ESCALANTE CITY, Negros Occidental – It used to be that the first thing one could see upon approaching the public square here is a giant raised fist, a sculpture on its eastern side to honor those who fell on the spot in a massacre more than 30 years ago.
Escala ha ha hantee
Gindapu-an sang mga buwitre (Escalante, a vulture swooped on you)
Activist composer and singer Nonoy Perez used to sing this chorus of the song “Escalante” in his plaintive voice.
Also known as Nonoy Bangkay (corpse) to fellow activists, Nonoy is long gone.
A fulltime activist to the end.
Now, the giant raised fist is not the first thing one notices at the plaza. Rather, it is the public toilet.
A small, white structure with blue tin roof.
A shade of blue similar to that of a police station.
To the unfamiliar with this story, it is worth recalling that the Escalante Massacre or the Escam had long been a propaganda plot point of the Left – an example of the “fascism of the State” and the ruthlessness of the Marcos martial rule.
Twenty people, mostly farmworkers were killed in the noontime carnage on 20 September 1985 when paramilitary and policemen hosed down thousands of protesters, first with water then with bullets.
For many years, Escalante became a source of cadres for the Communist Party’s revolution in the countryside, military and underground sources all confirmed to DNX.
Referred to as the banwa by guerrillas based in the forests in upland villages, this city used to be a logistical and political support base for the operations of what the military call as the Northern Negros Front that covers a substantial portion of towns and cities in the Oriental and Occidental sides.
By CPP definition, a “front” is a sphere of influence of the rebels where they believe they can exercise “Red political power” through its Party organizations called cells, collectives, branches or sections – with the branch being the basic unit.
At least a platoon or around 30 fully armed regulars is required for a front to operate over an area equivalent to a government’s political district, Party documents like the Our Urgent Tasks showed, and underground sources said to DNX.
This previous town was known as a batog batog, Hiligaynon for “center,” of the armed resistance against the “despotikong agalon mayduta (despotic landlords)” who are the local agents of the “burukrata kapitalista (bureaucrat
capitalists)” and the “imperyalistang Estados Unidos (imperialist United States)” that are the “three key problems” of the Filipino masses, a line preached by Party cadres and organizers for years to sunbaked peasants and fairskinned students in universities.
This propaganda line coupled with the Escam worked for years as it depicted in a nutshell what was wrong with Philippine society that must be radically changed through armed revolution, a former youth activist DNX interviewed here said.
This city had long departed from its image as a dusty, sleepy town where guerrillas once slept in when they have urban partisan operations, a place where even soldiers and policemen were kept on their toes lest they be victimized by Red assassins commonly called in the 80s and 90s as sparrows for their quick, lethal strikes.
“Gahibi ang adlaw kon wala may mapatay nga police dinhi (Not a day goes by without a cop getting killed),” Rook, a small businessman said in a Hiligaynon-Bisaya mix as an orange Camaro passed by while this reporter was having coffee with him along the national highway.
(to be continued)