SOMEWHERE IN NEGROS ISLAND (1996, around 8:30,
Whump. Whump. Whump.
Then it became sharper. And faster.
Ka Lito cocked his ear. “Ilikoptir,” he said. “Ang linabhan!”
We jumped out of the bamboo benches of the makeshift schoolhouse, and ran to a nearby clothesline just beside a steep drop to the river. It was at least a hundred feet down.
“That would be a lot of screaming before I die,” I thought as I snatched my half-dried laundry.
I took all the whites first.
“Those look like semaphore flags from above,” Ka Maoring, the highest-ranking guerrilla officer said as we ran, semi-crouched, back to the schoolhouse.
Maoring made hand signals to another guerilla in the sentry post – not really a post but more of a sniper’s hide in the cogon field high up from where we where. Three guerrillas, two armed with Armalite rifles, locally assembled by Elisco Tools, another with a WW II Browning. Soon, a stocky guerrilla, the one with the Browning, made his way down, nimble, fast, like he was just playing hopscotch.
He did not even break a sweat.
“A column of Army soldiers have been seen near the river two sitios away,” he told Maoring. More or less that was five kilometers away, half a platoon of soldiers were on our asses.
The Sentro De Grabidad Yunit Gerilya (SGYG) is the main guerrilla formation of the NPA in the island.
It is the core of the armed wing of the CPP. Most of its members are hardened fighters, veterans, experienced combatants selected from guerrilla fronts. At the time, however, the CPP in Negros was reeling from a split four years ago that left it with only an undersized platoon of armed guerrillas led by Bebren Gordoncillo alias Ka Dandan.
We were nestled between two hills, camped beside a river that was to provide water, and a quick escape but it also provided a way for riverine operations of soldiers who could stealthily make their way into the camp, and kill us.
I was on assignment, covering the defection of then general Raymundo Jarque to his erstwhile enemies.
There was also a pasinsin nga pagtuon, a thorough review of the fundamentals of the “rebolusyon.” About 50 cadres were gathered – some in their 20s, others in their 50s. But most were old. The instructors’ pool was composed mostly of Martial Law era cadres, one of them a woman, then in her 40s, fair-skinned. Pretty. She comes from a family of agalon may duta (landlords) in one town in the province.
Yesterday, she did a review of the forms of struggle, or stragel as one other old cadre called it, being led by the party. The first was armed struggle, then mass movement, then the other forms, campaign for release of political prisoners, and the peace talks. There was no talk of parliamentary struggle yet.
I was brooding over these concepts when a voice interrupted.
“Naglumbos na, Ka (It has passed over us, comrade),” Lito said as we went out of the schoolhouse.
The sound of chopping rotors was fading.
I lit a cigarette.
“Orit na,” Ka Lito said as he motioned with his head to the south where the Maricalum Mining Corporation was located. That was a horn blowing to signal the end of a workshift, he said.
We were at the area once codenamed Emporium, a stronghold of the CPP in the 80s.
In the distance, I could still hear the faint sound of the chopper.
Whump. Whump. Whump.