply put “Marxism” which covered three component parts: Dialectical Materialism which centered On the idea of “progress through violence”, Historical Materialism which is an “overview denying the existence of God” and Marxist Economics which provides the working class with “an integral world outlook irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction, or defense of bourgeois oppression”. Supplemented and justified by the teachings and philosophies of Vlademirwhich “seeks to reveal the real relationships that exists under capitalism and arms the working class with an understanding of how it can achieve its own emancipation”. This was later on strengthened by more studies about the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” by and Frederick Engels, “Philippine Society and Revolution” by Amado Guerrero, the “Five Golden Rays”, the philosophies of Nicollo Machiavelli, and other philosophers. And the in-depth studies on the teachings of Mao Tse Tung which was anchored on the idea “that we can overthrow the government through the barrel of the gun” and other higher communist teachings, the once former naïve student became a hardened communist, a ruthless and a coldhearted killer without conscience and remorse. It didn’t matter whom I killed, it’s a matter of my life and the other person’s life especially if the encounters involved soldiers and police whom we believed were the real “roots and causes” of the poor people’s misery and hardship, and the government’s mercenaries used by the “ilustrados” to abused the people.
The continuous and constant feeding of a godless and anti-family ideologies, transformed a once obedient, subservient and God-fearing student into a callous, ruthless and a thick-skinned “freedom fighter”. I silently endured the hardships that I experienced in the mountains because of the belief that was planted in our young minds “simpleng pamumuhay, masigabong pakikibaka” or simple living with an intense will to fight. The countless days and nights that we had to walk long distance and the nights that we had to sleep without eating made no difference. The days when we don’t have anything to eat was considered as sacrifice. Sleeping with wet clothes on our back was believed to be an essential element to wage our bloody revolution, a symbol of the renouncement of our bourgeoisie life in the cities. Enduring the bites of mosquitoes or “niknik”, leeches or “limatik”, the risk of snake bites and so many other dangers in the mountains, not to mention my shares of countless bloody encounters, raids and ambushes, all of these became irrelevant and immaterial to me. What was important was my belief that I was fighting for the oppressed and upholding the rights of the Filipino people. I was so willing then to renounce everything and sacrifice everything for the movement.
But all of these gradually changed. . . .
Mid 1989 everything that I hoped for, everything that I believed about the “movement” as “savior and protector of the people” gradually crumbles in my very own eyes. Bits and pieces of discoveries of injustices, abuses, inequality, indiscrimination and “kabulukan” of the movement led me to a “poignant awakening”. Extortion, the forced collection of “revolutionary taxes”, the highway robberies which were tasked to my unit, the killings, and the executions of civilians were so rampant at that time. Not to mention again the destructions of government and private infrastructures which were benefitting the people. And the never-ending abuses to the very same people that we promised to protect and fight for. The very same civilians that during our oath-taking we solemnly promised to “offer our very own lives”.
It was during this time that I was confronted with a lot of questions and issues. I was trained to “serve the people”, we were given lectures about “unconditional service and loyalty to the Filipino people” but we were doing a different thing. The theories that we had studied and put into heart were poles apart from the practices and the activities that we had. The things that we did prompted me to ask myself “am I doing the right thing, am I really serving the people?” I questioned the very “upright and principled tenets” of the revolutionary doctrine, questions which I could not find concrete answers.
One very distinct experienced that I had, which became the turning point of my revolutionary life was a very nondescript situation, which I for one would not considered as very important but opened my eyes, my heart and my mind of who I was then and what I was doing. There was this very old couple living in one of the remote barangays in Malinao, Albay who were our “baseng masa” or local contacts where we spent the nights, meaning our “pondohan at basehan”. It was in the middle part of 1991, and I was the PO of the BRPC, and was operating both in the red and white area. I was a legitimate announcer in one of the local radio stations in Quezon province, and was directed to go back to Bicol for an operation. We were being hunted down by government forces because of the series of attacks that we launched against them which also prompted intensified military operations against the NPA’s in Bicol. For almost two consecutive weeks, we spent one or two nights in the old couple’s house. And every time that we were there, I noticed the old woman was going out of the house in the middle of the night. Fearing for me and my men’s safety I cornered the old woman and asked her if she was giving information about us to the military. The woman looked at me, straight in the eyes and bravely told me “alam mo anak nangungutang ako ng kakainin ninyo”. This statement was so simple, the situation was not so big and monumental but I was confronted by the stark truth that I was not serving the very people that I promised to serve. I was like a “hot frying pan doused with cold water”.
From there on, no amount of directives and even intimidations and threats could compel me to go back to Bicol and be a part of the “sham and travesty of the movement”. I continued with my life in Quezon, but living in constant fear and anxiety. It was then that during this time that I met honest and committed military officers, one worth mentioning was Major Rosendo D Armas who was then a young lieutenant, and the CAU Officer of the 74th IB and had a time slot in the radio station I was employed. Maj Armas never questioned me neither that he forced ideas during our casual talks before and after their radio program. We never discussed anything about the government and the military. His mere friendship opened my eyes to the reality that the best alternative is still “the legitimate democratic government” and that there are still soldiers who are honest and committed public servant and protector of the people.
It was a painful realization, I was hurting inside, I was so broken by the realization that I was used, deceived and exploited by the very same movement that I looked up to and respected. I was a budding and idealist youth whose only desire then was to “change the world” only to realize that I was not changing it but instead exploiting the situation, and the most painful part, that I became part of the movement that is the “oppressor and abuser” of the people. It was a painful realization, I was agonizing inside all I wanted then, was to become a part of the change, but change I did. . . . FROM A NAÏVE AND HOPEFUL YOUTH TO A BRUTAL AND RUTHLESS KILLER. The movement took away my youth, which led me to the resolution that never again will I be a part of its “deceptions and manipulations”.
Today, I am dedicating my time, effort, most of all my experiences in the movement as a springboard of “truth”. I am now working with the government and in fairness; nobody forced or deceived me to do what I am doing now, “unmasking the true enemies of the state”. And in the course of my work with the military, which tremendously helped me with my “personal crusade”, I met a lot of officers and men of the Armed forces of the Philippines who are truly dedicated and committed public servants. Honest men and women who are the total embodiment of “loyalty to country and people”. Staunch believers and agents of peace, and most of all devoted and faithful “servant of the masses”.