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.