By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – “Ging” and “Guilli” were the nicknames for Guiller Martin Cadano, a cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines. Growing up in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, he was a choir member, who appeared malamya or “soft,�� and was frequently pushed around by bigger children. He was an only child, and his mother Marita was always with him during choir activities.
“He was a mama’s boy…but he, whom we thought to be lelembot-lembot (weak), became the bravest of us all,” said one of Cadano’s older colleague from the Sta. Cruz parish choir in Bulacan.
Cadano went on to become a “frat man,” a student leader, an organizer among the urban poor, Aytas and peasants, a political detainee, and later, a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
He proudly carried the nom de guerre “Ka Iniong” when he was killed along with eight other Red fighters in an operation by the 84th infantry battalion of the Phil. Army on Sept. 20 in sitio Barat, Burgos village, Carranglan, Nueva Ecija. He was 26.
Cadano’s father, Amador, likened his martyred son to the moth in Jose Rizal’s story, who was warned by the mother moth not to wander too close to the flame. “My son went straight to the flame – to serve the people,” Amador said.
His life may have been too short, like that of the young moth, but he showed how it can be lived to the fullest, as he was part of a selfless cause, and for this, will always be remembered.
On the last night of his wake on Sept. 29, friends and comrades gave “the highest tribute” to Cadano, hailed as a true iskolar ng bayan, a hero of the continuing Philippine revolution and one of the “best sons and daughters of the people.” They praised his self-remolding and determination as lessons to inspire generations of activists who would carry on the democratic people’s war to its fruition.
Cadano was laid to rest today, Sept. 30, in the Valenzuela Public Cemetery.
A choir boy, frat man, leader, voracious eater
Their small home in Valenzuela City made for a cozy space for Cadano’s wake. On top of his casket were items that gave clues to a vibrant life: graduation pictures from grade school to college, photos of a playful boy, two packs of Choc-nut, a half-pack of cigarettes, and a neatly-folded red flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Inside the casket lay Cadano, in white barong with his sablay, UP’s trademark graduation sash.
“Life is a learning process. If you don’t learn, life is meaningless,” Cadano said in a Facebook post. And from the choir boy in Bulacan, he evolved to become an inspiring leader and revolutionary cadre. Speaking at the tribute, his girlfriend, Brilliant Salas, said Cadano continuously educated and developed himself, not for personal interests, but to help change the rotten social system.
As a student in UP Diliman Extension Program in Pampanga or UP Clark, he became a “frat man” and an activist as a member of the Pi Sigma fraternity, one of the few fraternities in UP that carried a progressive tradition. But he became better known as a leader of Anakbayan-Metro Clark and the regional coordinator of Kabataan partylist for Central Luzon.
He graduated cum laude in BS Psychology, but opted to work full-time as a peasant organizer of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL). He organized among farmers in Hacienda Dolores, in Porac, Pampanga, who were resisting the Alviera project led by Ayala Land Inc. which has been gradually taking over their lands.
He was a stranger to the hardship of farm work, yet he plunged straight into it without hesitation.
Roman Polintan, chairperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luson, recalled how Cadano texted him, and jested about his experience. “Nasa gitnang bukid, nagdadamo, hindi nakikilala alin ang palay, alin ang damo (He was pulling weeds in the middle of a rice field, but he couldn’t tell the rice from the weed),” Polintan laughed.
Cadano jokingly lamented that his batchmates in UP were enjoying cozy jobs, while he labored under the sun without any pay, weeding someone else’s rice field. Polintan recalled that he told Cadano that he should be honored because he served, not the ruling elite, but the working class struggling for a better future. Cadano teared up, realizing the heartfelt truth.
The tall, young man was known to easily cry and get emotional, but mostly carried a sunny countenance, with a bright smiling face. As a child, he was the youngest in the choir, but he was the one who encouraged others, with the lines, “We can do this, don’t be shy.”
Cadano was also known for his voracious appetite, a fact consistently mentioned by those who spoke at the tribute. He ate anything and was never picky. In fact, he was known to eat during meetings, and he would chew as he would talk, yet his words would still be clearly audible, quite a rare skill, said Polintan.
They said his food intake was sulit lang, even more, compared to his “service:” organizing, educating, mobilizing people on the issues they face.
He had no kaartehan, and he could sleep anywhere, eat anything, said a young girl from Balibago, Angeles, already in tears even before she spoke. Her home was one of Cadano’s base, where he was a big brother, a playmate, a teacher who helped out her siblings with their homework.
“More youths will follow in your footsteps, and will carry on what you started,” she said.
Another student leader from UP Clark praised Cadano for his persistence in student organizing, amid apathy in the campus. “Why do you keep at it?” their classmates would jeer, as Cadano would repeatedly invite them to join discussions and activities, in spite getting repeated rejections.
But he knew his persistence will pay off, as now shown by the growing ranks of activists in UP Clark.
“You worked without salary, but the masses have opened their homes to you, and fed you. To them, you are number 1,” she said. Cadano had no “career,” but he led the noblest of all profession, a revolutionary who carried out and stood firm for his principles, she said.
“Because he knew what was needed to be done, he knew this is what will help the country,” she said.
Best sons and daughters of the people
In its statement, the CPP said the loss of the nine Party cadres and fighters is “nine times as heavy as the weight of Caraballo, Sierra Madre and Zambales mountain ranges.” As they mourn their deaths, their lives will even more fuel the flame among revolutionary forces who will surge against the fascist US-Duterte regime, it said.
The eight other NPA fighters killed were: Joel Manangan, 40; Alvin Soria, 35, both from Nueva Ecija; Lani dela Peña-Mirindu, 36, a Dumagat from Aurora; Marco Amatorio, 34, also from Aurora; Vic Nagawang, 31, from Manila; Carlo Laguito, 22, from Bagong Silangan, Quezon City; John Paul Calica, 21, from Pandi, Bulacan; and Emmanuel Canlas, from Capas, Tarlac.
Most of the nine belong to the working class of peasants and workers and have known poverty and injustice. As youths, they rose to wage armed struggle to change the superstructure. Manangan, Mirindu and Amatorio have been with the CPP-NPA since 2001; Soria joined in 2005, while the younger ones took up arms from 2015 to 2017.
Four of the nine came from the ranks of the youth, and were members of Anakbayan: Cadano, Canlas, Nagawang and Calica. In a statement, Anakbayan hailed their heroism, and said they are proof of the ongoing civil war in the country, and how the youths will continue to take up arms and join the revolution, specially to fight rising fascism.
Canlas was “the latest generation of revolutionaries” of Capas, Tarlac, the birthplace of the NPA. He was among the young Communists who organized in communities, and joined the NPA as soon as he reached 18 this year.
Laguito was a former construction worker and employee at the slipper company Kentex, and was a staff of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). Nagawang was from Manila who worked in Angeles City, where he became a youth and labor organizer. Calica was a graduate of the Asian Institute of Computer Studies (earlier reported as a graduate of De La Salle University), a member of Anakbayan-Pandi and was part of the “Occupy Bulacan” campaign by the urban poor in Bulacan.
Mirindu, the only female, was inspired by her community’s struggle against landgrabbing in Aurora, and joined the NPA, where she brought her revolutionary, indigenous Dumagat culture.
Even as an NPA, Cadano maximized his choir training and vocal talents. The CPP said each NPA vows to give tribute to the fallen nine by relentlessly working hard each day to fight the oppressive system.
The Cadanos: knowing the son through the parents
Progressive leaders thanked Cadano’s parents, Amador and Marita, who supported their son’s chosen path. They showcased how parents whose children became activists can also be “brought up” by their children to follow suit.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan, said she and her colleagues did not actually know Cadano, if not through his father, Amador. When Cadano was arrested in 2014 along with fellow activist Gerald Salonga, his father promptly joined the campaigns pressing for their release. The elder Cadano took a main role in the human rights campaigns in Nueva Ecija, and was also prominent in activities of Hustisya, the group of families of rights abuses.
“One of the best things in the movement is to know about the best sons and daughters of the people thru their parents,” she said. Cadano patiently organized his parents and helped them understand the roots of poverty and the raging armed struggle.
She said after Cadano was released in December 2016, he cried when he saw his father at a press conference, speaking like the true human rights defender that he had become.
Mong Palatino, Bayan-NCR chairperson and former representative of Kabataan Partylist, said the mass movement is grateful to Cadano and his family. Palatino had met with Cadano several times in the electoral campaigns in 2010. He said like other youths, Cadano had no experience in electoral campaigns, but went from house to house, gathering support for Kabataan partylist.
When he and Salonga were arrested, the youths and communities they helped organize came out to condemn their arbitrary arrest, torture and detention, and called for their release. They were acquitted on Dec. 5, 2016 and subsequently released. From there, Cadano decided to wage “the highest form of struggle,” and joined the NPA.
His decision to work as full-time organizer, and later, armed revolutionary, showed how he developed himself and strengthened his commitment.
“He proved that there is a direction to be taken by youths, after school and elections, and it is the path of continuously serving the people,” said Palatino.
Taking reference to Central Luzon’s verdant plains and lush mountain ranges, Polintan compared Cadano and the other martyrs to a palay seed: “The seed disappears, but if sown in fertile soil, it will grow abundantly, producing more golden grains. That is what they planted among the youths and peasants and the Filipino people.”
(Erratum: We have corrected the earlier post of this article which said John Paul Calica was a graduate of De La Salle University. We regret the error — Ed. Updated Oct. 1, 11:20 am)