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HomeDNX InvestigatesCONTEXT | A road runs through it: Lair of pro-Joma rebels now...

CONTEXT | A road runs through it: Lair of pro-Joma rebels now crisscrossed by State roads, one funded by WB (Part 1)

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Top government officials of Oriental Negros led by Governor Roel Degamo joined Army officials led by Brigadier General Inocencio Pasaporte, 303rd Brigade Commander together with 62nd Infantry Battalion attended the Hilaitan-Trinidad Farm-to-market road turn-over and inauguration in a “simple ceremony facilitated by Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) at Brgy Trinidad, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on June 23, 2022 (Thursday),” the Army reported.

DNX takes a look back at the former town and how it became a stronghold of the Communist New People’s Army decades ago.

BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Through wide and narrow mountain trails leading to upland villages of Guihulngan, motorcycles called “habal habal” roar through bringing various cargo from humans, fresh produce, small livestock, and occasionally, rebels with guns.

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It is not known if that word used to describe these nimble motorcycles, driven at a fast clip by its drivers, was taken from the word “habal” that refers to sex, particularly of animals mounting females from behind.

Some say it could also have come from “habal habal (accent on second syllable),” literally “sore,” which could describe one’s crotch after riding in these bikes, mostly 125 or 150cc machines driven usually by townsfolk who could put Motocross riders to shame.

What is known to government agents, however, is the fact that through these mountain trails pass and on these habal habal bikes rode cadres and fighters of the New People’s Army, some in semi-legal mode – appearing like civilians but doing underground work.

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Cadres of the Communist Party who have been summoned by the H.O. or the higher organ to the rebels’ mountain lairs also pass through here for the yearly plenum or meeting of the regional committee or Komiteng Rehiyonal of the Party.

They were called “taga urban (from the cities),” the rebel’s code for CPP cadres and members doing underground work in the cities as opposed to the “taga CS (from the countryside),” former rebels who asked not to be named told DNX.

Guihulngan, a component city in Oriental Negros, figured in the news in the 1990s when foreign mining companies – among them Western Mining Corporation – announced plans of getting minerals from the then town, around 120 kilometers from here.

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It also made it to the headlines, in between reports of armed encounters between soldiers and rebels, when the controversial Salabas-Lomoljo-Suganob kidnapping with murder case that involved ranking police officers was heard in the sala of then Municipal Trial Court Judge Hector Barillo in 2003.

This reporter was one of those who passed through Guihulngan at least twice – first to interview then Negros rebel leader Frank Fernandez in the 1990s then, many years later, police officer Joel Geollegue who defected to the underground movement.

The new city hit the headlines once more two years ago when physician Mary Rose Sancelan, it’s health officer, and her husband, Edwin, were shot by a still unknown killer late in the afternoon of 16 December 2020.

Fascism, leftist groups cried over the Sancelan murder but rumors have already been spreading before their death that they were supporting the rebels.

“Imperyalismo, ibagsak (Down with imperialism)!” mountain folk or the “masa” supportive of the rebels would usually chant in low voices inside forest clearings deep in Guihulngan’s mountain villages when the CPP celebrates its anniversary on the 26th of December ever year.

The Philippine Communists blame imperialism, particularly that of the United States, as one of the three root problems, along with “bureaucrat capitalism,” and “feudalism,” as the causes for a stunted economy they describe as “semi-colonial and semi-feudal.”

The early 90s was also the time when Ka Frank, a former priest, led the Communist Party faction in Negros island that was loyal to self-exiled and self-styled Communist leader and CPP founder Jose Maria Sison (JMS to fanatics).

For some time since he was “deployed” by Party higher ups to Negros to head the “recovery efforts” here, Guihulngan became a symbolic base for the CPP Reaffirmist faction (the RAs) who styled themselves as “reaffirming” their loyalty to Marxism-Leninism-Maoist Thought (quite a mouthful but to their critics, simply loyalists of Joma) who adhered to the so-called “protracted people’s war” strategy of overthrowing the government by building bases in the mountains.

(To be continued)

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Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.
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