'Maraming salamat, Ka Bel'
By ALETA NIEVA
http://www.abs- cbnnews.com/ storypage. aspx?StoryId= 119730
"Maraming, maraming salamat Daddy!"
This was part of what Rosario "Ka Osang" Soto-Beltran had told her husband, Anakpawis Rep. Crispin "Ka Bel" Beltran, the day he died in the hospital.
"Sigaw ako ng sigaw noon nakaratay siya sa ospital. Sinisigaw ko sa kanya na maraming salamat daddy. Una sa pagmamahal, pangalawa sa pagmumulat. Hindi lang ako ang namulat, pati ang mga anak natin namulat," said Ka Osang.
Ka Osang said she couldnÂ’t ask for a better person than her husband who had given color and a new meaning to her life. As a husband, Ka Bel gave his wife love, utmost respect and strived to provide for his family.
"Isang mabuting asawa, isang mabuting tatay ng 10 ko na anak, isa siyang mabuting lolo ng mga apo namin at napakagaling niya bilang isang lider manggagawa," Ka Osang said.
Wedding anniversary in detention
In 2006, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows at the Philippine Heart Center, where Ka Bel was detained for his alleged participation in the botched February coup.
The five decades were not always blissful, but the love they shared was tested and proven and made even stronger over the years as they weathered storms of challenges together.
Instead of feeling bitter, Ka Osang appeared to be a vision of courage and strength even as his death not only meant losing a husband but also a best friend.
She smiled as she described their relationship as a "developed love".
Who was Ka Bel?
Most people identified Ka Bel as a veteran of the parliament of the streets and a lawmaker, but only a few are aware of his background.
In a statement by Anakpawis, it said that Ka Bel, at an early age, volunteered as a courier for the guerillas during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. He also served as a farm hand and janitor after the war to support his studies. He then worked as gasoline boy, messenger, bus driver and then a taxi driver.
A strike against unfair labor practices firmed up his determination to fight alongside the working class after many were injured and three protesting workers died when police attacked their picket line. >more
"Saan ka nakakita ng dalawang hindi magkakilala na nagsama?" she said. Their lives crossed when then 15-year-old Ka Osang ran away from home and took a cab driven by Ka Bel who was 26. He offered her a place to stay when she told him that she had nowhere else to go.
Her father was angry when he found out that she stayed with a man for three days.
"Kaya kinasal kami. Walang pag-ibig noon. Ayaw ko talaga, iniirapan ko siya, sinusungitan. Pero siya, bukas ang isip. Sabi niya, napag-aaralan naman ang pag-ibig," said Ka Osang from the Kilusang Mayo UnoÂ’s Web site.
As years went by, Ka Osang began to love and understand everything about the man she married, and even his sense of humor.
In an interview during a tribute at his wake at the Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI) church in Manila, she said that Ka Bel would want her to tell reporters in the event of his death, his call for President Arroyo to step down.
"Sabi niya, pag ako namatay, ang bilin ko pag na-interview ka ng reporter, sabihin mo pababain na si Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, pag hindi siya bumaba, hilahin ko paa niya," Ka Osang said.
One of his children, Ofel Beltran-Balleta said the family deeply mourns this personal loss but they draw their strength from the multitude of people whose lives have been touched by Ka Bel.
Shared with the people
"Naniniwala kami na hindi naman namin kailanman naging solo si Ka Bel. Kahati namin ay sambayanan," she said.
Unlike other public officials, Ka Bel stayed simple and lived humbly. In fact, he only declared P50,000 as assets in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SAL), making him the poorest among congressmen.
Ofel said her father even applied for a loan in order to continue paying for a house in San Jose del Monte in Bulacan.
"Yung bahay sa San Jose del Monte nakapangalan sa bayaw ko na-acquire niya yun nung nagta-trabaho pa siya. Dahil hindi naman niya nahuhulugan at napapabayaan niya, ini-offer niya yun sa father ko. So father ko nag-loan sa opisina para may pambayad doon. Hinuhulugan niya iyun ng parang P5,000 a month pero nasa pangalan iyun ng bayaw ko," Ofel explained.
Ka Bel never asked for anything in return, and the life he led even became an inspiration not only to his family but to others as well.
"Siguro sapat na napalaki niya kami ng maayos habang siya ay puspusang nakikibaka para sa uring manggagawa. Enough proof na balansiyado niyang dinadala ang mga bagay-bagay. In fact, sa kabila ng napakarami niyang schedule mayroon pa siyang panahon para magkumpuni ng bahay namin o magpaligo ng mga aso, magtanim," said Ofel.
At the time of his death, Ka Bel was 75 years old. But his age did not deter him from carrying out the responsibilities he chose to shoulder.
"Habang may naghahanap ng katarungan kung bakit siya illegally tinanggal sa trabaho, habang maraming manggagawa ang sumasahod pero nagugutom pa rin ang pamilya hindi nakakasapat iyung kinikitaÂ—iyun ang motivation niya para hanapin, bakit ba ganito? Ano ba ang dapat para sa kanila? Hindi man sobrang, at least, makasapat para mabuhay ng maayos," said Ofel.
Ka Bel lived his life the way he wanted it toÂ—simple but to its fullest.
"Siya ay talagang tunay at taal. Puro talagang manggagawa na naging lider-manggagawa. Sa istilo ng kanyang pamumuhay, hindi na siya umalis doon, pinili niyang manatili sa antas na iyun," said Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo.
Ocampo remembered Ka Bel as a very principled man and a highly effective leader who never lacked the passion and the drive to represent not only the toiling masses in Congress but also the other marginalized sectors of society.
Ka Bel served as vice-president and one of the three representatives of Bayan Muna partylist in Congress from February 2001 to November 2003. In 2004, he was elected as representative for Anakpawis and was on his third term when he died.
"Isang tunay, walang pagkukunwari, di niya itinatagong mahirap siya, di niya itinatago ang antas ng pinagaralan niya, prangka siyang makipag-usap. Kaya niyang makipagusap ng patas," Ocampo said. "Bihira ang ganung lider ng manggagawa na hindi makukuwestiyon yung katotohanan at genuineness ng paninindigan ng kanyang sariling katauhan."
"Unshakeable" was how Ocampo defined Ka BelÂ’s commitment to the working class, adding that the labor leader would have offered to lay down his life, if necessary.
Ocampo said Ka Bel took pride in the lapel pin of the House of Representatives which he always wore because it reminded him that his position was entrusted to him by the people.
His death showed a character of Ka Bel who valued simple-living. "Hanggang sa huling buhay niya, ginagawa niya yung gawain kamay--pagkukumpuni ng bahay, hinahanap-hanap ng kanyang katawan," he said.
Although Ka BelÂ’s death is considered as a great loss, Ocampo is confident that his legacy will continue.
"Mabubuhay siya doon sa diwa at damdamin ng mga naniniwala sa kanya," he said.
His life as an Inspiration
Another Bayan Muna party list representative considered Ka Bel an idol and inspired him to follow his cause.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro CasiÃ±o said he had a high regard for Ka Bel even when he was still with the Kilusang Mayo Uno.
"Para sa akin, isa siyang huwarang lider at talagang gustong-gusto ko sa kanya ay iyung pagiging mapagkumbaba niya sa kabila ng napakalayong inabot niya bilang lider ng kilusang unyon, bilang isang mambabatas," CasiÃ±o said.
CasiÃ±o added "Hindi umaabot sa kanya iyung anumang kapangyarihan na iginagawad sa kanya sa mga maraming posisyon na nahawakan na niya," he explained.
Ka Bel was a product of his time, he said. In terms of wisdom and experience, he was one of the last labor leaders of his generation.
"Malaking hamon para sa KMU, para sa kilusang paggawa ang pagkawala ni Ka Bel. Pero sigurado akong maraming lider na hahalili sa kanya, but we will probably never find another Ka Bel," said CasiÃ±o.
Ka BelÂ’s chief-of-staff Lualhati Roque joined ranks with thousands of people who mourned his death. For her, Ka Bel symbolized what public servants should be--fearless, incorruptible and ready for any consequences in fighting for what is right.
"Sa panahong ito, ang isang tunay na public servant incorruptible, hindi mo siya pwedeng matakot, basta sa paniniwala niya dapat ilantad ang mga bagay-bagay, ilalantad niya kahit anong mangyari sa kanyaÂ—makulong siya, i-harass siya o manganib man ang buhay ng pamilya niya. Kaya siya ay isang simbolo talaga ng matapat na lingkod ng bayan," Roque said.
The outpouring of support, she said, would show how the people realize the grave loss.
KMU chairperson Elmer "Ka Bong" Labog said Ka Bel was an outstanding labor leader and freedom fighter.
"We will miss his presence in the peopleÂ’s movement and in the militant labor movement led by KMU. But we will carry on his fight and struggles," Labog said.
Senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., in his tribute to Ka Bel, said that as Anakpawis representative he was "a source of embarrassment to those who trudged the easy path to power, pelf and fame."
"His life puts to shame many of our brethren in politics and in religion who claim to love and serve the poor," said Pimentel.
Pimentel praised Ka BelÂ’s transition from being a firebrand "who in the minds of the conservators of the status quo meant being an arsonist who would burn anything which stood on the way to liberating his fellow workers" to a torch bearer "who in the minds of all well meaning citizens meant illuminating the path of those who search for the better life in a democratic and peaceful manner."
His journey may have been cut short but those he left behind are determined to continue his legacy of being true to the calling of serving the people and the country. #