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Jose Ma. Sison on YouTube, too
By Volt Contreras
Inquirer
Posted date: February 01, 2007

MANILA -- It looks like even founder Jose Ma. ''Joma'' Sison has to catch up with the digital revolution if he wants to pursue his ideological one.

Among hardcore Reds he may be idolized, but nowadays he also needs to be pixelized.

This is basically why two songs by Sison -- founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, icon to Asia's longest-running Maoist insurgency, and a ''terrorist'' in the eyes of post-9/11 US and European governments -- are currently playing on YouTube.

Sison, who turns 68 on February 8 and is in his 19th year of exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands, is the unseen troubadour behind two music videos which, according to the popular video-sharing website, were posted two to three months ago.

With guitar and violin accompaniment, he sings the Spanish version of "Bella Ciao," an originally Italian partisan song from World War II, as well as a Tagalog classic inspired by the poem "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa (Love for the Native Land" by Andres Bonifacio, father of the Philippine Revolution against Spain.

In an e-mail to the Inquirer Thursday, Sison said two supporters of his actually posted the songs on YouTube. ''My wife and I do not know [them] personally. But they are very friendly to me because they defend me against nasty remarks about my revolutionary stand,'' he said.

He was apparently referring to the web denizens ''jakej5'' and ''Amoneth,'' the acknowledged sources of the two videos.

In Manila, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines) media officer Carl Ala said ''Bella'' and ''Pag-ibig'' were actually two tracks from a CD Sison started recording in 2004 and which was commercially released in ''alternative'' record shops and bookstores last year.

The CD, titled "Poetry In Song," was conceptualized mainly to help draw support for Sison's legal challenge in Europe against his being tagged a terrorist by Western powers.

Ala agreed that having Sison on a youth-oriented website could help bring the Leftist intellectual closer to today's mouse-clicking generation, most of whom may not even have been born yet when the revolutionary burst into Philippine history.

As Sison put it in response to a series of questions from the Philippine Daily Inquirer: ''Yes, I am conscious of seeking to reach out to the young, especially because they were not yet born when I began my struggle. I always try to reach out to the young because they continue the struggle.''

''I find them receptive to revolutionary ideas and revolutionary music. The crisis of the world capitalist system and the domestic ruling system of big compradors and landlords drive an increasing number of them to seek revolutionary change.''

A literature and political science professor before being known as an activist who led student demonstrations against the Vietnam War and the Marcos dictatorship in the late '60s and early '70s, the exiled Sison has gone more public with his yrical side in recent years.

In March 2004, the Inquirer, mother company of INQUIRER.net, reported that he had taken to singing videoke at his Utrecht apartment during more relaxed times with guests. This was according to his supporters in Manila, who then held a tribute marking Sison's 40th year in the revolutionary cause.

''Not known to many people before, I sang at home to relax. I sang in church when I was a small boy. Some friends have encouraged me since two years ago to do recordings. Of course, my singing is something extra to whatever I have already accomplished,'' he said in Thursday's email.

The two videos don't actually show Sison singing -- they were more of a montage tracing the Marxist-Maoist struggle.

''Bella Ciao,'' being a universally adopted hymn of patriotism, draws imagery from paintings of Latin American peasant-warriors and Soviet propaganda materials resurrected from the Cold War era, climaxing with the portraits of the Marx, Stalin, Lenin, and Mao.

The more locally flavored ''Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa'' contains footage of violent rally dispersals in Manila, notably the infamous ''Mendiola Massacre,'' as well as scenes of poverty in the city and farms, and communist New People's Army guerrillas shaking hands with the poor folk.

When accessed by the Inquirer Thursday night, ''Bella'' had been viewed just over 4,000 times, ''Pag-ibig,'' close to 400 times.

All together, the ''comments'' panel for each song has spawned close to 40 entries, both pro- and anti-Sison -- the latter apparently accounting for the ' 'nasty remarks'' the exiled revolutionary referred to.

But as the Netherlands-based recording artist keenly noted: ''The feedback [I've been getting] is about my political ideas. It is not at all about the songs or about my singing. I am therefore encouraged to sing.''

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