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Monday, June 17, 2024
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HomeThere and Back Again: Tales of Courage and the Quest for Peace

There and Back Again: Tales of Courage and the Quest for Peace

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She was told that she would finally have a land of her own.

A mother of seven, Ma. Fe Haberto Ga had been tilling the soil for as long as she can remember. Tall, wiry, with long straight hair that recalls burnished copper, Ma. Fe has the complexion that belies years of baking under the sun as a sugar worker in the upland areas of Southern Negros.

“They approached me,” she tells DNX in Hiligaynon, “assured me that they will help me have a land of my own to finally till.”

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Ka Aya is a former Red Fighter who was recruited by mass leaders and organizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines under promises of a good life. While inside the Communist Party, she realizes that she was fed by her comrades with lies: lies against the government, and lies about what they were fighting for.
Ka Aya is a former Red Fighter who was recruited by mass leaders and organizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines under promises of a good life. While inside the Communist Party, she realizes that she was fed by her comrades with lies: lies against the government, and lies about what they were fighting for.

She would no longer be tilling other people’s, which is many a dream of farm workers like her. And for Ma. Fe that would also mean having the means to support her seven children, buy clothes on their backs, food on their tables, and roof over their heads.

But there was a catch. 

They would help her with land problem provided she attend anti-government rallies, be part of the warm bodies and pound the pavements when the situation calls for it.

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“Hambala nila mapa-attendance lang ko (They said all I have to do is sign up for attendance,)” she recalls.

Asha (not her real name) is a mother of three, and a Red Fighter for 28 years, dedicating much of her life serving others while her own children grew up without a mother. But, she said, she soon realized that talks of a classless society is just that: all talk as top-ranking leaders of the Communist Party enjoy a comfortable life, while those risking their lives continue to struggle.
Asha (not her real name) is a mother of three, and a Red Fighter for 28 years, dedicating much of her life serving others while her own children grew up without a mother. But, she said, she soon realized that talks of a classless society is just that: all talk as top-ranking leaders of the Communist Party enjoy a comfortable life, while those risking their lives continue to struggle.

So attend the rallies she did, bearing placards with anti-government slogans because it was all part of the deal.

Except nothing happened. They went with her to the agrarian reform office, where the people in charge there accommodated her and listened to her concerns.

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But nothing came out of it.

It wasn’t until the Philippine Army offered help that finally, finally, Ma. Fe’s long-held dream of having land of her own started to come true.

And when she learned who “they” were, she was quite alarmed.

“I couldn’t believe I placed my children’s life and future in danger, bringing them to those rallies,” she says, shuddering at the thought. 

She had been duped, not once doubting whoever “they” were. Turns out, “they” were members of legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Her story is not unique.  

In areas where more lands are dedicated to Agriculture than any other use, many tillers had and have been dreaming of owning the land they are tilling. This, at least, is what the Mainstream Left led by the Communist Party of the Philippines got right. What the (self-proclaimed) Marxist-Leninist always fail to do, however, is the “how” with one bloody failure after another to claim land for the landless tillers.

Ma. Fe Haberto-Ga was a landless tiller, and agrarian reform beneficiary. In her desire to have a land of her own, she agreed to attend rallies for the legal fronts of the Communist Party in exchange for help processing her land ownership. It was not until the Philippine Army intervened that Ma. Fe was finally rewarded with the land of her own.
Ma. Fe Haberto-Ga was a landless tiller, and agrarian reform beneficiary. In her desire to have a land of her own, she agreed to attend rallies for the legal fronts of the Communist Party in exchange for help processing her land ownership. It was not until the Philippine Army intervened that Ma. Fe was finally rewarded with the land of her own. 

Ma. Fe was fortunate, thanks to the help of the Philippine Army, no thanks to the peasant groups.

Ka Aya (not her real name) knows that all too well. A former Red fighter, Ka Aya is now enjoying what she describes as a “peaceful life” now that she has surrendered to the government two years ago. Her demeanor reflects that peace, and she her appearance had also considerably improved now that she need no contend with having to play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with government troopers.

Now sporting a swollen belly and very pregnant with her third child, the former rebel then known as Ka Aya said she could still remember the honey-dipped words the recruiters used to rope her in. 

“They offered us land, livelihood, a roof over our heads,” she tells DNX. None was forthcoming.

She was also indoctrinated into developing a mistrust towards the men in uniform.

“Our leaders told us that the men in uniform should not be trusted, that they abusive and morally corrupt,” she says, adding that her handlers also warned her against surrendering.

“They said the military will just kill us and torture us if we surrender,” she reveals.

Nothing of the sort happened. On the contrary, she had the opposite realization when she finally went back to the folds of the government.

“What they said about the military are lies. The military are not the ones committing crimes and abuses; we were the ones doing it,” she says as she addresses her former comrades.

Lies, especially the ones told to her, were par for the course for a Party that had long lost its grip on the people it is supposed to serve.

Asha (not her real name) had been a Red Fighter far longer as she had been with the underground movement for close to 30 years.

“I’ve lost really good years of my life,” she says, adding, “I didn’t even get to see my children growing.”

Hers was a life romanticized by members of the Mainstream Left: a hero fighting evil in the countryside, turning her back on her own children so that other’s will have better lives, a better future.

‘Twas an oft-repeated tale, the one of a grizzled veteran who took up arms to fight for social justice, land for the landless, for real progress. For real development. For equality.

Except, that was not really the thing.

“The leaders are all mouthing the Marxist line of a classless society, of equality but the truth is that there is no equality,” she reveals, adding, “The leaders are enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle, and sending their children to good schools. We, on the other hand, ordinary members, we can hardly make ends meet and my own child finished schooling without any help from the mass movement.”

Things are not what it was once. The movement is not what it once was.

And the truth is sinking in deeper and deeper until Asha could not deny it anymore.

Ma. Fe, Asha, and the former Ka Aya provided the warm bodies during the Labor Day rally organized by the SAMBAYANAN and other peace advocates.

The battle cry, this time, is PEACE, the real one. Not the faux one peddled by the Communists and their legal organizations.

“It’s time to open your eyes,” Ka Aya declares, addressing her former comrades, “Put down your arms and go back to the fold of government. Enough of the lies. It’s time for real peace.”

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Hannah A. Papasin
Hannah A. Papasinhttp://facebook.com/hannah.mariveles
Writer. Critic. Professor. She started writing since primary school and now has two published textbooks on communication. A film buff, she's a Communication, Media Literacy and Journalism Professor of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, and has a Master's Degree in English.
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