Eman Lacaba: The Brown Rimbaud

3 04 2011

The tenth of December is marked as International Human Rights Day. The first International Human Rights Day fell on December 10, 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares all people to be free and to have equal rights and dignity and enumerates all human rights, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO

Bulatlat.com

 

Eman Lacaba, poet and warrior

The tenth of December is marked as International Human Rights Day. The first International Human Rights Day fell on December 10, 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares all people to be free and to have equal rights and dignity and enumerates all human rights, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

On International Human Rights Day, it is fitting to remember the late Filipino writer and revolutionary Emmanuel Agapito “Eman” Lacaba. He was born on the very day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly. He lost his life at the height of martial law–a victim of a human rights violation.

Eman Lacaba was born and raised in Pateros. In an essay he wrote as a high school student, “Personal Statement of Emmanuel Lacaba”, which his brother Jose, more popularly known as Pete, believes was written in connection with his application for an American Field Service (AFS) scholarship, he described his family thus: “Our family is neither rich nor very poor. At least we have enough to live on.”

Enfant Terrible

Eman Lacaba has often been compared to the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, a fact he himself alluded to in one of his poems, “Open Letters to Filipino Artists”, where he told of his being called “the brown Rimbaud.” The comparison stems from the fact that he was, like Rimbaud, an enfant terrible, a literary virtuoso at a very young age–he started writing poetry at 14—and did so like a master even then. The similarity between them became all the more striking when he lost his life without reaching his fortieth year–just like Rimbaud.

He began to display vast and varied talents at a very young age. He learned to read early and was a very voracious reader before he was in high school—reading everything, as he said, “from the Bible to Mad, from newspapers to encyclopedias, from physics to law and business books, from mathematics to poetry.” From first grade to his last year in high school, he was at the top of his class. A brilliant and prolific writer at a young age, he became editor-in-chief of the high school paper. He was also a versatile athlete; he

played basketball, soccer, and was into track and field. He was an excellent actor on the stage. In recognition of his leadership skills, his schoolmates gave him many of the top positions in school organizations–he was class president from fifth grade to his last year in high school, he became president of the High School Drama Club and the High School Student Council.

He received almost all of his pre-university education from the Pasig Catholic College. While still a student of this school, he applied for and received an AFS scholarship, through which he got to spend an entire school year in the United States.

After high school, he had the chance to choose among no less than three scholarships from the University of the Philippines (UP), the Ateneo de Manila University, and De la Salle University. He chose the Manuel de Leon scholarship at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he took a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, and maintained it until he completed his course. This, despite the fact that he spent much of his time away from the classroom, writing or doing research.

Writer-Activist

If there is something Eman Lacaba is most noted for, it is for having been a writer-activist. He was a poet, essayist, playwright, fictionist, and scriptwriter who joined the protest movement in his student days and later lost his life as an armed revolutionary.

It was at the Ateneo that he began to be involved in social and political causes. He was part of a group which fought for the Filipinization of the university administration, which was then largely American-led, and the use of Filipino as medium of instruction. His group also called on their schoolmates to immerse themselves in the issues which had begun to galvanize their fellow students at UP.

In his early days as an activist, his poetry began to show signs of the road he was to take for the rest of his life, with his increasingly frequent use of the image of Icarus, a Greek mythological character who burned his wings, fell to the sea, and died because he flew too close to the sun–an often-used symbol for those who perish in the pursuit of lofty causes.

He also joined Panday Sining, the cultural arm of the militant Kabataang Makabayan, and is believed to have participated in the First Quarter Storm.

In his college days he frequently commuted between the Bohemian life and activism. It was only after college that he would turn his back on the former.

Before he graduated from college, he won a major literary award for Punch and Judas, a short novel depicting the transformation of an intellectual, Felipe “Philip” Angeles, from Bohemian to activist.

After college, he taught Rizal’s Life and Works at UP and got involved in the labor movement. He also became a member of the militant writers’ group Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan. Just two months before the declaration of martial law, he was among a number of picketers at a small factory in Pasig who faced threats and truncheons from the police while the strike was being dispersed. He was arrested and briefly incarcerated.

After that, he became active on the stage, writing and acting in plays. He also assisted in film productions, and among his compiled writings are a number of unfinished film storylines. He wrote the lyrics for the theme song of the Lino Brocka-directed movie Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, which takes potshots at the hypocrisy of society.

In 1975 he set out for Mindanao to cast his lot with the armed revolutionary movement, to become a “people’s warrior”, as he later called himself in a poem.

Such was his passion for writing that he wrote even while leading the life of a revolutionary guerilla. It was in the hills, in fact, that he wrote one of the poems he is best remembered for, “Open Letters to Filipino Artists”, where he wrote of the armed revolutionary movement thus: “We are tribeless and all tribes are ours./We are homeless and all homes are ours./We are nameless and all names are ours./To the fascists we are the faceless enemy/Who come like thieves in the night, angels of death:/The ever moving, shining, secret eye of the storm.”

Death of a People’s Warrior

At dawn sometime in March 1976, death came for Eman Lacaba. At this time he was set to go back shortly to the city for a new assignment that would have used his writing skills, and had even agreed to write a script for Lino Brocka once he got back there

It was not yet six in the morning. Eman and three other companions were having breakfast in a peasant’s hut. Outside the house were their wet clothes and shoes, left there to dry.

Elements of an armed team made up of Philippine Constabulary (PC) men and members of the Civilian Home Defense Front (CHDF) were with a certain Martin, a member of Eman’s unit who had earlier been captured by the military. They happened to pass by the house where Eman and his companions were having breakfast. Martin recognized the clothes and shoes and pointed out the house to the PC-CHDF team, who immediately opened fire without calling on the occupants to surrender. After a brief gunfight, two of the hut’s occupants were killed including the leader of Eman’s group, while Eman and Estrieta, a pregnant teenager, were wounded.

The PC-CHDF team headed for Tagum with Eman and Estrieta, with villagers carrying the corpses. However, a few kilometers from the village, the sergeant of the PC-CHDF team decided not to bring back anyone alive. Estrieta was the first to go. The sergeant then handed a .45 to Martin and ordered him to shoot Eman. He did not want to, but in the end Eman himself said to him, “Go ahead, finish me off.” A bullet was fired through his mouth, crashing through the back of his skull. As he fell, another bullet was fired at his chest. He was 27. Bulatlat.co





The Formation of MAKIBAKA

20 09 2009

“Women Hold up Half the Sky”

-Mao Zedong

“A woman’s place is in the struggle.”

-Assata Shakur

With the anniversary of Martial Law in the Philippines coming up September 21st, It is always important to remember the tragedies no matter how much they left a stain on democracy in history.  It is important to remember, but even more important to draw from the lessons of that era so the same atrocities can not be repeated today.  With the outbreak of Martial Law, Marcos waged a fight against the Communist and the New People’s Army-his target, anyone who aided the Maoist which included civilians.  Students formed Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth), an underground student organization that aimed to guide students to win a democratic revolution steered away from corrupt bureaucrats that have always been puppets to foreign powers like Spain, America, and Japan.  They went underground to protect their lives while continuing to educate and organize.  Any protests they held were considered to be anti-government and therefore communists in the eyes of the corrupt Marcos.  Last year, I paid respects to  the legacy of KM so this year, I pay my respects to MAKIBAKA.

Guerilla Woman takes up the Arm Struggle

Guerilla Woman takes up the Arm Struggle

By Judy M. Taguiwalo

The formation of MAKIBAKA

The national democratic youth organizations prior to the First Quarter Storm already recognized the need for drawing in the participation of women in the movement. A women’s bureau was part of the organizational structure of the Kabataang Makabayan upon its formation in 1964. The need for a particular machinery for women is based on the movement’s recognition of the particularity of women’s oppression and on the political premise of the crucial need to draw the support of women for the movement as they comprise “half of the sky”. Young female students and professionals joined Kabataang Makabayan and other youth organizations on the basis of the political program for national sovereignty and genuine democracy. The potential of women’s emancipation through participation in the revolutionary struggle was borne out by information on strides women have made in countries where revolutions were victorious. However, even with the rise in the number of women members and the existence of a women’s bureau within the youth organizations, theoretical and concrete practical work related to women’s issues was limited. For example, the celebration of March 8 as International Women’s Day would not be commemorated until 1971.

The reemergence of a women’s movement in the post-world war II period was marked by the formation in April 1970 of an all-women’s group, the Malayang Kilusang ng Bagong Kababaihan (Free Movement of New Women) with the inspired acronym of MAKIBAKA which is the Filipino term for struggle.

MAKIBAKA’s formation was an offshoot of the broader political movement and was influenced by the activities of the women’s liberation in the west that have been reported in the mainstream media. Women activists from the various national democratic youth organizations banded together to launch the first militant all-women activity, a picket of a major beauty contest which echoed a women’s action in London in that year. This initial activity was significant not merely because of its all-women character but also because it raised for the first time a woman-specific issue; the commodification of women through beauty contests, a concern never before addressed by the national movement. As a result of this activity, several women activists decided to transform MAKIBAKA from its initial character as a loose coalition to a distinct all-women youth organization.

Advancing the Women’s Liberation Movement in the Philippines

MAKIBAKA became one of the youth organizations espousing and propagating an anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-fascist line in what was then called the “Second Propaganda Movement” recognizing its links with the “First Propaganda Movement” which was the precursor of the founding of the Katipunan and the 1896 Philippine revolution. MAKIBAKA’s uniqueness was in its efforts to elaborate on the general statements that working class women suffer double oppression as members of their class and as women and that women can perform general and specific tasks in the movement. Read the rest of this entry »





Kabataang Makabayan

13 04 2009

 

Kabataang Makabayan

Kabataang Makabayan

PHOTO DU JOUR

A muni bus shelter displaying the letters “K M” at night.  KM stands for Kabataang Makabayan or patriotic youth in tagalog.

The History of KM

The Kabataang Makabayan (KM) which was founded on November 30, 1964, arouses, organizes and mobilizes a wide section of the youth and students sector for the revolutionary cause. A major contribution of the KM is its relentless disposition of its members in the countryside to help build organs of political power and conduct important revolutionary work. It is constantly engaged in building and consolidating revolutionary chapters in schools and communities. 

KM was driven underground by the Marcos dictatorship under his decree of martial law to maintain the bourgeoisie rule at a time when workers and peasants were organizing for their basic rights.  KM, which is composed mainly of youth and students was declared illegal.  Those who were caught in KM were tortured and those who were suspected were accused of being enemies to the state.  Families and friends were threatened to any members known or suspected to be in KM.  A dark period had blanketed the Philippines in Marcos’ reign of terror.  With the leadership of KM, many students were able to mobilize with the broad masses to bring Marcos’ terror to an end.  People Power I will forever be remembered.  Today, President GMA,  is targeting legal mass organizations and labeling them terrorists without justification.  Her attempts to silence the masses is a slap in the face to human rights. The  jailing, kidnapping, extrajudicial killings of progressive lawyers, teachers, mass leaders, vocal women and students, unions, workers and peasants, as will as church leaders will continue to be documented, ridiculed, and condemned by the people.

The real heroes of the people have been fighting for their rights.  The real terrorist of the people have been silencing them.  

Kabataang Makabayan, in its historic role as the vanguard organization of Filipino youth, should know the balance of forces between imperialism and feudalism on the one hand and national democracy on the other. On the side of U.S. imperialism are the compradors and the big landlords. On the side of national democracy are the broad masses of our people, composed of the working class and the peasantry to which the vast majority of the Filipino youth today belong; the petty bourgeoisie, composed of small property-owners, students, intellectuals and professionals; and the national bourgeoisie, composed of Filipino entrepreneurs and trade Read the rest of this entry »