Friday, July 21, 2006

In search of service

Activist-turned-rebel misses life with family

By Madonna Virola
Last updated 01:41am (Mla time) 07/20/2006

Published on Page A14 of the July 20, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

HE spoke with passion as he talked about his work as a spokesperson for the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) in Occidental Mindoro.

But when asked about his family, the rebel leader, who introduced himself only as Felizardo, talked about how it was to be separated from his loved ones.

“It is traumatic for my 4-year-old daughter,” he said.

The government has launched an “all-out war” against the New People’s Army, military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that leads the NDF. The Maoist rebels have been waging the longest armed insurgency in the world since 1969.

The military places the NPA strength at 7,500.

Felizardo said he could not support the studies of his only child, “but I know she will understand one day.”

If his wife agrees that it is now the right time, Felizardo would rather have her explain to their child why he chose to be away from them.

Felizardo, 37, said he grew up in a religious family. He was active in the choir and in organizing basic ecclesial communities. He even wanted to be a priest.

“I was searching then for the meaning of service,” he said.

Once, he was watching some nuns in a convent. He was disturbed that they were expected to be both earning and doing house chores.

When a missionary box was passed around in a school, Felizardo asked the nuns: “Why not serve the next community first, which is also in need?”


Felizardo joined the League of Filipino Students and found himself with a box collecting donations for the organization.

But he was “demonized” by some men in uniform. “I was accused of being a communist. I didn’t [even] know what it meant. I researched in the encyclopedia and found out more about it,” he recalled.

He continued to join rallies and stay with the poor. His first major assignment was to distribute campaign leaflets.

Instead of just shouting, “Down with imperialism!”, he would elaborate on the issue at hand, he said.

While many idealists are focused on changing the society, Felizardo said “the bigger challenges are those about the self—like listening more than talking …, to be patient, because I still didn’t know a lot of things.”

He appreciated the feedback sessions in the movement. “They say I’m frank and emotional,” he said.

Felizardo acknowledged a difficult life with his kind of work but added that the farmers were in a more difficult situation, plowing the land to feed their families.

The warm accommodation of the people, he claimed, was enough to compensate for missing his daughter.

If he had a normal life, he would try to “create a climate for her to discover her inner strength to enable her to love more freely and have the courage to fight whoever and whatever hinders her,” Felizardo said.

Will the time come when one in search of service does not have to leave his family?

“Perhaps, only God can tell,” he said.

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