The ‘Warrior’ Marches On

A tribute to Ka Bel

His passing may have silenced his fiery voice but his legacy lives on for the masses for which he has dedicated his life to the very end.

Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 16, May 25-31, 2008

His passing may have silenced his fiery voice but his legacy lives on for the masses for which he has dedicated his life to the very end.

When we hugged each other in Vancouver last month I had an eerie feeling that would be our last meeting. He was not his usual ebullient self and I dismissed it as perhaps due to his long trip and jet lag.

I spent several days visiting him at his hospital prison in December 2006 where he was confined after being arrested by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on false charges of rebellion. He would sit at the side of his bed and using the food tray as his table, he would talk endlessly to his visitors about his ordeal and his fight against the forces that has plagued his beloved people.

At the time there were rumours that he would be transferred back to the military cell from which he was originally detained after his arrest. Ka Bel intimated that if that would ever happen, he would be “finished.” I asked him why and he told me that is what happened to his predecessor at the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), Felixberto “Ka Bert” Olalia, Sr. whom Marcos imprisoned and died of mysterious circumstances while confined at the same military prison in 1983. Although official reports said Ka Bert died of his illness, Ka Bel believed his death was not natural.

I also attended his 50th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated at the small hospital chapel because Arroyo did not want to grant his request to have it done at the bigger U.P. chapel for security reasons. The wedding mass was heavily secured that I thought there were more security people than guests.

The wedding reception was done in a nearby public park but Ka Bel was not allowed to attend prompting him to joke that this was the ‘shortest honeymoon’ since Ka Osang (his wife) and himself were immediately separated after the ceremony.

I returned to Canada and followed Ka Bel’s situation, finally relieved that he won his ‘freedom’ on July the following year when the Philippines’ highest court threw the charges out.

I am glad that I have met and known him.

His memory will always linger on but more importantly, I will treasure most his legacy of struggle for the people. (

By Jose Maria Sison

It’s not the manner of death
That makes someone a hero
It is the meaning drawn
From the struggles against the foe.

There is the hero who dies in the battlefield.
There is the hero who dies of hunger and disease.
There is the hero who dies of some accident.
There is the hero who dies of old age.

Whatever is the manner of death,
There is a common denominator
A hero serves the people
To his very last breath.

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