Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ka Bel

The first time I saw him, I thought, “this is him?”. He was kinda diminutive but I knew that he was a giant.

He was a giant in the Philippine labor movement. When one talks of militant Filipino workers, the name Kilusang Mayo Uno comes to mind. And for most of the my activist life, Ka Bel was the picture of KMU and of the workers’ struggle.

But I didn’t really get to talk to him until we met in Holland in 2001 for the first international assembly of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) where he was elected as the first Chair. There I found out that he was funny, humble and yes, great.

Since then, I have seen him a couple of times both in the Philippines and here in Hong Kong.

Amidst all the greatness, Ka Bel lived a simple life. As a recent news article showed, he was the poorest of all members of the Philippine Congress even after six years of being in office. The lure of power and wealth that came with such a position in our society was not enough to bend his principles. For this alone, he’s a man to emulate.

I remember one time when he came to HK to speak in one event here, he had this black belt that we never noticed, until the night before the event, was tied by a flimsy rubber band. He jokingly said that he had on a jacket anyway (it was starting to get cold then) and it’ll cover it up nicely.

The last time I saw Ka Bel was when we met with him and fellow partylist representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino and Luz Ilagan in October last year for the second HK Mission for Human Rights and Peace and the Philippines. He was his usual jolly self despite being in a car accident just a couple of days before and also only a few months after he was released from more than year of “hospital arrest’ due to concocted charges.

As his colleagues said, he lived the life of a poor man up to the end. Where can you find a congressman who fixes his own roof, has an unfinished bungalow bought by a loan from GSIS, and has a net worth of P50,000?

Simple and ardent in the struggle. Despite the imprisonment, hospital arrest, harassment and failing health, he never wavered in his principles and his dream for a more humane and just society for the working class and other oppressed people.

I guess it was what made him larger than life.

(Graphics above is from
BAYAN. Many articles are appearing about Ka Bel. I again stumbled upon this page that even has his love story)


mel beckham said...

Malaking kawalan talaga si Ka Bel. Isa siyang inspirasyon sa pagbabago.

wanderingcommuter said...

"linisan mo man itong daigdig,
tinig mo'y patuloy na maririnig"

isang taas kamaong pagpupugay, kabel!

Gayzha said...

The tribes of Ka Bel should multiply ... are there still people like him out there ???

Luz Ilagan - is she still active?

gibo said...

ka bel will always be an inspiration. hay, ang lungkot ng mga balita recently.

Lawstude said...

Such a loss really. Hope his cause doesn't stop here.

Jericho said...

@mel: yes
@wandering: yes
@gayzha: yes. Luz Ilagan is now in Congress representing Gabriela Women's Party
@gibo: yes
@lawstude: yes

carl said...

it's a sad thing, ka bel's passing.

he was one brilliant mind, and a concerned citizen who wasn't afraid of anything as long as his reason is straight.

sayang talaga.

bananas said...

gayzha, sure luz ilagan is still active. she's one of the representatives of the gabriela women's party.

...bye po ka bel.

Mugen said...

Dapat aattend ako ng burol niya sa Taft noong isang araw... Yung utol kong tibak na lang ang nagrepresent sa akin.

gagitos said...

he needs rest..and i thinks its already time... good for him he died not in the arms of 'some men'=)

reyna elena said...

wow! na-surprise ako sa post mo! galeng mo pala! things that I don't know about you to para saken! :-)

Bryan Anthony the First said...

such as loss. may his memory inspire a more aware Philippine society.

Jericho said...

@carl: yes
@bananas: yes
@mugen: House of Reps din kayo?...;)
@gagitos: i'm not sure if it is his time.
@reynz: ;)
@bryan: yes


Nalungkot ako nung namatay siya.. lagi ko kc siyang napapanood sa TV..

sana yung kinuha eh yung mga balimbing tulad ni Santiago.

the donG said...

wow! i never heard of this person. i only knew him when he died. thanks jericho. maybe i really need to get to know people like ka bel.