Wednesday, October 21, 2015


A LEADING ACTOR TO LEAD THE COUNTRY. Rogelio de la Rosa...but is he qualified? ca. early 1960s.

The Philippine Presidency, it is said, has occupational hazards that could kill. After all, three of our presidents have died at work. Yet, then, as now—the position remains as the ultimate aspiration of all Filipino political leaders, for the immense power that the office brings and glory it represents. The 1961 Presidential Elections put to fore the qualifications of the aspirants—the first, the incumbent president Carlos P. Garcia (Nacionalista), the second—the incumbent vice president Diosdado Macapagal (Liberal), and the third, a movie star-turned-senator, Rogelio de la Rosa, an Independent. 

It was easy to deride Rogelio “Roger” de la Rosa for his being just an ”artista” , viewed in the light of the silver screen as a leading man, which he was, some twenty years ago. The son of Feliciano de la Rosa and Rosario Lim, he was born on 12 November 1916 in Barrio san Jose de Gumi in Lubao, Pampanga. His paternal grandfather , Francisco de la Rosa, was a Spanish surveyor, while his grandmother, Marciana Dariano was an Ilocana from La Union. Everyone knew too, that the 45 year old presidential bet had been at political odds with Diosdado, his own brother-in-law. (Macapagal was married to Purita, Rogelio's sister, who died during the war).

 Dela Rosa’s first and only political experience was when he ran for the Senate of the Liberal Party and won—heavily supported by fan votes. Because of his background, he was looked at as “non-intellectual” (he went to Lubao Institute and finished Liberal Arts from Far Eastern University) . His followers, however, were quick to point out that even Magsaysay was a “non-intellectual”; he, like Dela Rosa has a practical grasp of problems and disdains convoluted, belabored discussions. As for his fans, it could not be denied that they are certainly an articulate and potent force to reckon with--part of the common “masa”. 

Moreover, during the last war, when many politicians were collaborating with the Japanese-sponsored government, Dela Rosa was working as a fighter of the underground army; this he repeated when he volunteered to go to Korea to join hands with the United Nations peacekeeping forces there. As Magsaysay’s labor adviser, Dela Rosa was valued for his troubleshooting skills in resolving agrarian and rural improvement issues.

 As Senator-elect who topped the polls with 2 million votes, Dela Rosa also had an enviable record, sponsoring a law to condemn the illegal appropriation of public streams and rivers by rich fishpond owners. He was known for making on-the-spot visits to the backwoods to as a way of showing deep concern for the common tao’s problems. It is interesting to note that Dela Rosa’s campaign seal shows a salakot with a pair of bakya (wooden shoes) , underlining his pro-masa approach.

 To this day, many believe that Dela Rosa could have been an apt leader for the country in 1961 with his social and political thinking that tends towards egalitarianism. If he had not given way to Macapagal, he could have, they say, ended the heavy-handed domination of politicians, by his institution of a regime that was truly mass-based, ethical, competent and honest. Then he would have also been irrefutably—the world’s most handsome President!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

*389. Training To Be Red: STALIN UNIVERSITY

RED ALERT. Barrio Sinipit in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, lies under the shadow of Mount Arayat. The strategically-located barrio was the site of an informal training school for Red cadres known as Stalin University. ca. 1959.

 Communism was a new ideology that was embraced early by the peasantry in their fight against tenant oppression. But one did not just turn red in an instant, he had to be indoctrinated in the ways of the new movement—from its fundamental beliefs and principles to its concept of resistance and armed uprising. The training school for such purpose was set up in a place aptly named Barrio Sinipit, in Cabiao Nueva Ecjia—which, in Kapampangan means “ hemmed-in, suppressed, repressed”. The school was called Stalin University—named after the Moscow-based institution founded by Communist International on 21 April 1921.

 This Kapampangan-speaking barrio, portions of which lie in the Candaba Swamp, was the perfect place for such a training school—Barrio Sinipit had always been hard-pressed from all directions, regularly raided by marauders, it houses burned and women raped. The barrio’s position and background made Sinipit the choice site for secret meetings by members and leaders of the so-called “Pambansang Kaisahang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas” (National Organization of Peasants in the Philippines).

 It was in 1936 that the PKMP established a training school for future leaders of this movement that was founded for the cause of oppressed peasants. In later years, these products of Stalin University would identify themselves as Huk guerrillas who shifted their fight from enemy invaders during the War, to abusive landlords and hacenderos. Many would also take on leading roles in the Communist Party of the Philippines and identify themselves as guerrillas of the Huk movement.

Stalin University was not a permanent building; its site was moveable and changeable—it could be under the canopy of a huge tree one day, and a ramshackle hut the next. This was so, because the instructors were the subject of manhunt by government intelligent officers. They were culled from the outside, who had knowledge of the conditions and feelings of Sinipit peasants.

 One tenant-farmer recall that “they were glib-tongue, very convincing, and they spoke of brighter things for us”. They would come with mimeographed notes and pamphlets in different languages. And they would talk of holding reprisals against abusive landlords. The Philippine Government knew of this Stalin University and it would send soldiers to swoop down on the clandestine school. But the class would always be a step ahead, moving to secret refuges in Bulacan or towards hideaways in Arayat or the swamps of Candaba.

 The Magsaysay Era ushered in a new purposeful period—to restore common people’s confidence in the government. Magsaysay sparked the revival of nationalism, and promised rural reforms. He addressed not only the issue of dissidence in the back country but also the disaffection of peasants because of grievances that remained unredressed. He established the President’s Complaint and Action Committee to look into such matters, such as the festering problem of share-cropping. Huk Chief Luis Taruc even sent a feeler to Commissioner Manahan when he heard Magsaysay’s speech about rural reforms and was curious to learn more. In time, Taruc admitted that Magsaysay’s barrio program had made the Huk struggle aimless.

 Thus, Stalin University was abandoned as the Huks took their movement to the hills, leaving Barrio Sinipit in peace once more. By 1959, the barrio was back on its feet, a thriving community blessed with rich soil and hardworking people. No many remember that not so long ago, beneath the shadow of Mount Arayat, there was a Nueva Ecija barrio where once Red cadres trained, in a school without a campus, known by the name Stalin University.