Ka Dan, original rebel soldier, dies at 79
By DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:32:00 06/25/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- “He was the original rebel soldier.”
The words were said in tribute to Danilo “Ka Dan” Vizmanos, retired military officer turned political activist, one month before he died Monday night at the age of 79.
Vizmanos had fought martial law and crusaded against the United States military bases in the Philippines, among other patriotic causes.
A Navy captain, he had joined the dissident movement, blazing a trail for others like him in the military to follow.
Upon the declaration of martial law in 1972, Vizmanos retired from the service, citing “incompatibility with an armed forces that was converted into a huge private army and oppressive instrument of the Marcos dictatorship.”
He was incarcerated for more than two years at Camp Crame, Fort Bonifacio and Bicutan with no formal charges filed.
While in detention, he was subjected to physical and psychological torture, including being injected with “truth serum,” in an effort to get him to betray his friends in the resistance movement.
“My mind was slowly giving up but I still had control,” he had recalled.
In May, a month before he died, his family, friends and comrades paid tribute to him in a special ceremony at the University of Makati.
“Ka Dan is the original rebel soldier,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said then.
“The admirable qualities of Ka Dan were his openness to new and radical ideas, enthusiasm in making everyone understand and unpretentious leadership,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo at the ceremony.
Exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison sent a recorded tribute: “We and all his countrymen take pride in Ka Dan Vizmanos, great hero and true soldier of the people.”
At the end of the two-hour tribute, highlighted by an emotional rendition of “Ikaw Lamang” by his grandchildren, an overwhelmed Vizmanos fought back tears.
“I can never forget this night,” he said. “This is the first time I have felt so honored.”
Vizmanos died of complications arising from a host of ailments, including cancer of the prostate, his daughter Diane said.
“He had gone increasingly frail the past month,” she said. “It’s very sad but at least he is no longer suffering.”
Vizmanos is survived by four children, Diane, Erwin, Alice and Danny, and 12 grandchildren, A.G., Joseph, Demi, Veron, Angelique, Japeth, Shem, Carolyn, Kevin, Vince, Danmark and Josheil.
His body lies at the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Dao Street in Makati City.
Diane said her father, otherwise strong and robust, had suddenly become weak in 2006 after the death of his wife, Alicia.
“After she died, my father lost his will to live. He would always be in a melancholy mood,” she said in Filipino.
Diane said the family would rather celebrate their father’s life than mourn his death. “He lived a full life and devoted it to the Filipino people… he’s my idol,” she said in an interview.
After he was tortured, Vizmanos said he left the “reactionary organization” that was the military to become a “militant activist.”
On his release from detention, he assumed leadership positions in leftist organizations like Bayan, Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya, Ibon Foundation and Philippine-Cuba Friendship Association.
Testified vs Marcos
In 1992, he testified at the US Federal District Court of Hawaii about the atrocities committed during the Marcos dictatorship. The same court would later hold Marcos liable for human rights violations.
Vizmanos authored three books, “Through the Eye of the Storm,” “Martial Law Diary” and “A Matter of Conviction.” His writings were described as “a critique of a social order that has chained the country to its colonial moorings and perpetrated social injustice.”
Diane said she was glad her father experienced being held in such high esteem before he died.
“It’s as though his life had become complete. He had done everything he set out to do,” she said.