by Jef Tupas
It was painful imagining you battling death while you were being flown to Davao City that day. I could smell the scent of gun powder on your skin, the stench of sweat and blood on your hair. Your faint cry rang louder than the groaning of the engines of the chopper, even louder than the cries of the smoking guns in that intense exchange you had with government soldiers two days before rescue came for you.
What were you thinking then?
It must have been scary.
Were you even prepared for it? Does anyone really get to ready the self for death? Really there are people who are willing to die for others–in your case for the masses and the oppression that strangled them—and for the things that they stand for?
You said yours was a life offered to the struggle of the people. That you have put yourself on the line fighting for them and a against a system that you so blamed for their suffering. Is it the same suffering that you, too, experienced? Perhaps it is, only that it is wearing a different face but dark just the same.
You’ve slept with them. You’ve eaten with them and have seen them eat nothing. You have heard their stories both happy and sad. Not only that you taught them how to farm or read and write and count their coins—that they will not be duped when they sell their products in the market–but you too taught them how to speak up and stand for their rights.
I’m sorry if my questions appeared like expressions of doubt.
Last time we talked, under your tattered tarima, you giggled over a lover. It was not the kind of giggle that irritates the public, though—like the giggling shown in that TV show. Did we talk about your marriage plans? I’m not sure now. You said letters and text messages were the only way that you two get to communicate with each other. He was assigned in another unit.
You also told me about your family. Just recently, I heard your father speak briefly in a gathering of people who are calling for your freedom. In case it did not reach you yet, your father said he was proud of you. He said the family was supportive of your involvement in the revolution. Your father must really be proud of you.
I wanted to visit you in the hospital. I’m sorry for not finding the time to do so. I heard your life is different now. But I know something in you remains the same. You will always be strong and resolute simply because you were made out of good, strong stuff.
And just like the others, lawyers included, who are calling for you freedom, I, too, would love to see you a free woman.
It was two or three Decembers ago when we first met somewhere in the hinterlands of Agusan del Sur. Or was it in Compostela Valley? I was one of the journalists invited to cover the celebration of the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. I did not like you at that time. And unlike the others in that unit, you were obviously distant and cold. Only later I realized why. Because I am a journalist and we came from the same city. Security, alright. But your presence was hard to ignore. Even if you were not my assignment, the journalist in me was nagging me to write a story about you.
Women in the revolution is a good story. That was supposed to be your story. And so the next time we met, I made it sure not to leave without your story. It was to tell what you think about your contribution in the revolution. Or the contribution of women in the revolution. Are women not tired of the revolution?
The story was to tell how you stood out, even in the company of men, commanding not only respect but also admiration. Their eyes showed that. That was perhaps the reason why I did not like you the first time we met. It was a dislike underlined with envy.
I am sorry. I have not written the story until now.