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Ka Felixberto "Bert" Olalia: Bayani at Martir ng Uring Manggagawa 
at Sambayanang Pilipino

Talumpati ni Jose Maria Sison

Agosto 13, 2003

 

Mahal na Ka Chabeng

Mga anak at apo ni Ka Bert.

Mga kasama sa Kilusang Mayo Uno

Malugod na nakikiisa ako sa padiriwang ng ika-100 anibersaryo ng kapanganakan ni Ka Bert magmula noong Agosto 5 at sa paggunita ng ika-21 anibersaryo ng puting lagim ng Agosto 13, 1982 nang arestuhin siya at marami pang ibang lider manggagawa ng Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

Tampok at maningning ang anim na dekadang paglilingkod ni Ka Bert sa uring manggagawa at sambayanang Pilipino. Hindi pa ako ipinapanganak siya ay isa nang kilalang lider manggagawa na malapit kay Kasamang Crisanto Evangelista. Sa taong ipinanganak ako, mataas na ang katungkulan niya sa makasaysayang Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis (KAP).

Mahilig makipagkwentuhan sa akin si Ka Bert bago o matapos ang mga miting o kung dinadalaw ko siya sa opisina o sa bahay. Malaman ang aming kwentuhan. Madalas ay tungkol ito sa kasaysayan ng proletaryado sa Pilipinas at kaugnay na personal niyang karanasan. Sa gayon, maraming impormasyon at aral ang napulot ko sa kanya.

Naunang Panahon

Madalas na ipagmalaki ni Ka Bert na 17 taon gulang pa lamang siya nang maging kalihim ng unyon ng mga tsinelero at sapatero at naging batikan sa pakikibaka ng uring mangggagawa. Naging presidente siya ng kanyang union noong 1925 hanggang 1940 at militante niyang ipinaglaban ang walong oras na araw-paggawa, sa halip na 12 oras o higit pa.

Noong 1938, sa direksyon ni Ka Crisanto Evangelista at KAP, isa siya sa mga namuno para ikampanya ang pagbubuo ng Collective Labor Movement (CLM) at palawakin ang kaisahan ng mga unyon sa harap ng peligro ng pasismo at gera. Pagkatapos ay nabuo ang Manila Labor Council at si Ka Bert ang naging sekretaryo heneral nito. Dito makikita ang determinasyon niya sa pagbubuo ng malawak na pagkakaisa ng uring manggagawa sa pamamagitan ng mga patakaran at taktika ng nagkakaisang hanay.

Nasa sentral na pamnuan siya ng Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis noong 1939-40. Mapagpakumbaba at natatawang sinabi si akin ni Ka Bert na, sa kabila ng mga tagumpay niya bilang lider manggagawa at sa pagkilala ni Ka Crisanto Evangelista sa kanyang pagkalisto ay ayaw siyang irekrut nito sa Partido Komunista hanggang hindi niya napapangibabawan ang mga kahinaan niya. Maliit naman ang naturang kahinaan kung ihahambing ito sa kadakilaang inabot ni Ka Bert.

Nang pumutok ang Gera Mundial II, naging kasapi siya ng Partido at hinirang na kalihim ng Manila-Rizal Bureau. Naging commander siya ng Hukbalahap sa Manila-Rizal region. Siya ang may alyas na Ka Diego na siyang umaresto kay Guillermo Capadocia nang palayain ito ng mga mananalakay na pwersang Hapones para kontakin at sabihan ang kilusan na walang mangyayaring masama kina Ka Crisanto Evangelista at Pedro Abad Santos bastat di lalaban ang kilusan sa okupasyon. Dinala si Capadocia sa Gitnang Luzon, ipinailalim sa aksyong pandisiplina at binigyan ng gawain bilang kusinero ng Wa Chi.

Si Ka Bert din ang namahala sa paglipat ni Vicente Lava mula sa rehiyong Manila-Rizal (Tanay, Rizal sa partikular) tungo sa Bundok Arayat. Sa pagkamartir ni Ka Crisanto Evangelista, si Lava ang pumalit bilang pinuno ng Partido. Nang pairalin ni Lava ang patakarang "retreat for defense", isa si Ka Bert sa mga kadreng tumutol at sumalungat dito kaya siya napatawan ng aksyong pandisiplina hanggang mapatunayang mali ang naturang patakaran.

Nang matapos ang gera, isa siya sa mga naging prinsipal na tagapagtatag ng Congress of Labor Organizations (CLO). Matapat at mahusay siyang nanungkulan sa CLO hanggang tuligsain niya ang adbenturistang linya ni Jose Lava at patalsikin mula sa Partido. Isa siya sa mga lider na kumalas sa CLO at bumuo sa Katipunan ng Kaisahang Mangggagawa (KKM) noong Disyembre 30, 1948 at nahalal na presidente nito.

Noong 1950, sinikap niyang magbuo ng Council of Trade Unions in the Philippines subalit siya ay nabigo. Noong 1951, dinurog ng kaaway ang CLO, at inaresto si Ka Bert sa paratang na rebellion kahit na siya ay tutol sa adbenturistang linya ni Jose Lava, tinanggal sa Partido at CLO at pursigido sa gawaing alyansa sa hanay ng mga manggagawa at sa legal na pakikibaka para sa mga karapatan at kapakanan ng mga manggagawa.

Itinatag niya noong 1954 ang Confederation of Labor of the Philippines at siya ang naging tagapangulo nito. Pagkatapos, binuo niya ang National Federation of Labor Unions noong Mayo 1957. Sa legal na pakikibaka, magiting at matalas niyang nilabanan ang pang-aapi at pagsasamantala sa anakpawis. Masigasig siyang tagatulak ng mga repormang pabor sa mga manggagawa at magsasaka.

Noong 1959, sinikap niya muling pagkaisahin sa isang alyansa ang kilusang paggawa. Bunga ng pagpupunyagi niya at ng ilan niyang kasamahan, nabuo ang Katipunan ng Manggagawang Pilipino (KMP) at siya ang naging bise presidente nito. Pero ang KMP ay tumagal lamang hanggang 1963.

Panahon Namin

Ngayon, pwede ko nang ibahagi sa inyo ang tuwirang pagsasama namin ni Ka Bert sa mga taong 1962 hanggang 1968, panahong madalas kaming magkita. Sa mga sumunod na taon hanggang 1982 nagkakaugnay na lamang kami sa pamamagitan ng mga kasama. Ang mga panahong ito ay lubhang mahalagang yugto sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas.

Saklaw ng panahong ito ang muling pagbangon ng anti-imperyalista at anti-pyudal na kilusan sa buong dekada 1960 mula sa malubhang pagkasira nito at matinding reaksyon ng dekada 1950; sunod ang pagpataw ng pasistang diktadura sa ating bayan mula 1972 at ang tuluy-tuloy na paglaban sa halimaw na iyon.

Sa ikalawang hati ng 1962, pagkabalik ko mula sa Indonesia, naging desidido akong lumahok sa kilusang paggawa. Una kong nakaibigan si Ignacio Lacsina, ang presidente ng National Association of Trade Unions (NATU). Agad niya akong ipinakilala kay Ka Bert. Napag-uusapan namin ang mga isyu tungkol sa imperyalismong EU at sa mga lokal na reasyonaryong uri at tungkol sa paglaban sa mga ito ng anakpawis at kabataan.

Noong 1963 itinatag ang Lapiang Manggagawa (LM) ng mga mayor na pederasyon at independyenteng unyon. Hindi isinali ang dilawang mga pederasyon at unyon. Si Cipriano Cid, presidente ng Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU), ang inihalal na presidente ng Lapiang Manggagawa. Si Roberto Oca ang naging bise presidente. Pero hindi nagtagal itiniwalag si Oca mula sa lapian dahil sa arbitraryo at pansariling paggamit niya sa pangalan ng KMP.

Sa reorganisayon ng LM, nanatili si Cid bilang presidente, si Ka Bert ang humalili kay Oca bilang pangunahing bise presidente at si Lacsina ang secretaryo heneral. Ako naman ay hinirang na bise presidente para sa edukasyon na ang tungkulin ay ang pagbubuo ng kagawaran sa pananaliksik at edukasyon, pagpapatakbo ng mga seminar at pagpapalabas ng mga pahayag at press release.

Nakaibigan ko si Ka Bert sa takbo ng mga pulong ng LM, iba pang mga pulong sa opisina ng NATU o NAFLU, mga komperensya ng MASAKA sa mga lalawigan at siyempre sa mga rali ng protesta. Napansin kong natuwa siya sa praymer (question-and-answer pamphlet) hinggil sa reporma sa lupa na inihanda ko para sa lapian, kaugnay ng agricultural "land reform" code ni Macapagal. Sa panahong iyon, abala na si Ka Bert sa pagbubuo at pagpapatakbo ng Malayang Samahang Magsasaka (MASAKA).

Kapapasok ko pa lamang sa Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas noong Disyembre 1962, isinama na ako sa bagong tatag na executive committee nito at inatasan bilang kadre ng Partido noong 1963 na makialam sa MASAKA. Sa gayon, lalo pa akong napalapit kay Ka Bert at iba pang lider magsasaka tulad nina Domingo Castro, Felicisimo Macapagal, Modesto Reyes at Simplicio Paraiso.

Inatasan ako ng executive committee ng Partido na kausapin sa ngalan ng Partido ang mga pinakaresponsableng kadre ng MASAKA kaugnay ng ng pagpapasok sa MASAKA ng isang organisasyon ng mga magsasaka na nakabase sa Bulacan. Inatasan din ako na magbigay ng mga refresher course tungkol sa Marxismo-Leninismo sa mga beteranong kadre sa sentral na pamunuan ng MASAKA.

Bago idaos ang kurso na dinaluhan ni Ka Bert, may nagsabi sa akin na kailangang imemorya ko nang eksakto ang mga depinisyon ng mga termino sa Foundations of Leninism ni Stalin dahil sa kabesado raw ni Ka Bert at tiyak na itatanong niya para subukan kung alam ko talaga ang mga iyon. Ayaw daw niya kapag hindi eksakto ang depinisyon.

Totoo nga ang babala. Sa unang sesyon pa lamang ng kurso, itinanong ni Ka Bert sa akin ang mga depinisyon ng mga termino sa paksa. Pumasa naman ako sa kanyang pagsubok. Magmula noon naramdaman kong magaan ang loob at malaki ang tiwala ni Ka Bert sa akin kahit man lang sa kaalaman sa libro o sa teksto.

Si Ka Bert ay walang arogansiya, laluna sa mga mas bata sa kanya na bagong pasok sa kilusang rebolusyonaryo. Marunong siyang makisama sa kabataan at hilig niyang palakasin ang loob nila. Marami siyang kuwento tungkol sa panahon ng kanyang kabataan. Ang hindi lang niya matiis ay iyong garapal na paglihis sa linya at kawalan ng galang.

Nagkakasundo kami sa pagtingin sa kalagayan at mga problema ng sambayanang Pilipino, sa kasaysayan ng Partido, sa rebolusyonaryong tungkulin ng uring manggagawa, sa pagpuna sa mga Kanan at "Kaliwang" oportunistang linya ng mga Lava, sa estratehiya at taktika at sa tamang ugnayan ng sandatahang pakikibaka at nagkakaisang hanay at sa ugnayan ng legal at illegal na pakikibaka.

Sa loob ng Lapiang Manggagawa, laging pinanghahawakan ni Ka Bert ang patriyotiko at progresibong posisyon ng rebolusyonaryong proletaryo. Sa kanyang pamumuno, ang NAFLU ay laging nagpapadala ng mga kasapi sa mga seminar at mga kilos protesta na idinaraos sa ngalan ng Lapiang Manggagawa. Sumang-ayon siya agad sa pagbubuo ng kagawaran ng kabataan ng lapian at sa pagbubuo ng Kabataang Makabayan bilang komprehensibong organisasyon sa hanay ng kabataan noong 1964.

Sa halos lahat ng pagkakataon ng pagsasama namin ni Ka Bert, nagkakasundo kami sa mga batayang kapasiyahan. Dahil dito, nagkakasabay kami sa batayang linya sa iba’t ibang organisasyon: sa Lapiang Manggagawa magmula 1963, sa Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism magmula 1966 at sa Socialist Party of the Philippines magmula 1967.

Isang okasyon na lubhang pinahahalagahan ko ang selebrasyon ng ika-64 anibersaryo ng Union de Impresores de Filipinas (UIF) noong 1966. Ito’y unyon na matagal na naging balwarte ni Ka Crisanto Evangelista at may maningning na kasaysayan. Makahulugan ang okasyon dahil dito ko inilahad ang kasaysayan ng kilusang paggawa sa Pilipinas. Sa okasyon ding ito nagkasama-sama kami nina Juan J. Cruz na presidente ng UIF, Amado V. Hernandez (presidente ng CLO) at Ka Bert, bise presidente ng LM. Naroon din sina Ka Chabeng at Ka Julie sa mesang pandangal.

Tuwang-tuwa si Ka Bert nang nalaman niyang may kilusang pagwawasto ang Partido laban sa mga maling linya ng mga Lava magmula pa noong 1942 at laban din sa pangkating gangster nina Taruc at Sumulong. Lalo pa siyang natuwa nang malaman niyang itatayo muli ang Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas sa patnubay ng Marxismo-Leninismo-Kaisipang Mao Tsetung.

Patuloy na Ugnayan

Malugod na tinanggap ni Ka Bert ang aking pag-underground noong Disyembre 1968. Nagpatuloy ang ugnayan namin sa pamamagitan ni Ka Charlie del Rosario hanggang siya’y ma-desaparesido noong 1971 at pagkatapos sa pamamagitan ng ibang kasama.

Kahit pagkatapos na mahati ang MASAKA noong 1969, ang bahagi nitong nanatili sa panig ni Ka Bert ay humanay sa kilusang magsasaka na pinamunuan ng muling tatag na Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas. Sa panahon ding naitayo ang KASAMA at PAKMAP bilang mga progresibong pederasyon ng mga manggagawa, nanatiling maayos ang relasyon nila sa NAFLU kahit na napalaban sila sa NATU sa iba’t ibang isyu.

Bago ako mahuli noong Nobyembre 10, 1977, may nakatakdang pagtatagpo namin ni Ka Bert sa Pangasinan sa Nobyembre 12. Balak namin na pag-usapan ang pagtatayo ng malapad na alyansa ng mga manggagawa at ang pagdadala sa bago at mas mataas na antas ng nangyaring mahigit na 300 aklasan ng mga manggagawa mula Oktubre 1974 hanggang Enero 1975.

Balak kong konsultahin si Ka Bert dahil siya ang may pinakalawak at pinakamayamang karanasan sa alyansa sa hanay ng mga manggagawa. Siya ang pinakamaalam at subok sa pamumuno sa harap ng malubhang peligro sa buhay at kalayaan. Hindi siya natakot sa pagkaaresto at pagkakulong sa kanya noon 1972. Inisip ko na siya ang angkop na mamuno sa isang alyansa ng mga manggagawa.

Magmula 1975, may pagtantiya ako na sa mga huling taon ng dekada 1970 ay babalikwas ang mga manggagawa at hihigitan nila ang antas na inabot ng kilusang kabataan sa unang sigwa ng 1970. Hindi ito nangyari dahil sa pinagkaguluhan sa loob ng Partido sa rehiyon ng Manila-Rizal ang usapin ng pagboykot sa reaksyonaryong halalan ng 1978.

Gayunman, dahil sa hinog na kalagayan at dahil sa talino, giting at sigasig ng mga kasama sa kilusang manggagawa, naitayo ang Kilusang Mayo Uno noong 1980 sa pamumuno ni Ka Bert Olalia bilang tagapangulo. At sa harap ng palalang krisis, pagpapahirap at panunupil ng pasistang diktadura, itinayo ang National Coalition for the Protection of Workers’ Rights.

Noon pa mang 1980, desperado na ang pasistang rehimeng Marcos, dahil sa bumagsak ang pambansang kita mula sa mga inilululuwas na produktong primarya at lumiit ang nakukuhang utang mula sa labas ng bansa. Sa panahon ng 1980-82, lalong naging desperado at mapaniil ang rehimen, kahit pakunwaring inalis ang martial law. Lalong lumaban ang mga anakpawis. Lumaganap ang kilusang welga ng mga manggagawa. Umigting ang digmang bayan sa kanayunan.

Hindi maatim ng pasistang rehimen ang lumalakas na kilusan ng mga manggagawa at ang matinding pagbatikos ni Ka Bert sa tinawag niyang hokuspokus na pag-alis ng martial law. Kaya noong Agosto 13, 1983 inaresto si Ka Bert at mga 60 lider manggagawa ng Kilusang Mayo Uno. Tangka ng kaaway, sa pamamagitan ng puting lagim ng Agosto 13, na lumpuhin kundi man wasakin ang KMU at ang kilusang paggawa.

Dahil sa pagpapahirap ng kaaway sa kanya sa kulungan, kabilang ang pagpapahiga sa malamig na semento, binalikan si Ka Bert ng rheumatic heart condition, isang sakit na napangibabawan niya ng ilang dekada sa pamamagitan ng body building exercises. Tuluy-tuloy nang sumama ang kanyang kalusugan hanggang siya ay mamatay noong December 4, 1983. Si Ka Bert ay naging martir dahil sa kanyang walang pagod, walang imbot at walang takot na pagtataguyod sa uring manggagawa at sa sambayanang Pilipino.

Minsan sinabi niya sa akin na ayaw niyang mamatay na nakaratay sa banig at gusto niyang mamatay sa pamamagitan ng punglo sa larangan ng labanan. Bagamat hindi natupad sa detalye ang nais niyang paraan ng pagkamatay, sa esensya ay natupad ang ninais niyang mag-alay ng buhay sa uri at sa bayan sa takbo ng pakikibaka.

May isang pangarap na paulit-ulit na sinasabi ni Ka Bert sa akin noong dekada 1960, isang panahon na kakaunti pa ang dumadalo sa mga aksyon-protesta namin at hanggang 20,000 lamang ang pinakamalaking bilang ng sari-saring demostrador na inabot namin, sa kombinasyon ng mga pederasyon at unyon ng Lapiang Manggagawa, mga magsasaka ng MASAKA at Kabataang Makabayan noong 1965. Sabi niyang malaking katuparan ng kanyang misyon sa buhay kung mapupuno ng nagpoprotestang manggagawa ang Araneta Coliseum at Plaza Miranda.

Bago siya yumao, natupad ang kanyang pangarap. Bago matapos ang Oktubre ng 1983, lumitaw na ang malaking bilang ng mga manggagawa sa ilalim ng bandila ng KMU na lumalahok sa mga aksyong pangmasa sa balangkas ng malawak na nagkakaisang hanay laban sa pasistang diktadura ni Marcos.

Sa kalaunan, ang KMU ang naging pinakamalaking pwersa na lumalahok sa mga aksyong masa sa Manila at iba pang lunsod laban sa pasistang rehimen. Ang bilang ng mga manggagawang nagpoprotesta sa mga lansangan ay maraming ulit na lampas sa bilang na kayang lamnin ng Plaza Miranda o Araneta Coliseum. Ang KMU rin ang pinakamalaking pwersa na pumalibot sa Malacanang Palace nang patalsikin si Marcos mula sa kapangyarihan noong Pebrero 25, 1986.

Noon pa mang nakakasama ko si Ka Bert sa dekada 1960 gusto na niyang isulat o ilahad at ipasulat sa iba ang naging karanasan niya sa kilusang paggawa. Subalit hindi ito natupad dahil lagi siyang hinihila ng pagkilos sa araw-araw.

Dapat ngayon ay magkaroon ng maliwanag na proyekto para sa seryosong pag-aaral at pagsusulat ng mayamang karanasan sa pakikibaka ni Ka Bert. Dapat maging masaklaw at malalim ito. Dapat isagawa ito habang buhay pa ang ilang nakakakilala sa kanya at makakapagtukoy kung anong mga pangyayari at mga dokumento ang dapat tingnan ng tagasaliksik at manunulat.

Nais nating lahat na mapanatili ang maningning na halimbawa at inspirasyon mula kay Ka Bert. Buhay na bantayog niya ang Kilusang Mayo Uno. Dapat palawakin at patatagin ito nang walang humpay.

Maraming salamat.#

 

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Ka Felixberto "Bert" Olalia: Hero and Martyr of the Working Class and the Filipino People

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
General Consultant, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
Chief Political Consultant, NDFP Negotiating Panel

Our dear Ka Chabeng, children and grandchildren of Ka Bert, comrades in the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), I gladly join you in celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of Ka Bert last August 5 and in commemorating the 21st anniversary of the rule of white terror on August 13, 1982, when Ka Bert and many other worker-leaders of the KMU were arrested.

Ka Bert contributed six-decade of outstanding and brilliant service to the working class and the Filipino people. He was was already a recognized worker-leader very close to Ka Crisanto Evangelista, even before I was born. In the year of my birth he was holding a high position in the historic Katipunan ng Anakpawis (KAP or Association of Toiling Masses).

Ka Bert was fond of exchanging stories with me before or after our meetings or when I visited him at his office or his home. We had meaningful conversations. Oftentimes, it was about the history of the Filipino proletariat and his personal experiences. I learned many lessons and gleaned much information from him this way.

Early Years

Ka Bert often told me with pride that he became the secretary of a shoesmiths’ union at the age of 17 and gained experience in the working class struggle. He became the president of his union in 1925-40 and militantly fought for the eight-hour workday, instead of the existing 12-hour (or more) workday then.

In 1938, under the direction of Crisanto Evangelista and KAP, Ka Bert was one among those who led the campaign to build the Collective Labor Movement (CLM) and broaden the unity of trade unions against the danger of fascism and war. The Manila Labor Council was later established with Ka Bert as secretary-general. This was a demonstration of his determination to build a broad unity of the working class through united front policy and tactics.

He was in the central leadership of the KAP in 1939-40. Humbly and with amusement, Ka Bert told me that despite his successes as a worker-leader and Ka Crisanto Evangelista’s recognition of his keenness, the latter refused to recruit him into the Communist Party until he he had overcome his weaknesses. But those weaknesses were puny compared to the greatness he attained.

When World War II broke out, Ka Bert became a member of the Communist Party and was appointed secretary of the Manila-Rizal Bureau. He became a Hukbalahap commander in the Manila-Rizal region. He was the Ka Diego, who arrested Guillermo Capadocia whom the the Japanese invaders released to contact and deliver the message to the movement that nothing untoward would happen to Crisanto Evangelista and Pedro Abad Santos so long as the movement would not resist occupation. Capadocia was brought to Central Luzon and meted out disciplinary action and assigned the task of being the cook of Wa Chi.

It was also Ka Bert who directed Vicente Lava’s transfer from the Manila-Rizal region (particularly Tanay, Rizal) to Mt. Arayat. With the martyrdom of Crisanto Evangelista, Lava replaced him as the leader of the Party. When Lava implemented the policy of "retreat for defense", Ka Bert was among the cadres who opposed and defied this, so that he was meted a disciplinary action until the policy was proven erroneous.

When the war ended, Ka Bert became one of the key founders of the Congress of Labor Organizations (CLO). He faithfully and efficiently served the CLO until he assailed the adventurist line of Jose Lava and was expelled from the Party. He was one of the leaders who broke away from the CLO and established the Katipunan ng Kaisahang Manggagawa (KKM or Confederation of Workers’ Unity) on December 30, 1948 and was elected its president.

In 1950, he tried but failed to establish the Council of Trade Unions in the Philippines. In 1951, the government crushed the CLO and arrested Ka Bert on charges of rebellion, despite his opposition to the adventurist line of Jose Lava, expulsion from the Party and CLO and pursuance of alliance work among the ranks of the workers and in the legal struggle for workers’ rights and welfare.

In 1954, he founded the Confederation of Labor of the Philippines (CLP) of which he became the chairman. He later established the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU) in May 1957. In the legal struggle, he boldly and sharply fought against the oppression and exploitation of the toiling masses. He vigorously pushed for reforms in favor of the workers and peasants.

In 1959, he tried anew to unify the workers’ movement in a single alliance. His efforts as well as those of other comrades paved the way for the establishment of the Katipunan ng Manggagawang Pilipino (KMP or Confederation of Filipino Workers) and he became its vice-president. However, the KMP lasted only until 1963.

Our Time

Now, let me share with you my direct association with Ka Bert from 1962–68, a time when we frequently saw each other. In the years that followed, until 1977, we were in contact through other comrades. This period was a vital chapter in the country’s history.

This period covers the resurgence of the anti-imperialist and antifeudal movement in the entire 1960s from severe destruction and intense reaction in the 1950s, followed by the imposition of fascist dictatorship in our country in 1972 and the unrelenting struggle against that monster.

In the 2nd half of 1962, upon my return from Indonesia, I was decided on joining the labor movement. I became friends first with Ignacio Lacsina, president of the National Association of Trade Unions (NATU). Soon, he introduced me to Ka Bert. We delved on such issues as US imperialism and the local reactionary class and the struggle of the toiling masses and the youth against these .

In 1963, major federations and independent unions founded the Lapiang Manggagawa (LM or Workers’ Association). Yellow unions and federations were excluded. Cipriano Cid, president of the Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU) was elected president of Lapiang Manggagawa. Roberto Oca was vice-president. Oca was later expelled from the asociation because of his arbitrary use of name of the KMP for pushing his personal interest.

In the reorganization of LM, Cid remained as president, Ka Bert replaced Oca as first vice-president and Lacsina was the secretary-general. I was appointed vice-president for education with the task of organizing the research and education department, conducting seminars and coming out with news and press releases.

Ka Bert and I became friends in the course of LM meetings, other meetings in the office of NATU or NAFLU, conferences of the Malayang Samahang Magsasaka (MASAKA or Free Association of Peasants) in the provinces and of course, in protest rallies. I noticed that he was pleased with the primer (question-and-answer pamphlet) I prepared for LM on Macapagal’s agricultural "land reform" code. During that period, Ka Bert was already busy establishing and running MASAKA.

I had just joined the Communist Party of the Philippines in December 1962 when I was integrated into its newly-established executive committee and was tasked as a Party cadre to get involved in MASAKA in 1963. Thus, I became even closer to Ka Bert and other peasant leaders like Domingo Castro, Felicisimo Macapagal, Modesto Reyes and Simplicio Paraiso.

The Party’s executive committee tasked me to talk with the most responsible cadres of MASAKA regarding the entry into MASAKA of a peasant organization based in Bulacan. I was also assigned to give a refresher course on Marxism-Leninism to the veteran cadres in the central leadership of MASAKA.

Before giving the course, which Ka Bert attended, someone told me that I must memorize the exact definition of terms in Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism because Ka Bert knew these by heart and would surely test me my knowledge of these. Supposedly Ka Bert disliked definitions that were not precise.

Indeed it was fair warning. At the very first session, Ka Bert asked me for the definition of terms in the subject matter. And I did pass Ka Bert’s test. From then on, I sensed that he liked me and had a lot of confidence in me, at least book or textual knowledge.

Ka Bert was without arrogance, especially to those who were younger than him and newly recruited into the revolutionary movement. He knew how to deal with the youth and he was wont to boost their morale. He was full of stories of his youth. The only thing he could not tolerate was brazen line-deviation and lack of respect.

We were in agreement with regard to the situation and problems of the Filipino people, the history of the Party, the revolutionary role of the working class, criticisizing the Right and Left opportunist lines of the Lavas, strategy and tactics and the correct relationship of the armed struggle and the united front and the relationship of the legal and illegal struggle.

Within Lapiang Manggagawa, Ka Bert firmly held on to the patriotic and progressive position of the revolutionary proletariat. Under his leadership, NAFLU always sent delegations to seminars and protest actions held under the banner of LM. He readily agreed to the establishment of the youth department of LM and the establishment of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM; Patriotic Youth) as a comprehensive youth organization in 1964.

Almost all throughout our association, we agreed on basic decisions. Thus, we upheld the same basic line in various organizations: in the LM since 1963, in the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism or MAN since 1966 and in the Socialist Party of the Philippines since 1967.

One occasion I hold dear was the celebration of the 64th anniversary of the Union de Impresores de Filipinas (UIF) in 1966. This was the union that served as a base for Ka Crisanto Evangelista and it had an illustrious history. The occasion was significant because it was here where I presented the history of the Philippine labor movement. At this occasion we shared table of honor with UIF President Juan J. Cruz, CLO President Amado V. Hernandez and LM Vice-president Ka Bert. Ka Chabeng (Ka Bert’s wife) and Ka Julie (my wife).

Ka Bert was delighted when he learned that the Party was conducting a rectification movement against the wrong line of the Lavas since 1942 and also against the gangster clique of Taruc and Sumulong. He was even more delighted when he learned that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) would be re-established under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.

Continuing Links

Ka Bert wholeheartedly accepted my decision to go underground in December 1968. We maintained our links through Ka Charlie del Rosario until the latter’s involuntary disappearance in 1971, and afterwards through other comrades.

Even after the split in MASAKA in 1969, the group that remained with Ka Bert’s camp aligned itself with the peasant movement under the re-established CPP leadership. When KASAMA and PAKMAP were founded as progressive workers’ federations, they maintained good relations with NAFLU despite their struggle with NATU on various issues.

Before I was captured on November 10, 1977, I was supposed to meet Ka Bert in Pangasinan on November 12. We intended to talk about the establishment of a broad workers’ alliance and how to raise to a new and higher level the more than 300 workers’ strikes that occurred from October 1974 to January 1975.

I planned to consult Ka Bert because he possessed the broadest and richest experience in alliance work in the labor sector. He was the most knowledgeable and most tested leader in the face of grave risks to life and liberty. He did not cower upon arrest and detention in 1972. I thought that he was the right person to lead a workers’ alliance.

From 1975, I reckoned that in the last years of the 1970s, the workers would rise and surpass the level reached by the youth movement in the First Quarter Storm of 1970. But this did not happen as the Party in the Manila-Rizal region was wracked by controversy over the issue of boycotting the reactionary elections in 1978.

However, with conditions ripe and through the ability, courage and fervor of the comrades in the workers’ movement Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) was established in 1980 under the leadership of Ka Bert as chairman. And in the face of worsening crisis, oppression and repression by the fascist dictatorship, the National Coalition for the Protection of Workers’ Rights (NCPWR) was established.

As early as 1980, the Marcos fascist regime had grown desperate due to the decline in the national income from the export of primary products and in foreign borrowing.. In the period of 1980-82, the regime became even more desperate and repressive despite the fake lifting of martial law (ML). The toiling masses fought even more. The workers’ strike movementspread more widely. The people’s war in the countryside intensified.

The fascist regime could not tolerate the growing workers movement and Ka Bert’s severe criticism of what he called the hocus-pocus lifting of martial law. On August 13, 1983, Ka Bert and about 60 leaders of the Kilusang Mayo Uno were arrested. Through the white terror of August 13, the enemy attempted to paralyze if not destroy the KMU and the labor movement.

Because of the hardships he suffered under detention at the hands of the enemy, including being made to sleep on cold cement floor, Ka Bert’s rheumatic heart condition recurred after several decades being overcome through body building exercises. His health continued to deteriorate until he died on December 4, 1983. Ka Bert became a martyr because he indefatigably, selflessly and fearlessly championed the cause of the working class and the Filipino people.

Once, Ka Bert told me of his wish to die in the battlefield rather in a sickbed. While this was not realized to the detail, in essence his wish to die serving his class and his people in the course of the struggle was fulfilled.

Ka Bert had a dream that he repeatedly recounted to me in the 1960s, a time when only small numbers attended our protest actions and only 20,000 was the biggest number various demonstrations achieved by a combination of federations and unions under LM, peasants under MASAKA and KM in 1965. Ka Bert said it would be a great fulfillment of his life’s mission when Araneta Coliseum and Plaza Miranda would be filled with protesting workers.

His dream came true before he died. Before the end of October in 1983, big numbers of workers under the banner of KMU joined mass actions under the framework of a broad united front against the Marcos fascist dictatorship.

Eventually, KMU became the biggest force in the mass actions in Metro Manila and other cities against the fascist regime. The number of protesting workers in the streets surpassed severalfold the capacity of Plaza Miranda or Araneta Coliseum. KMU was also the biggest force that besieged Malacanang Palace when Marcos was booted out of power on February 25, 1986.

Even in the 1960s, Ka Bert wanted to write, or narrate for someone to write, his experience in the labor movement. But this did not see the light, as Ka Bert had always been very busy with daily work.

Today, there should be a definite project to seriously study and document Ka Bert’s rich experience in struggle. It should be comprehensive and in-depth. It should be done while the people who knew him are still alive and can identify the events and documents that need be sourced by the researcher and writer in this project.

We all want to preserve the brilliant example and inspiration from Ka Bert. KMU is his living monument. KMU should be expanded and strengthened relentlessly.

Thank you very much!




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