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Pola: A Woman Toiler Turned Warrior

in Mainstream
(Adapted from “Manggagawa, Mandirigma” by Ka Lina published in Ulos 2016)
by Pat Gambao

With the persistent pursuit for gender equality, women have transcended the patriarchal norm that a woman’s place is in the sanctity of home. With the advance of capitalism, women have entered new arena where their capability, vitality and intellect are recognized or rather harnessed. Yet as women toilers in factories and business establishments, they continue to experience the same degree, if not greater, of discrimination and exploitation.

Initiation to the world of the working class

Raised in a poor family who eked out a living from peddling food stuff for snacks in their barrio, Pola managed to finish high school but failed to pursue her dream of a college degree. Instead, she enrolled in a two-year course in a vocational school through the government’s “study-now-pay-later program”. In that so-called dual training, their only claim to being a student was the ID issued to them. They didn’t have a permanent classroom to pursue formal studies. Perhaps there really was no need as all they were taught to familiarize with different materials-wires, connectors and how to tape them together to assemble the harness of a vehicle. All they were taught were companies’ business concerns. In a semi-feudal society that served as mere supplier of semi-finished products to transnational corporations, perhaps those were all they need to know.

After three months, Pola and her classmates were sent to a factory for on-the-job training as part of the course. They were supposed to be student trainees yet they were made to work like regular workers as relievers or substitutes to absentees. They received P240 per day’s work, part of which went to payment of their tuition fees. The remaining one and a half years of the course were spent in the factory with such meager pay and without any benefit, not even the mandatory social security for workers.

Despite the rigor of the job, Pola worked hard, patiently waiting for the training to end in the hope that she would be taken in as apprentice. She got the job, true, but it did not take long before she was laid off.

Travails of a woman toiler

Thus began Pola’s rollercoaster journey into the world of commodity labor, exacerbated by the onslaught of imperialism’s neoliberal globalization as it dashed fumbling for a panacea to its crisis. The woman’s values of good-naturedness, patience and subservience inculcated by a feudal class society were fully taken advantage of.

Pola later applied as a saleslady in a well-known mall in their province. But she resigned after a month. She could not stand the difficult working condition and the ridiculous and repressive policy of the establishment. For a measly wage, she had to remain standing the whole day to reach her quota for the brand of dress apparels she was selling. There was a time when she was reprimanded for bringing her handkerchief inside the store without first registering it. Personal belongings had to be registered before bringing them in lest you would be accused of stealing.

From the job in the mall, Pola worked in an electronics company where she assembled “male” and “female” terminals used in television sets. But after more or less four months, her contract ended. This was the endo (end of contract) they call in the labor lingo.

Pola ended up in a food factory, where she was hired through an agency. With a spoon, she raced after the cups of noodles to determine if the noodles and condiments were of the right quantity or if needed to be reduced, add on, or changed. Also, if the machine that put on the cup lids was out of order, she had to do it manually. They worked by shifts in the factory. There were three shifts in all. But if a worker for the next shift was absent, she was obliged to take over and work up to 16 hours. Then again, it was endo after five months.

Pola also tried working as caddie in a golf course. She was an umbrella girl who trod on the heels of the golfer to shed him from the sunlight. But unable to stand the harassment from her bosses, she left the job after two months.

Through an employment agency in Makati, Pola was back as a factory worker. This time it was in a company manufacturing plastic lids for bottles of lotions, medicines, etc. Initially, her job was trimming the extra plastic around the lids to even them out; later, she was transferred to the packaging section. Sometimes, she relieved the operator of the machine that molds the lids.

As trimmer her quota was 6,000 plastic lids a day. Due to the thinness of the lids and the absence of a protective devise, her fingers often got wounded. As instant remedy, she would put on some adhesive tapes. But in the long run, her fingers have become numbed that she would not mind at all anymore. If she had not reached her quota, she was obliged to go on “overtime-thank you”, meaning overtime without pay. Again, after five months, endo. But she could continue working there as an “extra”- doing the same work, but with lower pay and without a contract.

Since life is difficult for Pola, any job is a welcomed treat just to earn a living.

The dawning of revolutionary consciousness

One day, coming home from an arduous day’s work in the factory, Pola met some students who stayed in their community. She was invited to sit-in to their discussions on the Philippine society and revolution. That awakened her to the stark realities-the immense oppression and exploitation of workers like her, as well as of peasants, professionals, youth, women and other sectors in society. She learned that their affliction was not destined. It was designed-a sinister scheme of the ruling class to hold on to power and wealth. But the greatest lesson she learned from their discussions was the solution to the people’s problems.

Pola could not contain her rage, as well as anxiety, with that realization. All along she had been entertaining the thought of leaving her job in the factory which did nothing but extract the workers life blood and sinew to accumulate huge profits for the capitalists. After thinking it over for days, weeks, and on to several months, Pola finally decided to work full time in the movement. This was the most decisive action she took in her whole life. She has the chance now to look at life from a different perspective and open up to new opportunities, best opportunities.

Sometimes, she reminisced about her past life in the factory, in the mall, in the golf course and how she spent it in vain. She could do nothing about it now but it would serve as a potent inspiration for her to get involved and take action to change this oppressive, unjust structure.

Smashing the chains

After more than a year of working in an urban center, Pola is now Ka Lina, a red warrior of the New People’s Army. She no longer held spoons, wires, connectors, dresses, umbrellas or plastic lids. She now carries an armalite. The broad countryside is her school and each day they delve into the strategies of the people’s war that will topple the semi-colonial, semi-feudal structures that oppress the people.

She is optimistic about the future, not only hers and her family’s, but also of the coming generations. Although she may not live to see victory, she is confident that time will come when the wealth that the people produce will serve not only a few but all. She vows to commit everything about her for the revolution, which will liberate the people from the fetters of exploitation and oppression.###

Solving the Drug Problem (Part 3 of 3)

in Mainstream

The New People’s Army  fight vs Drugs

by Pat Gambao

Aware of the disastrous consequences on people, the society and the revolution, the revolutionary movement from its inception has been fighting the drug menace—long before Duterte started his own “drug war”.

The organs of political power in the guerrilla zones have impressed on the masses the dangers of addictive drugs. In conjunction with this, they helped the masses cope with the prevailing conditions that forced them to turn to drugs either for the money to beat the debilitating poverty or to escape from its reality. People were organized and they joined hands to increase production and income. They were initiated to meaningful activities. They were trained for tasks on health care and education to fill in the vacuum left in the far-flung barrios by the reactionary government. The youth were drawn to sports and cultural activities that challenge their vibrant energy and creativity.

Through political education the masses have been enlightened and have fully understood the root cause of their problems and the solution that is in their very hands. Their awakening has instilled in them a sense of purpose for being. With these the scourge of addictive drugs was eventually licked as they imbibed the revolutionary discipline.

In 2015 for example, the revolutionary youth movement, Kabataang Makabayan (KM, Patriotic Youth) in Central Luzon launched various activities in their respective barrios to draw the youth, as well as adults, away from marijuana and shabu. The KM conducted forums on the youth situation and how the decadent system has engendered the problems of drugs and criminality. It led meetings with the barrio youth to plan on productive activities with them. They formed a basketball league and held tournaments lasting for one and a half months. Some 50 youth participated in the tournaments initially. The number swelled later.

Simultaneous with these activities, the New People’s Army (NPA) in coordination with the Party branches issued series of warnings to pushers and users in the barrios of Central Luzon. The NPA, in coordination with the KM, widely disseminated the policy of the revolutionary movement and the people’s democratic government on the trafficking and use of drugs, be it in small or huge volume.

Meantime, drug traffickers, their activities, networks and laboratories in the guerrilla fronts of Panay were banned. The Coronacion Chiva “Waling-waling” Command of the NPA uprooted the marijuana plantations in Barangay Buloc, Tubungan town a few years back. Two years ago, a known drug dealer was arrested, disarmed and driven out of the NPA front after bringing in drugs in a town in Capiz. In April 2016, the Napoleon Tumagtang Command, also based in Panay Island, launched a campaign against illegal drugs in barangays surrounding the town of Tubungan. The drug production facilities of drug lord Edwin Odicta in the NPA area and the entry of the Richard Provendido’s drug syndicate in San Joaquin, Iloilo has been subject of NPA’s surveillance. Odicta was shot by an unidentified man on his way back home from Manila while Provendido was killed in a police operation.

In 2016, the revolutionary movement in Northern Samar investigated illegal drug trafficking that implicated high officials of the province.

In the Southern Mindanao Region, the NPA has launched tactical offensives to dismantle the network of operation of drug syndicates. A police chief here once said that criminality and drug addiction is practically absent in areas where the NPA is strong. In the Central Mindanao Region, the NPA burned marijuana plantations run by the killer paramilitary group Alamara.

Aware of the NPA’s fight against drugs, Duterte has once called on them to run after drug lords. However, seeing that the Duterte regime’s war on drugs is clearly anti-democratic and anti-people, having become a frenzied campaign of extrajudicial killings and vigilante murders perpetrated by the police and police-linked criminal syndicates, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) withdrew its support to the regime’s drug campaign.

The revolutionary movement recognizes that the drug plague is rooted in the basic problems confronting the Filipino people—the historic imperialist dominance perpetuating the feudal and bureaucrat capitalist conditions in the country. The NPA will continue its anti-drug campaign but will adhere to its policy of differentiating poor drug users and victims of drug abuse from the rabid perpetrators of the drug trade. The NPA will continue to intensify its campaign to arrest and disarm drug trade operators and protectors in its territory.

The revolutionary movement has its own criminal justice system and offenders are given due process as well as due punishment. Meanwhile poor drug victims will be rescued and rehabilitated through political education and meaningful activities.

Duterte’s Drug War: Via Body Count or the People’s Movement
China’s Experience Under Mao

Rebirth of Drug Victims

in Mainstream
Pat Gambao


A Run for Noble Meaning

After being a user-runner of narcotic drugs in a town in Central Luzon, Ato (not his real name), 21 years old, who had been into the addictive habit since he was 14, has metamorphosed to become a runner for the NPA and a youth organizer.

The transformation all started that night he was “hostaged” by a group of armed men whom he first thought were policemen. But they did not have a mobile car. Instead of taking him for a ride, they led him to the green fields where mango trees thrived. Other armed men came and they eventually introduced themselves as NPA. A man and a woman started talking to him as he trembled in fear.  They said they knew about his felonious activities. They pointed out that that was a grave crime to the people and the revolutionary movement. He was further interrogated about his activities, made to explain and finally warned sternly. He thought it was his end but to his surprise they escorted him back home where he found his wife, parents and siblings waiting. He realized he had been set up. For the first time, he felt terribly shamed as the NPA enjoined him before his family.

Since then Ato persevered to shake off the bad habit. In time, upon learning he had reformed, the NPA visited him. This time instead of admonition, the NPA discussed with him the situation in their barrio and of its people, the how and why of it. Later, having confirmed that has really changed, the NPA began inviting him to meetings, study sessions and in the formation of youth organizations in the barrio.  He organized even those he used to sell drugs to. This time, Ato coaxed the youth to worthwhile activities that would keep them away from drugs. He even helped some of them find jobs in construction projects where was working.

That began Ato’s involvement with the NPA.  That also fired his interest in the cause of his barriomates and his eagerness to serve them, especially the youth.

He volunteered to help the NPA catch the big-time dealer who used to supply him with addictive drugs when they received reports that he was in the vicinity. The NPA had actually received many complaints about this guy. The NPA educated Ato on revolutionary justice and the workings of the people’s court. It enlightened him on the process undergone by the accused, who had committed a crime against the movement and the people–from the time complaints were received by the people’s government or the revolutionary mass organizations to the time the case was heard and until conviction.

When the big-time drug dealer was spotted, the NPA moved to arrest him to be tried in the people’s court but he fought back. The arresting army was forced to retaliate and shoot him. Justice was given at last to the lives he had destroyed for his personal gain.


Fulfilled Dreams in the Womb of the Revolutionary Movement

The scarce prospects of jobs and money in the rural areas have drove the youth to the cities. Bay and Dong (not their real names) were among those lured by the mythical marvel of the cities. They left home and ventured to seek greener pastures in the cities of their dreams.

Both Bay and Dong came from peasant families in the Visayas. Their families own small farms planted to rice and corn, as well as some farm animals.  But due to the expensive farm inputs and usurious rates on their borrowed capital, they were hard-pressed.

Bay is the ninth of ten siblings. His competence in tending to farm animals, left with him the responsibility for their care which he enjoyed doing. Meanwhile, aware of the big expenses incurred in the schooling of his siblings, he was pleased to give way. Bay finished grade two only.

Eventually, as life turned formidably difficult, their farm animals, to which he had developed a special rapport, were one by one sold. To his dismay, he left their town with a cousin for Cebu City.

In Cebu, Bay bumped into rogues who pushed addictive drugs. At aged 12, Bay was tall and robust and his bucolic innocence made him a perfect catch to collaborate in their illegal activities. They tapped him as a drug-runner for a fee. They put sachets of the additive drugs all over his body concealed beneath his clothes. He was then sent to a designated place where men came to him and frisk his body for the drugs. He was paid well (P500 per delivery, which was usually twice) plus a sniff into the illicit substance. For a pastoral boy like him, it was a prized yield.

Hoping Bay could find a better job elsewhere, his brother fetched him from Cebu and took him to Manila. They stayed in an urban poor community in Tondo. At 14, Bay was tall and big for his age that he could easily be mistaken for an adult. Yet jobs were elusive and he again became prey to drug traffickers. This time around, transactions were bigger and clients were numerous.

Like Bay, Dong left for the city to look for better opportunities. While Bay was into drug running, Dong was merely hooked into the additive drugs as he did odd jobs for a living – newspaper/candy/cigarette vending, acting as porter in the pier of Manila near his home, driving “padyak” (a bicycle with a sidecar to carry people). In a life, where the hurdle is a Herculean challenge, where each day is a struggle to survive, thoughts of direction and purpose in life are set aside. Drug addiction is a handy escape from reality. This led Dong to a debauched, wretched life. He was into senseless vice and activities – drugs, gambling, drinking, womanizing, rumbles.

Meanwhile, Bay’s drug trade prospered after meeting a big-time drug dealer in his new abode in Sampaloc. While he used to peddle only a few kilos of shabu, this time it was bagful of the drugs in a “palit-bag” (bag-exchange) scheme in malls. The bag of additive drugs is deposited in the customer counter and the tag will be exchanged for money from the buyer who would then retrieve the bag.

Drug trafficking is a lucrative business and the high from the illicit substance gives a feeling of artificial relief and comfort albeit the disastrous consequences. Aside from the harm to one’s health, the illicit substance emboldens one to commit crimes.

With his similarly drug-intoxicated cohorts, Bay would rob people who were too drunk to go home and fell asleep in Rizal Park. He had heard of worse crimes resulting from drug addiction such as killings and rapes. However, the worst crime he ever committed was dragging his wife and mother-in-law into the trade, turning them to couriers.

Arrested twice for his illegal activities – one in Malabon and the other in Tayuman, he had experienced detention at the Malabon jail before his handler bailed him out.  The next time around, he was merely admonished as it was the same police officer who had accosted him before.

Bay and Dong crossed paths in Sampaloc, where both drive pedicabs. While Bay was peddling drugs, Dong was just a user. Their camaraderie developed when they both joined the protest action against the planned phase-out of pedicabs in Manila. That struggle forged a bond between the pedicab drivers as well as the other community members who joined the protest. However, the organizers warned them not to sit on their laurels as the government might strike again to keep them away from the streets of the city. Heeding the advice, they organized themselves and planned courses of action to strengthen their organization. Initially, they held a meeting to assess their victorious fight and learn lessons from both its strengths and weaknesses. They held series of meetings, forums and study sessions thereafter, which had kept them busy. Here they discussed their situation and the causes thereof. They discussed the evil of drugs and such other vicious habits prevalent in urban poor communities. They were made to understand that this debauchery was precipitated by the decadent social system that profit from it.  That it deliberately divert their attention from the problems dogging them so that they would not understand their causes and dare to find solutions that would boomerang on the system.

There were documents and books to read to boost their knowledge. Dong could have coped with the readings but Bay, having reached only grade two and a long time ago, faced some difficulty. He cringed in his seat to avoid being asked to read. However, he understood the discussions and really got interested that he strove to go back to whatever stock knowledge he had and learned to read by himself.

The organization not only raised their social consciousness, it gave them a sense of purpose and direction. They organized in the community and shared to them the lessons they have learned from the movement. Raising people’s consciousness, they believe, will spare them from being deceived forever. This is a modest service they could give to these people. They also shared the revolutionary discipline that they had imbibed from the movement.

Bay has realized the inanity of all his escapades in the drug mess. With the birth of his second child, he left his dubious past behind. He feels he is reborn, a new and changed man ready to confront the challenges of life and to impart meaning to others’ lives in the community where he belongs.

Enlightened like Bay, Dong opted to join the revolutionaries in the countryside. Yet he is very much aware that distance alone from drugs would not rid of addiction. It takes more to wipe out the bad influence of a decadent society. It takes revolutionary discipline and a noble mission, the lofty aspiration for people’s national liberation. ###

Coronacion “Waling-Waling” Chiva

in Cherish

Waling-waling is a beautiful orchid that blooms in the deep recesses of the forests of Panay contending for sunlight with intertwining vines and branches. In analogy, the Coronacion “Waling-waling” Chiva Regional Command of the New People’s Army in Panay continues its struggle amid class contradiction for liberation from the oppressive semi-feudal semi-colonial social order.

The Command was named after a woman, whose husband’s recognition of her valor and tenacity accorded her the nom de guerre Waling-waling.

Coronacion “Waling-waling” Chiva and her husband, Andres Togonon or Amang Ali, were members of the old Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) in Panay, which waged an armed struggle against the Japanese invaders and later against the ruling US-puppet government. Andres was the political officer of the HMB while Corning became a commander of an HMB unit. They gallantly fought the armed forces of the reactionary government until the incorrect political line and adventurist stance of the Lava leadership, in its frantic dash for power, permeated the HMB in Panay causing its decline and eventual collapse. Commander Waling-waling led the platoon that made the last stand against the enemy in Nalbugan, Bingawan, Iloilo. Eighteen of them were surrounded by 80 soldiers of the Expeditionary Force of the Philippine Army. Waling-waling’s will to fight to the end was doused by the sight of her men who were skeptical of the wisdom to continue the fight. She reluctantly ordered to put down their arms. For the first time in her guerrilla life, she cried. It was difficult to accept that the armed struggle of the HMB and the Party in Panay had ended.

Corning was arrested and joined her husband, Andres, in detention. Andres was earlier on arrested while teaching cadres and commanders of the old CPP and HMB at the Stalin University in the forested area of Taroytoy, Libacao, Aklan. Andres was among the five survivors of the Toroytoy massacre that took the lives of 36 leading HMB members. In collusion with Pablo Hipana, one of the students, the Battalion Combat Team of the enemy managed to encircle and attack the school.

Upon release from prison, Andres and Corning continued to organize workers in Davao. When they returned to Barangay Alibunan, Calinog in Panay, the national democratic revolution with a correct political line has advanced. A team of the New People’s Army (NPA) was deployed in Panay in 1971. The team, which got in touch with Corning and Andres, received a warm and cordial welcome. The resurgence of the revolution in Panay was a dream come-true for the couple. For despite the dismantling of the HMB, the revolutionary fire in their hearts was never extinguished and the hope and the will to see the struggling masses and the country free from oppression and exploitation never dwindled.

Corning, like a mother to her children on their first stride, guided the team. She was a leader who never lost the mien of Commander Waling-waling whose every command was firm, respected and obeyed. She helped the team take roots in Jalaud in Calinog, Tapaz and Libacao. She linked them to the families of former colleagues in the defunct HMB. The couple also let their eldest son, Dax, join the NPA. He was matyred in 1975. Despite the ferocity of Martial Law, Corning’s family relentlessly assisted the NPA.

Corning was an inspiration to the young batch of revolutionaries. When one of the ladies in the team was contemplating on a name to use in battle, Corning suggested her nom de guerre–Waling-waling. Humbled the young lady declined as she believed there was only one Waling-waling, there could never be any other. But like a true communist, who never rested on her laurels and who believed that the young generations should carry the torch of the continuing revolution, Corning insisted. Thus, the young warrior came to be known as her Junior.

Commander Waling-waling was killed in August 1977 by a military agent under the Central Command of the AFP in Cebu. Upon her death her husband, Andres, despite his advance age, joined the NPA. Together with his whole family, he continued the fight against the US-Marcos dictatorship.

In honor and memory of Coronacion “Waling-waling” Chiva, the Panay Regional Command was named after her. Her valuable contribution to the revolution – the best years of her life spent in the service to the revolutionary movement and the efforts to link the patriotic revolutionaries of the past to the new generation of revolutionaries – will remain an undying memento not just to look back to but to propel the continuing advance of the people’s revolution until the unjust social structures are put to rest.#

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