Photo by arkibongbayan.org
It didn't matter then what “people's war” exactly meant. It was a “people's war” that Mao successfully led in China. It was a “people's war” when the Vietnamese people resisted American occupation of their country. It was a “people's war” that the Cubans won and what Che Guevarra was attempting in Bolivia when he was killed. Although it remains unclear to me now why we didn't question then the fact that our movement was narrowly attached to the Chinese model.
In 1972 however, all these concepts of trying to “indigenize” Mao's Protracted People's War had not taken shape. And when Martial Law came, it was not really clear to me and many comrades what concretely “People's war” meant, especially to us activists in the cities. Was it time to go to the province? To the hills? Do we start attacking AFP soldiers and getting their guns? The Chinese experience and the writings of Mao offered very little on how to conduct the revolution inside the cities. The only thing evident then was to try to preserve our group in the face of raids, arrests and eventually "zonings," militarized zones subjected to military surveillance and arbitrary arrests.
What stuck in my mind was an event in October 1972. It was around my 17th birthday when a comrade, Eugene, passed to me a copy of Ang Bayan (The People), the official publication of the CPP. At that time, the mere possession of "subversive materials" was already a very dangerous act.
I remember unfolding the precious thick bundle of mimeographed brown papers. Just below the hammer and sickle masthead, the title bannered across the page, “Overthrow the US-Marcos Dictatorship and Achieve National Freedom and Democracy" It was dated October 1, 1972.
To me, the Ang Bayan issue represented the first sign of resistance to the dictatorship. Something was alive. Tyranny had succeeded to silence all voices, all except one. It came from the Communist Party of the Philippines through its embryonic underground movement, guided and sewn together by its publication.
Reading Ang Bayan, I felt proud and vindicated. I was part of the only resistance movement that foresaw, prepared for, and survived the onslaught of military rule and fascism. Towards the end of the publication I read a phrase : “Only an armed revolution will overthrow the US-Marcos dictatorship.” I believed in it and accepted the CPP's version of “Protracted People's War”.
I would have the first taste of the underground life, otherwise called the 'u.g.', in the weeks that followed. To "go u.g." meant simply to disappear and be untraceable to the enemy. It was far easier said than done.
The military was raiding houses of activists, one after the other. We couldn't go home nor go to houses of other comrades. Relatives, many still terrorized by Martial Law, usually refused us. "Do you have a place where you can sleep tonight?" was a question that one frequently heard among kasamas (comrades).
Some nights, I proceeded to the house of Conching, the family's laundrywoman who lived in the squatters' community at the Santol area of Manila. Some nights I would sleep at the place of Lys, my sister, near the QC Welcome rotunda. Other nights, I would go to close friends.
"You're lucky," said Eugene, the comrade who was my link to the organization. " Some kasamas have no personal networks. They go to funeral parlors and pretend to be a relative of the deceased person. They are lucky if they succeed to get a few hours of sleep. Coffee and food are free until someone notices that you are overstaying and starts asking your relation to the person in the coffin.”
Sometimes, daytime was more difficult than nighttime. We had to go someplace where we could stay but not standout. One could not afford to appear out of place, because enemy intelligence spotters were everywhere. I spent long hours at the Luneta park and at the Paco park, transferring from one spot to another, trying to appear as a natural park visitor and not go insane with the park music that repeated endlessly.
We would arrange meetings at the parks, sometimes with other comrades, sometimes with new recruits coming from university-belt schools. But one could meet only one person at a time; otherwise, any group meeting attracted attention.
One recruit, a girl of my age had the alias "Claret". Her mother and family pinned their hopes of escaping poverty by assuring her education. Claret herself was confused if she would pursue her education or go full-time in the movement. She finally opted for the underground., which of course meant running away from home.
I waited for her in a pasilio near Oroqueta street in Sta Cruz, Manila. When she emerged from her house, we headed for Morayta street where a lightning rally was scheduled. I noticed she waddled like a duck when we were walking. So I asked what was the problem.
"I could not pack everything in my bag," she said. "My mother would discover I was running away if I brought a large bag or maleta. So I'm now wearing ten panties!"